Secularism at Risk: The Fate of Minorities in India
Every year October 2 is celebrated as a national holiday in India to observe the birth anniversary of its founder Mahatma Gandhi. This year marked the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, therefore, special arrangements were made by the government and the followers of Gandhi. Despite the heightened attention, thieves in central India stole Mahatma’s ashes from the memorial and defaced his photographs with labels like “traitor” with green paint. The remains had been kept at the same memorial ever since Gandhi’s assassination by a Hindu fanatic in 1948. One must wonder that how under the circumstance where Prime minister Modi himself was leading the executive committee for Mahatma’s 150th-anniversary celebration, the most important place was left to the thieves to do as they pleased.
Gandhi was assassinated by an RSS member NathuramGodse. RSS is an ultra-nationalist Hindu supremacist organization that believes India to be a Hindu nation-state that has no place for Christians and Muslims. RSS has reiterated that Gandhi capitulated to appease Muslims and divided their country by allowing the creation of Pakistan – hence the “traitor” label. Godse too, being a worker of RSS, gave the same reason for assassinating Gandhi. It is a well-established fact that Modi also rose from the ranks of RSS as a worker. RSS has several different branches including economical, judicial and political with associated organizations. BJP is the political wing of RSS. Hence, it is no surprise that an organization whose member killed the Mahatma and now its another member is trying to erase the legacy of Gandhi by declaring himself as the “new father of India.” Modi government has been running a sophisticated campaign to deface Gandhi’s legacy. Modi has been replaced by Mahatma’s pictures and under the sayings of Mahatma now Apple’s slogan “Think Different” is seen regularly. Besides, that is also why Mahatma’s death anniversary is never highlighted in India. TirdipSuhrud, considered one of the best Gandhi scholars said “Governments have never marked Gandhi’s death anniversary. It has strangely never been a public holiday ever, it’s just a normal day of work. That’s strange.”
Notwithstanding the obfuscation, Modi’s ideology is in stark contrast with that of Mahatma’s. Gandhi believed in the right of self-determination for the Kashmiris while Modi has abrogated even the title of statehood from Kashmir, reducing it to a mere union territory under the control of Delhi. Mahatma before his visit to Kashmir in July 1947 said “The real sovereign of the state is the people that is why I became a rebel against the British – because the British claimed to be the rulers of India, and I refused to recognize them as such. In Kashmir too the power belongs to the public. Let them do as they want.” If Modi truly wanted to be known as a scion of Gandhi, he should’ve acted according to this statement and offered the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. Kashmiris, on the other hand, are now following Gandhi’s footsteps and running a peaceful movement of civil disobedience. Modi has also publicly announced the ideological foes of Gandhi like RSS chief M.S Gowalkar and VinayakDamodarSavakar, the founder of Hindutva philosophy, as his mentors and heroes. The BJP has been maligning the congress affiliated freedom fighters and declaring its religious fanatics as part of the pantheon of national celebrities.
Although the minorities have never really enjoyed the rights in India as they should’ve, however, since 2014 the conditions are getting worse for minorities in India. After the rise of the BJP in 2014 to the throne, Hindu fanatics have found a new and never seen before silent support from the corridors of power. The fear of police or state prosecution is no longer there now. Armed vigilantes roam the streets openly as gaurakshaks (cow protectors) to stop the cow transportation. In several instances, these vigilantes have killed numerous Muslim truck drivers transporting the cows. Police have rarely arrested anybody, and even if they do arrest the accused, the trial mysteriously goes to nothing. A campaign known as, GharWapsi or homecoming, is also running since 2014 in India to convert the Christians and Muslims back to the Hindu religion.
The Churches and Mosque burning are now considered normal occurrences. State media has never been controlled the way it is now. Government ads and contracts are being used as tools to manipulate and subjugate media outlets. Opposition political parties are being targeted by politically motivated investigations.
India’s prominent leaders like Nehru and Gandhi have always been proud of their distinct cultures and ethnicities. Nehru replaced the inter-communalism with secularism to make the bonds of union stronger. However, Modi’s religious nationalism has significantly strained the delicate communal balance of India. Minorities are now exceedingly worried about their future under the Hindu nation-state. This is the reason that has provided oxygen to the independence movements in India as minorities now consider Jinnah’s two-nation theory to be proven true and thus seek similar fate for themselves. Christians in northeast India are now raising voice for Nagaland. Communists are now running their movement as Naxalite. Sikhs want their sperate nation under the name of Khalistan.
If Hindu nationalists want a majoritarian nation-state then Christians, Sikhs, and Muslims along with other minorities of India have every right to demand self-determination. An India only for Hindus where every other minority is subjugated would give rise to communal violence and armed conflicts. As Mahatma use to say “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
About the Author: Miss. Sidra Insar is a graduate from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad and is currently working as an educationist in the Government of Pakistan. Her area of interest is Political Dynamics of States and International Relations.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The Reader’s Review.