KARACHI: The liberal and progressive segments of Indian society have failed to create a shield against Hindu extremism in India. The upcoming general elections are crucial for liberal forces in India to protect the country’s secular nature.
Success of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other extremist Hindu political groups may result in the rise of a Hindu state. Atrocities against minorities in India are not limited to Muslims alone.
Secularism is highly misunderstood political term in the subcontinent as there is no alternative word for the term in the Urdu and Hindi languages.
Prof Dr Monis Ahmar, meritorious professor of international relations and former dean of faculty of social sciences of University of Karachi, highlighted these points in his talk at the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences on Saturday.
The title of the talk was ‘The erosion of secularism in India: will it result into the rise of Hindu state?’
Prof Ahmar showed grave concerns over the erosion of secularism in India saying that Hindu nationalism was a severe threat to the secular nature of Indian state.
Some Hindu nationalist political parities, including BJP, Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), etc, own an agenda to turn Indian secular state into a Hindu state, and spread hatred against minorities, especially Muslims, he said and added that this move could result in the rise of disastrous political and social turmoil against the minorities, especially Muslims of India.
‘Secularism’ is misunderstood term
Talking about secularism, he said that a large majority of people in the subcontinent had misconceptions about secularism. Secularism is highly misunderstood political and social term, while debate on secularism is not contemporary, he said.
He pointed out that there were no appropriate alternative words for secularism in Urdu and Hindi.
A large segment of Pakistani population considered this term “anti religion phenomenon,” he said.
India’s first and longest serving Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had also realised that the people of subcontinent got the wrong impression about the term of secularism, he added.
According to very simple definitions, secularism has nothing to do with religions, he said, adding that some thinkers were of the view that secularism opposed any discrimination against anybody on account of religion at the state level.
A leading English dictionary (Oxford Dictionary) defines this term as “the belief that religion should not be involved in the organisation or society, education, etc.”
Hindu extremism is on the rise
Giving the example of the recent attacks on mosques in New Zealand, he said that nowadays extremism was not associated with only one or two religions or races. Extremism has become a universal problem affecting equally all major religions like Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. A few of social issues, including unemployment, poverty, etc, are promoting extremism in all parts of the world, he mentioned.
Describing the success of Hindu extremists in Indian politics, he pointed out the failure of Indian National Congress to deliver to its country was a major reason that allowed extremist Hindu political parties to emerge as new political force in India.
He said that Congress had just misused secularism for its political interest, while the leading secular party of the country never tried sincerely to stop Hindu extremism, as the Babari mosque was demolished in the time of their power.
The BJP has become one of the two major political parties of India, with 269/523 seats in Lok Sabha and 73/244 in Rajya Sabha in 2014 Indian general elections, he said, adding that the BJP made an alliance
in 2014 and came to power under the leadership of Narendara Modi.
The professor pointed out that in the elections held in 1984 the BJP secured only two seats, but their nonstop political struggle resulted in success of the party in 2014 when Narendara Modi-led BJP made the government.
To succeed in the Indian political system Hindu nationalist parties, including the BJP, tried a lot to minimise hatred on account of Indian religious castes system, which is the paradigmatic ethnographic example of caste, he said.
Hindu elite class of the ruling parities had realised that they could not play a pivotal role in politics until the lower Hindu classes join them, he said.
He observed that the current wave of Hindu extremism had jolted the foundations of secular India. He said that minorities could not live in India with their religious identities.
Atrocities are not limited to Muslims merely, he said and maintained that other minorities, including the Sikh fraternity, had also been a subject of majoritarian violence. This is very common practice of Hindu extremist students’ wings in the Indian institutions to brutally beat students from minorities if they are found sitting with any Hindu girl.
Responding to a query, he said that Hindu extremism was a matter of concern not only for Pakistan, but also for international community. He said that Pakistan had curbed religious extremism and fanatics in the country. Extremism at the government level does not go in favour of India and Pakistan, as both countries own nuclear power, he observed.
In both counties elite class (the haves) did not play its due role, but ruined the ways to curb extremism in their countries.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2019