From FDI in retail to corruption, secularism is an invisibility cloak
by Venky Vembu
Nov 28, 2012
The shortest route from anywhere to anywhere else in Indian politics is through ‘Secularism Avenue’ – as DMK president M Karunanidhi demonstrated on Tuesday.
Your entire political career may have been driven by the most vile caste-based identity politics, you may have given moral legitimacy to political assassins, your party may be monumentally corrupt, your daughter may have served prison term (and still face trial) on corruption charges, and even though you are a wheelchair-bound geriatric, you may need to perform agile gymnastic contortions to explain your political flip-flops.
But in the end, there is one ‘brahmastra‘ that you can pull out to explain away your polygamous politics: you want to defend ‘secularism’, whatever that means.
Likewise for the Congress: it may have been caught with its hands in the till in the many corruption scandals that have come to define its term in office, the government it heads may have been reduced to a lame-duck, minority arrangement, it may have itself played the most perverse communal political games. But in the end, it can always count on its allies to bail it out by invoking the shibboleth of ‘secularism’.
In that sense, ‘secularism’ is an ‘invisibility cloak’ worthy of Harry Potter. When you have it on, you can do whatever you want, and your dirty deeds will have a ‘secular’ legitimacy.
On Tuesday, Karunanidhi played his ‘secular’ trump card yet again to explain his decision to support the UPA government (of which his party, the DMK, is a constituent. The DMK opposes the contentious move to permit FDI in multi-brand retail, he said, but even so, it had decided to support the UPA government in Parliament on the issue solely in order to prevent “communal” forces from coming to power.
“When this discussion comes up in Parliament, though there may be thousands of differences (between the UPA and the DMK on the issue), thinking about the unfavourable incidents that may emerge if this government falls at the Centre, it has been decided to support the UPA with bitterness,” Karunanidhi said in a statement.
If anything happened to the UPA government, he added, it would only benefit the BJP. “We have to think of mosque demolitions, kar sevas, anti-minority measures and similar other communal atrocities if the BJP or a communal government it supports assumes power at the Centre,” he added.
But beneath this seemingly high-minded charade, the reasons for Karunanidhi’s doing back-flips to explain his political fecklessnes – in opposing the proposal for FDI in retail and yet voting for it – aren’t hard to trace. His daughter Kanimozhi is still undergoing trial in the 2G scam cases, and to the extent that the Congress is still the puppet master that yanks the CBI’s strings, it still determines the DMK’s political destiny. The case against Kanimozhi,after all, will be only as good as the prosecution wants it to be.
Nor is Karunanidhi alone in invoking the ‘secularism’ card to bail out the Congress. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav too touted much the same reason when he stepped in after Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee withdrew support to the UPA government over the issue of FDI in retail and the diesel price hike.
Soon after Mamata Banerjee walked out, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav (who is Mulayam Singh’s brother) noted that although the Congress was guilty of a number of governance failures, the Samajwadi Party would perhaps have to step up and prop it up in the interest of stopping the BJP.
“This government would have fallen long ago. Many parties share our view on it (corruption, price rise and unilateralism in alliance). But we cannot forget the Gujarat riots and how the state sponsored them. We have seen that face of the BJP. So, we have to think twice before taking a step lest it helps such forces in coming to power,” Yadav had said at that time.
But such specious reasoning notwithstanding, the Karunanidhi’s and the Samajwadi Party’s alibi for their stated intention to bail out the government merely reflects the debasement of political posturing in India, where anything – including monumental corruption, such as the UPA government has overseen in the past three years – can be defended in the name of upholding “secularism” as defined by opportunistic invocations of that slogan.
Like Karunanidhi, Mulayam Singh too is susceptible to political blackmail – to the extent that he too faces charges of having acquired assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The Congress has the capacity to abuse its power and taint him – or allow him to walk free.
