The Flawed Politics of Secularism in India
In 1947 the creation of Pakistan heralded the success of the two nation theory. Ipso facto, the Indian political leadership led by Gandhi and Nehru also accepted this theory. The concept of Pakistan ( land of the pure) was put forward by the Urdu poet Iqbal. He was of the view that Hindus and Muslims were separate entities and could not live together. Ironically Iqbal is the same poet who wrote the lovely poem" saray jahan se acha Hindustan hamara.....". Mohamed Ali Jinnah though a secular leader for political expediency accepted the concept of Iqbal and demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims of the sub-continent. He claimed to be leader of the Muslims, just as he considered Gandhi a leader of the Hindus. The creation of Pakistan broke the back of India as a united nation. It also sowed the seeds of a perpetual Hindu- Muslim conflict.
Pakistan opted to become an Islamic Republic, as per the terms of its origin. India logically should have been declared a Hindu Rashtra, but Gandhi - Nehru combine opted for a secular state. They roped in an untouchable Hindu convert to Buddhism Baba Saheb Ambedkar, to draft the constitution. The constitution brought in secular idea as well as many other revolutionary concepts.
The constitution in its directive principles and preamble stated that India would be a secular state. In addition it enjoined on the government to enact a common civil code. It also brought in reservation for a limited period in jobs and educational institutes for the scheduled castes and tribes. This in a way was a good attempt at social engineering as these castes had for long been at the bottom of Hindu society and were exploited in the extreme. Dr. Ambedker was a clever man and and he incorporated a provision in the constitution that allowed later governments to add to the backward castes. This is considered a master stroke by Ambedkar to divide the Hindu religion. Keeping this proviso in the constitution, successive Congress governments expanded the concept of the backward castes, by including a term " other Backward Caste", which in many cases included castes who were relatively well off.
In 1947 when India became free the Congress led by Nehru became the vehicle to govern India. Nehru missed a golden opportunity to unite India as he was India's best known leader. He however in all his actions was governed by a Muslim bias, that translated into giving Muslims a preferential treatment. One cannot understand Nehru's actions in this matter. Some historians who have dug up the past of Nehru have concluded that perhaps Nehru's ancestry was Muslim. It is now brought out that Nehru's grandfather was a Muslim and a Kotwal during the reign of Bahadur Shah Zafar. In 1857, with Bahadur Shah defeated and on the run, Nehru's grandfather escaped from Delhi to avoid being caught and shot by the English. He later converted to Hinduism and took the surname Nehru from the word Nehar( Canal). There is another bit of speculative information that however cannot be vouchsafed as genuine. This information is the Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah were step brothers as Motilal Nehru had a Kashmiri woman consort.
All this is just rumor, but the fact is that right from 1947, Nehru had a soft corner for the Muslims left behind in India. We must rememebr that Indian Muslims were the biggest supporters of the concept of a Muslim state as articulated by Iqbal. In fact the Muslims of present day Pakistan were not enamoured of the concept of Iqbal. In Punjab the party in power was not the Muslim League but a loose conglomoration of Sikhs and Muslims ( National party). In the NWFP the party in power was the Congress led by Khan Ghafoor and in Sind, with a large Hindu population, very few wanted Pakistan. Baluchistan in any case was independent. Probably Nehru was aware of the psyche of the Muslims left behind and wanted to placate them.
The first brush that favored the Muslim community was the passage of the Hindu Marriage act in 1955. This put an end to 4000 year of Hindu personal law, where polygamy was accpted with no divorce for the Hindu woman. This was a revolutionary law as it enforced monogamy and granted the right of divorce and more important maintenance for the divorced wife. Nehru did not pass a similar law for the Muslism who were allowed to carry on their personal law as enshrined in the Sharia.
Nehru was advised to extend the Marriage Act of 1955 to Muslims, but he refused. He refused to consider the example of Goa, where the Portuguese had enforced a common civil code and the Sharia had been completely negated. He also refused to take a leaf from Kemal Mustapha the Turkish leader who had outlawed the Sharia and all forms of Muslim religious schools. Nehru ignored the Directive Principles of the Constitution which had laid down the need for a common civil code. This action of Nehru did grave harm to the Indian nation as the Muslims were given a seperate identity. Over the years successive Congress governments have not thought it fit to tackle polygamy and unjust laws like triple talaq. This has had its repurcussions and the Muslim population which was 9.9% in 1947 has now grown to 14.1% in 2011. One of the reasons is multiple marriages and the need to have more children.
