The question of minorities in Bharteeya society and politics is one of the most complex issues which needs serious consideration and analysis of our history.
Bharteeya society is a wonderful mosaic of various sects, creeds, languages and so on. But amongst all, ‘religion’ plays an important role when it comes to political manoeuvre and social undercurrents. National integrity is also dependent on religious communities and cordial relations between them. Constant strife between majority-minority communities ensures national disintegration. We have had many in our history; one of them was in 1947.
Without considering the parameter of minority, we can’t proceed further. Constitution of Bharat does not define the term ‘minority’. But we can see that ‘minority’ depends on the numerical strength of a particular community vis-à-vis total population. But to what extent? When it ceases to be a minority?
But unfortunately we still haven’t defined ‘minority’ and political clan is therefore free to use it as they wish to serve their petty purposes.
Blaming political brethren alone won’t help. The social thinkers, intelligentia, mediapersons and social workers also need to actively work for it. And therefore our viewpoint towards non-Indic religions, nationality and hindutva matters.
Nationality – State is said to come into existence when it contains four essential ingredients viz. specific territory, people, government and sovereignty. But ‘nation’ is a sentimental and psychological concept. When people believe in one nationhood, a nation is said to be existing. Then there may not be a specific territory.
As the example of Israel goes, Jews had a strong feeling of oneness and dreamt of a nation for decades together. They had no Israel or their own country and were scattered all over the world. But they made it a point to converge at one place annually. Elders, youth, women continued to reiterate the remembrance of Israel on that day of congregation. They had a meal at the end of that function, called ‘Passover Meal’. After this meal, they resolved each year, “next meal over there”, means in Israel. World laughed at them. People mocked these Jews saying how can they dare to resolve when they are such a small community disseminated through the continents? But their determination and unity proved the mocking people wrong. And today we can see the mighty Israel. This took several generations. But the flow of nationalism continued and taken ahead by one generation to the next. Such is the uniqueness of nationalism.
Now when it comes to our country, which is such a binding force? Having multifarious society, hundreds of languages, thousands of dialects, and diversity of cuisine, rituals, and costumes makes it difficult to bind this populace in a single thread. Though it is a difficult task it’s not unachievable. The thread is inevitably the Hindutva. The 52 shaktipeeths from kamakhya in Assam to all other parts of the country, 4 Ashramas established by AadiShankaracharya in four corners of Bharat, the shlok
गंगे च यमुने चैव गोदावरि सरस्वती |
नर्मदे सिंधु कावेरी जलेस्मिन् सन्निधिं कुरु ||
Ganga at Hrushikesh. (courtesy: travel.paintedstork.com)
People used to chant this shlok before they began to bathe. It simply regards Bharat as one country, one nation. Or the shlok which describes places of pilgrimage situated at various places of this nation, and a Hindu always strives to visit these places to pay homage.
अयोध्या मथुरा माया काशी कांची अवंतिका,
पुरी द्वारावती चैव सप्तैते मोक्षदायकाः |
Therefore prior to arrival of British we were one Nation.
Gandhiji’s thought on nationhood – Gandhiji, while giving a thought to this issue says, “The English have taught us that we were not one nation before and that it will require centuries before we become one nation. This is without foundation. We were one nation before they came to India. One thought inspired us. Our mode of life was the same. It was because we were one nation that they were able to establish one kingdom. Subsequently they divided us.”
“I do not wish to suggest that because we were one nation we had no differences, but it is submitted that our leading men travelled throughout India either on foot or in bullock-carts. They learned one another’s languages and there was no aloofness between them. What do you think could have been the intention of those farseeing ancestors of ours who established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the South, Jagannath in the East and Hardwar in the North as places of pilgrimage? You will admit that they were no fools. They knew that worship of God could have been performed just as well at home. They taught us that those whose hearts were aglow with righteousness had the Ganges in their own homes. But they saw that India was one undivided land so made by nature. They, therefore, argued that it must be one nation. Arguing thus, they established holy places in various parts of India, and fired the people with an idea of nationality in a manner unknown in other parts of the world. And we Indians are one as no two Englishmen are.”  Therefore, it becomes clear what the Gandhiji is referring to as a base of nationality and nationalism. He might not have taken word ‘Hindu’ openly in this regard due to political or other constraints on him. But surely Setubandha (Rameshwar), Jagannath, Hardwa, Ganges and the ancestors he is referring to the common thing as Hindu. Therefore people believing in Hindutva can make a strong nation of this country.
