A debate has been raging in the society about secularists being anti-Hindu. Numerous examples are cited: their stance on the culprits of Godhra train burning, culprits of Bane family burning in Radhabai chawl, and to cap it all their insensitivity to the plight of Kashmiri Pundits and security of Hindus in Kashmir. What is the truth? Why the perception is projected in this direction, not only by RSS combine communalists but in milder form by other sections of society also.
To begin with let’s take these glaring examples, which have been listed above. The Radhabai Chawl case was well investigated by the state and the case went on in the courts for long when the alleged culprits were released as the courts found that there was no ground to punish them. Incidentally, the tragic burning of this family was used as the pretext to launch the second phase of violence in Mumbai. Even before the investigations were undertaken, it was popularised that Muslims have done it and that Hindus should become aggressive now.
This call was given by those who were bent to start the riots. The ‘real estate’ angle of the thing has been pointed out by observers but irrespective of that the guilty must be punished has been the stance taken by those struggling to preserve the civic liberties. While the Bannerjee Commission Report doubts ‘Modi theory’ that ISI in collusion with local Muslims did it, a large number of local Muslims, including a respectable Imam are behind the bars as accused in this crime. And surely those of them who have aided in this crime must be punished as per the law.
The general trend of the state has been to take serious action in cases where victims are Hindus. If the state is already on the job, what more does one want? That’s generally the demand of civil liberties group, ‘punish the guilty, protect the innocent,’ anything wrong with that?
But surely the case of Kashmiri Pundits is different. The security of Hindus, the Kashmiri Pundits’ emigration from the valley is not in the purview of communal issue. They are more akin to the way the killings of Hindi speaking people by ULFA in Assam. Kashmir is basically an ethnic issue, caught in the crossfire of Indo-Pakistani tensions. The added factor of it being located in the strategic area has added to the problem. The communalisation of Kashmir issue by Al Qaeda infiltrators in the decade of late 80s is to be distinguished from the struggle for autonomy by the Kashmiri militants. While one strongly defends the rights of Kashmiri Pundits living in Jammu or other parts of the country as refugees, one should not communalise the issue.
Irrespective of the complexity of the Kashmir imbroglio, the nature of long term solution, dialogue with Pakistan, the correct nod from US and the winning over the hearts and minds of people of Kashmir are a must to solve the issue. Some symptoms of improvement in the situation in Kashmir, due to the opening of dialogue with militants are already visible with decline in the militancy during last three years. To trivialise it as a communal issue is the travesty of truth.
Unfortunately the central governments, including the six-year rule of NDA has not done anything to sooth the travails of those living in refugee camps, but surely the liberal voices stand for the peaceful solution of Kashmir through the process of dialogue. This is a prerequisite for peaceful existence of Hindus, and the return of Pundits to the valley. Democrats have been calling for the long term and the short term measures in both these directions.
Still why this perception lingers on? There are shades of communalists, and even some liberal sounding intellectuals do take the cudgels against the secular activists. Some lessons from the freedom movement may help us understand it better. When Indian National Congress was formed, the Muslim communalists advised Muslims to keep aloof from it as it is mainly a Hindu body, and Hindu communalists cried hoarse that it is appeasing Muslims by taking them in the Congress fold, and that Congress is against the interests of Hindus. This argument was taken to its logical extreme, when Gandhi was criticised by both. It should be recalled that the landed aristocracy and Kings and Nawabs were the fountainheads of these communal streams to begin with. In the similar vein one can add that the Muslim communalists were also against the likes of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan.
Later Gandhi, who came to embody the secular values to the core, was the recipient of the wrath of both these groups. And the cause of his assassination lies in the concocted perception that he is against the interests of Hindus. Very similar to the way present critics of secularism are doing. Gandhi’s secular policies were labelled as anti-Hindu. This perception of Gandhi’s politics was the cause for Nathuram Godse to pump in three bullets into the chest of Mahatma. Godse was the trained pracharak (preacher) of RSS, who later joined Hindu Mahasabha, and was editor of a newspaper titled, Agrani; subtitled Hindu Rashtra. In his statement in the court, that Gandhi was pursuing anti-Hindu policies was the fulcrum of argument.
It seems in a communalised atmosphere to talk about the defence of weaker communities or to take a human approach to the issues is generally seen through the coloured glasses of religious identity, and secular voice is mocked at as being anti-Hindu.