Secularism and communalism are among the concepts that have been grossly misinterpreted and abused in India to create vote banks and damn Hindu nationalists. It all began with our first Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru who was Hindu by birth but was greatly influenced by European culture and socialist philosophy. He had convinced himself without reason and rhyme that Hindu nationalism was a communal concept that was a grave threat to the Indian society. It was Nehru who used the power of the state to crush the RSS and banned the patriotic organisation knowing fully well that it had no hand in the Gandhi Assassination Conspiracy. He propagated distorted versions of secularism and succeeded to a great extent to mislead the masses on the force of his immense popularity as one of the top leaders who fought for freedom of the country under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. His word was taken as gospel truth. So, he and his party could arbitrarily brand political parties, social organisations and individuals as secular or communal. Akali Dal ? a political party in Punjab that is avowedly committed to protecting the interests of the Sikh community ? was communal till it was pitted against the Congress. The day, Akali Dal decided to join hands with the Congress it was declared a secular outfit. A few years later, the party broke up with the Congress and was once again branded as a dangerously communal outfit that needs to be crushed. Nehru had no qualms of conscience in issuing a certificate of secularism to Muslim League ? a party that was responsible for the vivisection of our motherland on communal lines ? simply because it joined the Congress camp in Kerala. It still remains ?secular? despite its Islamic fundamentalism and communal agenda.
A recent example is that of BJD. The party and its leader Naveen Patnaik were castigated as ?rabid communalists? till BJD ruled Orissa in coalition with BJP. The moment he ditched the saffron party at the instance of Communists, he became a darling of ?secularists?, including those in the media. Similarly, AIADMK was ?communal? till it was a part of the NDA but it is now secular since it has shown interest in the third (rate) front propped up by the Left parties. CPM that claims to be the torch bearer of ?secularism? says Muslim League is communal?presumably because it is in the Congress-led alliance?and the People'sDemocratic Party (PDP) of Kerala that is led by religious fanatic Abdul Naseer Madani is secular simply because Madani is inclined to join the Left Democratic Front in Kerala. It is of no consequence to the CPM leader Prakash Karat that PDP is a radical Islamist party whose leader has links with jehadi terrorists and spent long years in jail for his involvement in the Coimbatore serial blast conspiracy hatched to assassinate Lal Krishan Advani.
It is a measure of the perverted political discourse that nationalists with a grand dream of national reconstruction are branded ?communal? and ?untouchable? and parties and leaders who can'tlook beyond their castes or sub castes and indulge in worst type of opportunism and sectarianism claim to be ?secular? and join existing or non-existent fronts to fight ?communalism?. These parties that have no world view or vision of a new India and their leaders have blinkered visions are projected as liberals and progressive that is preferred choice of the ?secular-liberal? brigade as leading lights in the war against ?communalism?.
Communalism, by definition, is a positive concept denoting one'scommitment to serve the community. Longman English Dictionary defines it as ?A system of decentralised government by which large powers are delegated to small communities in a country?. But in the distorted public discourse, it has become a negative concept denoting one who hates or works against the interests of other communities and an anti-dote against secularism. In the political sense, secularism requires separation of the state from any particular religious order. Founding fathers of the Indian Constitution adopted a secular constitution even though the country was divided on communal lines and no one raised any objection to the concept of equal treatment to all religious communities. What has pained nationalists is that successive governments have discriminated against the majority community to create minority vote banks and denying certain rights to majority that have been bestowed upon minorities. This is unheard of in any country but India.
It is in this context that a doctoral research on ?RSS and Church in India? conducted by a Christian priest Dr. (Father) Vincent Kundukulam of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary, Aluva (Kerala) makes a fascinating reading, though one doesn'tagree with all of his findings. Dr. Kundukulam'sdoctoral research led him to conclude that it would be wrong to brand the RSS ideology as fascism, nazism, fundamentalism or communalism. These terms, he pointed out, had had a distinct connotation in Europe that couldn'tbe applied in Indian milieu. The clergyman in his thesis argues that communalism is not at all a part of religion. It is nothing but mobilisation of people on communal lines to serve a specific cause. ?RSS can, therefore, be called communal only in a limited sense (He doesn'texplain in which sense. But presumably he perceives all-inclusive Hindu society as a community). Its political arm BJP during its rule at the Centre did not commit any act that can be described as fundamentalist, fascist or communal?, the scholar concluded.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), has sparked of a vigorous debate in Church over his remarks that were perceived as praise for the virtues of Hindu nationalists. Marxists, he said, certainly posed a greater threat to the society because it was much better to live under those who believe in a God of love and mercy than to live under those who don'tbelieve in God and will do anything to bring about what they perceive is right. Although CBCI is no friend of Hindu nationalists, the former has the wisdom to understand the gravity of the threat Marxists pose to the Indian society. Had this wisdom visited Nehru, India would have achieved much more than we have in the last six decades and would have, by now, emerged as a global power.