Of Faith, Justice and Reconciliation – Contd

–Varta continued–

Here is the link to the previous discussion on the subject. Further correspondence will be posted in this space.

Shri Photonman responds to my reply to him –

1. When you define secularism : You mention that in a secular state “Any assertion of and by the National Society is seen as a manifestation of fascist tendencies which might cause harm to and endanger the existence of the Minorities.” What kind of “assertions” do you have in mind?

2. It is not clear just from your definition why a secular State in a Multi-Cultural having to constantly prove its bonafides towards minorities: a lot depends on how the state is administered, and laws governing freedom of its citizenry.

3. Your comment that secularism in the West worked ‘better’ when it was more homogeneous must be qualified. The important case of the United States – that was never homogeneous – is left out.

4. Overall, I think we should be careful before we use a universal definition of ’secularism’ to pronounce judgment. How a nonreligious state actually works in a religious society depends a lot on the socio-economic conditions of the citizenry, and how secularism is interpreted and implemented.

My reply to Shri Photonman’s response –

1 & 2. My definition of Secularism and a Secular State is impeccable. You latter part of the query speaks to the nature that a Secular State must exhibit in a Multi-Cultural setting.

My evidences:

a. Application to the OIC first at Rabat; rejected but still currently standing.

b. Normalization of relations with Israel and the US. Delayed due to intense opposition from an assertive and aggressive Minority even though such normalization would have spoken to our National interests.

c. Our abject self-description as the second largest Islamic nation in the world.

d. A State delegation representing the country at the Vatican in order to be present at a canonization.

These instances speak to how careful a Secular State in a Multi-Cultural polity should be with respect to the sensitivities of its Minorities. These instances are not limited to the Indian situation.

3. How does one say the US was not homogeneous? On what facts do you base your statement?

4. No, more than the definition, I speak to the compulsions that the Secular State must labor under while in a Multi-Cultural setting.

I would be pleased to review instances that can run counter to my position.

Shri Yossarin responds –

Palahalli – You are mixing up issues to force fit facts to your hypothesis.

I don’t want to get into a debate on semantics on your definition of the word “secular” or somebody elses. It is not very useful.

What passes for “secularism” in some of the instances you have pointed out are shameful like ties with Israel. There is no liberal, secular or national rationale for foreign policy being dictated by appeasing a certain minority. National Interest alone must dictate foreign policy.

On OIC Membership I don’t see an issue as long as it provides leverage to advance national interest or it becomes an issue if it diminishes national interest.

As for the link u provided on second largest nation, that is irrelevant to the current debate.

Let us be very clear that I don’t want this to be hijacked into a debate on Palahalli’s hypothesis, his blog is the best place to do that.

In as much as his critique and Ajay’s question related to the new Big Tent goes it is for a minmalist secularism that is essentially non-theocratic.

If Palahalli and Ajay want India to be a theocracy they must say so by clarifying which theocratic doctrine shud be the basis and which cleric will be the final authority. If they don’t want India to be a theocracy then there is no intellectual dispute here.

Everything else is about degrees of injecting faith into State policy and that as I said is best left to Individual and Local Community via direct democracy.

All instances of Minority appeasement are wrong and that doesn’t change in the new Big Tent.

However the new Big Tent is to stand for preventing appeasement of any kind rather than justify one kind of appeasement in response to another kind of appeasement.

I hope this settles that debate on faith and secularism in the big tent.

On Ram Janmabhoomi I have already clarified the best way to solve it is

Step 1 – give freedom to religion by putting a complete end to state interference

Step 2 – empower local community and stakeholders to take over religious shrines via direct democracy thru appropriate legislation

Step 3 – all political outfits ans socio-religious groups agree to respect step 2 as the basis for reconciliation. Both representative parties make their case to the people of faizabad on faith and economic grounds and how the local community will stand to benefit from investments and economic activity etc…

Step 4 – with step 2 as the basis let the people of faizabad settle the dispute via local direct democracy as far as the disputed land goes. For the rest where the legal status is clear hand it over to the legal stakeholders.

The courts cannot settle this dispute nor can a federal legislation. The decision has to be left to the local community.

I find it hard to believe the local community would be foolish to make the wrong choice.

The democratic process gives them and the State the necessary constitutional cover to make the right choice without feeling intimidated and outraged by a movement that has violated their privacy for no fault of theirs for decades now.

Pala S replies to Shri Yossarin –

Good morning Shri Yossarin!

At the outset please allow me to clarify that I have no intention of hijacking anything much less a useful discussion. However, I do note that there has been a misunderstanding.

1. Like you, I would like to stay as far away from a definition of Secularism as possible. That is why I have stated it precisely once in this entire discussion. What I have done is bring to bear the nature and character Secularism acquires and develops within a intrinsically homogenous society and a recognized Multi-Cultural setting. I have provided evidence and argued my point with facts.

