Dharma Files | The anti-Hindu nature of Indian secularism
There is enough evidence to suggest that the anti-Hindu nature of Indian secularism should be taken seriously
Representative image. AFP
In a previous article, I tried to draw attention to what I perceived as the failure of Indian secularism. In this post, I would like to identify its anti-Hindu character.
I admit that the claim that Indian secularism is perceived as hostile to Hinduism is a controversial claim, and therefore I would now like to provide the evidence supporting this claim.
Soon after independence, the Hindu community rebuilt the temple of Somnath which had been destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazna in the 11th century and later by other rulers. Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, not only refused to attend the celebration but also tried to prevent the then President of India from attending, while Pandit Nehru had no qualms about to attend functions of the same type when they were organized by minority religions. .
Although the Indian Constitution directs the government to endeavor to establish a uniform civil code for all Indians, the government at the time only consolidated Hindu personal law and left minorities out of this exercise. . This was, and is, seen as discrimination against Hindus. This leads to the anomaly that a Muslim in India can have four wives, but the followers of other religions in India cannot. It is not so much that followers of other religions want to have four wives; the feeling of resentment arises from the discrimination in question.
Another aspect of the Constitution, which has caused considerable anguish in the Hindu community, is that the rights of minorities to run their own institutions are clearly guaranteed in the Constitution, but no such protection is afforded to institutions run by the Hindu majority. A glaring example of how this works on the ground is provided by the Ramakrishna Mission. This essentially Hindu organization took legal action in 1980 to have itself declared a non-Hindu minority religion (following Ramkrishnaism), in order to benefit from the protection of Article 30 of the Indian Constitution, which allows Muslim and Christian institutions to safeguard their autonomy. The claim was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court of India in 1995, after the Calcutta High Court accepted it. The fact that a Hindu institution had to claim to be a minority institution to safeguard its independence speaks volumes.
According to most scholars, Shah Bano’s case has disillusioned many Indian intellectuals about the Indian government’s commitment to secularism. Shah Bano was the name of a Muslim divorcee, who petitioned the Indian courts for alimony under the secular laws of India and the petition was granted by the Supreme Court. The government, however, under pressure from the Muslim lobby in India, introduced legislation in 1985 to amend it in accordance with Islamic law. The protracted debate around the issue and the government’s U-turn on the issue have seriously undermined popular confidence in the secular claims of the Indian government. A Muslim cabinet member, Arif Muhammad Khan, resigned over the issue. He is now Governor of Kerala. According to him, the Shah Bano affair was a starting point on the question of secularism.
The Indian government has rarely displayed such legal sensitivity in cases involving Hindus.
Kashmir has long been a bone of contention between India and Pakistan. It could be argued that Kashmir, as a Muslim majority state within India, which is a largely Hindu country, is an important factor in keeping India secular. However, a chain of events from 1989 to 1991 led to the expulsion of large numbers of Hindus from the state, in violent circumstances in which many Hindus lost their lives and those who survived the convulsion had to be accommodated in camps in Jammu. The spectacle on television of unarmed Hindus driven out of the Kashmir valley under threat of rape and murder (some of whom were executed) was not the best advertisement for Indian secularism. The plight of exiled Hindus was captured in a film, recently released as “The Kashmir Files” and makes it seem like there is no place for Hindus if they are a minority in India. secular.
A glaring example of the anti-Hindu nature of Indian secularism is provided by the way Hindu temples have been taken over by state governments. The extent of this practice is simply mind-boggling. What is even more disturbing is that some of the states, where the BJP is in power, have not abandoned the practice.
It is difficult to imagine a more serious violation of the principle of secularism. This has led to potentially incendiary developments, as money collected from Hindu temples is used to fund Haj journeys for Muslims and Holy Land journeys for Christians. It is as if the looting of Hindu temples, once associated with Muslim and British rule, continues unchecked in secular India.
I hope enough evidence has now been provided to convince the skeptical reader that the accusation regarding the anti-Hindu nature of Indian secularism must be taken seriously.
The author, formerly of the IAS, is the Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he taught for over thirty years. He has also taught in Australia and the United States as well as at Nalanda University in India. He has published numerous articles in the fields of Indian religions and world religions. The opinions expressed are personal.
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