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Secularism – Per the BJP

What do our two major national political parties say about secularism? What are their respective stances?

The Bharatiya Janata Party says on page 8 of it’s manifesto for the 2009 Loka Sabha elections –

Shri Advani has an exemplary record of service to the nation covering over six decades. A leader of impeccable integrity, he was one of the chief crusaders for democracy during the Emergency (1975-77) and spent 19 months in jail. He led the Ayodhya movement, the biggest mass movement in India since Independence, and initiated a powerful debate on cultural nationalism and the true meaning of secularism.

Of course one remembers it was Shri Advani who coined the term, pseudo-secular, to point out to political opponents who were accused of pandering to religious minorities for votes. In other words, appeasing fanatic fundamentalist agendas amongst minorities and in turn creating committed “vote banks” that would mature at the time of elections. Hindus have never been a favored camp to appease – mostly because they are seen as too divided amongst themselves. But what is the BJP’s sense of secularism?

In order to discover the true meaning, one has to track back to page 5 of the same document.

The belief in essential unity of mankind is a unique feature of Hindu thought. The Vedic Rishi had also declared that ‘Ekam Sad Viprah Bahudha Vadanti’ (truth or reality is one but wise men describe it in different ways). This is essentially a secular thought in the real sense of the term because it accepts that one can follow his own path to reach the ultimate. Hindus are well known for their belief in harmony of religions. And because of this world view almost all religions practised in different parts of the world have existed peacefully in India and will continue to do so.

The complete verse from the Rigveda samhita (1.164.46)

इन्द्रं मित्रं वरुणमग्निमाहुरथो दिव्यः स सुपर्णो गरुत्मान                                                                                            

 एकं सद विप्रा बहुधा वदन्त्यग्निं यमं मातरिश्वानमाहुः ||

They call it Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni as well as Garutman of heavenly plumage.                                                

Truth is one, but the learned refer to it in different names like agni, yama, matariswan

The import of the verse when read fully, is very clear. There is an understanding that Indra, Mitra etc are not competing against one another as rivals but stand on the same plane. Their devotees may choose any one of them to follow. Their paths may be different from others but will lead to the same destination or truth. The learned know this and in order to customize as per the need and capacity of the devotee, they recommend a particular path. It may be Indra’s path or Mitra’s path or Varuna’s.

The BJP tells us this is true secularism and that the party espouses it.

Let’s now look at the implication of what the BJP claims. Espousing this concept as basis of secularism all one has to do in our society is to proclaim thus –

   They call it Allah Jehovah Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni as well as Garutman of heavenly plumage.

                Truth is one, but the learned refer to it in different names like agni, yama, matariswan, allah..

Sounds great to the Hindu who may take an Allah or a Jehovah to be on the same plane as a Mitra or a Varuna or a Venkateshwara (provided the Hindu forgets to read the Qu’ran or the Bible). However, is this true of the Muslim or the Christian? A cursory reading of the Qu’ran and the Bible (Old and New Testament) will bear out the fact that these holy books do not admit of Gods other than Allah and Jehovah respectively. Salvation can come only through Allah for a Muslim and only through Jehovah or Jesus for the Christian. There are specific strictures against nurturing the BJP’strue secularism’.

But all this is well known. The Qu’ran and the Bible are widely available and it’s followers don’t fight shy of speaking their plain and sacred truth.

So, when one interrogates the BJP’s brand of secularism one naturally wants to know why adopt something so patently unreal given another reality of our society? After all, the BJP is not speaking only for the Hindu. It claims to speak for all Indians including Muslims and Christians. Is it because the Hindus might then view the party as truly Hindu in nature? If this is true, then the BJP is being less than truthful because it is not telling the Hindus that the proposal is unworkable and out of the question in our society.

Or is it because Muslims and Christians may see the party as accomodative of their Gods and therefore of themselves? If the latter were true, then we should have these two peoples of the book giving up exclusive salvationary roles for their Gods. – The latter can also be true. It does not require the Muslim and the Christian to accept a Venkateshwara in order for the BJP to accept that they are all one and the same! It is not even a condition.

