डिजिटल अर्काईव्ह (2008 - 2021)

The question, therefore, is not of either secularism or Hindutva. The question is of the unity and integrity of India, and of the best way of promoting it. It does not require a moment's reflection to perceive that the only way to preserve and strengthen the unity of India is to tread steadfastly on the path shown by the authentic spirit of Hinduism - the path of toleration, of live and let live, of peaceful co-existence, of a democratic way of life in which the right of dissent and of free debate is recognized, nay, enforced in practice, and not merely given expression to in passing.

If secularism "is generally identified by the critics of the ideal with materialism and materialism with the absence or negation of morality" - as M. N. Roy said long ago - a large part of the blame has to be shouldered by the Leftists in general and the communists in particular. One can recall the 1930s and 1940s when progressivism was identified with blatant anti-religion attitudes in "progressive" circles. In Punjab, for instance, Sikh Communists were sort of, tested in their Marxist-Leninist Stalinist faith by their readiness to not only smoke and drink, but shave off their beards and slash their long hair! The Congress-Socialists never went that far, perhaps because of their involvement in the mass struggles for independence, with its emphasis on austerity and selfless service; but they were also not entirely free from a "healthy" contempt for religious beliefs and practices. "Arya Samaji Socialist" or "Sanatanist Socialist" were terms of denigration. Belief in Dialectical Materialism and materialistic interpretation of history were considered to be indispensable mental equipment for a blue-blood socialist, and those who lacked it were only condescendingly accepted as socialists. This "cultural" atmosphere was so predominant that, almost in exasperation, Purshottam (Tricumdas) once asked a gathering of socialists "why is it essential to believe in Dialectical Materialism to become a socialist?" And although, democratic socialists, and even communists, have come a long way off since then, traces of this mental make-up still remain, even if in the unknown depths of the subconscious - traces of which come up and manifest themselves at most odd places.

The sooner the "socialists" become conscious of this handicap and make conscious, determined, efforts to overcome it, the greater will be strength in their fight against communalism. For, when they allow themselves to be bracketed with the anti-religion lobby, they give an opportunity to the communalists to, on the one hand, brand them as amoral if not immoral, and themselves pose, on the other, as guardians of all morality and virtue.

Narendra Deva's Approach
It might interest the secularists to know that the Marxist Narendra Deva believed that "very inspiring moral and cultural elements were entangled in the complex framework of religion which had helped humanity forward in the march of progress; and these elements should be considered on their merit as part of purely secular culture in spite of the religious trappings into which they have been harnessed". He was not religious, but was, at the same time "intensely spiritual". He believed in "inner experience not attainable by logic but only by sensitivity and considered this finer experience to be the ultimate source of sublime moral responsibility and supreme self-sacrifice for the general good". It might also interest them to know that, though a convinced Marxist till the end of his life, he did not subscribe to the Marxist theory of Dialectical Materialism, and preferred to describe himself as a 'Dialectical Realist', because he believed that "all matter was conscious, right from the beginning, from the lowest stage of evolution… and he would rather consider consciousness to be the more important aspect of nature, because it is consciousness that dominates and is the active creative force in it". No wonder he placed the highest emphasis on truthful and moral conduct in personal as well as public life.

This is no place to go into the many knotty philosophical issues involved in it, but suffice it to say that secularists, if they are not to go into the fight against communalism bound hand-and-foot, must not only not condemn religion as such, but harness its ethical and egalitarian content in their struggle against sectarianism. We are living in the age of "Liberation Theology", and let us not forget the role played by the "Church in Poland's fight against Soviet suzerainty, the struggle against authoritarian dictatorship in the Philippines, and revolutionary struggles in Latin America." 

A word of caution will, however, not be out of place. While appreciating the role of religion in the moral, spiritual and even political evolution of man, religion should not be confused with superstition and dogma, the fight against which can be abandoned only at our peril. One can be religious and spiritual, without being superstitious or revivalist. The two have to be carefully demarcated. Our fight is against sectarianism, superstition, dogmatism and revivalism, not against religion or spirituality and morality or a strict code of ethical conduct. 

Nor is it against "Hindutva" as such. "Hinduism", according to S. Radhakrishnan, "is a movement, not a position; a process, not a result, a growing tradition, not a fixed revelation". Max Weber has gone on record to say. "It is an undoubted fact that in India, religious and philosophical thinkers were able to enjoy perfect, really absolute freedom for a long period. The freedom of thought in ancient India was so considerable as to find no parallel in the West before the most recent age". Toynbee has said:"Hinduism takes for granted that there is more than one valid approach to truth and to salvation and that these different approaches are not only compatible with each other but are complementary". In his "Constitution of India: Philosophy and Basic Postulates''. P. B. Gajendragadkar, a former Chief Justice of India, has noted that "Hindu philosophers have consistently proclaimed that all religions lead to God and, unlike some other religions, Hinduism has never put forth the claim that it alone is the true religion". Acharya Narendra Deva has, time and again, emphasised that "Hinduism is not a credal religion. It does not forcibly impose its way of life on others. It does not believe that the only way of life is the one which is professed by it... Hinduism is perhaps the only religion which believes that followers of other religions can also attain salvation.. (It) does not believe in proselytisation. Hindu saints have therefore Initiated their Muslim or Christian followers into spiritual "Sadhana" without demanding renunciation of their faith or practice". If this is the accepted view of Hinduism, which even the BJP does not disown directly, secularists can have no hesitation in subscribing to it or even fighting for it. Secularists have no need to be shy of their "Hindutva". They can very well claim to be genuine votaries of "Hindutva", as against the pseudo-Hindus who are engaged in trampling it under their feet and crushing its soul in their mindless pursuit of political power, without regard to the ever-increasing danger of fracturing beyond repair the unity and integrity of India, in the name and under the pretence of safeguarding and consolidating it.

