The Utopian Dream of Secularism and India

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Shrutikar Abhijit
The Idea of Secularism and Socialism continues to seize the imagination of our Nation Society. It remains to be the quid pro quo par excellence to get certified as a progressive individual. A never-ending pursuit of excelling in the rat-race of Secularism preponderates as a result, and we debase ourselves into incapacitated individuals guided by its pervasion. Nevertheless, we can still agree on, that, a limited percentage of goodwill, although futile, existed among politicians while contemplating the ideas of Secularism and Socialism for free India. This distinct need to implement western ideals felt by the policymakers were also indicative of a fact that policymakers were detached from the Nation Society and were all together antagonistic to the innate propensities of our civilisational Nation.
Irrespective of what policymakers had in their mind, attempt to secularise a polytheistic society as India only had a denigrating impact and diversityism suffered severely as a result. M.S Golwalkar summed this scenario through a Sanskrit maxim " विनायकंप्रकुर्वाणोरचयामासवानरम् " describing a situation where an individual tries to make the idol of Lord Ganesha and instead ends up making the statue of a monkey despite his best efforts. Likewise, in a futile pursuit to realise reactionary monotheistic ideas like Secularism, Policymakers, Nehruvian elitists, and Europhile intellectuals only created more confusion and chaos than certainty and order. Secularism or similar ideas like liberalism etc. had a reactionary history behind their origin. They can be traced to the middle ages of Europe when the Churches had more powers in the matters of the sate than the Monarchy and Free ideas were considered as heresy. Whatever defied the authority of the Church or the Bible, was crushed with an iron hand, ideas like human rights were non-existent, and the Church controlled all affairs of the Civil society.
However, strangulation of the civil society also inspired social reformers and intellectuals of Europe to contemplate upon the ideas of Civil liberty, Sovereignty and finally to Secularism. From the Magna Carta of 1215 to Thirty years war of Westphalia (between Catholics and Protestants) from thoughts on liberalism and separation of religion and state by John Locke to Thomas Jefferson and finally coining of the term secularism by George Jacob Holyoake. Aspirations for freeing the civil society and the state from clutches of the Church became cemented in the social consciousness of the western world. Hence, it can be asserted that one of the primary reasons that led to the birth of reactionary ideas like Secularism was due to the theocratic overreach of Church in the state and state-owned institutions of the west.
In contrast to the actual western concept of secularism that meant a complete separation of the Church and state, the meaning of Secularism in India changed to an entirely different form. Even after the bitter memory of partition, that subjectively verified the failure of Secularism, Europhile politicians of Independent India pursued it and forced it upon the constitution of India through a constitutional amendment, known as the 42nd amendment. However, the word Secular was left undefined that allowed further perversion of the idea and appeasement of religion quickly overpowered equality of religion. While a state, when claiming to be secular should have been aloof from the matters of religion, yet it chose to meddle in the affairs of Hindu temples through discriminatory acts like the Endowment act and bestowed grants and perks for hailing from the so-called minority community.
While on the one hand, the state sourced money from temples through a Jijiya styled tax (see endowment act), religious pilgrimages of minorities like Hajj remained subsidised, including additional benefits through various ministries like that of the Minority affairs. Be it subsidy for Haj or Jerusalem Pilgrimage; the very definition of Secularism becomes corrupted once states start incentivising individuals for being minorities and damper individuals for being the so-called majority. The utopian state of Secularism that India believes to have achieved or aspires to achieve traverses through the road of rejectionism and minorityism. Thus increasing further chaos and hatred in the civil society rather than the peace and harmony it desires to accomplish.
The perversions of secularism in India also achieved new milestones by allowing personal laws based on religions to exist, whereas a genuine Secular and sovereign democracy should have equal or equity civil codes for all citizens irrespective of their preference of worship. Officiating rejectionism against the Nation society through institutions of the state, the existence of personal laws in the name of Secularism or minority rights have engendered generations of confused individuals who reject the values and ethos of the civilisational Nation as archaic but aspire for minorityism as dapper.
As a consequence of all this, an increasing number of individuals find a Bindi regressive but view hijab as a choice; evokes veganism against adds of pure cow ghee(clarified butter) but remains detached from the slaughter of the same cows during Eid, asserts Ganesh Chaturthi processions to be loud and noisy but perceive intolerance when someone objects to the Azaan calls on wee hours. And above all, they find the slogan of Jai Shree Ram (Victory to Lord Ram) as a terror call and claim Nara-e-Takbir (No God but Allah and No messenger but Muhhamad) and No God But Jesus as a message of peace and harmony. The section of our Nation society that suffers from this civilisational dementia ardently believes their rejectionism to be true and consider everything else to a gibberish. This state of denial that such individuals chose to live in must be factually countered, and the utopian bubble must be pricked before it causes more hamper to the Nation Society.
I conclude my thoughts on the Utopian dream of Secularism in India with a short story from the French revolution, which I consider to be the perfect Epigram for explaining the secular situation of our society under the perversion of rejectionism.
The story is from the French revolution when France was standing up against its monarchy and King Louis XVI, until his last days of anarchy, was maintaining political prisons, where Political prisoners were incarcerated under rigorous restraint and isolation. These sentences were at times carried out for decades, and Prisoners often did not know of developments outside their prisons. However, once the revolution succeeded, the revolutionists seized this prison and released all the prisoners. But, to the utter dismay of Revolutionaries, most of these prisoners returned to their prison cells after strolling out for a day and even cuffed themselves back with broken Hand-cuffs and torn chains. One of the revolutionaries who was taken aback by this weird behaviour asked a prisoner about the reason behind it. The Prisoner replied, 'after living with these chains in the darkness for soo long, the sunlight hurt his eyes and without the weight of these cuffs and chains which a had become a part of his extended body, he couldn't get a peaceful sleep'.
This short story from the French revolution perfectly sums up the state of mind of those individuals for whom Isms like rejectionism or a perverted form of secularism have become an extended part of their self and feel hurt or perceive intolerance when civilisational realities burst their utopian bubble.
(The writer, a Fellow with “Institute for Conflict Research and Resolution”, has comprehensive experience in monitoring issues related to North East)