The Secular Class
Dr. Jagdish Tummala
[ As I sit in my home in Detroit, Michigan, watching all the drama that is unfolding in the General Elections of 2009, I wonder how far the truth can be stretched. I am quite disillusioned by the definition of secularism being proscribed and prescribed to the Indian public. I was wondering what a lesson in secularism would be like if there was one; so, I thought of this fantasy classroom where secularism is being taught by a Mr. Secular Indian to his Gullible disciples who are pursuing a political career as a secular politician . Now tighten your seat belts and start thinking. Think what your definition of secularism is? ]
Mr. Secular Indian: I welcome you disciples to your first day in class. I know you people are obsessed with the idea of secularism, but I will help you build on this idea today which will benefit you tremendously in your political careers; so, let us start by taking some questions.
A Gullible disciple: I am confused about the idea of secularism. I feel I am a secular person, but when I see some of our English channels and listen to our politicians, I feel I am not - How do I get over this dilemma ?
Mr. Secular Indian: What makes you feel as though you are not secular ?
A Gullible disciple: I find myself agreeing to some of the views of BJP, especially on terror, international policies and common civil code etc. But the very next moment, when the panelists on these shows call it a farce and communal, I feel I am communal too.
Mr. Secular Indian: First things first. You cannot be called secular, If you agree with the BJP. You have to be a staunch opponent of BJP policies irrespective of whether you feel they are right or wrong. Be careful, you will be tagged as a communal instantaneously if you agree with them. It would not matter what you think about the upliftment of minorities.
A gullible disciple: Some politicians are even called communal if they go to a temple or wear saffron clothes, what do you think of that?
Mr. secular Indian: Well, you cannot wear any identity that could relate you to a majority community. You can go to the temple every now and then but make sure nobody is watching you. This might come to haunt you later in your political career. At the same time make sure you make frequent visits to churches and mosques and also meet some religious leaders, but this time makes sure you do it in front of the full glare of the media.
Meanwhile a Muslim gullible disciple jumps in and asks:
A gullible Muslim disciple: I go to mosques every Friday.
Would I have to be careful too ? Also would I have to meet some swamijis in front of the media?
Mr. secular Indian: No, this does not apply to you as you belong to a minority community. In fact, if someone questions you about any aspect of your faith, just call for protection of your rights and your secular friends will take care of the rest. Talking about your meeting swamis, this could severely dent your chances of being a secular politician and your credentials might get questioned, even if you have to do that, do it behind the cameras.
A gullible Muslim disciple: I find myself agreeing with the BJP sometimes, especially about the introduction of a common civil code. I feel a different civil code for the Muslims is only alienating them and I do not agree with some of it's clauses. How do I express this view?
Mr. Secular Indian: Again, the golden rule is, you cannot agree with the BJP at any cost. Even if the BJP is trying to do some good for the minorities, you will need to portray the evil in it. These are the times when your secular credentials will be tested. Remember, you being a Muslim and finding any of BJP's comment acceptable, can spell doom to your political career. Common civil code might be necessary for the upliftment of the Muslims, but it is not acceptable to the Muslim masses. You can only take popular decisions in politics irrespective of the consequences.
A gullible disciple: I believe we would need to work hard for the upliftment of the minority masses to be called a secular.
Mr. secular Indian: Not necessarily, as long as you are anti-BJP and are making speeches condemning Hindutva, you need not do anything, just tell the minorities that you will protect them from the Hindutva forces and hope they might vote for you. At the same time, it can be dangerous if you try to bring a lot of development in the minority dominated areas as this would mean land occupations for roads, building, and schools instead of madrases etc.. It might be popular among few, but the masses would not like it. Always stay away from such controversies in the minority dominated areas. Moreover, educating them might harm you in the long run, as you might not be able to use them as vote banks.
A gullible disciple: What are the advantages of being a secular politician?
Mr. secular Indian: Numerous! Firstly, it negates several ills. You can be a gangster, a rapist or a murderer and you can still be called a good politician with an honest ideology if you are secular. You will be acceptable to all the secular parties and will never be treated as an untouchable in politics. Moreover, if you have any criminal cases or CBI cases pending against you, just lend support to a secular party at the centre and be rest assured that all the CBI cases against you will be withdrawn. Another advantage is you can win elections without doing any public service. Look at all the states which are dominated by these secular parties. They do not have to do any public work or develop anything. These states continue to lag behind in all human development indices. They know that as long as they are secular, their chances of remaining in power are high.
A gullible disciple: How do I tackle riots which are so rampant in our society?
