Secular Who?
Columns, In Black & White

Secular Who?

December 21, 2019

So, protests continue. While initially the protest was against leaving out illegal Muslims from Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), it has now moved to a ‘pre-emptive protest’ against National Register of Citizens (NRC). We say ‘pre-emptive’ because there is no draft in place for a nationwide NRC.

Now, the protestors claim, if NRC is implemented and if an Indian Muslim, during NRC test, is found lacking in documentation then he will be sent away.

Who is fooling whom here? Is it possible in India, a nation with 200 million Muslims, the third highest Muslim population in the world, mind you, can be deported? And deported to where? Even rich Muslim nations don’t take in their own brethren, just ask the Syrians and Rohingyas.

The Malaysian PM Mahathir bin Mohamad, while criticising CAA, did not even make an offer to Muslims. One would think he would make an offer, after all, as reported, his grandfather was an Indian Muslim from Kerala who immigrated to Malaysia. Guess, words are meant to appease, actions on the other hand is way too impractical. 

Also some say, “Indian Muslims who don’t have enough documentation to prove they are Indians will be put in ‘camps’.” Really? Let’s see. The population of Pakistan is 213 million and of this, 211 million are Muslims. So, are we to believe that Indian Muslim population, which is the size of Pakistan’s population, can be held in ‘camps’?  

By the way, we are unable to deport the mere 6,000 illegal Rohingya Muslims housed in 15 settlements around Hyderabad back to Bangladesh-Myanmar border camps and some protestors think millions can be deported! It seems, the Opposition parties, while accusing BJP of fear-mongering, are deploying similar ‘fear-inducing’ tactics. 

 Of course, there was a debate in  the Parliament where the Home Minister assured that Indian Muslims are safe but it was not assurance enough. Why? Because as some of the protestors said, the string of moves by BJP such as abolition of Triple Talaq, abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, NRC in Assam are all anti-Muslim moves which shows that BJP cannot be trusted. 

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 So, giving Muslim women dignity is anti-Muslim? Making Kashmir part of mainstream India is anti-Muslim? An attempt, albeit a flawed one, to find out who your citizens are along a porous border is anti-Muslim? 

While everyone is busy keeping their eyes open for ‘anti-Muslim’ laws, why were they blind to anti-human rights laws such as Triple Talaq and Section 377? 

Herein lies the hypocrisy of liberals. Liberals have reduced liberalism to — if you fight for minorities you are liberal, secular and an intellectual, but if you raise your voice for what is right or for a Hindu cause, like why only Hindu temples are controlled by the Government, one is called anti-Muslim or a right wing nut? 

There is a rise in right wing approval today because for too long liberals forgot that liberalism is a value system based on justice and equality not just for minorities, but for ALL. 

Double standards of morality and equality of liberals has made the once liberal citizens lean right. This has happened across the globe and that is why you see the rise of nationalist parties or majoritarian parties — from USA to Hungary, from Austria to Germany and to India. 

If liberalism is struggling in India, if right wing BJP has flourished today, the blame squarely falls on Congress Party. It is a shame that a so-called ‘secular’ and ‘liberal’ Congress Party in half-a- century could not pass the two most significant human rights bills and it had to be done by a right wing party perceived to be parochial — decriminalisation of homosexuality and abolition  of Triple Talaq. 

Why didn’t Congress Party, the pallbearer of all virtuous ‘isms’ pass these laws? Was it because instead of looking at it as a law that brings ‘equality for ALL’ they saw it as ‘anti-Muslim’ law that could hurt their vote-bank? 

This makes one wonder what have the so-called secular parties done for minorities? Even within the party how much representation have they given for minorities? Where are the new young, bright, educated Muslim leaders in Congress or any other Party? 

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It is an embarrassment that Rahul Gandhi should suddenly claim he is a Brahmin and does a temple run before elections. It’s a shame that leadership of CPI(M) that represents the poor labourer is monopolised by two super upper class leaders — Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat.  

