The communal war for secular space
There is a spurt in the ‘events’ of ‘blackening’ of faces of ‘dissenters’ of Hindutva thoughts in India. While the Hindutva protagonists are thumping their chest and becoming louder each passing day the Hindu ‘liberals’ have a difficult job to do at the moment protecting ‘Hinduism’ from the likes of violent and regressive brahmanical organisations and hence they term these ‘incidents’ as stray and not reflective of the ‘tolerant’ Hindu Dharma.
The war in religion between the ‘liberals’ and ‘radicals’ is growing everywhere in India and both attempt to ‘interpret’ religion and its ‘philosophies’ according to their convenience. However in their claim to ‘control’ religion, it is the ‘radicals’ who are actually ‘winning’ the battles particularly in multi-cultural societies and the result is the loss of the democratization of societies and usage of violent methods to curb freedom and dissent. But the ironies world over is that the religious rights too need to masquerade as ‘secular’ to get their viewpoint legitimized. Hindutva protagonists despite their avowed disinterest in secular discourse are using the ‘democratic differences’ for their own purposes. It is like General Zia-ul-Haq suggesting that everything in Pakistan was ‘unanimous’ unlike India where government has to ‘respect’ political opposition or the opposition voices are getting space at the Parliament or in public places.
India is passing through a very dangerous phase when the Hindutva chest-thumpers under protection from the state powers have taken it on themselves to crush the dissent and violently oppose those who are creating ‘obstacles’ in their attempt to attain the Hindu Rastra. The problem is multifaceted because of diverse ranges of prejudices that have kept people away from coming together much to the glee of these forces who want to demolish India’s republican democratic constitution. In the battle cry of secularism, it needs to be seen how various communities perceive the issue from their own angles. The ‘Hindu’ liberals who have been wrongly portrayed as ‘secular’ liberals because of their ‘concern’ for Muslims are the biggest target of one and all. It is this segments which actually dominate the ‘secular’ discourse and it is clear that its fight with Hindu radical and hardliner is purely the ‘power’ battle and not really an ‘ideological’ one.
For years, the Congress’s brahmanical establishment pampered this ‘Hindu liberal’ seculars who were predominantly upper castes led by Brahmins through various positions in all the ‘institutions’. They are the crop who claims that ‘Hindutva’ and Sangh Parivar do not represent Hindus and that Hindu dharma was never violent and it is a unique and tolerant religion of the world. This stream of ‘writers’ are ‘influenced’ through Gandhian philosophy who feel we have suddenly become ‘intolerant’ and that India or Hindus had a ‘golden’ past of ‘respecting’ ‘dissent’ and acknowledging ‘diversity’.
The Sangh Parivar and its ‘writers’ who are not in ‘large’ number feel that this ‘darbari’ literati do not speak on the violence against Hindus by the Muslim fanatics in Kashmir as well as in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Sanghis charge this ‘secular’ brigade is pro Muslim and is offended immediately when we speak of Beef but keep quiet when Muslims eat it. Shouldn’t the Muslims ‘respect’ the ‘sentiments’ of Hindus, they ask and add that Pakistan is continuously killing our soldiers and innocent people and these writers have no time to condemn the Pakistan sponsored terrorism. Loudspeaker Giriraj Kishore says that can Lalu tell Muslims to eat pork. There are hundreds of other example where the expert ‘distortionists’ working overtime to polarize the society. One wonders as who is asking any one including Hindus or Muslims or for that matter any one to eat a particular kind of food. We stand for the rights of Hindus to eat Pork as we are against banning of beef. The problem is how they are trying to create stories to befool the masses. Unfortunately, the Sangh is not alone in its assault on ‘sickulars’ as many ‘corporate Muslim seculars’ have jumped the Sangh Bandwagon to demonise all those who disagree with the culture of banning. They accuse that we do not speak when Muslims commit mistakes or do wrongs.
