Secularism stands tall this election season, The UPA has made it, it’s agenda and they go on and on about how the Congress is so secular in its views, they want inclusive development and they never leave out minorities etc. The BJP on the other hand are trying hard not to project their ‘Hindutva’ image. The political parties make tall claims about being secular in their views and in the same sentence they urge minority communities to vote for them. The ‘Muslim vote’ still makes a lot of difference in the polls.
Why are we talking about secularism? Because with one of the most hyped elections being in full swing, the secularism versus communalism debate has become the talk of the town. However in the Indian context, the word secularism is prefixed by another term, “pseudo”. The Hindus form the majority religious community in India; the term “pseudo-secular” implies that those who claim to be secular are actually not so. It is a term used to define minority appeasement. Let us take the Congress for example, if they are as secular as they claim to be then why is that even after them being in power for almost 15 years, the Muslims are still a part of the society who feel left out and have to be protected?
The answer is not because Muslims are a minority community; the answer lays in the fact that political leaders who claim to be secular to do not want to uplift the statuses of these minority communities. Why so? Because if they do that they will not have anything to talk about in the next election campaign and the next time when they go to ask for votes, what will they say? The urge to prove and garner minority community votes is such that a couple of days back in what seems like a sub manifesto declaration the Congress promises a Muslim quota in education and other things.
The BJP on the other hand is projected as the savior of all Hindus in the country. What I fail to understand is, why is it that even after 66 years of independence, the leaders today appeal to Muslims and Hindus separately? How can that be called secularism? Mahatma Gandhi has rightly said: “I swear by my religion, I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The State has nothing to do with it. The State would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern!!”
Secularism in the Indian context should imply respect for pluralism. Secular ethics can be strengthened only when the acts of vandalism are sternly dealt with and the guilty are made to pay for it. With secularism that insists on the inalienable rights of the citizens and a due process of law, it will be easier to mount public pressure against sectarian killers and those who promote hatred.