by Dr. Syed Tahseen Raza 6 August 2020
It’s always not a good idea to lose hope soon. Otherwise, it will be a quickening of disaster. Let us not yield so soon. There are reasons, compelling ones too to feel so. Yes, it’s not easy to see a former Supreme Court judge take the oath of Office of membership of such an august body as the Parliament amidst chants of shame. But for every ‘Gogoi’, there is a ‘Shah’. For every ‘Goli Maro Saa..o Ko’, there is ‘Phool Barsao Pyaro Ko” too. It’s about optics, clever and strategic. And the politics defined by those astutely calibrated optics. More so, it is actually because of those who despite having multiple layers of safety, are ready to yield at the drop of a hat, that the likes of those with shaky belief in Constitutionalism are thinking and coming up with a ridiculous suggestion as to altogether leaving even this façade of secularism. May I remind the likes of the proponent of such thinking that for every Yogi, there is a Swami, for every Madhav, there is a Mandar, for every Pragya, there is a Gurmehar.
Yes, of course, there can be no denying, that the times we are in, are not very testing. But we must not always forget that there is a big difference between 37% and cent percent.
There comes a time in nations’ history when it tests the mettle of its citizenry. We must not fail our country during such a test. And of course, the real India is not failing. The current failure is actually the failure of the Opposition, the soothsaying attitude of the governing elite, the treacherous response of the opinion-makers, etc., That is the reason those occupying the highest citadel of immunity provided by the polity are easily crumbling, one after the other and are even ready to behave more loyal than the king. Going Gogoi’s way seems to have become the new normal now. Though the number of Scindias’ is increasing, yet, in reality, the idea of India is not so easy to collapse as the grounds and ‘Baghs’ of India has recently shown.
Ridiculous at best, this Orwellian suggestion of shedding off secularism and testing the idea of a Hindu Rashtra in India coming from otherwise chattering liberals smack of the impending influence the recent judicial credulity regarding executive actions may have. It offers a highly confused intermingling of the idea of jurisdictional secularism, secularization, religiosity, and the state, in order to anyhow make the Hindutva project look as presentable – the least expected from such politico-legal luminaries considered torchbearer of India’s left of the Centre if not liberal altogether.
Who are these torchbearers of ‘Indian secularism’ to address the misplaced supposed concerns of the citizenry, formed on the basis of concocted narrative? Keeping in view the politics of optics, the focusing of the ‘gaze’, the strategic diverting of the ‘issues’, compounded by the blitzkrieg speed of mediated campaigns channeled by well-oiled propaganda machinery and abetted by the all-powerful syndicate of the media-business-politician combine, is it not too naïve to think doing away with secularism and proposing a ‘possible Hindu Rashtra’ is the solution in India? It will be absurdity defined and ludicrously personified to even think this might in any way pave the way for preventing the country’s march towards self-destruction.
Had these been suggested by strategic thinkers or policymakers, invested more in the ‘current’ and ‘now’, the import and timing of this suggestion would have been understood as a manifestation of continued frustration, but coming from intellectuals belonging to the left-liberal tradition, this suggestion, unfortunately, suggests another big retreat in terms of the idea of India – the defeat of the mind, argument, reason, and dare I say, the defeat of hope. We can’t afford at any cost to let the defeat of hope hold sway at these testing times, compounded all the more by the deadly pandemic. We must actually strategise more emphatically to enhance the nation’s immunity against the virus of such thought in these testing times. Immunity, authoritative medical researchers prove, develop with the development within our mind, thinking, and the optimism provided by hope. It is extremely important, in these troubled times, as has been categorically asserted by Gramsci that we must not let the ‘optimism of the will’ trumpeted by the ‘pessimism of the intellect’. As such, we must not fall into the irresistible temptation of being ‘too’ fed up from the façade of secularism and choose the dangerously easier bait of the suggestion for testing ‘the idea of Hindu Rashtra’. It will be, if I may quote a sporting allegory, giving “walk-over”. In sports, we may afford to do this and can easily have the option of walk-over, as the matches are played then and there, with all the players or majority of them at least, having their tacit consent for the same. But here, in terms of the country, we can’t afford this luxury as we are simply a sort of a tenant as a citizen of the country, constitutionally mandated to uphold its ideal, in the long run of the nation’s history. Freedom of the nation does not come easy. Values of the country and the cherished ones all the more comes at a huge cost. We are, as much a custodian of our past heritage as we are a connecting link to our future generations. As much as we inherit from our forefathers, we also borrow from our coming generations. We must, therefore, not barter anything and in all sincerity should not even think of doing that. Otherwise, it will go as a criminal travesty for future generations.