But the cynical politics of playing the ‘secularism’ card may be close to its sell-by date. The taint of being seen to be joined at the hip, in the way that the Congress and the DMK are (as coalition allies), will recoil on both of them – in the way that it did during the 2011 Assembly election in Tamil Nadu. Which is perhaps why neither of them can stand the stench emanating from the other, but gamely march, hand in hand, down Secularism Avenue – in the hope that their ‘invisibility cloak’ will mask their perverse politics.
But when their magical cloak loses its invisibility powers, their naked politics will be on glorious display for the world to see.
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FROM THE BOOK :
” PERVERSION OF INDIA’S POLITICAL PARLANCE”
SITA RAM GOEL
VOICE OF INDIA, NEW DELHI
SECULAR VERSUS COMMUNAL
This fifth pair of labels has attained the widest currency of all political words. We face a peculiar problem here. The meanings which these words have acquired in India’s political parlance are not even remotely related to the meanings which the dictionaries assign to them. It would not be an exaggeration to say that although these two words belong to the English language, their meanings in India have become exclusively Indian.
The word secular is defined in the dictionaries as “the belief that the state, morals, education, etc. should be independent of religion.” But in India it means only one thing — eschewing everything Hindu and espousing everything Islamic.
Every one who wants to qualifying as secular should subscribe to the folowing articles of faith :
the Muslims in India after independence have become a poor and persecuted minority;
they are being deprived of their fair share in the fruits of development;
their religion and culture are not getting legitimate expression in public life and media;
they are not being given employment in public and private sectors in proportion to their population; and
the preponderance of Hindus in the security forces puts in grave peril the lives, honour and properties of Muslims.
Every Hindu politician or pen-pusher who aspires to pass the test has to
proclaim that Islam stands for equality and human brotherhood;
celebrate the prophet’s birthday with fanfare and throw an iftar dinner at the end of Ramzan;
attend Urs of sufis and Urdu mushairas;
support the claim of Urdu to be the second state language in all states where Muslims are in a minority;
admire whatever passes for Islamic art and architecture;
relish Muslim cooking and appreciate Muslim dress and demeanour;
abuse Israel and applaud Arab countries.
He should also keep quiet or look the other way when Muslims
breed like rats;
refuse to give modern education to their children;
push their women into purdah;
start street-riots at the slightest pretext;
rejoice over every Pakistan victory and every Indian defeat in sports; and
invite and protect infiltrators from across the borders. And he should not whisper a word when Arab governments pour petro-dollars and professional preachers of Islam into this country in order to convert the weaker sections of Hindu society.
Even these positive services rendered to Islam are not sufficient for a Hindu politician or pen-pusher out to earn the secular certificate. One is not secular unless one harbours and expresses a pronounced anti-Hindu animus. One should lodge an immediate protest against the least little expression of Hindu religion or culture in public media and at government functions. One should frown upon every government dignitary performing a pooja in a Hindu temple or going to Hindu place prilgrimage. One should accuse all educational, cultural and research institutions of hiding Hindu communalists. One should put the blame squarely on the RSS for every communal riot. And so on, the list of one’s grievances against Hindu society should be as long as one’s love for Islam and Muslims.
The definition of communal is a logical corollary of the above definition of secular. The dictionaries define the word communal as “pertaining to community, owned in common,, shared.” But Hindus in India have only to say that they belong to a community and that they share a culture in common. They immediately provoke secularists of all hues to come down upon them. In fact, the word Hindu itself has become a dirty word, almost an obscenity in India’ political parlance.
Woe betide the Hindu who dares say that India is his ancestral homeland and that his religion and culture also have a case. He will be immediately denounced as a Hindu chauvinist.
A Hindu who blunders into reading Indian history with his own eyes who finds that his society has suffered immeasurably at the hands of Islamic imperialism, and who cries out that this aggression should now stop, makes the Leftists mad with fury.
They brand him as an enemy of public peace and national integration.
They find in him a fiend who is plotting a genocide of the “poor Muslim minority.”