By Sheikh Noorul Hassan
Let me clarify a few things: India moved away from the European form of secularism (They grew tired of centuries of interference by the church and hence distanced religion from the state). India, on the other hand, considered secularism to be about providing equal footing for all religions. Gandhi probably plumped for this as he used religious motifs in all his campaigns. His discourses and bhajans eulogised all religions. This stance is also due to how Independence happened from India’s perspective.
Now, let’s take this complaint about appeasement as this will also be clarified if you study the path of independence. If you read about freedom movement especially in the 1920-1945 period you will see a gradual polarisation along communal lines. Cow protection, Hindi-Hindu-Hindutva, ghar wapsi -Shuddhi etc., took root even as the Muslims hardened their stance in parallel with their own version of tabligh and Tanzim (there was even a tussle for language. Urdu was main language in United Provinces in the 19 century. The Hindu literary movement started in the late 19th century and with the growth of local printing press and publication helped distance Hindi from Urdu which increasingly became a Muslim language. Now this beautiful language is almost nearing extinction in India). Cong tried to keep the two groups together with Gandhi trying hard even though the British found it useful to keep up the feud (For e.g. in the 1931 riot in United Provinces, some 42 mosques and 18 temples were razed. And a highly respected congressman like Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi was killed). All this led Jinnah to grow suspicious and demand Pakistan. The role of Gandhi and Nehru was projected as anti-patriotic by the Hindu right. The fact is: These fights between the Hindu groups and Muslim groups almost made it difficult to look for any reconciliation. In such a situation, Nehru and Gandhi took the view that India will be for all religions even as Pakistan became an Islamic state (more so later with rise of Zia ul haq). India on the other hand, wanted to convince the minorities that they will be safe. Congress, post Independence tried hard to keep everyone’s interest. Gandhi and later Nehru became a villian in the eyes of Hindu right.
In such a situation, a uniform civil code was a difficult attempt. Forget the marriage law, even if you take inheritance law, you will find each religion (including the HUF laws of Hindus) have their pluses and minuses. Which one to adopt? So, the founding fathers took the easy way by keeping all of them including what seems today to be an illiberal law like polygamy and triple talaq. Uniform Civil Code is a great hope but for that you need to create an environment of trust and also an educated populace. Not the way Modi and BJP wants to push down.
Haj subsidy is a bit of a narrative propaganda by the RSS and BJP. Air travel was costly and even limited (state controlled by AI) and many Muslims were poor and in that background it entered (Even as late as 1995-96, you needed govt. pull to get telephone lines). Just for balance, Hindu temples also get lot of grants and supports even now. A lot of temple upkeep is with govt. For example, take TN and you will find Hindu priests also get salary and perks. There is also this insinuation that Mosques are in Muslims hands while Hindu temples are controlled by govt. One example, the Hindus used to feud over admin of temples as Hindus are decentralized (unlike Waqf or SGPC). Some temples were rich and complaints of stealing was regular. I remember the Tirpati temple infightings. I am sure if your society members fight, the govt. provides admin. Same happened to Hindu temples.
Now coming to politics and its influence in so called appeasement. In Nehru’s time there was hardly an opposition worth its name. The one internal mistake he made was to force Hindi in the south. This effectively resulted in Congress losing out in TN and that’s how regional parties grew. The first feud happened when Indira Gandhi took over. Her nationalisation efforts, Indo-Bangladesh war won her admirers (this gave her Bharat Ratna when the nation was in a exuberant mood having discovered a great PM). I guess all that got into her head and her insecurity resulted in emergency. She also cut down the leadership pipeline in Congress which it suffers to this day. Janta party gained power with the exuberant JP movement but they could not hold on. In fact, what is remembered of that period is the ousting of MNC like Coca Cola etc., Even JWT became HTA. Indira came back until Punjab boiled over and consumed her (in turn caused the 1984 riots). Rajiv came in that backdrop with lots of youthful energy. Alas, his inexperience was a let down (one of his worst decision was the Shah bano case that sort of made Congress seem as appeasing Muslims though they kept their befuddled indifference) and that’s how India gave a second chance to the coalition. So many governments formed and it was a painful period as VP Singh brought in Mandal commission.
Mandal changed the election arithmetic resulting in the growth of regional parties in Hindi heartland. Obviously, the upper class was angry as this catapulted the lower castes upwards.
After Rajiv’s assassination, Rao changed India’s economic landscape with liberalisation policies. This was the time when Advani found a way to unite Hindus using Ayodhya working with VHP. As usual, the fence sitting Congress slept as UP bled with the polarisation. This polarisation enabled Vajpayee to take power. Vajpayee’s tenure ended with the Gujarat pogrom.
The entire 21st century is marked by electoral arithmetic of caste and religious grouping to grab power. India’s economic growth in 2003-2007 period also brought in corruption which has become endemic.
If you see in this backdrop, you will realize that Congress is reactive party while BJP is an opportunistic party which uses whatever it suits to win sometimes socialism and self reliance (JP movement), sometimes communalism and even parochialism. Historically, all sangh groups depended heavily on Marwari generosity (even pre Independence). Trade groups rarely got directly involved in national movement as their trade depended on the British benevolence. Of course, there were a few exceptions like GD Birla, Bajaj etc., So, in a way the sanghis have little to prove their patriotic credentials. So, they need to steal from history by misrepresenting it. So they invent all sorts of villians from Aurangzeb and Tipu Sultan using today’s yardstick of morality with the aim of proving Hindus have been wronged.
So, if you see from this background you will see the need to create a narrative of strong Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan. Development has been added by Modi to make it palatable to all and that’s is masterstroke to gain the creditable victory
However, as you see, I really want politicians to focus on social and economic development since a youthful India is quite liberal and western looking (at least the urban ones). This is much tougher as we have not really built much of social and liberal society overall what with poor literacy and poverty. So its much better to make people feud on silly things like Ghar wapsi, beef, Tipu Sultan and so on.