Monday, March 24, 2014

Terror at Godhra and What Secularism is NOT

L.K. Advani gifted political discourse a poisonous word, 'pseudo-secularism'. 'Pseudo-secularism', Hindutva ideologues tell us, is the specious perversion of secularism whereby the minority community gets a carte blanche and worse an insulation from criticism whereas the majority community is game for criticisms and judgments ranging from the valid to the ludicrous. This criticism of secularism in practice is done solely with a view to discrediting the very idea of secularism and never for calling out hypocrisies. 

Political columnist and staunch anti-Hindutva ideologue Gnani Sankaran in a recent TV interview played into the Hindutva lobby by whitewashing the grotesque terrorist act of burning a railway coach full of Hindu pilgrims by a Muslim mob at Godhra which in turn set off the deadly Gujarat riots that left hundreds of Muslims and Hindus dead. 

From Guardian News Paper.
Asked why there was a failure to condemn Godhra Gnani tried to rationalize that those who died in the 'accident' were 'Kar Sevaks' (those who lend a hand for the construction of the controversial Ram temple in the place of the destroyed Babri Mosque). He further piled on that as a human being he feels sorry for the dead but just as one does not condemn the death of Hitler so too he cannot condemn this act. This is shameful, to say the least. Helpless women and children were killed in a cold-blooded and carefully planned act of terrorism. 

Ward Churchill, a University of Colorado professor, to cite a parallel, famously referred to the 9/11 victims as 'little Eichmanns' to suggest that the victims were not innocent and therefore it was ok to kill them. 

Even as George W Bush was being hated around the world he was loved warmly in Hindu India. Bush was a true friend of India but one reason why Hindu India loved him was because he unflinchingly labeled 9/11 as an act of Islamic terror. He bluntly said that he wanted Osama Bin Laden 'dead or alive'. To Indians who have been subject to acts of terrorism which its leaders would refuse to call it by its name this was welcome news. 

Identifying itself as 'progressive and liberal' many media outlets and intellectuals, usually on the Left, would be too eager to call out Hindu fundamentalism while imploring all India to be 'understanding' of acts of terror when the perpetrators were Muslims. If those who perished in Godhra were Kar Sevaks and therefore did not need anything more than customary sympathy what would Mr Gnani say of the poor patients in an intensive care unit at a Government Hospital in Coimbatore where members of Al-Ummah had planted bombs? Stop this hypocrisy. This hypocrisy is injuring the cause of secularism much more than what Modi and Advani can instigate. 

Secularism is not denial of any religion but that principle by which each person gets to practice his or her own religion and the state steers clear of favoritism. Karunanidhi, supposedly a self identified atheist, would never lose an opportunity to poke fun of Hindus or their cherished beliefs but would meekly submit himself to adorning a Muslim skull cap or accept blessings from Christian priests. When Narendra Modi refused to adorn a Muslim cap offered by a Muslim priest there was furore. Secularism is not where one gets to impose his religion on another. As constitutional functionary Modi should not be showing any favoritism and that is all we can ask of him. And Modi, though a chief minister, is an individual too who is free to worship or not worship as he deems fit. My issue with Modi is not that he is Hindu or worships at a temple. 

Congress party is a master of playing vulgar politics wherein, while lecturing on secularism, they would seek the diktats of the high priest of Jumma Masjid. Asked if his party is encouraging dynasty politics by promoting his son M.Karunanidhi gruffly replied 'my party is not the Sankara Mutt'. Hindu outfit leader Rama.Gopalan shot back "it is only in Jumma Masjid that the inheritor is a son". 

Even in movies it is Hindus or a section of Hindus, especially Brahmins, that come in for liberal ridicule. I'd support it as free speech and also self-depractory irreverent humor towards gods is a very Hindu trait too. But when such liberty is exercised only towards one religion it smacks of hypocrisy. 

Not even Muslim theocratic states spend on their citizens for undertaking Haj. It is absolute hypocrisy for a secular state to be paying for religious pilgrimage by one community. The cost to the exchequer in 2009 was a whopping Rs 800 Million ($140 Million) approximately Rs 70,000 per person. The Indian government spends Rs 200 per Hindu pilgrim on a pilgrimage to Mansarovar in Tibet. Ironically several Muslim leaders themselves have said, as it is factual, that this is against Islamic law. A Muslim is supposed to undertake Haj on money saved by him. 

All that said it is also often true that Hindus wield considerable power as voting blocs and that power is time and again used to cover up for crimes of the high and mighty.

The Mumbai blasts of 1993 were a direct consequence of the total impunity with which Bal Thackeray was able to carry out a riot killing hundreds of Muslims in Mumbai. The Sri Krishna committee said that Thackeray operating like an army general. Thackeray did not spend even an hour in jail. 

It is not uncommon to see Hindu sadhus wield enormous political power and even in the face of overwhelming evidence of illegalities they are seldom arrested. Whether it is Bangaru Adigalar or Baba Ramdev the much feared Indian Income Tax department is toothless. 

Gnani is at his gadfly best when he called out the hypocrisy of India's TV channels ranting over the siege of Taj Hotel in Mumbai, during the attack of November 2008, where the rich and powerful were holed up. He wrote a column decrying the selective outrage of TV channels that almost totally ignored victims at the train station who were poor unlike the Taj patrons. I wish Gnani apologized for that thoughtless remark and strengthened the idea of secularism. 

The myths of pseudo-secularism are aplenty and deserve a debunking separately which will follow soon. I wrote this column today so I could do that debunking without anyone asking about this. Pseudo-secularism is a bogey of hypocrisy with a sinister agenda and I shall deconstruct it brick by brick.


3. Modi refusing Muslim cap

6. Frontline (sister publication of Hindu) whitewashes Godhra .

8. Column by Gnani on Hotel Taj siege - 'Hotel Taj: Whose icon is it' -


Unknown said...

Hi Aravind iam suresh from coimbatore.and have been following you for awhile now. Read your letters in jeyamohan's blog and was impressed.Here i think you have hit the nail on its head. one more thing i wopuld add which has strengthened the hands of the hindu fundamentalists is the leftists' and secularists lack of reaction for the banning of satanic verses by Rajiv Gandhi which really opened the flood gates for the demand for banning books. In tamil Nadu too no rationalists and secularists opposed karunanidhi;s ban on the film Davinci code. Expecting your next one on psuedo-secularism, with regards
V.Suresh kovai.

Anonymous said...

Well there is a factual error in this article. This fact (erroneous) is partly the foundation of the article. The error is that the 59 people roasted alive in the S6 were not kar-sevaks, but they were pilgrims returning from Ayodhya-Ram janambhumi in the year 2002 march 27/28. Kar-sevaks were those who demolished the mosque in 1992.