This breed of corporate Muslim ‘intellectuals’ who are ‘journalists’, ‘opinion makers’ and members of American sponsored Muslim ‘think-tanks’ who have blamed the ‘sickulars’ as pampering Muslims in India. Their articles and opinions are being portrayed in all the ‘Sanghified’ papers where they justify even killings in Gujarat in 2002. Taslima Nasrin said that none of the ‘secularists’ came in her defense when the West Bengal government banned her book. The ‘Muslim’ ‘intellectuals’ even questioned why a paper like ‘The Indian Express’ gave a ‘communal’ headline ‘And they hanged Yaqub’. One commentator questioned this blaming the Express which remain one of the finest newspapers today in India just for its reporting and taking on the Hindu fascists. The other ‘intellectual’ sitting in Canada regularly abuse Muslims for their faith suggested to remove the name of all the Mughal kings from the Delhi roads and rename these roads for some ‘better’ people. On their ‘advice’ the government of India agreed and renamed Aurangzeb road as APJ Abdul Kalam Road.
As a person devoted to secular thoughts and rationalism, it is well known to me the growing Islamophobia in United States, Canada and Europe. I am well acquaint with the ‘intellectual dishonesty’ that the ‘mainstream’ Hindu ‘seculars’ in India have and their patronage by the Congress Party and various left parties. There is no denial of fact that these caste seculars have rarely raised the issue of the violence on Dalits and shudras in India. Even if some of them spoke most of them kept themselves out of the whole discourse. Hindu Seculars excluded the most marginalized from their discourse and deliberations and therefore Gandhi remained the icons of secularism in India and the Hindu seculars refused to take notes from Ambedkar, Periyar, Phule, Bhagat Singh and Rahul Sankrityayan.
The ‘corporate secular Muslims’ have become the biggest ‘support’ of the Sangh Parivar at the moment when they target the whole concept of ‘secularism’ in India. The problem with these Muslim seculars is that their ‘world’ begin and ends with theocratic Islamic countries and Pakistan, a complete replica of the Sangh Parivar’s thoughts. These ‘seculars’ actually blame Indian state for being too soft on Muslims and engaged in appeasing them. One does not know what exactly is appeasement but for them Hindu seculars have not condemned the Bombay blast, don’t ask for hanging of the ‘terrorists’, never support the Uniform Civil Code and never questions as why government provide ‘subsidy’ for the Haj-Yatris as being accused by these ‘Corporate Muslim seculars’. I can say with firm conviction that as a humanist and rationalist we have questioned all kind of fundamentalism including Muslim as well as Christian fundamentalism yet there is a difference between majoritarian communalism and minority communalism. Most of these corporatized seculars blame Muslims for their conditions ignoring the important factor why Muslim Dalits and Pasmanda face constitutional discrimination to get a government job. None of them ever bothered to speak for them or write about the issues that Halalkhors, Nuts, Kalandars, Helas and many others like them face because of their caste despite being Muslims. The problem with these high society secularists is that they too consider Muslims a monolith block like the Sangh Parivar and hence easy to lecture and demonise.
These are interesting points. Some more complaints are that Madrasas breed terrorists, Hinduism is ‘tolerant’, why India should be secular when none of the ‘Islamic’ countries are ‘seculars’, that Muslim refuses to mix up with the secular society and never believe in ‘democratic’ values. My problem with the Hindu secular is that they get their ‘ideological’ strength with the same school and religious scriptures which the Hindutva-wallahs are getting and both interpreting it according to their own convenience very much such as late Asghar Ali Engineer did but found little support from the Muslim intelligentsia. How on earth can any one claim that Hinduism or Brahmanism is a ‘tolerant’ religion when a majority of India suffers under their discriminatory laws and social practices such as caste system and untouchability. With such a criminal and barbaric culture terming it as tolerant is gross intellectual dishonesty. As far as Madarsas are concern, I can only say they do not create any radical Muslims but deeply religious person unable to fight a political battle for their community.
Interestingly our corporate Muslim seculars friends are very similar to Hindu seculars who have never raised caste class issues with in their own societies. When did these corporate Muslim seculars turn RSS sympathizers ever-raise the issue of Pasmanda Muslims in their articles and opinions? How has it never come to their minds that RSS is purely a brahmanical organization representing the interest of the caste Hindus and not Hindu society as a whole? These ‘corporate Muslim seculars’ never sided with the issue of marginalized in India similarly like the Hindu seculars for not feeling the pains of dalits and aadivasis who face not just physical violence but spiritual violence for years. So secularism becomes a brahmanical dummy wrestling like BJP and the Congress Party. Perhaps the war between these ‘self-styled’ ‘liberals’ among Muslims and Hindus reflect the same mindset.
