Nehruvian Secularism and Recent Debates

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India's first prime minister has been relentlessly attacked and is being blamed for all of India's woes.
India’s first prime minister has been relentlessly attacked and is being blamed for all of India’s woes.

What we are witnessing these days, is shameless suppression of dissenting voices, propagandist nationalism supported by hyper masculine aggression, end of dialogue and celebration of diversity in the name of most heterodox and inclusivist way of life called Hinduism. Murders, rioting, violence and rise in hatred among each other in the name Bharat Mata can only be stopped or at least curtailed by Secularism. The idea of nation as designed by Nehru was and still is the best option available for a pluralistic country like India. Though, I do not intend to claim that Nehruvian Secularism is free from errors or it has not been manipulated or exploited but still in these times I find it more relevant than ever!

DR MEHNAZ NAJMI | Caravan Daily

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ehruvian secularism was the idea based on co-existence, co-habitation and inclusiveness of different religions and cultures. It was the best possible solution to the problems faced by the newly emerged nation like India. No other country in Asia has practiced secularism in its finest form as India, due the influence of Nehru on it. Nehru had a deep interest in history which convinced him that India was a plural society and not a country with only one religious affiliation. He considered the advent of Christianity and Islam as significant events in Indian history and not mere foreign invasions. While travelling extensively he discovered that people from different religions had shared memories which were not at odds with each other. The mutiny of 1857 was its reflection where Hindus and Muslims had come together and fought against a common foreigner enemy. Nehru had recognized this main element of the shared past of Indian culture, and he attempted to build an edifice of secularism on it. Communalism and majoritarianism had no place in his thought process as he identified secularism as the truth of the ages with empirical teleology. When he entered political life, he applied his knowledge of history to infer that the communal forces received wide support from the British authorities. In later years this thought matured substantially and he concluded that a functional government structure must encourage and sustain religious diversity.

In contemporary India, I believe, his ideas on secularism are of utmost relevance when new clouds of fears and uncertainties are looming over the nation. Time and again demands have been made to remove the now redundant idea of Nehruvian secularism and to declare India as a Hindu Rashtra. There is nothing wrong in it as long as it unites us Indians but when politicians start quoting and venerating Savarkar and his ideology for India, there lies a problem. His Hindutva is a political ideology and does not depict the pluralistic views of Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma. It seeks to establish the idea of one culture over plurality and supports aggressive and exclusivist ideals of Nationalism. Savarkar writes, “But as long as in addition to our country, he has not adopted our culture and our history, inherited our blood and has come to look upon our land not only as the land of his love but even of his worship, he cannot get himself incorporated into the Hindu fold” (Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?, Published by Hindi Sahitya Sadan, Edition 2003, page 84, ISBN : 81-88388-25-4) Savarkar further points out in the pages that lie ahead that Rashtra, Jaati and Sanskriti are three necessary things required for inclusion into the Hindu fold. No matter how much you claim to have common blood as most Muslims are converts but it does not satisfies the third condition of Sanskriti, as according to Savarkar Muslims have holy sites outside of India and they have different ideals, again outside Hinduism. The only Muslims who are admitted into the Hindu fold are Bohras and Khojas because they worship the ten avatars of Vishnu and follow Hindu laws on inheritance, according to Savarkar. He is clear in his ideology, that he doesn’t want nation on the basis of cultural unity but on the assertion of majoritarian way of life, by bringing the other sections in the same fold. Problem arises when followers of different faiths are asked to follow the majoritarian way of life. Like for instance, to worship motherland and to love your motherland are two different things. Islam being monotheistic religion does not permit its believers to consider nation as their deity but on the other hand in order to be a good Muslim, it is pertinent to be a good citizen, and to love your motherland. But, such ideas are ignored when a Muslim denies worshipping his motherland or the holy cow. It is treated as sacrilege. In order to prove one patriotic, it is necessary to follow the ideals which are not really part of your religion, culture or traditions. The major ongoing debate these days has been that Nehruvian secularism has only resulted in minority appeasement and the only solution to this chaos is Hindutva. It has been asserted that “Hindu is an identity, beyond religion, culture or caste”. As propounded by Savarkar, Hindutva also means following same mode of worship, of the commonly accepted idea of Gods. Nehru’s vision of India was inclusivist in this context as he considered it as a country of multiple religions; multiple cultures and multitude of way of lives, which are all essential for it. Pakistan was also the result of religious interference in politics; hence, he wanted new government of independent India to be unbiased towards any specific religion. He wanted religion to have no place in politics.

What we are witnessing these days, is shameless suppression of dissenting voices, propagandist nationalism supported by hyper masculine aggression, end of dialogue and celebration of diversity in the name of most heterodox and inclusivist way of life called Hinduism. Murders, rioting, violence and rise in hatred among each other in the name Bharat Mata can only be stopped or at least curtailed by Secularism. The idea of nation as designed by Nehru was and still is the best option available for a pluralistic country like India. Though, I do not intend to claim that Nehruvian Secularism is free from errors or it has not been manipulated or exploited but still in these times I find it more relevant than ever!

 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Right now we do require a Nehruvian Secularism. It accommodates people of all religions and also the atheists. I wonder why people are unable to limit religion to private space. It has such a huge role that it is being used even for elections. What is important for a nation is that its citizens should be United and strive for development of all. We in India lack that.
    Can’t we ban the use of religion in elections?

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