Secularism In India: Will Hindus Wake up Now?
By: Mahalinga Srinivasan
(Since 2000, the author is taking part in several social service activities supporting education of the underprivileged people, veda patasalas, etc. Presently, he is actively working toward the revival of Hindu consciousness among the Hindus in India. Unlike in the past, he does not feel guilty of being a Hindu.)
It has become fashionable to use the word "Secularism" these days. But the reality is that it is the most abused word. Several people mean and interpret this word differently causing confusion.
India has been a pluralistic society. We used to be proud of being unified as one country with different cultures and religions coexisting peacefully with harmony. In other words, India used to be one of the most secular countries where every religion offered mutual respect for each other.
This situation prevailed till the recent past. In recent times religion began to be used as a tool by politicians to divide people. Political interference in religious matters is usual, if not frequent. But, of late, the Indian Government intervenes in religious matters mostly in favour of minority religions and in many other cases against the Hindu Religion. It is worth considering a few such cases:
1. Monority Appeasement:
Many Muslims in India travel to Mecca (Haj) on an annual yatra. The Government subsidises the travel expenses of those tourists through a program called Haj subsidy, even though the Supreme Court has disapproved this subsidy. The Christian Church recently claimed a similar subsidy for travel to Jerusalem and the Government agreed and sanctioned it. Both subsidies are spent from the exchequer. At the same time, the money donated by Hindus in temples goes straight to the exchequer. Recent reports show that only 20% of those funds are used for temple support and the rest siphoned off.
One case that can convincingly establish Islam"s winch like hold on the government is that of the blast of the Parliament House in New Delhi. Here, the militant(s) were captured, accused, prosecuted, and proved guilty by the Supreme Court. The punishment of hanging was handed out even after an appeal by the convicted Afzal Guru was denied by the Supreme Court. Then a mercy petition was filed with the President of India by the accused, which was to be settled in six months. It has now been years and the Supreme Court"s order for execution has yet to see the light of day. By not tackling the issue firmly, the Government has not only demonstrated an extreme case of minority appeasement, but also has surrendered the country"s sovereignty to terrorists!
2. Opening of Educational Institutions:
Minority groups do not require any special permission from the Government when they want to open educational institutions, with or without government grants. They are allowed to reserve 50% of the seats for their religious group, without any quota restrictions. On the contrary, Hindus are not allowed to open educational institutions (with or without grant) without specific approval from the Government. No autonomous reservation is allowed. The entire admission process is subject to the Government quota system! Many Hindu citizens do not know this undemocratic system.
3. Exemptions to Educational Trusts:
Whenever any educational Trusts of Minority Religions applied for Income Tax exemptions under section 80 G of the I.T. Act, the Government freely obliged their request. On the contrary such requests by Hindu institutions like Veda Pathasalas are denied on grounds that it is communal! Requests are approved, only if they are devoid of "objectionable" words like "Hindu", "Vedas", etc. So, such applications are filled with sugar-coated words such as Indian Heritage Studies, Ancient Indian Culture Studies, etc. It is needless to say that "Contacts" with "Higher-ups" is always sought for to avoid undue delays in approval of such requests from Hindu aspirants.
4. Demolition of Religious Places, or seizing land belonging to religious institutions:
Illegal construction of property is quite common in India. Normally, illegal constructions are those erected in lands belonging to the Government or those carried out without proper authorization, or those that are not conducive to public law and order. Minority religions consider it a sacrilege if mosques or churches are demolished, even if done on legal or technical grounds. So such illegal construction remains untouched. In some instances, many pending court cases are permanently delayed or stopped. On the other hand, the Government demolishes Hindu Temples without consulting management and even before the courts intervene!
For instance, the Delhi Metro Rail Project was taken up about 10 years back. The original project was opposed by Muslims on the grounds that the frequent vibrations would affect the structure of Jumma Masjid. Hence the project had to be modified involving a delay of over three years besides increased expenses of hundreds of crores of rupees. Similarly, the new Calcutta International Airport has been awaiting inauguration for five years on the grounds that a mosque obstructing its runway is not allowed to be demolished by the Islamic clergy.
But the Government does not consider Hindu sentiments as equally sacred. For instance, recently (October 2008) in Hyderabad, a temple was demolished for widening a road. Only after the people went to the streets did the ruling party promise reconstruction.
In another instance, the Andhra Pradesh Government took over the lands belonging to Tirupathi Devasthanam under the pretext of acquiring the land for construction of houses, a project headed by a Christist Chief Minister and widely supported by Christian organizations. It took a nationwide protest and public litigation before the AP High Court questioned why Church or Mosque lands could not be used for this purpose. Needless to say, the AP Government put the project in cold storage.
5. Political interference in Temples and places of religious importance:
While Christian & Islamic places of worship are out of the bounds of the Indian Government, Hindu Temples continue to be under the management of HRCE (Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, a state department in many states). Furthermore, efforts continue by the government to gain control of autonomous Hindu temples and mutts. For example, the Kerala Communist Government brought out a law to take over the Guruvayur temple. Even though this attempt was unsuccessful, the government is manipulating to amend the rules in Devaswom (Board of the Guruvayur temple) to try to induct politicians in the Board. The eventual goal is to loot the temples that are flush with funds, like Guruvayurappan Temple, Ayyappan Temple at Sabari Malai, and Ananta Padmanatha Swamy Temple in Tiruvanantapuram.
The Tamil Nadu Government has made a concerted effort to take over the Chidambaram Nataraja temple affairs under the pretext of smoothing out "differences" between Vaishnavite and Saivite traditions. The government has since taken control of the temple. The Hindus have filed a case in the High Court. The case is pending. Needless to say the government control will continue till the judgement from the High Court is delivered.
The demolition of Rama-Setu (bridge) is too recent to forget. In this case, the Government went to the extent of giving two false affidavits and got roughed up by the Supreme Court for its callousness. The Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha has supported a nationwide agitation by the Hindus to protest the demolition.
6. Hindu Terror!
As per reports, during the past 4.5 years of UPA rule, there had been 78 terrorist attacks. Almost all of them were by Islamic organizations. Not even once did the Government use the word Islamic Terror. Yet, recently, after the attacks at Melagaon in Maharashtra, the congress Government tried to fabricate a motive by a Hindu monk and military officer. Accusations abounded but there were no prosecutions. The government hastily coined the phrase "Hindu Terror" and the media were only too happy to borrow this phrase. Clearly this means Hindus can be taken for granted and their sentiments are worth nothing.
While the Indian Constitution provides for freedom of practicing one"s religion, minority religions continue to consider this as a license to proselytize the poor people through monetary and other inducements.
This practice was going on for a long time in Orissa. One Hindu saint, Swamy Lakshmanananda was rendering yeoman service to tribal villagers in Orissa by providing them free education, food and clothing. His service attracted people so much that even those recently converted to Christianity chose to convert back to Hinduism. This angered Christian missionaries who are known to have hired killers and had Swamiji and four other ashram inmates including a woman monk assassinated. Missionaries claimed that Maoists carried out the murders. All culprits have since been identified but they roam free in the streets of Orissa. No marks for guessing the reason!
To sum it all up, the Indian Government, starting from secularism has steadily gone towards Minority appeasement. Finally, it appears to have settled in an anti-Hindu drive. The future of 85% of the population of India (Hindus) is bleak unless the present Government is replaced by a truly secular government. Will the majority wake up now at least?