Probably, the most maltreated word by India political parties is ‘secularism’. There is no political party that doesn’t call itself secular, though, in retrospect, they need to realise- none is secular in the truest form of the word.
‘Secular’ means, ‘not adhering to religious or spiritual matters’ defined by the oxford dictionary. However, all the political parties adhere frequently to religious symbols and idioms as and when it suits their agenda.
The term was first used by the British writer George Jacob Holyoake in 1851 and he explained it: “Secularism is not an argument against Christianity; it advances others. Secularism does not say there is no light or guidance elsewhere, but maintains that there are light and guidance in secular truth, whose conditions and sanctions exist independently.”
Putting that in the Indian context – no religion, be it, Hindu, Islam or Sikh, none is against them, in fact, a secular nation should advance the ones left behind due to any reasons. They can be from any religious minority with very marginal in number like Judaism or Christianity or the more unnoticed beliefs of Pantheism, Animism and Totemism, which are extensions of ‘nature worship’, yet prevalent in the tribal areas of India.
However, the Indian political parties seem to have invented their own customized interpretation of the word, where they merely believe it to be a masquerade to fool the masses obliviousness of their hidden agendas.
The Indian version of ‘secularism’ is, in fact, ‘pseudo-secularism’, which means, claiming to be secular though they are actually not so. Here is an additional aspect for the word as well, as being ‘secular’ in Indian political sense you need to be anti-particular religion or pro-minority.
Pseudo-secularism of Indian political parties
Congress is always in a constant bout to assert BJP as a communal party, as its survival depends on the denouncment of secularism of the opposition.
For Congress to survive, it needs to spread the message of minorities being ill-treated by the BJP and propagate the idea of ‘vote for congress’ if you don’t want BJP to rule, as minorities would, presumably, suffer worse under them.
Congress relies on questioning the sanctity of secularism under the BJP-led NDA government to lure the public to feel safe under their gambit. Any denigration of how they regulate and what they put people, minorities through is enough for them to gain votes. Creating an atmosphere of BJP ‘fuelled communal terror’ is enough for Congress to gather support.
On the other hand, BJP is no less a part of this pseudo-secular game. The Babri Masjid demolition and the following riots, Gujarat massacre, and their affiliations with the Sangh Parivar are enough salutation to their contribution in the Indian secularism.
The Indian masses never gained anything from either secularism or pseudo-secularism. These words have just become tossing phrases for merely misleading and misguiding the citizens for achieving electoral gains.
Secularism should be a tool to unite instead of creating a divide in the name of threat and misconceptions of reality. All that the Indians require right now is a dictionary which can help them realise the real meaning of the term secularism instead of the falsely portrayed pseudo-secularism by the politically motivated entities.