Almost all parties are all the time encouraging the Muslims to maintain their separate identity just because they want their bloc vote. Is that the way to make ‘Hindustanis’ out of them? It is obvious that the attitude of Hindus has to be set right first, before we attempt setting right the Muslims. (Shri MS Golwalkar (Guruji), while interacting with Newspaper Editors at Delhi, June 1970, Issues with Indian Muslims.)
Here comes the Ramazan and the whole ‘secular’ brigade in India gear up to prove their credentials. This year was not an exception. The new found ‘common man’ leadership of Delhi threw a lavish party, with no less than the Ambassador of Pakistan as one of the invitees. The party thrown by the Congress President was more a show of opposition unity to the government than a religious function. Perhaps the most curious one was the Iftar reception hosted by Honourable President of India, as everyone was interested in knowing whether the Prime Minister of this great ‘secular’ nation would be attending the Iftar hosted by the Constitutional head of India. Like last year, Prime Minister did not join the party and preferred to continue with his scheduled meeting with the CMs of the North-eastern states. It was good enough reason to question his ‘secular’ credential. Some went on questioning his performing of Pooja at Kashi Vishwanath and Pashupatinath. The issue is not who attended or not attended the Iftar reception but why this one religious event becomes a symbol of ‘secular’ bonhomie and tokenism?
As per the Rashtrapati Bhawan records, Iftar reception is hosted there since 1993. After that, during 2002-07, the then President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam preferred to do away with the customary reception. Does that mean he was less ‘secular’ by any means? By doing away with a custom, did he demean the office of President? In fact, Iftar is a serious religious ritual of breaking day long fast during Ramazan by the ‘faithful’. It definitely has the message of community living and therefore, others who are not following Islam, joining the event is incidental. The real message of ‘blessings and forgiveness’ is missed out in this political tokenism. It is a mockery of the religion in which charity and generosity towards poor and less-privileged through common meals is expected. The ridiculous custom of non-fasting people feeding the well-fed guests for political calculation is against the spirit of any religious ritual. More importantly, individuals or organisations hosting any religious function is fine but justifying such rituals in the name of ‘secularism’ is ridiculous. Incidentally, it is all Hindu politicians who use this tokenism to promote vote-bank politics.
Unfortunately in India, ‘secularism’ has become a convenient tool to further the communal cause. Since the insertion of this foreign originated term in Preamble to the Indian Constitution, our political discourse has become more communal. We need to understand that equal respect for all ways of worships is there in Indian ethos and that is much bigger than the spirit of tolerance expected in European version of ‘secularism’. Such practices of ‘tokenism’ may help some politicians to appease some community but it definitely encourages minoritism and undermines our ethos by harping on identity politics.