Secularism in India has been just symbolic

The ground reality is that for the last many years, Indian minorities are living under the violence ridden domination of a group of Hindu extremist organisations

Since India’s independence in 1947, the leadership of that time and the successive Indian governments have been projecting that being a religiously diverse society, India was to be developed as a secular state, where Hindu majority and all other religious minorities would enjoy equal rights. But, initially, no such provision of India being a secular country was included in the original constitution of India.

However, there were other provisions in the Indian constitution, in which it was stated that in India there will be equal religious rights for all citizens of the state. For example, Article 25 of the Indian constitution says “all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subject to public order, morality and health.”

It was however, in 1976, that the preamble of India’s constitution was amended to explicitly proclaim India as a secular country, where all will have equal rights.

But, this theoretical commitment in the Indian constitution is implemented only symbolically, like in the past, some Presidents of India were appointed from the minorities, just to create a false perception that India was a secular nation.

Otherwise, practically, India cannot be called a secular country when out of 200 million Muslims in India (14 percent of India’s population) only 2 or 3 are elected representatives in the Lok Sabah, whereas, as per their population there should have been 73 elected members. Being scattered all over India, the Muslims could only enjoy this right if they were given the right of proportional representation, which has been denied to them.

The ground reality is that for the last many years, Indian minorities are living under the violence ridden domination of the Sang Parivar (a group of Hindu extremist organisations) led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The intensity of this violent trend has increased during the BJP rule, especially in Modi’s time. To give an idea of this violence, only the most important ugly incidents, out of many, are being mentioned:

On December 6, 1992, historical Babri Mosque was demolished by RSS and BJP loyalists and the Indian government of the time did not interfere to halt the outcome as the security forces kept observing what was going on. After the Babri Mosque episode, Hindu-Muslims riots flared up as a result of which over 1,500 Muslims were killed, many properties looted, and 1,829 wounded. The official machinery acted as a mute witness.

In February 2002, the worst ever anti-Muslim riots took place in Gujarat, where Modi was the then chief minister. That led to the killing of over 2,000 Muslims. Hiren Pandey, a minister in Modi’s Gujarat cabinet, confessed later that the riots were pre-planned and the police were ordered not to interfere. Since Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014, many Muslims in India have been killed on the pretext, that they reared cows with the intention to slaughter them for the consumption of meat.

The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, also recognised as the 1984 Sikh Massacre, was a series of acts targeting Sikhs by extremist Hindus, in reaction to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Official Indian government reports admit to about 2,800 deaths across India. Other independent sources estimate the number of deaths to be around 8,000.

Recently, the Sangh Parivar has targeted Sikhs’ religious sentiments and identity by alleging that Sikhs are a faction of Hinduism and not a distinct faith. In response, different Sikh religious, political, and social organisations have denounced the RSS as a challenge to the Sikh identity.

Even Indian Central governments have been promoting Hindu nationalism by marginalising the Muslims and Sikhs through state terrorism. Since 1989, India has deployed above 700,000 troops to suppress the Kashmiris freedom struggle for their right to self determination as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions of 1948/49. In the process, rampant human rights (HR) violations have been done to the Kashmiris, including deaths of much above 100,000 persons.

Likewise, on June 1, 1984 Indian Army had attacked the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh Shrine in India, Punjab to eliminate Sikhs’ religious leaders who were asking for autonomy of Punjab to ensure protection of Sikhs’ religious rights and identity. In that attack, many Sikhs were killed and maimed.

The ground reality is that for the last many years, Indian minorities are living under the violence ridden domination of the Sang Parivar (a group of Hindu extremist organisations) led by the RSS. The intensity of this violent trend has increased during the BJP rule, especially in Modi’s time

Since then the Sikhs have intensified their old demand of making Punjab an independent state. Although, this demand is being suppressed by India by force, in the foreign countries the Sikh diaspora is quite actively running the campaign of Sikhs’ freedom, which is also near recognition by the major western democracies.

The above discussion proves that India’s much trumpeted secularism only exists on papers and practically the country is being driven by the Hindutva dominated forces that will damage India’s territorial integrity sooner or later.

The writer is a former Research Fellow of Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Islamabad

Published in Daily Times, June 1st 2018.