Mr. secular Indian: Wait until the riots have subsided, you need not mobilise any forces to tackle these riots. But make sure you put the entire blame on the hindutva forces for the riots. Also portray the BJP as an accomplice and be very vocal about it in the media. This will exonerate you from being complacent during the riots. Look at the Mumbai riots and Babri demolition for example. A secular government was at the centre on both these occasions. They even agreed to these events tacitly, if not directly involved and let nature take its own course. But they make sure even to this day that they blame the BJP for anything and everything that happened. I am sure they could have done something about it, but they opted not to. Instead, they used it to their advantage and portrayed the BJP as the only evil. This is a great example of how you can maintain your secular credentials by just blaming the BJP, even though you were involved yourself.
A gullible disciple: Can you tackle Jihadi terrorism and maintain your secular credentials?
Mr. secular Indian: You have to be very careful when talking about tackling Jihadi terrorism. This is a condition you should be able to mend to your advantage. You should oppose every law that asks for a strong action against Jihadis. This will win you a lot of secular votes. In fact, if anybody tries to condemn Jihadis, reply to them by talking about Hindutva terrorism and always portray Hindutva terrorism to be a greater threat than the Jihadis. Also, try to magnify every violent incident associated with the Hindutva forces and make them look bigger and more threatening than the Jihadis. You will be surprised to know how many hearts you will win.
A gullible disciple: Muslims are equally affected by Jihadi terrorism. What if they do not agree to our idea of being soft on terror?
Mr. secular Indian: You have to create a fear psychosis among the Muslims and tell them that the fight against Jihadis is actually a fight against Islam. Tell them all the stories about how young Muslims are being tortured in the name of this fight against the Jihadis and that this fight would only create more terrorists.
A gullible disciple: What if the majority community gets angry with us for being soft on terrorism?
Mr. secular Indian: You have to make sure that the majority community is not majority anymore by dividing them into multiple factions in the name of caste or regions or languages and so on. Then select some large but disenchanted groups among them and promise them greater opportunity in every field. Now you will be left with a select few smaller groups which will question you. This is where you have to work like a salesman and try to sell your idea of secularism. If they still question you, threaten them with thoughts that they might be tagged communal if they support the same ideas as those being supported by the BJP. This works wonderfully and helps people soften their stance on terrorism.
A gullible disciple: How can we deal with the symbols of worship and religion and still be secular?
Mr secular Indian: You do not have to worry about the symbols of a majority religion like Ram Sethu etc., but make sure you divide the majority community so much that they start believing that the artificial lines created by you are more important than their religious identity. If they still persist on retaining their identity, then tell them that they could be identified with the communal forces. This helps even hardliners change their stance. Then you can even talk about destroying those symbols to appease the secular forces. At the same time make sure you never do anything to dilute the sentiments of a minority community. Remember, this sentiment is your bread and butter. Your entire survival depends on the minorities retaining their religious identity.
A gullible disciple: How can we tackle the media?
Mr. secular Indian: The media will give you a red carpet welcome. Remember, Indian media is the mouth piece of secular forces. They have been either created by the secular forces or been made to buy our idea of secularism. They cannot exist in this country if they differ from our viewpoint. The fear psychosis we have created helps us to make the media dance to our tunes. When in any TV debates, you can score a lot of points by making anti BJP rhetorics. If you find yourself in any trouble, just raise the issue of Gujarat riots and portray Narendra Modi as a devil. You are sure to come out of any troubled situation.
A gullible disciple: If you are tagged as a communal, is there anything we can do to get back to the secular brigade?
Mr. secular Indian: This is very simple. It is like conversion from one religion to the other. The easier we make it, the more it boosts our strength. Even if you are in the communal alliance for sometime for your own political advantage, you can dump these communal forces whenever you feel they are redundant and join the secular brigade. Remember Naveen Patnaik. He was tagged communal and his party was called a principal architect of the Kandhmal violence by the Indian media and the secular forces alike. Though as soon as he dumped the BJP on the question of 'winnability', he became the poster boy for secularism and everything that happened in Kandhmal was portrayed as a BJP conspiracy. We made everyone believe that Naveen Patnaik was just having a difficult time dealing with them. Also remember Kalyan Singh, the principle architect of Babri demolition is now trying to jump into the secular bandwagon and the secular forces are trying every bit to find him a place in their bandwagon. You can perpetrate the most heinous communal crime, but you can be secular any time you renegade the BJP. Remember, BJP hatred is the core quality required to become secular and other factors do not matter as much.
I will stop here and hope all of you had a very good understanding of secularism. Now work hard on these principles and you will climb to great heights in your political career. We will discuss some other issues in the next class.