‘Bharat-Mata-ki-Jai’ And The Rise Of India’s New Mini-Jinnahs

by R Jagannathan - Mar 17, 2016 01:57 PM +05:30 IST
‘Bharat-Mata-ki-Jai’ And The Rise Of India’s New Mini-JinnahsPhoto credit- RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
  • The first myth of three myths circulating in India is that India needs secularism to hold it together, while pluralism is more a part of its DNA.

    The second myth is that the BJP and its Sangh Parivar are the cause of internal polarisation, while the BJP fringe’s politics is largely reactionary.

    Third, that the Congress is a broad tent that is ideal for creating an inclusive nationality, while it has space only for one family.

The Maharashtra Assembly’s decision yesterday (16 March) to suspend a member from the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) for refusing to chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai” is, to say the very least, unwise. To reduce nationalism to a slogan or some forms of culinary exclusion does injustice not only to many Indians, but also to the innate pluralism embedded in Indic ideas, including its fountainhead Hinduism.

In doing so, the Assembly is making the same mistake made by India’s phony Congress-Left ‘secularists’ who had perverted the idea of secularism to a slogan of exclusion and encouraged rabid minority communalism. The MIM and other such sectarian outfits are the children of this kind of narrow secularism. Building a narrow nationalism is not the answer to countering narrow secularism.

There are three myths currently circulating in India, and all three are worth knocking if we are to move to an inclusive and more tolerant national culture. The first myth is that India needs secularism to hold it together; the second myth is that the BJP and its Sangh Parivar are the cause of internal polarisation; and third, that the Congress is a broad tent that is ideal for creating an inclusive nationality.

We can dismiss the third assertion with just one line: one cannot call the Congress a broad tent when it has place for only one family. The rest are vassals residing outside the tent. The third myth should have been self-evident, and the fact that it has been so persistent is a tribute to the Goebbelsian idea that a lie propagated strenuously enough will pass off as truth. The supportive ecosystem the Nehru-Gandhi family has created in and around Delhi serves as an effective echo chamber for these lies to survive beyond their sell-by date.

Also one can ask: how can an idea of India, which the Congress claims a patent to, that seeks to exclude another idea of India, that of the Sangh, be called inclusive. If narrow nationalism is wrong, so in narrow secularism that seeks to exclude from its definition one key limb of Indian society.

As for the first myth - that India needs to be secular - let me assert that you cannot make India something it is not, and something it will never be.

The original sin was India’s decision to accept a rootless “secularism” as its official creed when India’s core DNA is pluralism - acceptance of difference, whether in religious approach or cultural identities. Western secularism is particularly unsuited to India for it comes from the separation of church and state. In India, we had no need to cleave the temporal from the religious into false antagonisms for the simple reason that we built faith into a matter of seeking higher truths rather than an assertion of one god or one truth.

When an element of agnosticism is inbuilt into Indic faiths as an essential route to seeking higher truths, we did not need the forcible implantion of European-style secularism on Indian soil. In fact, it can be argued that it is when you try to impose an idea where it is not needed that the idea itself ends up being perverted.

Just as you cannot grow tea in a rice field on the plains, you cannot grow European secularism on Indian soil. If you try to grow tea on the plains, you will create a vested interest class of corrupt cultivators who will keep demanding subsidies to plant what won’t grow there. This is why Indian secularism generates only vicarious minorityism which keeps demanding what cannot be given.

India’s ‘secularism’ is thus a lie. It is not about enabling the Hindu and the Muslim to find commonalities in citizenship, but in driving a wedge between the two communities by emphasising the all-too-Islamic doctrine of difference in order to make the minorities reject syncretism, frighten them against the inclusive nature of Hinduism, and harvest a bloc vote. The MIM MLA, Waris Pathan, who refused to go along with “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, is a child of that same doctrine of difference where the Indian Muslim is being asked to choose his identity over everything else. It is the same doctrine that makes Islamists reject Yoga.

Muhammed Ali Jinnah, never an ardent Muslim, was driven by the Congress brand of ‘secularism’ towards Islamism and separation politics. The Congress helped make a formerly ‘secular’ Jinnah into a Muslim, an anti-Hindu, because seeding anti-Hinduism is vital for the short-term success of this brand of secular politics.

The Congress party got its version of secularism from two flawed ideas - the Nehruvian brand derived from European secularism, and the Gandhian version, where Gandhi used his wide acceptance among Hindus to do one-sided deals with Muslims, whether in the Khilafat movement or later in other forms of appeasement. The problem was this did not gain Gandhi, Congress or Nehru the true allegiance of Muslims, except protection merchants. They remain that even today.

This is why when Jinnah presented himself as a true representative of Muslims he was readily accepted. He represented the power of agency for Muslims to have a direct role in power rather than indirectly through the nominally secular, but essentially Hindu, Congress.

To repeat, Congress secularism created Jinnah, and UPA and regional party secularism is creating new mini-Jinnahs in Asaduddin Owaisi and Badruddin Ajmal. Secularism Congress-style is sowing the seeds of a new separatism, and the sooner it is junked the better it will be for India. The Congress brand of secularism needs it to create more and more sectarianism, built around religious, caste and linguistic differences, in order to contain the majoritarian impulses it is helping foster.

To come to the second myth - that it is the BJP that is polarising - it is important to both accept and deny this proposition. It is true that the BJP’s fringe is sectarian, but this sectarianism is a reaction to perverted secularism which is actually about minority communalism. The BJP encapsulates the essentially Hindu - and reactive - nature of responding to someone else’s agenda instead of setting it.

Consider its history. The RSS was created well after the Muslim League. Mandal triggered Ram Janmabhoomi politics. Godhra triggered widespread communal riots in Gujarat. The Khalistani anti-Hindu stance ultimately led to (Hindu) Congressmen massacring Sikhs in 1984. The repeated jihadi attacks on India may have triggered some ‘Hindu terrorists’ to try their hand at retaliation in Malegaon. The anti-Hindu (anti-Brahmin) stance of Dravidianism perverted a movement that should have fostered anti-casteism into a bulwark of extreme casteism - as is visible even today when the Dravidian parties kill Dalits for marrying one of them. Anti-Brhaminism has become the new Brahminism of discriminating against Dalits.

The mini Jinnahs being created are thus not only the Muslim sectarian politicians of MIM and AUDF, but the new caste-Mullahs of Tamil Nadu, Lalu-land, and elsewhere.

Polarisation and sectarianism are the result of the Congress-brand of fake secularism that needs a divided India to ensure family rule. If Nehru had actually practiced the European brand of secularism, by separating church from state, we could have at least reaped some benefits. But we did the opposite, by making the state’s role in religion more intrusive - as visible in the Haj subsidy, the abandonment of the uniform civil code, and the takeover of thousands of Hindu temples by many states, especially in the south. Indian secularism is highly intertwined with one religion or the other.

The sooner we replace our secularism with a fundamental pluralism, India will come into its own. Else, we will see the rise of more mini Jinnahs.

And yes, the narrow nationalism of the Maharashtra Assembly is not an improvement on the perverted secularism of the Congress and the Left. Secular politics has killed secularism, as is evident from the drift of Muslim voters towards the mini Jinnahs. Secularism is the route to further partitions of the Indian psyche.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.
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