The path of true love never runs smooth, said a poet. Had the poet also been a politician he would have added, neither does the path of true secularism. That is, Indian secularism. For is not the Indian product the only genuine secularism in today'sglobalised market? And still, alas, its manufacturers, Congress & Co., have to contend with so many set-backs.
The latest and arguably the most alarming such set-back is the fear of the fate of the Muslim League, the party of the ?faithfuls? that has faithfully and for ever been the obverse side of Congressecularism. For it was reported in the papers on December 30, 2006 that exactly a century after the formation of the Muslim League on December 30, 1906, the Congress has become worried about the weakening of what is left of it in India?the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML).
Actually, when Independence fell on our secular heads like a ton of bricks, the then Congress leaders had thoughtlessly thought the Muslim League had no place in Independent India, but wiser, saner and secular second thoughts have now so thoroughly prevailed that ?the Congress today desperately wants the Muslim League to survive?, to quote the press report. Ah, me!
How things change?And how the more things change the more they remain the same. Satiricus recalls that only a few short years ago the secular Congress had publicly certified that the Muslim League of secular India was a secular party. That certificate was meant to shore up secularism through an enhanced existence of the esteemed Muslims in League. Unfortunately and apparently, this devise did not ensure strong secularism through a strong Muslim League. Rather, this bulwark of Indian secularism is developing debility. This is the worry. For, as Indian Union Defence Minister, Antony has said, ?Weakening of the Indian Union Muslim League is not good for the Congress and the country.? The IUML, press reports say, is ?fast losing ground? to ?Muslim groups? that have been described as ?radical?.
Now here Satiricus, feels flummoxed. For, as he recalls, the Muslim League started with demanding separate representation for Muslims and ended up demanding a separate state for Muslims; and in the very next year of this separate state for Muslims coming into being, the Indian remnant of the Muslim League started demanding separate representation for Muslims. Then what is the difference between the old and the new League? Is not the abbreviated Muslim League faithfully following in the footsteps of the original Muslim League? And if it is, why does it have to hide its light under a bushel?especially when it has splendid secularist support from the party in power? How splendid this support is can be easily seen from the fact that the Muslim League is a partner in the ruling United Progressive Alliance at the Centre, and its one and only Member of Parliament is a Minister of the Government of secular India. Does this not mean continuing to be Muslim Leaguers is paying the Muslims more or less the same dividends in the present as in the past? In other words, is not the Muslim League'spresent a continuation of the Muslim League'spast?
This being so, in the considered opinion of secular Satiricus, if the Muslim League wants to shed its present weakness, it has to preserve its precious link with its past. But that is precisely what the Indian incarnation of the Muslim League is most regrettably not doing. On the contrary, the IUML disowns its original Muslim League heritage. It says it was founded only in 1948, and the party'sofficial history does not go back to pre-Partition days. Does that make the IUML a brand-new party? It does?for the record. Off the record the fact is that the founders of the IUML were all active leaders of the original Muslim League. When the IUML was formed Nehru argued with its founder Muhammad Ismail that his new party has no reason to exist in an independent India where equal treatment to all was assured. As legend goes, Ismail replied that if Muslims were really doing well, the IUML would tell Nehru so. And did it tell Nehru so? It did not. Nehru was succeeded by a succession of Gandhis, and did it tell them so? It did not. And now the current Gandhi finds to her horror that the Muslim is missing everywhere.
This is surely a sad situation, and Satiricus says it calls for a review and re-think by the Congress. It must review what, during more than half a century of its rule, it has done to strengthen this weakening force of Indian secularism. Was it enough to put Muslim-favouring clauses in the country'sConstitution? Was it enough to issue that secularism certificate? Was it enough to heavily subsidise the Haj pilgrimage in the teeth of the Arab dissent? To subvert the Supreme Court? To declare that Indian history was Muslim history? Unfortunately not.
Fortunately, the Congress and the government it leads have not given up. Newer and newer secular strategies are being put into practice. Open support is being extended to Shariat courts, and fatwas, and even to jazia. A determined all-out hunt is on to find the missing Muslim and make him the privileged citizen of our secular democracy. And a Muslim painter is showered with award after award. All this, of course, in the service of secularism. So what remains? Only one thing?to anoint Afzal as the guru of secularism.