2. You say, “There is no liberal, secular or national rationale for foreign policy being dictated by appeasing a certain minority.” I will agree with you. But then it happens nevertheless. My question on this forum is why it happens the way it does if it is ideally not supposed to happen that way? I see no merit in brushing away all evidence as exceptions or mere perversions. I ask, is there (a) logic or not somewhere?

3. You say National Interest must guide all policy. No doubt. But should it not become incumbent then to identify the Nation whose interests we speak of protecting? Are we clear about this at least?

4. An OIC membership stipulates that the Head of State be a Muslim. That we go to seek membership of this esteemed forum that was constituted post the Al-Aqsa mosque fracas, as an Islamic nation. And you see little wrong in it as long as National interests are furthered. I ask whose National interests are furthered by calling ourselves an Islamic nation.

But this does seem to accord with my theory.

5. There is no question of a theocracy. That debate would have been open and shut. Hindu Rajya has never been a theocracy or has that fact become too clichéd now?

6. You speak of Minority appeasement and you speak of other kinds of appeasement. And you speak of National interests. Again, whose National interests are we talking about?

7. The debate on Secularism gets settled when someone can come up with a rational argument about why “perversions” that on closer scrutiny really make a lot of sense in such Secular settings, occur at all if they are not meant to?

I’m not even saying these are country specific..I am saying these are universal phenomena.

8. On your Ayodhya solution all I can say is human beings do not exist in vacuumed cocoons. There are influences and they are influenced. Using an Economic/Secular argument – If Faizabad or Ayodhya were self-contained and 100% self-reliant communities with no dependence on the outside world with passports and visas for entry..even then they would not be able to decide this issue alone. And I’m talking about just one small geographic area with a minuscule population. Should we not be more practical? If in any case you think a Temple would be decided upon, do you seriously believe that Muslims would have consciously and desirably agreed with that decision? For economic reasons? For other reasons? Are we now not going against the grain of human nature and viewing them as inanimate dolls that can be played with?

But then you seem to unconsciously recognize this dynamic when you say – “I find it hard to believe the local community would be foolish to make the wrong choice.” What would be a foolish and wrong choice? Perhaps something they might not locally agree with? Is that even possible within the conceptual “Big Tent”?

In your closing you seem to be saying that the “movement” is the only pressure point for locals. Once this goes away via the “Big Tent” policy, they will be able to make a stress free decision that will also be carried by all. What are your odds that this happens?

Overall, can we be more practical please?

Thank you

Shri Ajay makes an interesting and in my view, valid point –

Yoss, you seem to resent criticism, (Pala S – But I don’t really think so)

We are not calling for a theocracy, atleast i’m not, quite the opposite.

My asserstion is that unless a mechanism is built into governance to address cultural conflicts, there will be scope for religious leaders and sentiments to take lead and turn such cultural matters into prestige issue. I’ll quote two examples below

RamJanmabhoomi was made into a prestige issue by BJP and exploited for electoral politics as courts and legal system failed to amicably resolve the matter.

Amarnath Shrine issue, too turned into a prestige issue, thanks to non-existence of a mechanism to address such conflicts.

If economics and freewill could have swayed opposing communities to see reason, Amarnath atleast, would have been solved at a much earlier stage.

Shri Yossarin responds and closes the debate unilaterally – (sad)

You have misinterpreted my remarks on OIC. My point is simple without compromising national identity or national interest in anyway if the OIC can be useful like any other international economic cooperation entity we must use it to our advantage that is all. If OIC in its current avatar doesnt satisfy above then it is of no use to us.  – Pala S : Point taken. However this does not explain the fact that such moves are made and not protested by Secular parties of any hue. Again, how does anybody speak of national identity without explicating what this “identity” is in the Indian or ( )context?  Question – Lack of any clarity helps fill any liquid in the “identity” vessel?

To the rest of your argument, I can sum it all up to a basic question on why is there appeasement despite the fact that some nation is supposed to be secular ?

It is a fair question and it has to do with the nature of politics, if there is an electoral incentive to appease, there will be appeasement. – Pala S : Sure. I would say it’s in the nature of Secularism that makes it incumbent upon it to appease Minorities in a Multi-Cultural country. The one way to resolve this problem would be to clarify the distinction between a national and a citizen.

No amount of top down constitutional ammendments can prevent that for the nature of selfishness is such that there will always be workarounds and backdoor routes to appeasement of one kind or another. – Pala S : If this is about electoral politics inspiring appeasment perhaps we should relook at our electoral system. So yes, it would have to be a top-down constitutional approach.

The best solution is to leave it to state governments and local communities on the degree to which they will tolerate such appeasement via direct or indirect democracy that reflects local/regional sentiments/aspirations rather than mandate a one size fit all national solution. – Pala S : I am not suggesting any method yet. However how does de-centralization help insulate “national” policy from appeasing tendencies?

This also addresses Ajay’s other question on how Culture conflicts with Governance can be resolved. – Pala S : I don’t think it addresses the issue of Janmabhoomi at all. It doesn’t.

I am closing the debate on this thread with these remarks.

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