The genesis of secularism in India -1
This essay is my effort to understand the roots of secularism in India. It was inspired by Uma's prize-winning essay. I believe that in order to 'rethink secularism', one must understand how it came to be originally defined.
Secular adj. 1 not concerned with religion; not sacred; worldly (secular education, secular music). 2 (of clerics) not monastic. [Oxford English Dictionary]
This, the original meaning of secularism bears little resemblance to the secularism as practiced by the Indian state today. The state in fact, is the primary driver that concerns itself with all matters relating to religion. From college admissions to the rule of law, the state has based its decisions purely on religious motivations. To understand how these things came to pass, one must turn the clock back to the early decades of the previous century and examine the thought-process that preoccupied the philosophical patriarch of
But sanamKhaanoan mein kehte hain musalmaan gaye
hai khushi unki ki Kaabe ke nigahbaan gaye
manzil-daher se untoan ke hudekhvan gaye
apni bagloan me dabayehue Quran gaye
khan jan kufr hai, ehsaas tujhe hai ki nahin?
apni tauheed ka kuch paas tujhe hai ki nahin?
In the temples of idolatory, the idols say, ‘The Muslims are gone!’
They rejoice that the guardians of the Kaaba have withdrawn.
From the world’s caravanserais singing camel-drivers have vanished;
The Koran tucked under their arms they have departed.
These infidels smirk and snigger at us, are You aware?
For the message of Your oneness, do You anymore care?
mur bemaya ko hum-desho-suleman kar de
jis-nayaab muhabba ko phir arjaan kar de
hind ke dair-nasheenoan ko musalmaan kar de
jue-khoon me-cakad aj hasrate-daireen-e-ma
me tapad naal: ba nashtarkda seen-e-ma
Iqbal’s lament was governed by failure – one real and one imagined. Firstly, he saw the existence of Hinduism as an affront to the faith that his forefathers had adopted. Clearly, this caused him consternation. Secondly, in spite of Arab/Turk/Mughal rule in
Raise the poor down-trodden and make it Solomon’s peer.
Make abundant that rare commodity love, so that all may buy and sell,
Convert to Islam
Long have we suffered, see how grief’s blood flows down the drain,
From a heart pierced by the scalpel, hear this cry of pain.
Iqbal’s beliefs soon turned into a genuine movement among the intelligentsia to prevent majority rule. Living under Hindu rule, however democratic, was unthinkable. They were kufr – infidels, hence impure. Ergo, the new state that they wanted to establish was the pure one, Pak-istan. Of course, the presiding dieties of the new states ignored the linguistic and cultural commonality of Indian muslims with their regional counterparts belonging to other religions. And they ignored liberal muslims altogether.
ye daaG daaG ujaalaa, ye shab_gaziidaa sahar
wo intazaar thaa jis kaa, ye wo sahar to nahii.n
This stained stained dawn, this biting hurtful night
This is not the dawn that we envisaged.
But then, what was the surprise here? Dr. Ambedkar had questioned whether the Hindus and Muslims were united in the first place, by detailing the atrocities committed by the invading hordes, thus giving it a historical context .
Once the idea of this schism was in place, there was no stopping it. The Congress itself was an active promoter of division. Its idea of division was based not on religion, but on linguistic differences. Dr. Ambedkar wrote:
Once the basis for division was set, the cat was truly among the pigeons.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that separation on linguistic basis is now an accepted principle with the Congress. It is no use saying that the separation of Karnatak and Andhra is based on a linguistic difference and that the claim to separation of
is based on a cultural difference. This is a distinction without difference. Linguistic difference is simply another name for cultural difference. Pakistan
If there is nothing shocking in the separation of Karnatak and Andhra, what is there to shock in the demand for the separation of
? If it is disruptive in its effect, it is no more disruptive than the separation of Hindu provinces such as Karnatak from Maharashtra or Andhra from Pakistan . Madras is merely another manifestation of a cultural unit demanding freedom for the growth of its own distinctive culture. Pakistan
[to be continued. Next part on the constitution, defining secularism, and its effect on liberal Indian muslims]