Where does all this leave the BJP’s true secularism? As it stands, a classic excercise in self deception and more importantly it helps to intellectually disarm the Hindus completely.

So what should the BJP do? For a start let it stop playing footsie with sacred Hindu verses and texts. Let it accept facts and realities as they are instead of wishing for the unicorn. If secularism cannot mean Ekam Sad Viprah Bahudha Vadanti, then it means something else.

Takeaway – In this model of secularism, Hindus and Hinduism are/is badly disadvantaged.


BJP Election Manifesto 2009

PS – I have made some changes from my last post. However, the import remains the same.

– Namaste


Kharaharapriya says:

I would say its more of political pragmatism. There shall always be a set of hardcore hindutva followers, who will always support you. This group is small. You cant win elections using this group.
But as you know for all good reasons India has a vast majority of middle class who vouch by the secular character of India as espoused by gandhi. To garner support from this group you have no other option but to talk of a new brand of secularism and prove that the secularism as practiced by other parties dont comply with the widely accepted definition. By claiming to be secular it gets acceptance from the people disenchanted with the so called secular parties and you keep your hindutva base happy by citing examples from the past about hindu thoughts on secularism.

Pala S responds:

What you say is true. This strategy of being all things to all people may benefit the BJP. But where does this secularism place the Hindus? In a position of weakness or in a position of strength? My larger question being, why is it not important for this kind of secularism that a national majority remain strong?

Kharaharapriya replies:

Secularism in its true sense if followed will neither strengthen the minorities nor the hindus. A secular law at some point on some issue has to take on the religious tenets, which might be perceived as anti-minority or anti-hindu. In this sense secularism can never work, it can never keep all sections happy all the time, unless all people turn out to be atheists.

Yes, in a country like India making the national majority strong will not have any adverse effect on minorities. But the secularists and minorities should realize that. But the minorities will never give up their cause because of EGO and the sense of superiority their religions profess.

But no ones gonna come and make the hindus strong, surely not the seculars. Hinduism can become strong only if more people understand it. More people shun all negativities that has been imposed on us, over thousands of years. If 50% of Hindu population reform, thats more than sufficient to dethrone the egomaniac seculars.

But making a national majority strong in places like Pakistan, you know the consequences of it. 😦

Pala S responds:

Well, I’m obviously speaking only about Hindus in India that is also their national home. My main argument against secularism is that by rule, it stands against a national majority and it’s culture. For secularism to succeed in any shape or form, this majority culture must be defeated in whatever manner possible. As for Hindus and Hinduism, my argument is that we don’t deserve this fate.We must fight back. As far as “secular” laws are concerned, it would be worthwhile to go into specifics and see where if at all, is the disconnect and the merits thereof.

Kharaharapriya replies:

>> For secularism to succeed in any shape or form, this majority culture must be defeated in whatever manner possible.

I dont agree here. The aim of the seculars is protection of minorities, because of the impression that majoritarians always agress upon minorities.
In their quest to do so, they end up doing humongous damage to the dominant culture.

True,we don’t deserve this fate. But the onus is upon ourselves to change our fate.

Pala S responds:

K’priya, for the moment ignore the politicians who man the secular establishment and focus on the ideology of secularism.In your view, given the ideology of secularism itself, do you think there is a way to ensure a different outcome from what we witness today, if this ideology was manned by well meaning politicians? You might want to think about the impulses that drive secularism.

Kharaharapriya replies:

A well meaning politician, if he follows secularism in its true sense will not pose a threat to hinduism. I dont see, why following secularism in its true sense would degrade hindu culture.
But the minorities will never accept such a proposition in India.Typical dog in the manger attitude.

Pala S responds:

K’priya, what is true secularism?

Kharaharapriya replies:

As its defined. Isolation of church and state.
Tell me in what way if we go secular will it affect the Hindu majority?

Pala S responds:

K’priya, my next post will present my view of why and how secularism harms our (Hindu) national majority. I hope to put something up either tonight or early tommorow. Hope your having a fine day!

Pala S acknowledges:

K’priya, I owe you my explanation. I’m bogged down with work. I hope to find time to write later today.

Please bear with me. Thanks!

Kharaharapriya replies:

Thats ok sir. take your time 🙂

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