But then one will have to decide which side of the battle you are. Blaming Hindu seculars will do no justice to these corporate Muslim seculars. Their siding with Sangh Parivar cannot justify their positions how much they wish to abuse Pakistan or Islam. To be candid, I knew some of them who happen to be leading the campaign. Once in London there was an accidental meeting with two of them who actually were upset with us for our support to campaign against war on Iraq and Afghanistan. What disturbed me most was their open support to the brutal killings of Muslims in 2002 Gujarat pogrom. ‘These Mullah need to be taught a lesson’, they said. Now, it is pitiable and painful to see blindfolded ‘seculars’ sitting in London, Ottawa and Washington decrying the whole western protest against invasion on Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of ‘War on terror’ ? I witnessed some of these protests there which suggest how people went out against their own regimes and supported human rights of the people. Today, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is trying to ‘apologize’ anticipating that a parliamentary committee could castigate him for his role on the issue. How do you think that ‘War on Iraq” has tamed ‘Islam’ as these people would have thoughts? In fact, the American and British regimes are responsible for the growth of hard core Islamic zealots who are a threat to democracy and freedom in Middle East. These fanatics are not a threat to United States or Europe but to their own societies and people. Who can ignore the dark reality that both the IS and Taliban are a product of war on terror and prior to that their war on communism. In their zeal to eliminate communism from middle-east the Americans and Europeans actually flirted with Islamic Jehadis and the outcome is the balkanization of the entire region.
Islamophobia in Europe has helped many of the corporate Muslim secularists to adjust to the power elite in condemning Islam out rightly. While we are well aware of the fact that Islamic zealots and fanatics being supported by the Wahabi groups in Saudi Arabia have definitely created a very disturbing situation for Muslims in societies where they are a minority as they face all kind of discriminations and isolation. Same kind of hysteria related to Muslims is being created here in India by these ‘secularist Muslims’ who are now openly siding with the Hindutva fanatics. Muslims are victim of theocratic ideas and putting Islam in everything but it is not that they are not changing and voices are not there challenging the dominance of Mullah and religious leadership. My problem with these Muslim secularists is how come they appreciate the Sangh Parivar and its brahmanical dominance over the vast non Brahmin Hindus? If you reject priestly classes everywhere, you must stick to that ideological ground. We condemn all kind of priestly classes and their control over masses in each sects and religion and call people not to surrender before them.
In their zeal to look more modern they dangerously make ‘secularism’ and Congress party easily exchangeable terms much to the pleasure of their friends in the Sangh Parivar as well as of the Congress Party. We have not forgotten when Francois Gautier, a French writer based in Delhi in his regular fulminations against Islam and seculars in India got huge publicity in the newspapers. All the crap that he produced got big space in the edit pages of the corporate communalized media which gladden the heart of the Sangh Parivar to use those ‘fulminations’ as quotable quotes to denigrate the activists fighting against them. Gautier once blamed Buddhism for the decline of India and wanted Hindus to militarise as envisioned by the Sangh parivar. The corporate secular Muslims stand together with the corporate communal Hindus in asking for ‘strong’ action against ‘Mullah’ Pakistan and ‘Islamic’ zealots.
The corporate secular Muslims got irritated When Prof Irfan Habib suggested the ‘ideological’ ‘similarities’ between the RSS and IS. They laughed and termed him old jholawallah communists who used to seek vote for communists. What is wrong if Prof Habib questioned the motive of the changing names of the roads named after Mughals? Why is there a road named after Raja Man Singh who actually betrayed Maharana Pratap and joined hand with Akbar, he asked. If Akbar is wrong then how come Man Singh is an honorary person said Prof Habib but then in these times of deep communalization everything is good provided you are a caste Hindu.
