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Convenient Secularism


When a suspected motorcycle thief was beaten up by a mob and later died in police custody, many among the opinion-makers raised a hue and cry. They were not so much concerned about the physical assault, what troubled them was that the man, who happened to be a Muslim, was forced to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’. (In the present times, the actual circumstances of such cases are rarely contested simply because the perpetrators are stupid enough to record their deeds on their smartphones!) It was almost as though they felt that being made to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’ was a greater crime than being beaten to death. While the killer mob cannot be expected to have any understanding of the law, a similar form of justice was meted out by a Ranchi court when it asked a nineteen year old girl, a Hindu, to distribute Qurans as a condition for receiving bail. She had been arrested for allegedly forwarding a communally sensitive post on social media. This has by no means offended the liberals, but enraged Hindu outfits. All of this leaves society at large with a number of unanswered questions. It is clear that Indian society as conceived by the majority of its people expects people of various sects and communities to be comfortable with each other’s practices. This is the concept inherent in the ‘Sarv Dharma Sambhav’ philosophy of secularism in India. A small example of this is the manner in which ninety percent of those celebrating Christmas in the country are non-Christians! This is unlike the concept practiced in Western democracies, where even greeting each other publicly with ‘Merry Christmas’ has become politically incorrect and has been replaced with ‘Happy Holidays’. If even one community becomes orthodox to the point where it seeks to exclude all signs of others in everyday existence, conflict is inevitable. What the intellectual class should protest is being forced to say something, not its content. Instead, it involves a lot of extraneous issues in making the judgement, such as who is doing the forcing and the identity of the victim. If they thought along these lines, they would be as concerned about the Quran distribution fiat as the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ one. In their minds, it is not so much about secularism as it is about ‘majoritarianism’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘fascism’. It is more politics than secularism. They only talk about the Ganga- Jamuni Tehzeeb when it suits their political objectives, not because they believe in it.