Indian politics has seen religion as a very dangerous yet instrumental factor for political parties and leaders. The parties which claim to subscribe to Gandhi ideology or claim to believe in Gandhian thoughts, make a poor show when it comes to assertion of Hindutva. On the other hand political parties claiming Hindutva affiliation consider petty caste and religion arithmetic for electoral victories. This creates utter confusion in the minds of common people but at the same time it destroys the very fundamental of secularism. It harms Hindu population more, being a highest vote share, easily divisible on caste lines and lacking single leadership.
Shahbano case: attack on secularism – The judiciary is considered supreme in our country when it comes to deciding of a case, law-point, implication of a statute or Constitution and so on. Its decision attains finality, if decided by the Supreme Court. The Shahbano Case happened to be an example of ugly politics founded on religion and appeasement of a particular community by a political party. The Supreme Court gave its verdict in this case favoring Muslim woman’s right to ask for maintenance after talaq (divorce) from her husband. Against this verdict, Muslim clerics and some extremists men started a campaign which spread with help of political parties. In fact the Government should have acted in a stern manner to deal with it and suppress the opposition to SC verdict to maintain the sanctity of law and supremacy of the system. But instead of doing this, it passed a law in the Parliament on the basis of its majority. That Act was named as ‘Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. This law was intended to serve the demands of the extremists. It simply nullified the SC verdict. Thus it was a shock for secular credentials of a Government.
Divisive policies of Government – Government started various policies and programmes to uplift the downtrodden. But it did not perceive poor as simply a poor person, rather it identified him by his religion. Separate Ministry at Union as well as State level came into existence viz. Minority Development Ministry. A Minister from Minority community heads this Ministry and disburses State funds for welfare (?) of minority community. Haj subsidy is one of such issues where the Government should not spend its money received from common man. But SC has also held its validity. Poor Muslims may be assisted to visit Mecca. And that is continued. Now recently CM of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan inaugurated a new Haj House at Ganjipeth, Nagpur. This Haj House has come up on 19,000 sq.ft. It was completed by spending ` 15.5 crore. It has 40 rooms with 10-person each capacity. State Government worked very hard and efficiently in this regard and accomplished the promise! State Government is very poor according its own statements time to time. It has ‘no fund for Sainik Schools’ , ‘no money to buy power for cities like Thane and Pune’ , The State Government cannot pay the due increase in payment of Aadarsh shikshaks (ideal teachers) chosen by itself. Reason? No funds! And to add insult to injury, at the inauguration of this newly built Haj House, CM of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan has demanded ` 500 crore from Centre towards various developmental activities for ‘minority communities’ in 10 districts of the state. Is it not a mockery of secularism? If it is not minority appeasement, then what else it could be?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also meanwhile stated that people from minority community have first and foremost right over the resources of this country. This was clearly a move to woo those voters other than majority community.
Does poverty have a religion? Meanwhile, Bombay High Court was hearing a case challenging the religion-based scholarship and freeship of the Government. Consider a situation, where two friends go together to a school. They are next door neighbours of each other. They sit on the same bench in their class at school. Their parents earn almost equal amount of money by doing similar work. They live in a slum. The only difference is, they profess different religions. When their school teacher will announce the religion-based scholarship, the one, professing religion of minority will become its beneficiary. The other, hailing from majority community will be simply ineligible for this scholarship. Why? What the teacher is going to answer that poor little child, when he asks, why am not getting the scholarship when my next door neighbour and my classmate, sharing the same bench and lunch is getting it? You literally will have no answer than saying that, “you will not get it because you are a Hindu!”. His only mistake was to take birth as a Hindu. And still we call this as ‘secularism’! You are sowing seeds of discrimination and hatred. It is hazardous for national integration.
Challenges before national integration – Thus from above narration of various events, it becomes clear that the Government as well as leaders in political and social life are pretending to be secular and under the guise of being secular they are spreading hatred.
In addition to the deeds of politicians, we have Islamic terrorism from across the border and finding its base on our soil as well. This fundamentalism and extremism can only be curbed by unity of people. No armed force will fully be able to wipe out the menace which has found its roots in some villages too. Love Jihad is a new dimension to the Islamic extremism. It will be dealt by alert youth which actively takes part in social life other than cricket, Bollywood and parties.
