-- By Asghar Ali Engineer
After the carnage in Gujarat and subsequent victory of Narendra Modi-led
BJP in Gujarat has intensified threat of Hindutva forces. The Hindutva
forces not only celebrated the victory in Gujarat but also declared their
intention to repeat the Gujarat model in other states in coming elections.
It is not so surprising after all that even the Prime Minister Vajpayee
when asked about it, confirmed it. When reporters asked him would you
repeat Gujarat model in other states he said, "Will Godhra be repeated"?
The implication of this cryptic reply is that if Godhra is repeated (or
created?) in other states Gujarat model will be justified and the BJP
Government will neither owe responsibility to prevent Godhra-like occurrence
nor the subsequent events that followed in Gujarat. Thus the BJP owes
no responsibility to enforce rule of law but rule of hate, blind revenge
Such hateful and revengeful Hindutva (which believes in even worshipping
weapons on every Dassehra day) is bound to terrify minorities against
whom its ire is directed. A question now is being asked what should be
the response of minorities to the aggressive Hindutva? Should they submit
to its demands for complete submission and accept the concept of Hindu
Rashtra and status of mlechchha? Or should they resist such demands and
fight back with equal militancy?
I think no saner elements would advocate either course. To submit to such
demands would amount to demise of democracy in our country and to fight
back militantly would only strengthen the hands of Hindutva forces. What
is better course then if both the above courses are not advisable? Before
we discuss this we would like to throw some light on the stand taken by
Jamat-e-Islami during sixties. It is again being advocated by some Muslims
The Jamat-e-Islami had advocated during the sixties that Muslims should
not participate in the electoral process for two reasons: one, the Jamat
was against secular politics and, second, it thought, as Sir Syed did
in nineteenth century, it is in the interest of security and progress
of Muslims to keep away from turbulent politics.
But both arguments go against the grain of democracy. Of course the Jamat
has also accepted secular polity in India and no more advocates that Muslims
keep away from electoral politics. Neither is tenable any more. Every
one has realised that democracy can work only if it is secular. Hindu
democracy or Islamic democracy prioritises religion over the notion of
citizenship. In secular democracy citizenship is most fundamental, not
religion. In Hindu Rashtra or Islamic democracy a Hindu or a Muslim will
be more privileged than a non-Hindu or a non-Muslim. Thus such a course
cannot be acceptable.
to participate in the electoral democracy is equally highly doubtful course.
It clearly amounts to debunking democracy just because an aggressive section
of majority community so demands or because it misuses electoral politics
for forcing majoritarian values on minorities. Misuse of democracy cannot
be negation of democracy. It amounts to throwing away baby along with
bath water. Moreover, all Muslims cannot agree to such a course. They
are 150 million in India and no leader of such a huge community can succeed
in building consensus in the community on such a controversial course
of action. Also, the Indian democracy will collapse if a community of
150 million keeps away from electoral process.
is no such precedent in any country of the world. If we add other minorities
to this the problem assumes more massive dimension.
We have thus to evolve proper strategy for meeting the menace of Hindutva
to the minorities. This can more easily be done by meeting this menace
by winning the confidence of that major section of majority, which is
aware of this menace or can be made aware of it. Hindutva forces, one
should note, would ultimately set up an highly authoritarian regime and
would undermine democracy. Thus the majority community should also understand
that it is menace not only to minorities but also to majority itself.
Its democratic freedoms would be in peril.
It is not true, as often claimed by the Hindutva forces, that Hinduism
can't yield to theocratic or authoritarian set up and that only Hindus
can be secular and democratic. Hinduism may not be a religion with one
god, one prophet and one book but it does have many sects and panths with
rigid shastric traditions and orthodoxies. The Hindutvawadis do talk of
Manuvad and even advocated Manu's laws in place of modern Indian constitution.
