India- Hindu or Secular?

Obviously none of the above, since (a) Hindus are not one united volk governed by a Pope and a scripture and (b) Secular is a meaningless word used to play off one community vs. another (to the detriment of all concerned). Adding to the general harm is the blast of a blasphemy law. There is no point in requesting the powers that be to remove religion from the public square because that would prevent politicians from grandstanding in their desire to seek votes.

As the D-day approaches the world is sitting up and finally noticing that there will be an election of enormous consequence in India.


It is billed as the
biggest election on Earth. In the world’s largest democracy, an
electorate of 815 million will troop up to 930,000 polling stations in
28 states in nine phases over five weeks, starting Monday and ending May
12. If vote counting goes as swiftly and accurately as has been the
norm in India, results will be announced May 16. Then would begin the
real tamasha (show, entertainment, drama) over who would form the next government.

Polls show the centrist Congress government would be wiped out.
During a recent trip to India, I found no party stalwart who doubted
that prospect, so palpably angry is the public at Congress misrule that
has been marked by corruption, dynastic rule (under the Gandhi family),
government gridlock and stalled economic growth coupled with nearly 9
per cent inflation.

The right-wing
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is widely expected to win. Yet its leader,
Narendra Modi, is no shoo-in as the next prime minister for both prosaic
and profound reasons, the latter relating to the identity of India: is
it a secular nation of 1.3 billion with Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and
other minorities totalling as many 200 million, or a Hindu nation with a
Hindu ethos that the minorities must acquiesce to and assimilate in, as
Modi’s most fervour supporters believe?

That is the real story of this election. What makes it
particularly Indian and deeply democratic is that the most passionate
defenders of secularism against Hindu communal forces are many Hindus

No party has won a
majority since 1986. Smaller parties routinely scoop up about a third of
the vote and a third of the seats, an apt reflection of the steady rise
of regionalism. The best projected scenario for the BJP is for 213
seats in the 543-member lower house of parliament. That would
necessitate enticing or outright bribing 59 others to get to the needed
272 seats to form a coalition government.

There is no strong
third party to forge an arrangement with. This may change with the rise
of the populist Aam Admi (common man) Party, “the Tea Party of the
left,” with its campaign against corruption and culture of entitlement.
But it has already said it won’t partner with BJP. Several regional
parties would come with about 20 seats or less, each wanting to exact
its price. But even some of those ready to back a BJP government may not
back Modi as leader of India, so polarizing a figure he has been.

Whereas the party has
held office before (1998-2004), its prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
was a moderate who was expected to and did keep the BJP zealots in
check. But Modi is seen as hopelessly divisive.

He is chief minister
of the western state of Gujarat where under his watch there was a
communal conflagration in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people were
shot, hacked or burnt to death, an overwhelming majority of them

For secular Indians,
that stain cannot be washed away by his explanations — he had nothing to
do with it; several inquiries were not able to pin any blame on him
directly; there have been no more sectarian riots since; the Muslims of
Gujarat have benefitted from the unquestionable economic boom that he
has brought by attracting Indian and foreign businesses.

His critics, however,
note that one of his caucus members was jailed for 28 years for being
what the court called “a kingpin” in the murder of 97 people. The
federal inquiry that did not find sufficient evidence to charge him did
not exactly exonerate him for his criminal negligence and moral
culpability in failing to stop the days-long riots, in which state
police and civilian authorities were accused of complicity.

Modi has refused to
recant. His supporters argue he has nothing to apologize for. He once
refused a Muslim kufi cap offered him at a public meeting, whereas he
routinely dons various regional headgears for photo ops. He continues to
cater to Hindu chauvinism. He has chosen a federal riding not in his
home state but rather in the Hindu holy city of Benares. He repeats the
BJP mantra of doing away with all the “special deals” for the disputed
(Muslim) state of Kashmir on the Pakistan border, constitutional and
other commitments given for historical and strategic reasons. He says
Muslim terrorism suspects should be prosecuted, not mollycoddled
(reacting to a federal minister who said that long detentions without
charge should be looked at).

“Modi represents everything that’s evil in Hinduism,” says Mani Shankar Aiyar, former Congress minister, a Hindu who calls himself a secular fundamentalist. Echoing Indian
secularists, he told me: “India is not, cannot be, Hindu India. It is a
constitutionally secular nation, with a long history of a composite

The real drama of the
election would unfold after the election, he said. “I am selling tickets
on my veranda to see the parade of politicians who’ll be horse trading —
and battling with their conscience.”



One thought on “India- Hindu or Secular?”

  1. "Obviously none of the above, since (a) Hindus are not one united volk governed by a Pope and a scripture" So…. you've established that Hindus are not Catholics? Genius Sid, genius!

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