Letting the Sphinx of Secularism Rise

Image Source: Ashish Nandy

As early as 2002, the eminent Indian public intellectual, Ashish Nandy announced the death of secularism in India. The reigning political culture in our country seems to indicate that we seem to have moved into an afterlife of secularism.  The unstoppable politics over the holy cow, the terror of cow vigilantism, anti-Romeo squads of UP, heartless crackdown on meat traders in UP, the murder of the innocent cattle transporter in Rajasthan is clearly pointing to the fact that we seem to have moved into a post-secularism era. This situation is complex and raises discomforting questions. Some of the rationalists who were strong proponents of scientific temper have been killed.  The attempt of the ruling dispensation to effectively keep secularism and socialism under erasure has passed off in silence without resistance.  The threat of de-goanization issued by Dr. Subramanian Swamy calling for the cleansing of non-Vegetarian food habits in Goa is part of the crises triggered by the collapse of secularism.  Although, this collapse is politically engineered and designed, it has acquired normalcy and has become normative. This is why it somehow offers legitimacy to what is nothing crass bigotry masquerading in the robes of quintessence of Hinduism.    Although, the lunatic fringe which is inhuman by all moral standards is in control, we have sadly lost the moral compass to discern the damage that it is posing to the great Indian civilization. 

Unknowingly, we have slipped into a society of control.  With secularism reaching a point of expiry, we have entered a period of enforced (un)freedoms.  We can see the rise of free-floating ultra-rabid forms of control.  Our disciplinary institutions like the police, judiciary and the law have lost their spine. There are hoods of people who act like goons posing as custodians of our loyalty to our nation.  Today we are being policed by these non-state actors. They police off our thoughts and words. As a result, some of us are deemed as anti-national for some distasteful slogans. Others are monitored for their food habits and are even lynched on mere suspicion of processing cow meat or smuggling cows. It’s surprising that, in the name of protection to women, we have anti-Romeo squads in UP.   In a free and democratic India, we are made to live in some designer forms/ enclosures/ moulds that do violence to the freedoms bestowed upon us by the constitution. The booming society of control has put all Indians (particularly the minorities) under constant trial where the rampaging mobs become the law unto themselves.  Though our institutions of discipline exist parallel to these unruly non-state actors, they have become toothless as the states choose to show Nelson’s eye to what is actually a sustained assault on our sovereignty as citizens of India.

Loss of sovereignty generated by the free-floating violent mobs in our society has to be addressed.  When secularism reigns, it is chiefly discontent citizens who rise up in rebellion against the state. But in condition of afterlife of secularism, it is the state that remains in a constant war against its own citizenry. Any act of rebellion in a society of control is dubbed as anti-national by the state through its roaring legions of non-state actors. These non-state actors who pose as cultural police unleash a reign of terror and cripple all forms of resistance and rebellion.  That is why we have to admit that the other side of secularism is fascism. With the death of secularism, we have the rise of totalitarian fascism of the Hindutva forces and we are facing an imminent collapse of democracy.  Hence, the death of secularism has brought a loss of our sovereignty as Indian Citizens.  This means our attention is deflected from real and pressing issues by focusing on sentimental concerns of culture and religions. This deflection provides a cover to the corporate control of our political economy.   Thus, the meat politics is not only about religious sentiments. It is about usurping of the meat industry from the people and handing it over to corporate India. If it was only about religious sentiments, we will have to ask: why is India leading the cow meat export in the world?  

Society of control with its terror tactics pacifies and massifies our people. It narrows down the Individual space. It gives new lease of life to communitarianism that degenerates into communalism. In our country, it seems to say: ‘I am a Hindu’ therefore ‘I am an Indian’. Thus, it has a sub-text which says that one becomes an Indian by being a Hindu.  Indians are not Hindus alone, but today, it has become normal and normative to think that all Indians are only Hindus.  Unfortunately, we have lost the ability to discern that this is a perversion of orthodox Hinduism.   Tolerant Hinduism is today replaced by a new militant form. Some even opine that what we are witnessing is a talibanization of Hinduism. Sarva Dharma Sambhava has become a long forgotten injunction of the Hindu tradition and we have successfully neutralised the Dharm Nirpekshta Adesh of our constitution. Indeed, the prevailing situation has put our constitution and secularism under erasure. As a result what we have is not the rule of law but an engineered anarchy set up against innocent citizens to provide a cover for the handing to the corporates the control of our lives.  Hence, it is imperative that we work to resuscitate the dyeing secularism in our country. This would require us to address the cultural police squads that our mushrooming all around us. It is a price that we have to pay to restore the sovereignty of our citizens otherwise nothing can save us from a totalitarianism of the majority where equality, liberty and justice will be sacrificed on the altar of fascism. We cannot remain fence sitters anymore. We have to reassert our supreme sovereignty by all means. We can do this only by working to let the sphinx of secularism rise from the ashes in our country. 

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao