India's Risk Of Adopting Anti-secularism
15 August 2015
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
Ever since the current prime minister of India Narendra Modi came to power in
May 2014, there has been a perceptible shift of Hindu nationalism that has
blossomed into spoken threats against India's largest minorities, Muslims and
Following the elections, Modi said: "My government's only religion is ‘India
first'; my government's only religious book is the Indian Constitution; our
only devotion is ‘Bharat Bhakti', and our only prayer is for the welfare for
But Modi is from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) party of India, an arm
of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), one that has been severely taken to task
in previous years for their incitement and execution of violence against
Muslim and Christian minorities.
The RSS head M.S. Golwalkar once stated that "the non-Hindu people of
Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and
respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no ideas but
of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture...in a word they must
cease to be foreigners; or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to
the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any
preferential treatment— not even citizens' rights."
So while publicly Modi can say whatever he wants, the realities are different
and there's no denying the sudden burst of life among the radical elements
since the BJP came to power. There have been reports of forced religious
conversions to Hinduism and public outbursts by BJP officials and figures
Hate speech which has incited mob riots and created communal discord over the
years in India is on the rise, and although there are laws on the books
against such incitement, application of the law in a BJP dominated government
Section 153 (A) of the Indian Penal Code specifically prohibits hate speech
and says that a "person can be punished with imprisonment which may extend to
three years, or with fine, or with both." But the speeches continue unabated,
slowly stoking the fires of violence against minorities.
Some have taken this newly found freedom to greater levels. Mahanth Yogi
Adityanath is an Indian politician and a priest. He has been a BJP Member of
Parliament since 1998.
Adityanath is the head priest of a Hindu temple in Gorakhpur and founder of
the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a nationalist group of youth who seek to promote
right-wing Hindu ideology.
In March of this year, during a rally where he was the chief guest, one of
his supporters took to the stage and delivered a speech saying that Hindus
should dig out dead bodies of Muslim women and rape them.
In a high-pitched hate filled vitriol, the supporter also called for Muslims'
voting rights to be taken away stating that this was important for the
creation of a Hindu "rashtra" or nation. Yogi Adityanath simply listened, his
silence a sign of plain encouragement.
There have been other hate speeches from BJP affiliated political leaders and
workers. Varun Gandhi, a grandson of the late Indira Gandhi and a BJP party
member is quoted as threatening to cut off the arms of those who impede
Then there are those who insist that the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu scripture,
be adopted as the national book and others who downplay the achievement of
anyone who's non-Hindu like Mother Teresa, terming anyone who questions this
logic as anti-national.
Anuja Jaiman, a popular journalist in New Delhi says that "getting offended
on behalf of religion, god(s); presuming responsibility as a spokesperson of
a religion, making derogatory statements and outraging for the wrong reasons
appear to be taking India by storm.
This national hobby is a dangerous one to adopt and it doesn't need a scholar
to understand that.
"India is a culturally diverse and secular nation, at least according to the
Constitution. Hate speech is one of the major thorns in the side of our
democracy, which if not checked, will result in spiraling hatred.
That may be the agenda of some, but we can choose to not play into the hands
of the haters." And Mike Ghouse an American of Indian origin who is committed
to building cohesive societies where no human has to live in apprehension of
others concludes that "God save Modi from his 'chumchas' (brown-nosing
hangers on), and I pray that he is aware of what is going on.
If he does not speak up, his dream of being one of the best prime ministers
of India will be shattered and 'sab ka sath sab ka vikas' will become a pipe
dream. Not good for India." Indeed, if such incidents are not brought to a
halt, India's democracy will be a thing of the past.
Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.