Dark days have come in India

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Secularism in India has gone with the wind

By Justice Markandey Katju

For long Indians had boasted with pride that India is a secular country, as proclaimed in the Indian Constitution, and where religious minorities are equal citizens, while its neighbour Pakistan was theocratic, and where non-Muslim minorities lived in fear, and were often oppressed.

Now that facade has come to an end, and Indian secularism has been exposed as a fig leaf.

This was so even before the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP came to power in 2014, and was just a ploy to get Muslim votes by the so-called 'secular' parties.

Even before 2014 when the Congress was in power, Muslims in India were often oppressed and discriminated against, as the Justice Sachar Committee Report mentioned.

But then this was subtle, covert, occurring only sporadically, and kept a bit in check ( with an eye on the large Muslim vote bank, particularly in north India ). After 2014 it has become overt, aggressive, and continuous. Religious polarisation has gone up steeply, promoted by the government. Incidents of lynching of Muslims for allegedly eating beef, beating them up for not saying 'Jai Shri Ram', bulldozing their houses, and other atrocities on them have often occurred. Since 80% of India's population is Hindu, this has greatly benefited the BJP.

This trend has culminated in the 'pran pratishtha' ceremony in the recently constructed Ram Temple in Ayodhya on 22nd January this year in which Prime Minister Modi was the 'yajmaan', standing beside Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the rabidly anti-minority RSS, which generated a wave of Hindu euphoria over large parts of India. While still being a dejure secular country, India has now become in reality a defacto Hindu country.

Incidents are now reported in many places in the country where Muslims are at the receiving end. Just as the shops of Jews and their places of worship were attacked after the Nazis came to power in 1933, something similar is happening to Muslims in India.

The Indian Constitution was promulgated in 1950 after India gained Independence in 1947. It largely borrowed from Constitutions of modern Western countries like the UK and USA, and had modern institutions like Parliament, an independent judiciary, a non political bureaucracy, etc, and modern rights like liberty, equality and religious freedom.

At that time India was still a largely feudal country, and it was believed by the Founding Fathers that this modern Constitution would pull up Indian society from its feudal state into the modern age.

However, a Constitution is just a piece of paper, and what matters is the ground realities. What has happened in India is that it has gone back into the Middle Ages

No doubt it is often said that the Indian economy is growing, but here are the realities :

Dark days have come in India

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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