Spurious secularism vitiating Indian politics

Posted: Jul 08, 2005 at 1310 hrs IST

Just as theocracy consumes Pakistan, spurious secularism is vitiating the politics in India . Congress, Communists and even Socialists win elections only if they receive the Muslim vote, a distorted situation when you consider that Pakistan was created as a new homeland for the Muslims of India, and which many millions of them rejected.

The Congress Party, by 1962 on a weak electoral wicket after a decade-and-a-half of Nehru’s leadership, campaigned against the rising Hindu sentiment by dubbing them anti-Muslim (or anti-secular so as not to appear to be crude) to win the Muslim vote the BJP was not likely to attract.

In this hunt for minority votes, secularism is distorted to the extent the minorities, mostly the Muslims, were pampered with retrograde social and religious concessions denied to them in most Muslim countries, and rejected by most enlightened and well-off Muslims in India itself.

But the powerful propaganda that the BJP is anti-Muslim and thus anti-secular vitiated electioneering, and gave the Congress Party and the Communists who thrived on the Muslim vote a stick to beat the BJP with.

In turn, the BJP branded the Congress and the Communists pseudo-secularists, an increasingly appropriate indictment.

Advani has now pulled out a major prop the votaries of Hindutva had provided the pseudo-secularists.

He needs to do more, and for this cleansing, deserves nationwide support. As a well read and informed politician, Advani must be familiar with some of the ironies of history where leaders shed state positions which fuel their ride to power, and once there, do quite the opposite.

In his fading years, Mao Tse-Tung, who mesmerized a billion Chinese into toil, hardship and self-sufficiency with strident anti-Americanisms continued to spread the red carpet for former President Nixon and members of his family even as Mao was physically enfeebled and Nixon was in disgrace at home, after the Watergate scandal.

Nixon had opened America to China, and Mao, China to America. Advani deserves the nation’s commendation as he has now boldly, and with foresight acted for what the national interest presently dictates  a settlement with Pakistan.

Born in Karachi, Advani experienced first hand the trauma, hardships and displacement millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Sindhis (Muslims too) suffered as the consequence of the creation of a homeland for the Muslims. Kamla, his wife, born in Karachi, was rendered homeless in 1947 and as a refugee here in the 50s was reduced to being a clerk in the Municipality of Delhi for survival.

Therefore, it is presumptuous of his new critics to remind Advani of the pain of Partition. Indeed, they should forget the hurtful past as the Advanis have.

India in the 21st Century is different from the India of the 8th Century or the 18th. The educated among our young are brimming with confidence and scoring many successes. Our farmers are absorbing new technologies and experimenting with new seeds.

We feed our billion plus with ease. Our workers are acquiring new skills and producing an array of advanced products competitively. We are now considered an exporter nation. Our teachers, scientists, managers and other professionals are making waves around the world.

We matter in the world today; we will matter even more tomorrow. We are continental in size; we are independent and powerful. But we need to be more realistic in our conduct, above dogma, generous. Above all, we must be creative in conducting affairs of state.

Ditches and fences once secured the borders in Europe with watchtowers everywhere: a border less Europe is now a more secure continent. It is.

In this changed world, the time has come for India (and Pakistan) to realise that any problem that we have not been able to resolve for more than 50 years needs a new, radical approach, perhaps a burial.

The past has created a situation where even a Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, wanting and hoping to resolve the Kashmir problem, has to first shackle himself by publicly swearing commitment to protect the status quo on the borders, in effect ruling out any solution.

In the event, all talks, meetings, visits India sponsors even at the highest level, produce no giant strides toward a solution, only statements of juggled words.

The Pakistani situation in this regard is even worse: they have made wresting of the Kashmir Valley from India their prime mission. And their Army, in effect, says they can get it, ˜so give us guns and money, and leave us alone to do what we think is best for you. Pakistan too juggles words, even more craftily and voluminously, to justify their petulance, the aggression in Kashmir and the engineering of terrorism they unleash on our side of the LoC. Even small talk of a rational settlement alerts the mullahs to mount the loudspeakers, verily demanding death for the traitors. That is their situation on the ground.

We need not be the prisoner of the environment there. The nation we are blooming into allows us space to think differently. But we must first act differently. We have spent crores in the last 55 years on keeping Kashmir, and still the problem remains unresolved. Now, for a change, may one suggest we invest just 5% of that amount in the next 3 years, exclusively through the Department of Tourism to build infrastructure in Kashmir for 20,000 well-heeled tourists a day.

The Indians are on the prowl  and the world is eying them with hope and joy. Kashmir is the place for dream holidays, for adventure, sports, and romance. If the infrastructure is there, and popular Kashmiri support as well, which is surely assured on purely economic and practical grounds, the new mobile Indian will flood the destination, enriching the poverty-stricken people of the Valley. Once there are first-class facilities for tourists, our tourism publicists  among the best in the world  will do the logical rest. Kashmiris will thrive when there are massive tourist inflows. And when this happens, the Kashmiris themselves will police the State better than the Indian Army ever can  making the State safe for visitors and safer for locals.

More, such steps as above will prepare the Kashmiris for the now universally accepted method of resolving issues: an internationally monitored, one-point referendum: ˜Join India with a massive ˜Yes vote or join Pakistan, and be gone with them forever; but do not blackmail us with talk of independence, we will simply not tolerate it, come what may should be our firm new refrain. And if they do not vote a clear Yes for India in such a referendum, then we must be sensitive and proud enough to realise that they do not want to be with us. And gracefully accept that verdict. This is the age of the Rose Revolution, the Pink Resolution, and the Cedar Revolution  surely we do not want any of that here. But first, offer the carrot. We can afford to.

While holding an important office and wielding power, a few incumbents also make useful discoveries. As the Home Minister of India, when Pakistani military infiltrators had sneaked into the Kargil heights, and the Pakistan-sponsored and trained jehadis had mounted the extremely provocative and reckless armed attack on the Indian Parliament House in the very heart of New Delhi, Advani may have realised, as every intelligent Indian must realise at least tomorrow, that there is a high cost, great risk, and unpredictable consequence for India too if the nearly six-decades-long reciprocal animosity with Pakistan continues. In the circumstance, we must act today in a manner that will solve his problem now, so that we do not cause an occasion for the youth of today to damn you and me in 2010, 2020 or in 2050 for being unimaginative, impotent over Kashmir.

Advani may have also thought of some such new approach to end the tension, acrimony and conflict that is unduly taxing us in time, money, and emotion. And opportunities lost. And if Advani’s acceptance of the invitation from Musharraf, and his movements and speeches there, are in response to such a realisation, then the country must embrace this new charioteer of peace with Pakistan.

After the Agra fiasco, Musharraf blamed Advani for the failed talks. Yet, not long thereafter, the General invited Advani and family to Pakistan, and pressed the invitation when the invitee took time to decide. Who knows, our little book of ironies may yet have a new chapter: How Advani and Musharraf waged peace.


READ MORE AThttp://expressindia.indianexpress.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=50276

The writer can be reached at rvp@ipfonline.com

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