The proponents of such suggestions fail to appreciate the finer nuances and carelessly allow their otherwise uncanny prescience of politico-legal details to be checkmated by what looks obvious. The examples of the countries they cite as examples of countries allowing space to a dominant religion in the polity are out of context at best. Within those countries too, there are very strong movements for bringing in more secularity. Its high time we keep reminding ourselves that an avalanche of populist upsurge should not carry ourselves out of our feet. We need to be firm. Particularly so, at times of such tribulations. Don’t we have some obligation towards our forefathers who sacrificed everything for the idea of India? Should we not at least give the impression of being a good custodian and responsible citizen? How could this simple fact be denied that any semblance of minority rights in the would-be Hindu Rashtra would be a bigger façade? The very example of the theocracies we have provide ample testimony to this and piercingly nudge the very eye of the flawed argument for the abrogation of secularism as a governing principle. This brazen suggestion carries the same shameless audacity with which the Prime Minister of the largest democracy in his national address calls for banging utensils to ward off the emergency wreaked by the recent CORONA pandemic.
Do even they realize what they are suggesting or is it that the collective amnesia, which has engulfed the entire chattering class had made its inroad among intellectuals too? What about the whole idea of ‘enlightenment project? what about the sacred principle of constitutionalism?
We should have at least the moral decency if the not legal compulsion to not mock the sacrifices of the struggling citizens, with our ridiculous suggestions. We must not so carelessly flounder the sacrifices of our freedom fighters. Equality, liberty, dignity, non-discrimination, etc., are not just ornamental words whose meanings even when not realized, carry a lot of weight. In Political Science, we teach about the symbolic values of things. Sometimes even a façade of something is even worth having. We must always keep our aims high. We must be always principled and do not get carried away by the direction of the wind because standing on principles has its own value. Capitulating, in times of seeming loss or defeat, is not always a wise idea, in strategic terms too. It’s not just about 5 or 10 or even 20 years or simply our life span, we should care about. It’s about civilization. Its actually about why we fought for independence, decolonization, etc., and keep struggling for justice, rights, etc.
With even an iota of academic or intellectual responsibility left, will we be justified in saying during these testing times, things like, ‘we should not think as a minority’, ‘minorities must not worry’ and the likes? Who gave the academics/intellectuals such powers to say things on minorities’ behalf?
Misleadingly atrocious, flawed on sound legal counts, and utterly supine at best, these are the worst suggestion from some intellectuals of India. The timing of this particularly devoid of any other interpretation, the howsoever liberal extension we may allow it, keeping in view the prevailing situation. Had it been in a league of Orwellian satire, or even maybe, in sync with ‘pun is bad…poetry verse’ league, it might have passed as okay, but in all practicality, suggestions like this can only unmistakably go in the tradition of, ‘taali, thaali’ counsel.
This is what may be termed as a purely academic way of pitching in for the idea of a Hindu Rashtra masquerading as a humble suggestion amidst successive secular defeat. When even the last bastion of hope seems to have fallen, this might have been the logical outcome waiting to happen – post even legal rationalization.
Or maybe, in the haste of taking lead, sometimes academic/intellectuals unwittingly fall into mysterious alleys and uncharted waters which instead propels them into the very deep morass, they actually intended to fight against.
Amidst the corona scare, when we must strengthen our fighting-struggling spirit even from within, in terms of increasing immunity, giving up so easily on the hard-earned idea of India will be a bad omen on diversely multiple counts. immediately healthwise too. Therefore, it is urgently important and maybe even civilizational commanded duty to stop the contagion of the mind. At least play our part doing so. We are told about the Domino Effect and its severity. What is the surety, giving in on this idea of India won’t augur the same and begin yet another unstoppable downward spiral?
Why take away even the right of a respectable defeat? Though it will be too bad an example, given the tone and tonality of the suggestion, it will be befitting to cite the example of Pakistan. Even a country like Pakistan withstood Zia’s onslaught and there are many other such examples. We have to see and it will be remembered who stood firm in times of need. May I quote the seditious Faiz and a similar other:
Mukhtasir ye bataa sar-ba-kaf kaun tha
Jeet apni jagah, Haar apni jagah
(Tell me in brief, who was more prepared
Victory and Defeat do not matter much)
Jis dhaj se koi maqtal me gya, wo shaan salaamat rehti hai
Ye jaan to aani jaani hai, is jaan ki to koi baat nai
(What matters, in the final analysis, is the preparation with which one goes to the battlefield
this mortal being remains or not, is a different matter)
History will not forget that during such a testing time, when not just the powerful moat of the citadel meant to preserve justice, law, equality, etc, in the polity with all sorts of immunity and security available to preserve them were falling like a house of muds in rains and those who were expected to counsel the falling bastion to stay ground or at least delay the demise in the worst case, were themselves using their cogent reasoning and legal acumen to suggest ‘choosing between two evils’, the most deprived of India, the weakest of the weak of the country and those considered without their agency even – the grannies, grandmas, and young girls of India – were holding the ground firm and giving sacrifices to uphold constitutional values. Their strength and struggle revive the spirit of India. The women of India show that even if with the brute force of the electoral majority, the idea of the Hindu Rashtra is forcefully imposed, India and the Indians can never internalize it. In case of any eventuality, it will just be a matter of time that the idea of India of Gandhi, Tagore, and Kabir, of tolerance, diversity, inclusivity secularity, will again flourish. We must not lose hope!
Syed Tahseen Raza is Assistant Professor in the Department of Strategic and Security Studies, Faculty of International Studies, Aligarh Muslim University, India and is a part of the AMU Teachers and Seniors Collective