PUCL Bulletin, May 199

Religiosity in Politics Dangerous
By Rjinder Sachar

The Congress Working Committee passed a resolution sometime back claiming that India's secular credentials had been maintained because of Hinduism. This stance lends credence to the charge of the Congress being only pseudo-secular. To seek to give an exclusive role to Hinduism as the sheet-anchor of secularism is to offer a gratuitous insult to other religions. How can the role be denied to Islam with its ultimate message of a total surrender to God, similar to that of the Bhagwad Gita, and the Koranic axiom that all the created ones belong to the family of God? In what manner is the compassion even for one's tormentors, in the line "Forgive them for they know not what they do" which is the core of the message of Christ, any less of a contribution to the development of the Indian ethos?

That Hinduism has had its core of tolerance owed a good deal to its origin in the rich Indus valley thousands of years ago. There were then no other rival religions to contend against and Hinduism had exclusively a big area like the Indian subcontinent where peaceful coexistence could naturally blossom. These favourable circumstances were denied to Christianity which had to struggle hard to establish itself against the butchery and desolation by pagan Roman Empire and to Islam with its origin in arid Arab land and also facing the challenge of religious crusades of the Middle Ages.

It is not as if Hinduism has remained in its pristine purity for all these thousands of years. Ritualism, casteism and obscurantism had to be continuously fought by great souls.

Congress spokespersons accept that, grammatically speaking, the Hindutva of the BJP and Hinduism as put forth by the Congress mean the same thing. But in a politically obtuse manner, the Congress claims that the BJP offers a distorted version of Hindutva while it is going to present Hinduism in the right perspective. Pray, are we having a theological debate about the core and essence of Hinduism in a religious conference?

The reality is that the Congress is going back to the old strategy of shilanyas (1989) - of appeasing the conservative Hindu vote bank by claiming to be better Hindus than the BJP. What else can explain Mrs. Sonia Gandhi's crowded itinerary of visits to religious places like Tirupati, Hardwar and mutts in Kerala?

More quixotic was the statement of P.A. Sangma that Sonia was not a practising Christian. Why this unnecessary reference to her faith? Those who oppose her becoming the Prime Minister do so not because she is a Christian but on other grounds - she is not a India-born citizen or that it will encourage dynastic rule, and so on. But certainly no one can be ruled out from aspiring to the highest political office in India on the ground of religion. How differently President Kennedy reacted when his being a Catholic was made an issue in his election. He said that he was not a Catholic President but a "President who happens to be Catholic". The Congress by the change in its stance, has seriously damaged the secular fabric.

In India, whether under a Hindu or a Muslim rule, the secular authority was never subordinate to religious authority and neither of the two religions claimed that the sacred was superior to the secular.

This surrender by the Congress to invoke religiosity in political field is doubly dangerous from the point of view of human rights, when the country is already undergoing a trauma of minority witch-hunt and killings of Christian minorities.

The effort of Congress is a matter of deep concern and bodes ill for the development of a healthy, secular political agenda, without which human rights can never take roots.

Home | Index