On Secularism

On Secularism

by Palahalli - Thursday, October 20, 2011 04:15 AM IST
On Secularism
What is secularism?

This political system or ideology can be variously understood –

1. A State without religion

2. A convenient apportioning of powers between State and religious authorities

3. A State treating all religions equally without itself aligning with any one particular religion

4. State suppression of religion

In Hindusthan, we claim to follow the 3rd variety.

Genesis of secularism in Europe

Secularism evolved in a Europe whose politics was trying hard to disentangle itself from the suffocating embrace of the Church. As always, both selfish and noble reasons motivated this effort. Nevertheless, without the presence of the Church, it is safe to say, secularism or its wellspring, liberalism, would not have seen the light of day.

It is important to realize that secularism is an ideology, not a natural state of mind. It is an ideology of State that, like all ideologies, seeks to mould minds in its image.

Genesis of secularism in Hindusthan

In Hindusthan, the genesis of secularism took a more complex course. Briefly, various Hindu social reform movements provided an impetus to a modernising nee self-alienating Hindu elite to think in terms of a nebulous Hindu Church and the need to separate this Church from the State. Ironically, such a Church never existed.

I believe the seed of secularism were sown in the Nehru Report of 1928 and its existence formalized during the emergency in 1976.


Secularism has certain goals in Hindusthan, chiefly;

1. A State without religion and the maintenance of such a condition

2. The inculcation of a “scientific spirit” in the citizenry which counteracts a pervasive religious spirit – this is essential if the ideology of secularism is to be sustained

Practical challenges to secular goals

1. Universal Adult Franchise

2. An overwhelmingly religious population

3. The liberal basis of secularism that compels it to acknowledge special needs and concerns of minorities, consequently keeping the majority on a tight leash

4. A diverse majority and assertive minorities

When one thinks about these challenges and links them up in a chain of cause & effect, it becomes easy to appreciate the true nature of secularism as political farce.

The harm secularism does

An imposed, ill-designed, contradictory, artificial political farce as ideology, can only corrupt our polity.

Society distracts and fragments itself in the pursuit of quick, segmented dollops from the political class. Institutions that sustained social health weaken and wither due to a designed lack of incentive and attention. Most such institutions of the majority are actively subverted to achieve a two-fold aim – keep the majority weak and divided to prevent assertion and sustain secular politics – which develops a vested interest in perpetuating itself for the sake of power devoid of noble intent, if any.

Such a condition naturally gives hope and ambition to assertive minorities – a never-ending cycle of turbulence ensues.

Are secular goals noble?

It should be evident by now that secularism is impractical and harmful, however, what about its goals? Are they not noble in themselves? The answer to this question is simple. It depends in the clime in which secularism grows – it can either be a poisonous weed or a useful plant. In the largely homogeneous countries of Europe under the thumb of a regressive Church, it played the part of a useful plant but is turning into a poisonous weed as society turns heterogeneous and becomes unable to socially assimilate immigrants. In Hindusthan, this import was a weed which progressively turned poisonous; since the nature of Dharma is inherently and basically different. Dharma does not impose a “State religion” nor is it dogmatic.

Secularism and Hindu Nationalism

Hindu nationalism has an inadequately developed critique of secularism that does not countenance its dissolution. On the contrary, it seeks to uphold a purer or truer version of it. This is natural because in essence, Hindu nationalism has not been able to disconnect itself from modernistic impulses carried in the germ of such false notions such as the demand for a Uniform Civil Code and a visceral self-defeating anti-Jati or Jati-absent political discourse. Hindu nationalists inaccurately but sincerely claim Hindu(ism) or Dharma is secular and so reconcile secularism with Dharma. Nothing can be further than the truth. The straight jacket of secular ideology is the very anti-thesis of subtle and naturally balancing impulses and traditions of Dharma.

This self-negating Hindu nationalist narrative has so far effectively kept “game changing” ideas out of the political and social sphere – What can these ideas be? I propose;

1. The need to officially identify the Constitutional non-minority as the Hindu National Majority

2. The need to guarantee equal political representation to all Jatis & Janajatis, including those from minority segments

3. The need to guarantee Personal Law to all population segments including Hindu/minority Jatis/Janajatis

– Family as unit of society

– All changes to Personal Law should follow a popular mandate for change by the affected group

4. The withdrawal of the State from all religious/Dharmic institutions – Necessary social guarantees may be sought

5. The channelization of all charitable funds; domestic and foreign as per proportion of population

6. Withdrawing official recognition to all totems of conversion – it should not matter if a person is inclined to worship Allah or meditate upon Brahman – people should be free to discourse and choose as per their inclination – similarly, choosing and/or changing Personal Law should become as fluid

7. The apparent contradiction between points 1 & 6 will clarify itself when seen from the point of national pale

I believe such measures will effectively reverse the ill-effects of secularism and strengthen family/societal/national structures.

But is it possible to discuss and improve upon these ideas? To do that, one must shed inhibitions and squarely recognize the free-fall we are in. In almost every area of life there is decay, confusion and anxiety, with the secular regime staying a corrective hand – therefore, no set of suggested remedies should be summarily dismissed without convincing reason. Especially not when current remedial actions aren’t working.

– Namaste

Postscript – There is a crying need to address this issue in totality and not remain reactive to specific incidents.

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