The truth is that the moment any party gives election tickets based on caste rather than performance they cease to be secular. When you choose winnability over ideology, appeasement over equality, you are just as opportunistic as any other political party. Stop pretending to be otherwise. 

That is why the ever so articulate Arundhati Roy wrote: “It’s true that Congress Party has sinned, and grievously, and for decades together. But it has done by night what the BJP does by day. It has done covertly, stealthily, hypocritically, shamefacedly what the BJP does with pride.”

Congress is important for Indian democracy because regional parties will never be a stable enough force to take on the BJP. But first they need to stop obsessing over lopsided secularism and the Gandhis. 

Congress and fanatical liberals have made minorities special, and in doing so, have left the majority feeling unwanted and that is why the same liberal Hindus who voted for Congress for half-a-century, today vote for BJP — they were all secular and liberal Indians until you stopped being a secular Indian Party. 

Meanwhile, BJP talks about ‘Sab ka vikas’, busy trying to shed its fanatical strips and project that they are a liberal Hindu Party while Congress is still stuck trying to appease minorities and worshipping the Gandhis. 

For now, as India violently marches to the beat of left-right-left politics we are only marching backwards and the true liberal, like R.K Laxman’s Common Man, is left standing on the sides, sidelined and silent. Helplessly watching and religiously paying taxes and all he paid for, burns!! 

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  1. Karnataka Home minister Badavaraj Bommai’s version on Mangalore violent protest against CAA has an element of truth.He has pointed out towards CCTV footage by city Police which convey that the violence during protests against CAA in Mangaluru appeared to be pre-planned to show the law and order authorities in bad light. He has come down heavily on Congress leaders mainly Former Minister UT.Khader for misleading and inciting the minority community on the CAA to indulge in violence for political gain. There was a fatal attack on the police, we had to use force…..two are seriously injured on the civilian side and until the last information that I have got, they are undergoing treatment at the ICU,” Mangaluru city police Commissioner P S Harsha said.

  2. What a culture! says:

    India is not secular. Muslims have their own personal laws, as opposed to laws that govern non-Muslims. That was a post-independence blunder. Correcting the anomaly of Triple Talaq does not make the Muslim personal laws any more palatable. But the author of this article through conflating Triple Talaq and liberalism, confuses the core issue of the the CAA, the NRC and the NPR. In all initiatives by the government, particularly the enactment of Acts, perception is more important than the detail. For many who are not Muslims and who resented the creation of personal laws for Muslims, the perception is one of discrimination. Hence,it is Modi and Shah’s own goal. Outside the country, it does the image of the country no good.
    In one stroke, when a German exchange student in IIT Madras (reported in the Indian print media) was asked to leave for protesting holding a placard that said: “We were there: 1933-1945”, reminding the Nazification of Germany by Hitler through attempted ridding off Jews, the message became loud and clear: the perception of Hindu Rashtra. It may not be true, but there you are, the effect of own goal by the centre BJP government.
    Modi should realise that thousands of Indians, students and tourists enter Western countries,of which many students attempt to complete their studies and many others drop out and disappear. Many Indian tourists with tourist visas never return to India. These are in the region of several tens of thousands ( in Europe, North America and Australia) and yet Modi refuses to take back these illegal Indians holding Indian citizenship, by arguing that the respective Western government should ask these illegal Indians their opinion-that is, what they want. which sounds so ludicrous! Th result is Indian passport holders entering these Western countries even with valid visas are closely questioned.
    Indian government resents this, and often thinks it is racism. Yet, the same government , now is perceived to be the perpetrator of such discrimination. Indian government cannot complain if number of visas given is reduced or Indians are deported from these countries. Every time, Modi meets a Western leaders, he urges them to give visas to more Indians. Indians do not have monopoly of skills, other nationalities do have them.
    The perception counts, and hence the above German student’s protest is so effective as a weapon!


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