I was watching a very interesting discussion last night on Focus Tonight with Sanjeev Srivastava. There were 2 journalists and three spokespersons. The first spokesman represented “Janata Dal united”, the second one was from Congress and third represented the “Rashtriya Janata Dal”. They were debating about the upcoming Bihar elections and the prospect of a “Janata Parivar” merger. The decibel level was well within permissible limits and the representatives where trying to make sense. They were extra sweet to each other. It was fascinating to note how every statement of theirs orbited around the keyword “secular”. They repeatedly yakked about the need of a united secular front to counter the communal and fascist forces over which the journalists had a hearty laugh. The communal and fascist forces denoted the BJP and allies while all others signified the secular front.
It is interesting to note how the politics of India revolves around this much molested keyword called secularism. I am duplicating a Quora answer of mine to put secularism in the right perspective. First let us dissect the definition of it, then try finding out how it made its way to India and lastly see how it is being practiced in India. And see how it is hyped for political gains.
Definition: Secular spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy is the one that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
How it reached India: Indira Gandhi introduced the word ‘Secular’ into the Preamble of the Constitution of India with the 42nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1976. She did it primarily to strengthen her dwindling voter base. But the Yaksha Prashna remains how does rejection of religious faith and worship strengthen a politician’s vote base? The answer lies in the customization of the term “Secularism”. In India Secularism was tailored to mean “equal treatment of all religions by the state”.
How it is practiced: Secularism was introduced in India as a measure to strengthen vote base of a particular party and equal treatment of all religions would have gotten them nowhere. Hence started a game of “appeasement” under the nameplate of secularism. Secularism in India means doling out goodies, granting loans, waiving off debts, starting new welfare schemes, granting scholarships, conferring awards, providing jobs and promotions in jobs etc. TO A PARTICULAR RELIGIOUS (AND SOMETIMES CASTE) GROUP. This leads to a loyal vote base which ensures more number of years in the top chair of the government. Muslims and Dalits have mostly been used by political parties in the name of secularism. Parties like Congress, MIM, SP, TMC, BSP, JD (U), RJD and more recently AAP have resorted to cheap appeasement gimmicks under the guise of secularism to ensure Muslim votes and Dalit votes. Right wing Parties like BJP and Shiv Sena do it for the Hindus.
So we see Secularism in India is a complete antithesis of the actual meaning of the term. We have Hindu acts and Muslim personal law boards in India. The relevance of Waqf is undecipherable for my naïve mind. An anti-conversion bill is not yet enforced. The first draft of the communal violence bill was heavily biased in the favor of religious minorities. Strangely the concepts of minority and majority aren’t based on any formulas or parameters. And we don’t have a uniform civil code.
Also when the Constitution of India promises to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
Do we actually need an obscure term to show to the world that we treat all religions equally while the reality is that we don’t?
Summing up everything it is safe to conclude that we are anything but a secular state. Appeasement of any type should be discouraged. People need to understand the real meaning of the term and stop falling for the carefully laid traps of secularism.