In 1959, it was brought to the attention of Nehru by Muslim leaders that the Haj allowance needed to be enhanced. The Haj subsidy was started by the British in 1922. It's aim was to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims. Nehru should have been alert and abolished this subsidy, but we now know he enhanced it. Over the years this subsidy has been periodically enhanced and as per the 2009 figures, the subsidy now is Rs 8.6 billion. This is a tidy sum and could have been better utilized for education of Muslim women who are a most discriminated lot.
Nehru was approached to have a similar subsidy for the Hindus and Sikhs who go on pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Mansarovar in Tibet and the Sikh holy places in Pakistan. He rejected this idea of a subsidy for Sikh and Hindu pilgrims.
In 2012, the Supreme Court of India observed that the Haj subsidy had outlived its utility. It recommended phasing out this subsidy by 2022. What a charade this subsidy is. One wonders how in independent India the Muslims can be given a Haj subsidy, when a similar subsidy is denied to Hindus and Sikhs. in fact in no other country in the world is this sort of subsidy given. A look at the past shows that the Congress government went out of its way to please the Muslims. Earlier all Muslims going on Haj went by the sea route in ships. In 1963, the Congress government felt that the Muslims must get the benefit of air travel. The Haj visits by ship was stopped and substituted by air travel. During the Haj period the entire Air India fleet was put at the disposal of Muslim pilgrims making the trip to Mecca for Haj.
Nehru also left the Muslim system of education untouched. Needless to say this system of education in Madrasa's is alien to the secular concept enshrined in the constitution. Thes Muslim schools preach the superiority of Islam and in fact have no place in a secular republic. That is the reason Kemel Mustapha in 1924 at one stroke abolished Muslim schools in Turkey. He had realised that in case Turkey is to move forward, such religious schools have no place. One expected a farsighted acton by Nehru on this matter, but as usual he sat twiddling his thumbs and in the bargain missed a great historical opportunity to unite India
The Congress governments after the demise of Nehru were on shaky ground as they felt that they may lose the elections. So they decided to build up vote banks and at every opportunity acted in a manner that pampered the Muslim community. As late as 1987, the Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi overturned the Supreme Court decision on maintenance ( Shah Bano Case) for divorced women by amending the constitution as he had a 2/3rd majority. This was an extremely retrograde step and Rajiv Gandhi harmed millions of Muslim women as he tried to build a vote bank among Muslims.
Earlier Nehru also allowed his minority bias to overturn a legitimate accession to India by maharajah Hari Singh of Kashmir , by bringing in Article 370 in the constitution. He wished to keep the Muslim majority status intact in the valley. No Indian was permitted to buy land or settle in Kashmir.
The wheel has now turned full circle and the Congres has time and again passed laws that are retrograde and favor the Muslims. The aim as I have said is to build up vote banks. This was blatent during the regime of the puppet of Sonia Gandhi, ManMohan Singh. At that time in 2005 a devious move was made by the Congress government to increase representation of Muslims in the arrmed forces, but the Army top brass opposed it tooth and nail and the Congress could not have its way. But in Congress ruled states 5% reservation was introduced for Muslims. This is not mentioned in the constitution which talks only off reservation on basis of caste. It was passed in Mahrashtra also, but with the defeat of the Congress, the new BJP government has shelved it.
The Congress governments have also been playing with security matters and giving it a different angle. They have tried to pin the Gujarat riots on Modi, forgetting that the biggest carnage of over 10,000 Sikhs was carried out by the Congress party under express orders of the higher ups in 1984.
India is at the cross roads as we await a leader to lead India forward. It is the bane of India that Nehru and Congress party appeared on the scene. This will remain a dark age for India. Certainly things could have been much better in case India was one and the leaders had thought of the greatness of India.
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