Christian missionaries and conversion problem is not new. We had great atrocities by St. Francis Xavier, who brutally massacred Hindus in Goa and Malabar. They pretend to work for the poor and downtrodden with ‘sacred heart’, but here they find their prey which results into scapegoat to increase the number of believers. Once people change their faith to Christianity, their language, cuisine, costumes change. Such things should not come in the way of worshipping God. But unfortunately it is so. And by this, the bond with the soil is sapped. They feel Jerusalem nearer to them. This conversion problem was considered by Gandhiji in his writings. He has categorically remarked that "I am sorry to have to record my opinion that it (Christian missionary work) has been disastrous. It pains me to have to say that the Christian missionaries as a body, with honourable exceptions, have actively supported a system which has impoverished, enervated and demoralised a people considered to be among the gentlest and the most civilized on earth.". When a nurse asked him, "would you prevent missionaries coming to India in order to baptize? Gandhiji replied, "If I had power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytizing. It is the cause of much avoidable conflict between classes and unnecessary heartburning among the missionaries".
Even Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had lucrative offers from Christianity and Islam when he was on the verge of conversion with mass of downtrodden people. He simply denied it and thought of Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism for choice. Simply because these were the religions of this soil. Basic tenets of these religions are the same. He very well new the implications of converting to a foreign religion. He did not want to become a person detrimental to the national integrity. Ultimately he chose Buddhism for various reasons.
Hindutva and national integration – Whenever a region becomes Hindu minority region, it begins claiming to get separated from the rest of Bharat. Is it not because Bharat is a Hindu nation? Whatever may be the reason, history proves that for the integration of our nation, Hindutva is essential thing that not only binds all together, but also attaches them to this soil. Therefore Hindutva should be the base of national integration. It is the mainstream of our nation. No doubt countless streams and brooks of various religions and sects will come and merge in it, but the flow will be invariably Hindutva. Thus people should be assimilated in the mainstream, as Hindu population of this country is doing from centuries.
• We should clearly make a distinction between religion and dharma. These two concepts are different and cannot be used as synonyms. Scores of Supreme Court decisions have held that Hindutva is a way of life and cannot be limited in a sense of religion known to other parts of the world. It is a Dharma not religion. Dharma and religion are two different words. They are not interchangeable and one cannot be substituted for the other. The sentence in a Commentary on Constitution of India by Durga Das Basu makes it very clear; it says, ‘while Religion includes some and excludes all others, Dharma includes all and excludes none’. Therefore when we say Hindu Nation or Hindutva or mainstream as Hindu, we wish this widest concept of humanity essential to lead the world on path of progress, eco-friendly development, universal brotherhood and ultimate peace.
• Impartial Judiciary – the role of Judiciary as an impartial body to protect the rights of citizens is very essential. It is the custodian of Constitution. It also has given the right to declare any law passed by the legislature as unconstitutional or ultra-vires , if that law in its opinion violates the Constitutional provisions. But to visualize this unconstitutionality and declaring it to be so i.e. to strike down such laws, the judiciary not only needs to be impartial but to be fearless as well.
• Strong leadership – Not only political leadership, but also social leadership and NGOs need to be strong in matters of secularism and things detrimental to national integration. For petty benefits these leaders should not compromise the national interest. Its time they recognize their responsibility and duty towards social harmony and interfaith unity.
• Choice of right leadership – Indian electorate votes on lines of caste, money, allurement, regional lines but seldom on the issue of development. Recently Shri. K. S. Sudershan, former Chief of RSS and and eminent Muslim cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq have issued a joint appeal to the electorate not to vote on religious lines. Instead they want voters to send honest representatives to assemblies and Parliament, regardless of their community of origin. This a welcome step.
• Muslim intelligentia – The Muslim clerics and people from Islamic intelligentia should take upon the task to fight the extremism from within. They need to appear as bold enough to disown violence and terrorism in the name of religion. They need to tell their Islamic brethren, especially the youth, the meaning of Jihad and such other issues like cow protection. It can be done by harmonious construction of the Quran and other Islamic scriptures. They need to consider their responsibility in this regard and try to maintain the peaceful approach of Islam. That is the need of the hour.
 Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule BY M.K.Gandhi pages 42-43.
 http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2009-04-08/mumbai/28039522_1_gas-based-power-plant-purchase-power-mw http://www.esakal.com/esakal/20110312/5540913486533169453.htm
 (Young India Feb 8, 1923)
 The Harijan dated May 11, 1935