Irfan Habib is not being trolled by the Sangh promoted element but decried by these corporate secular Muslims who preach about ‘western liberalism’ but wont question their misdeeds and imperialism. For them everybody who question west have no right to put his feet in these countries and that we all were just primitive people unless the west came and gave us great ideas. I accept many of the ideas and enlightenment. We definitely got philosophy, freedom, liberalism and socialism from the west but to be very frank not from the Americans and Canadians. We refuse to accept them as models as Americans represent the most obscene corporate culture and a majority of them have their mindset very much similar to India’s upper castes. Imperialism and exploitation of people was a reality and that west gained from it can’t be ignored.
Many of our friends wrote that Hindu seculars are not really seculars. Yes our problem is that we have actually made liberalism and secularism as synonymous term. The Hindu liberals are worried about Hinduism and hence they have every right to speak against the Sangh Parivar and its nefarious agenda of converting India into a Hindu Talibanised state. The Muslim liberals are unhappy and blame on Hindu seculars that ‘seculars’ don’t speak against Islam. This is the dangerous game to get adjusted in the power circle and edit pages of the Brahmin-Bania media. We have no issues with those who make such compromises with their identity as it sales better and useful in the globalized world. Identity is a burden for the rural poor but a great institution of marketing yourself once you have entered into the drawing rooms of the power elite. Hindu liberalism wants to maintain the status quo and worried about the Sangh parivar’s control over Hindus but where have these corporate secular Muslims spoken for the Dalits, Aadivasis and Pasmandas ? Where have they shown their concern that our natural resources are under the attack from the western corporate and our people are suffering? Tony Blair want to apologise as his lies are now got exposed but our ‘liberals’ want to support it simply because they feel it will teach ‘Islamists’ a lesson. Yes, these corporate Muslim seculars were the allies of George Bush who termed the word Islamic Fascism. We want to add that religious thugs will bring catastrophe, death and darkness, which ultimately will lead to fascism everywhere. Pakistan and Islamic societies have destroyed the common men and suppressed their voices for freedom because they allowed the extra constitutional religious thugs masquerading as political leaders who used blasphemy laws to control people. Since in India whatever was the reason, Hindu fundamentalism did not have the fullest support in the past of the masses hence it was difficult for them. For the first time in independent India’s history they have a field day and therefore they are coming to their ‘normal’ self. During the other regime they remain as fringe but today they are roaming free and can target any one.
I am disappointed many of the ‘corporate secular Muslims’ who feel like any RSS sympathizer as nothing happened in India. Their problem is that they don’t feel anything is happening in India unless we turn like the Talibanis or IS. It is our duty to save India from those who were once ‘fringe’ but today trying to become ‘mainstream’. Pakistan and theocratic Islamic nations cannot be our role model and therefore we will have to fight back to protect our constitution and rights of all. It would have been good if these ‘secular Muslims’ had the strength to condemn the polarization happening in India and siding with secular groups in India. If they hate brahmanical secular, I would ask them to raise the issue of Pasmanda Muslims or all those like us who do not support that religion has to be led by the priestly classes. I would have supported them and their efforts to liberate Islam but that cannot be done through sitting in the West and gladdening the hearts of chitpawan Brahmins of the Sangh Parivar. A fight for secular ideals will need secular alliances and need secularization of society. To convert Muslims into secularism you need to work among the community and not abuse it sitting with those who have no faith either in constitution or secularism. Long back I wrote that unity of poor people is possible if Mandalisation of Muslims, Christians societies and the leadership comes in the hands of common political people. Politicisation of communities is important to fight battle for dignity and rights. We must understand that Sangh Parivar is not a religious organization but purely political one guiding the current regime at the centre.. Those who feel that Sangh is a Hindu organization are actually denying voice to India’s majority Dalit Bahujans who feel the only agenda of the Sangh Parivar is to maintain the status quo strengthening brahmanical system in India and Muslims are just the target but the real agenda is to keep vast Bahujan masses subjugated. Anyone who is supporting one kind of fanaticism to get rid of his brand of fanaticism is only strengthening the regressive forces and we must be careful of it. In the coming days we will have more writings by these ‘seculars, who will call all those who want India to remain safe for all and our fight for rule of law and constitutionalism as ‘sickulars’ but then we can not keep quiet when our rights are trampled with and ideas from Manusmriti are being imposed on us in the name of ‘sanskriti’ and ‘parampara’ violating the ethics of our democratic secular republican constitution.