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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 15, April 4, 2015

Saffronisation of Secularism

Sunday 5 April 2015, by Kuldip Nayar

Not many in Pakistan, still fewer in India, recalled that this March 23 marked the 75th year of the Muslim League’s resolution to demand partition of India. The Lahore resolution, as it was called, said: “That no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to Muslims unless it is designed on the following basic principles, namely, that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority, as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute independent States in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”

The word ‘Pakistan’ was not mentioned either in the body of the resolution or in the speeches following it. But major Indian papers, owned by Hindus, described it as the “Pakistan Resolution”. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had found a message for the Muslim masses. But he lived to rue the day he had used in the resolution the words “with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary” because this very expression was used to justify the split of the Muslim majority States of Punjab and Bengal when the subcontinent was partitioned.

Even more so, Jinnah subsequently must have realised how catastrophic it was to have used the phrase “independent States” because later the supporters of an independent East Bengal (now Bangladesh) argued that the creation of two independent countries, one in the “North-Western” and the other in the “Eastern” zones of India, was conceived in the Pakistan Resolution itself.

Jinnah tried to explain this later by saying that it was a typing mistake that made “State” into “States”. Zulfikhar Ali Bhutto, a young leader, quipped that he would be careful of his stenographer in the future. Yet Khaliquzzaman, a Muslim League leader from UP, who seconded the Pakistan Resolution, said that he changed the word State to States “without any intention” while drafting a resolution (reiterating the demand for Pakistan) on behalf of a Muslim League convention held in April 1946 at Delhi. He also utilised the opportunity to exclude the phrase “with such territorial readjustments...” which had found a place in the Lahore Resolution.

I am against the partition. Yet I wish that if it was inevitable, it should have been on the basis of the resolution. The areas should have been demarcated as was demanded. It would have been a geographical division. What eventually happened was separation on the basis of religion.

More than 10 lakh people were killed in the religious frenzy that followed. And there is no end of it, particularly in India where roughly 16 to 17 crore Muslims live. What happened in Hashimpura some 18 years ago is only one example. Just taste this.

Sixteen Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel were acquitted in the 1987 Hashimpura massacre case. Giving them the benefit of doubt, the court said there was lack of evidence, especially regarding the identity of the accused. It further referred the matter to the Delhi State Legal Services Authority for rehabilitation of the victims.

Some 19 PAC personnel were facing trial for allegedly killing 42 people in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh in May 1987. Three of them died during the trial. The killings had allegedly occurred during riots in Meerut city after the victims were picked up from the Hashimpura mohalla of the city.

That such incidents are taking place in a country which adopted a secular ideology after independence is not only reprehensible but also disconcerting. We must admit our failure to inculcate secular values in the minds of the people. The situation is getting worse. Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets instructions from the fanatic Hindu organisation, RSS. Many bureaucrats living in the parochial atmosphere are themselves imbibing the divisive outlook.

True, the preamble of our Constitution still retains the word of ‘secularism’ despite the efforts to drop it. But this is more of a sham. The minorities live in fear. Today, the communal forces are not even on the defensive. They believe as if it is their right to follow the Hindutva ideology and the Constitution is being saffronised so that the pretension of being liberal goes on. The Modi Government has done enough damage to the country’s ethos. It still has four years left in its tenure.

The introduction of Sanskrit and the compul-sory teaching of Gita in Haryana are ominous signs of what is yet to come. Maybe, the BJP is testing the waters. Once it finds that its hidden programme of introducing the Hindutva philosophy does not create the furore which it did earlier, the party will go full speed to implement it.

It’s strange that the liberal forces have joined hands to oppose the Land Acquisition Bill and staged the other day a protest march under the leadership of Congress President Sonia Gandhi. But when the very idea of India was being threatened, they were busy with their petty agenda leaving the field open to the parochial forces. Even when the Modi Government’s real intention has been exposed now, the liberal elements remain inactive. One sees at times a concerted effort on their part to stall the BJP’s programme. But this is only an exception, not rule.

This is the time to recall the genesis of the Pakistan Resolution which ultimately got reduced into the division, not territorially but religiously. Unfortunately, one helplessly watches Pakistan is going the Taliban way because of the fundamenta-list forces increasingly holding forth. India should have been the shining example of secularism as has been the case after independence.

Even in the earlier rule under the leadership of A.B. Vajpayee, the BJP did little to change the country’s ethos. Vajpayee himself, although once the RSS pracharak, was conscious of the fact that the diversity of India was its strength and that any one religion’s pre-eminence would destroy the soul of the country. Unfortunately, Modi remains tethered to the RSS philosophy. It’s a pity.

The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com