Can India 'Shine'
By Asghar Ali
04 March 2004
media campaign launched by the NDA government showing "India is
Shining" is immoral as crores of rupees of public money is being
spent on it and the purpose is certainly not merely to inform the
public about the 'achievements' of the ruling coalition but to win
Is India shining?
Well, it all depends on how one looks at it. Even
from economic perspective such claim is totally untenable. In a
country where millions are unemployed, hundreds are committing
suicide because of poverty and hunger and millions of children drop
out from school before reaching even 5th standard, how can one claim
India is shining?
But we are more
concerned here with communal situation under the NDA
rule than the economic situation. India despite its bewildering
diversity has remained united, thanks to our commitment to secular
Secularism in India
means that state remains neutral to all religions
and see that religious majority does not reduce our democracy to
majoritarianism and minorities are protected and are free to follow
their religion without any let and hindrance.
However, India has
suffered very badly on this score under the NDA.
India can politically shine only if its secular polity is not
tampered with. Can India shine politically when its main ruling party
remains tied to organisations like RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, which
are avowedly anti-minorities? No less a person than the prime
minister of India said in the crowd of RSS and BJP supporters in
Straten Island in the USA that 'RSS is my soul'.
Can there be any
doubt about BJP's active connection with the RSS? Mr
L.K.Advani personally attends the RSS rally in 'Khaki chaddi' and
gives salute to RSS flag. And he does so when he is home minister of
India. What message will it send to the police force? Will police
force then be able to control communal violence impartially?
The Congress regime
did not have any brilliant record of communal
peace in the 45 years of its rule. No one disputes this. But its
leaders did not have allegiance to the likes of the RSS, much less
VHP and Bajrang Dal. They did not stuff premier research bodies like
the ICHR and ICSSR (Indian Council of Historical Research and Indian
Council of Social Science Research) with those who openly deride
secularism. These two premier research bodies were controlled during
the Congress rule by those academics whose secular credentials were
never in doubt.
But soon the NDA
came to power, these organisations were captured by
the RSS and VHP supporters. It is a great tragedy that such research
bodies in social sciences be controlled by those who are avowed
opponents of secularism. Even moderate BJP person like the late Prof
M.L.Sondhi was not tolerated and the human resources ministry removed
him from chairmanship of the ICSSR.
If these organisations
are to be controlled by avowed opponents of
secularism what direction social sciences would take? Social sciences
are the very basis of intellectual life of a country.
These cannot be allowed to be in the hands of those who are opposed
to our constitutional values. They are making all efforts to
undermine the secular values of the Indian constitution. How India
can remain secular under such a dispensation?
The British rulers
distorted our history in order to divide us which
ultimately resulted in division of our country. The textbooks are now
being changed for the worse by the NDA hard-liners.
The so-called secular
parties supporting the NDA, and keeping the BJP
in power, are also a party to these dangerous attempts to undermine
our secular values. The children are growing with a deep sense of
hatred towards minority communities.
Thus it is not only
hate politics but also hate education and such an
environment of hatred and polarisation was never there before during
the 56 years of independence.
It was the BJP leadership,
which raised the controversy about
secularism in early eighties describing it as a western concept
unsuitable for Indian culture and Indian society and then dubbed it
as 'pseudo-secularism' and based on 'appeasement of minorities'. A
high pitched propaganda was carried out on these grounds to build a
Hindu vote bank thus seriously damaging inter-community relations.
It was certainly the outcome of this high-pitched hate propaganda
that a communal carnage erupted in Gujarat and which put the entire
country to shame in the comity of nations.
matter was raised by the BJP during the nineties
to win elections and the BJP came to power ultimately on the basis of
this hate propaganda and now it has worked out a clever strategy to
perpetuate the controversy.
While the BJP keeps
on saying that construction of Ram temple is not
on the NDA agenda, the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal keep the issue of
temple construction alive and they raise this issue with much more
vehemence whenever elections are due in any state or in the Centre.
This time the prime minister has himself initiated his election
campaign from Ayodhya and again promising that 'give us five more
years and the temple will be constructed.' How can a 'secular'
government promise people to construct a temple or a mosque? And when
Shankaracharya of Puri tried to intervene and established contacts
with the Muslim Personal Law Board to solve the issue through a
dialogue and it was about to be resolved the RSS and VHP chiefs
stormed the Shakaracharya's place. They forced him to retreat so that
the temple issue remains alive and exploitable for votes.
Also, the issue of Uniform Civil Code, which is purely a secular
issue and pertaining to gender justice was communalized by the BJP by
adopting as 'Hindutva Agenda'.
What an irony? And
do the Hindutva leaders believe in gender justice?
Are they ready to give equal rights to women? All of us know that a
secular issue like UCC was communalized by the BJP leaders only to
create anti-minority feelings among the Hindus and to damage
harmonious relations between the two communities. Earlier all women
organisations were demanding UCC but once it became Hindutva agenda
it was given up by all secular women's organisations.
And by the way can any party which feels proud of its 'Hindutva'
agenda and proclaims it publicly be trusted to run a secular state?
Can the secular constitution be safe in the hands of such a party?
Can India politically shine under a Hindutva party? Can there be
communal peace under it? The BJP used to claim that when it comes to
power there is no communal riot.
What happened in Gujarat under its rule is now a tragic episode of
our history. It will make all secularists and humanists shudder
forever. The Gujarat came close to atrocities committed by the
fascists and Nazis of Germany.
The BJP has been
in power since 1999. There was not a single year
under it when India did not witness communal violence. According to
our research based on newspaper reports and other sources, the number
of riots that took place in the year 1999 was 52 in which 43 people
were killed and 248 injured.
In the year 2000,
24 riots occurred in which 91 people were killed
and 165 injured. In the year 2001, 27 riots erupted in which 56 were
killed and 158 injured.
In the year 2002,
28 communal riots were recorded (including Gujarat)
in which 1,173 persons lost their lives and 2,272 were injured
(unofficially in Gujarat alone more than 2,000 people were killed
according to private counts). And in the year 2003, 67 riots took
place in which 58 people were killed and 611 were injured.
How truthful is the claim of the BJP that no communal violence occurs
when it is in power? It is true that these riots took place in the
states where the BJP was not in power but it has an overall
responsibility in the country and in most of these riots its family
organisations like the RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal were involved. There was
not a single year, which was riot-free under the NDA rule led by the
Now we have reports
from Madhya Pradesh that under the BJP Chief
Minister Ms. Uma Bharti an RSS Pracharak has been appointed as her
adviser with cabinet rank. She has also set up a Hanuman temple in
the courtyard of her chief ministerial bungalow.
Is secularism shining or communal darkness intensifying? Where will
all this end? Can anyone ever expect that India can remain secular
under the leadership of Sangh Parivar? The BJP is an ideological
brainchild of the RSS and has always refused to sever its umbilical
chord from its parent.
When dual membership
controversy arose in 1978 (and Mr George
Fernandese, now with the BJP along with Raj Narayan and Madhu Limaye
had raised it) the Jansangh members resigned from the Janata Party
bringing down Morarji Desai government rather than resigning from the
RSS. And the RSS has consistently refused to give up its Hindu
Rashtra concept, which is in direct confrontation with the concept of
Those who think
that India can politically shine only if secularism
goes strong can never accept a dispensation in which the BJP is a
dominant partner. And the day BJP wins majority of its own one can
expect all kinds of steps to convert India into Hindu Rashtra. Then
India will never shine again.