Democratic Way
The question, therefore, is not of either secularism or Hindutva. The question is of the unity and integrity of India, and of the best way of promoting it. It does not require a moment's reflection to perceive that the only way to preserve and strengthen the unity of India is to tread steadfastly on the path shown by the authentic spirit of Hinduism - the path of toleration, of live and let live, of peaceful co-existence, of a democratic way of life in which the right of dissent and of free debate is recognised, nay, enforced in practice, and not merely given expression to in passing. Protection of minorities - political, religious, linguistic and ethnic - is an integral part of the democratic way of life, and not their appeasement. No one is doing the minorities any favour by securing them their right to exist freely and equally along with the majority. It is in the interest of the majority, a predominant part of whom is in danger of being reduced to the position of the "left-outs of society, that democracy and rule of law are preserved and protected. Minorities cannot be wished away, nor can they be swept under the carpet by calling them Hindus. They are a fact of life and cannot be obliterated by law or force. They are too numerous for that. They can neither be pushed out of India nor physically annihilated. Any attempt to do it would drag India into an interminable civil war, in which the majority will suffer more than the minorities, for no progress or material-cultural-spiritual advance is possible in a condition of perpetual civil war. And let us not forget that it is that majority, the Hindus, who control the commanding heights of the economy, and that in a fight between the haves and the relative have-nots it is that haves who suffer most because the have-nots have much less, if not nothing, to lose. The Hindus will do well to ponder seriously over it before plumping for the essentially non-Hindu ethos that the RSS brand of Hinduism wants to impose on them.

Communalism has to be fought ideologically and politically, not by using the repressive machinery of the State. It is important to deprive the communalists of any democratic issues. Acharya Narendra Deva emphasised it long ago when he, even while describing the Praja Parishad agitation in Jammu as "ill-timed, ill-conceived and calculated to do the greatest injury to the larger interests of the country, cautioned against a strong repressive policy to put an end to this mischievous movement". By dismissing the BJP-ruled State Governments, banning the BJP rally in New Delhi and using the appalling methods to thwart it, the Government has dealt a blow to democracy and handed over a genuine democratic issue to the BJP. All democrats will condemn it in their own and democracy's interests. The coercive power used against the BJP on February 25, 1993, has been and can be again employed against democratic movements and struggles of the dispossessed.

Social Justice
The fight for democracy and against communalism has to be reinforced by a fight to solve the socio-economic problems facing the country. "It is true that it is necessary to oppose communalism at this moment", wrote Narendra Deva to Raghukul Tilak on October 6, 1951, "but simultaneously with opposing communalism it is also our duty to solve the main economic problems. It is my considered opinion that it is not possible ever to successfully combat communalism without it. In the atmosphere of dejection and disillusionment that is prevalent today because of growing economic difficulties, communal and religious forces are bound to get an impetus." If this was true in 1951, how much truer it will be in 1993! 

It should also be apparent to all democrats and socialists that struggle for social justice is as important as the struggle for redressal of economic grievances of the ordinary people. Talking of the miserable condition of the Pariahs(untouchables), the "Hindu" of Madras had, as long ago as 1893 (a full hundred years ago!), observed. "For thousands of years the Pariahs and others have been in their present condition and Hindus have not shown the faintest indication of their being conscious of the condition of these classes. It is assumed that the miserable lot of the Pariah is as natural to him as is to the Brahmin his privileged and comparatively happy lot". The paper had, in fact, despaired of the Pariah's lot ever improving within the fold of Hinduism and had supported the suggestion that "they be handed over to Christian missionaries" for their uplift. Conditions have changed in the last one hundred years, but daily reports of atrocities on the Harijans and other weaker sections of society show that very much more will have to be done before they can breathe easily and receive comparatively fair treatment at the hands of Caste Hindus. The fight against communalism will not make much progress if it is divorced from the fight against social injustice.

S. M. (Joshi) personified in himself the struggle against social injustice. Very few activists can equal his record in this field. He had the courage of his conviction and welcomed the garland of shoes that orthodox Hindus had hung around his neck in the course of his struggle. He had also the grit to embrace a police officer at the height of the struggle for Samyukta Maharashtra and save him from being lynched by an infuriated mob by telling it in no uncertain terms: "Over My Dead Body"! Communalism cannot be defeated without the grit and determination displayed in his life-long struggle.

Tags: P. B. Gajendragadkar Max Weber S. Radhakrishnan Philippines Poland Narendra Deva Purushottam Stalinist Leninist Marxist Leftist M. N. Roy weeklysadhana Sadhanasaptahik Sadhana विकलीसाधना साधना साधनासाप्ताहिक

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