Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Confused Hindu in Secular India

"But why do you refer to it as a mosque at all? Where is the mosque, my friends, when the namaz is not performed? When for forty years idol worship is going on there, what kind of a mosque is it? That is just the temple of our dear Ram." This is the secular saint of modern India, V P Singh speaking to RSS leaders about the Babri Masjid on the eve of the 1989 elections. Of course , our dear old V P changed his tune after the elections, when Imam Bukhari and others warned him that handing over the Babri Masjid site might set a precedent for the claim of other sites currently owned by the Waqf board.The irony of the matter is V P is still the foremost secular voice in this country. In India, Secularism presumably means pandering to all religions.

Remember the seige of Hazratbal? Indian Intelligence got news of high level militants hiding in a mosque there. The Indian army surrounded the place and after 2-3 days negotiations began - not for the surrender of the militants holed up there but for their safe passage . Their guarantee to freedom - they were holed up in one of India's holiest Islamic shrines. Forget the fact that eight years before the same Indian Army had destroyed the Golden Temple to flush out the terrorists there. But the situation was different now. Blue Star was ordered by Indira Gandhi , Hazratbal by a weak but secular Narasimha Rao. I still remember L K Advani deriding the Govt with "Bullets for the kar sevaks, Biriyani for the terrorists".

In 1990, over two lakh people were forcibly evicted from their homes. 16 long years hence , they are still refugees in their own country.Iam talking about the Kashmiri Pandits. Long ago, Mr L K Advani had asked this telling question about them: "What, and how much would our 'national papers' have been writing about them had they not been Hindus, if they had been Muslims in particular?" But pay no attention to Advani, he is that well known Hindu fundamentalist. As long as our enlightened liberals ,Arundhati Roy et al , havent commented on this , things must be just fine.

After the Vajpayee Govt assumed power in 1999, there was a revamp of the ICHR ( Indian Council for Historical Research ). Some known pro leftist historians ( Romila Thapar among them ) were replaced. And Lo a cry was heard across the land "Saffronisation of history". Sitaram Yechury criticised the move saying it was "politically motivated". I remember being amused at the time - How could the removal have been political if the appointments themselves hadnt been political in the first place. But of course, I was missing the whole point. The removal decision was taken by a fascist BJP govt , the appointments done by a secular Congress one. What else can you expect in a country where every party other than the BJP and Shiv Sena is secular.

Recently there was an incident where a committee asked the Indian Army ( among other organizations ) to release a religion wise census of its numbers - the idea presumably was to see if there was a representation of Indian Muslims in the Army in proportion to their population. There was a huge hue and cry at the time.The govt finally gave in when even the Leftists opposed this. There was an article by Shekhar Gupta around that time that was very inspiring. Titled 'Kitne Musalmaan Hain' , it was a fervent appeal to keep the army free from the communal divide. To quote Shekhar, "Justice Sachar’s committee asked the armed forces: Kitne Musalman hain? What happens, when after an Army unit has spoiled his riot party, a communal thug asks: Kitne Musalman the?"


baawara said...

Hi Sachin there is another way to look at things...

If any national institution is recruiting and promoting fairly then its employees composition should be a reflection of the country's population.

Army has never been free from religious biases (proved by marked reduction in intake of Sikh recruits after 84)

as for muslims in army. The grenadiers (who had the only muslim paramvir chakra winner), are one of the first ones to die in a conventional battle and have about a 1/4 muslim composition.

Sachin R K said...

Hi baawara,
It was never my claim that the Indian army is free from religious or other bias. If you look at the various regiments, they are religion based ( Sikh regiment ) , caste based ( Jat Regiment ) , region based ( Madras Sappers ) etc. One could even argue that this is necessary on practical grounds. But you have to agree that the army tries to project itself above such base coniderations. My point was just this - all other points being equal, religion ( OR caste OR region ) should not be the deciding criterion. Call me an idealistic fool but I have always held Lata's rendition of 'Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon' in high esteem because it places Indianness above such parochial considerations.