The tragedy of being “mock-Secular”
Masses did not dump the UPA for pinning secular tag
Syyed Mansoor Agha
Senior Congress leader A. K. Antony’s remark, "People have lost faith in the secular credentials of the party”- is factual and nobody can dispute it. But reasons for this loss of faith, are diametrically opposite, the veteran leader has cited. Mr. Antony said, “People have a feeling that the Congress bats for a few communities, especially minorities." If Mr. Antony feels so, it is false and far away from the facts.
Congress lost its credibility as a “Secular party” not because it “bats for a few communities, especially minorities,” but because it ditched the minority communities, especially Muslims and Christians and did not follow “secularism” in practice, did not deliver justice to all citizens equally. Minority leaders have complained against time and again in last 65 years and have lot of instances to elaborate. Let us narrate a few.
This Lok Sabha elections Muslim Jats did not stood with Hindu Jats, as it had been even before BKD (now-RLD) was formed by Late Jat leader Chaudhry Charan Singh father of Congress ally Ch. Ajit Singh. This shocked the Minister of Civil Aviation in UPA as he was defeated by a huge margin of over 2, 25,000 votes in a constituency considered home turf of Chaudhry family.
When enquired, a reason of Muslim disillusionment was found in the last act of UPA Government namely “Jat reservation” (4 March 14). It shocked Muslim supporters of RLD that only Hindu Jats were included in Central list of OBCs and Muslims of the same cast were excluded despite the fact that they leg far behind the Hindus of their cast.
What does the act to appease Jat community shows, to which as a cabinet Minister Mr. Antony is a party? It does not show party’s inclination towards “Minority” but otherwise. The partisan act against Muslims failed objective of “social justice” and inflicted brutal injury to the ethos of “Secularism”? This happened in spite of fact that Muslim Jats leg far behind Hindus of their cast. All standard parameters indicate that the Hindu Jats constitute forward and wealthy class of the country, while Muslims are admittedly most backward socially, educationally and economically.
This is not a lone instance. The Congress party has a history of discriminating against Muslims and Christians. In 1952, when Congress accorded much sought support by way of reservation to alleviate the status of SCs & STs, only Hindu SC/ST communities were counted for and all non-Hindus were excluded ditching the constitutional guarantee on non-discrimination on the ground of religion.
Justice Sachchar Committee report is a mirror of the effects of discriminatory policies the congress adopted against Muslim Minority. The committee was appointed by UPA-1 and data was collected under OSD in PMO, therefore authenticity of conclusion cannot be challenged. The essence of the findings is that Muslims have been pushed to the place of most backward community of India. On the face, the study was done to suggest corrective measures but it may be genuinely doubted that intention was otherwise. Perhaps it was an exercise to gauge the success of “Hindu-wizing” Indian administration and implementation of anti-Minority policies of the successive Congress government while chanting the sermon of “Secular and secularism”. As Parwaz Rehmani pointed out in “Dawat” (4 July) in his column “Khabar-o-Nazar” the objective of this exercise seems to be an act to tell RSS and BJP that allegation of “Muslim appeasement” on Congress regime is blatantly ill founded. The truth is just its opposite.
Anil Shastri, another senior leader of congress rightly contradicted Antony’s anatomy. He said, "In 2009, 12 out of 28 Muslims got elected from Congress but only one found place in UPA II Ministry and that too as MOS. Is this Muslim appeasement?"
Shastri pointed out, "All four Muslim CMs i.e. Antulay(Mharashtra), Barkatullah (Madhya Paradesh), Abdul Gaffoor (Bihar) and Anwara Taimur (Assam) were appointed by Indira Gandhi. After that it's been a full stop for last 30 years."
Mr. Shastri rightly maintained there has been no appeasement of Muslims by the Congress.
Mr. Antony’s statement has only delighted BJP, which was mum after Sachcar Report. Admiring Antony’s statement L.K. Advani said, "We should welcome this honest soul-searching by AK Antony for he is now saying what we in BJP have been saying all along.”
This is not first time that Antony’s soul has tuned with the BJP and Sangh’s songs. After BJP won M.P., Rajasthan and Chattisgarh assembly polls in 2003, he has tacitly impressed upon congress to step out of its policy of “soft-Hindutva” and adopt “vocal pro-Hinduva” to “appease” saffron minds.
It is being pleaded that Mr. Antony’s remark is Kerala specific. Kerala is his home state and he has served there as C.M. In Kerala Muslims (24.3%) and Christians (19%) constitute around 44% of total population. They are relatively well off educationally, economically culturally, and in terms of political voice. The UDF coalition headed by the Congress depends upon the parties representing these two communities. The Congress leadership is not in a position ty deny them social justice and their share in power like their counterparts in other states. The State Government headed by congress has to listen to them. It is unfortunate that this sharing in power and delivery of justice is viewed by Congress veteran as “inclination” towards Muslim and Christian Community, which needs “correction.”
The alarming defeat of Congress in recent Lok Sabha elections is attributed by some analysts to polarization of votes on “religious grounds”. This may be partially true. India has earlier too polarize against congress. In 1977 it was emergency rule; in 1996 & 98 it was demolition in Ayodhya. In 1914 bogy of corruption and misrule etc swayed the voters against UPA-2. Though the results manifest Hindu “majoritism” yet there are reasons to doubt that heart of India has colored saffron.
These results show that congress has miserably failed to convince non-committed Hindu votes. The party lost its credibility as “secular” among minorities. Non-committed Hindu voters as well as Minority voters debunked the party’s mock “Secular” rhetoric. Wounds inflicted in the form of “terror” accusations also played a role. The party has rightly been accused of denying justice to weaker minority sections and of dithering from secular path. Party used the dogma only as opportunism and tokenism.
Mushrooming of regional opportunist parties, swearing to secularism, and some having shown better adherence, has also diluted public appeal for congress. If congress wants to reinstate itself and restore its lost ground, it will have to shun the practice of creating and exploiting fear against some elements with the aim to make their instrumental use for winning elections. Congress will also have to address security concerns of Minorities created by more than 4500 anti-Minority riots presided over by its Governments, ensuring them social equality, restoring to them their entitlements as citizens and drop allegations of being illegal migrants. In nutshell, it needs to revisit its “mock-secularism” which has been exposed. As Indian Express pointed out, “It needs to revivify secularism, rather than use it as a conceptual sword and shield to differentiate itself from the BJP, while letting it down in actual action.”
“This is a moment for the Congress to examine the content and pitch of its secularism, and how it can be made into a more supple ideology that can accommodate believing Hindus, for instance, and convince those who are oblivious to the real deprivations that minorities face. Its first challenge is one of imagination and persuasion. The bigger challenge is in living by that belief itself.” (Edit- How to be secular, 30 June)
Writer is Gen. Sec. Forum for Civil Rights