Originally the Constitution Review Commission was set up with a clandestine
agenda to import Manu's laws back into the Indian mainstream. But thanks
to hue and cry raised by democratic forces in the country that it did
This shows that an aware secular democratic forces from the majority community
can better stall Hindutva forces than an aggressive minority or minorities.
However, most of the minority leaders either lack this wisdom or have
ambition of their own to acquire instant leadership by using highly emotive
issues. The Shah Bano and Babri Masjid issues, if handled with tact and
wisdom by Muslim leadership, would not have had such disastrous implications
There is need for think tanks at state and national level to tackle such
controversial issues. The minorities should not respond to any emotional
controversies impetuously without giving serious thought as to the consequences
of taking a particular stand. Some ambitious leaders take hasty stand
and put entire minority community in danger. The latest example is of
an imam of the mosque in Gujarat appealing Muslims for coming out in large
numbers to vote for the Congress and this appeal was published in a Gujarati
paper Gujarat Today.
The BJP think tank immediately thought of exploiting it and various news
paper advertisements were issued appealing the Hindus to come out in large
numbers and vote for the BJP to frustrate the conspiracy against the Hindus.
This also helped the Hindutva forces in registering 2/3rd majority in
Gujarat. I was told by some secular Hindus in Gujarat that the imam was
close to the BJP and he did so at the instance of the Sangh Parivar. Whether
the imam was BJP agent or not it proves that how the Hindutva forces can
exploit to hilt any mistake made by minority leaders.
Thus whenever such controversies arise - or are made to arise by the Hindutva
forces - the minority leaders must restrain themselves and debate the
issue preferably in a meeting of think tank from all possible angles and
then take any stand. There are several issues like the Ramjanmabhoomi
and Babri Masjid, which should be left to democratic and secular forces
from majority community to fight it out. If this issue had not been projected
majority versus minority and had been projected as secular democratic
versus majoritarianism it would have had very different consequences.
The whole nature of fight would have been different. Of course the democratic
secular forces also did not intervene effectively in the matter (the Congress
Government led by Shri Narsimha Rao even allowing demolition of the mosque)
and the whole nation had to face the consequences. The country would not
have faced bloodbath in Mumbai in 1992-93 and in Gujarat if secular forces
had effectively intervened in the matter.
The secular and democratic forces in majority community also have high
stakes in strengthening secularism in the country. A pluralist democracy
cannot survive without secularism. Our Constitution incorporated pluralism
even without mentioning the word 'secular' as equal citizenship rights
irrespective of caste, creed or race is not possible without secular politics.
If the Hindutva forces win the greatest danger will be to our constitution
and our pluralism.
Also, it is important for minorities, especially for Muslims to thoroughly
imbibe democratic and secular values. A progressive and secular outlook
is very necessary. Clinging to old traditions in the name of religion
is not in the interests of the community even otherwise. There should
be great stress on modern education and concerted efforts should also
be made to modernise madrasas. Those who resist modern knowledge will
have no where to go.
We should also convince the Hindu majority that the Qur'nic term kafir
does not apply to them. It had its connotation in the Arab society in
which the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) preached. Our ancestors like Mazhar
Jan-I-Janan did precisely this. The RSS, the most important and ideological
force behind Hindutva has convinced many Hindus that Muslims consider
them as kafirs and the Qur'an requires all kafirs to be killed. This misinformation
campaign has to be fought very effectively to carry majority of Hindus
It is also necessary for various minorities and weaker sections of society
like dalits and tribals to come together along with secular and democratic
forces of the majority community. One should not, however, form a separate
block of minorities and dalits. It only provokes large majority to consolidate
itself and goes to the advantage of Hindutva forces. In Gujarat the Hindutva
forces have effectively used dalits and tribals against minorities. One
has to deeply reflect on Hindutva's success in doing so.
On the whole it is very complex problem and minorities have to take various
aspects of this multi-dimensional problem to tackle it effectively and
successfully. It would also require constant evaluation of fast developing
political situation and adopting effective strategies from time to time.