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An Emerging India

From: Gopi Maliwal <GOPI@VTVM1.CC.VT.EDU>

                          _A_N _E_M_E_R_G_I_N_G _I_N_D_I_A

                         By Shri Jaswant Singh

     AYODHYA and 6 December: one a place, the other a date; but the  place
is  not  a mere geographical entity; it is, in a very real sense, redolent
with the very essence of India... There is yet another factor- that  which
I would call the suffusion of Ram in our very civilizational core... It is
this Ram that is believed to have been born in Ayodhya.

     Some people have disputed this belief saying it is necessary to  find
evidence  for it. That evidence, about faith, is then to be judged against
the certainties of our current law. But the belief far predates this  law.
You  cannot,  in  that sense, put belief to the test of this law just as I
think it would be absurd to attempt to identify that very stable in  Beth-
lehem where Jesus Christ was born. It is a matter of belief or faith which
has moved Christendom for twenty centuries. Or for that matter, in today's
world  obsessed  with  scientific analysis, a denial of the possibility of
virgin birth as a biological impossibility is, I think,  to  engage  in  a
disputation that really diminishes humankind.

_S_Y_M_B_O_L_I_S_M _O_F _A_Y_O_D_H_Y_A

     That is why when we try find an  inter-relationship  between  Ayodhya
and  6  December,  we are not really attempting a simple thing like estab-
lishing an event at a geographical place. We are, in a  very  real  sense,
attempting to reduce the entirety of the mystery and mythology of Ayodhya,
the symbolism of it, the infinity of the concept of Ayodhya  to  a  finite
date.  That is also why at a certain philosophical level, there is a frac-
ture here, a conceptual fracture. There is unacceptable simplicism in  the
general  comments  made  on Ayodhya- 6 December: 'India has broken apart';
'India will disintegrate'; 'end of our secular order'-and all  such  other
outcries  distress  me greatly because they are so overstated: reacting to
the immediate in apocalyptic terms.

     What happened at Ayodhya on 6 Dec. was of course unfortunate; it  was
unprecedented  and  the  sheer  drama of that gripped the nation, To start
with, across the length and the breadth  of  the  country,  everyone  felt
something  wrong  had  taken  place, that it was something that could have
been avoided. But as we moved onwards from 6 December (and here one has to
say  in  parenthesis  that  not  unnaturally, when one looks at events and
occurrences, it is inevitable that one comments upon them depending on the
totality  of  one's  thought process, our swabhav, born on one's sanskara,
from which evolves vichar), the whole scene and mood was transformed. That
is  what  we have to examine; did we judge the mood of the land correctly?
Are we doing so now? That is what will enable us to understand  the  cata-
lytic effect.

_P_O_L_I_T_I_C_A_L _R_E_S_P_O_N_S_I_B_I_L_I_T_Y

     Examine, then, the incident at the level of political responsibility;
it  is  necessary to do so before we proceed further. The party to which I
belong gave a public commitment that the disputed structure would  not  be
touched  and that commitment was given in various fora. But we were unable
to keep that commitment. For a political party to fail to  keep  its  word
is,  without  any  doubt, a great failing. Mindful of that, the then Chief
Minister of UP resigned.  The  leader  of  the  opposition  in  Parliament
resigned.  I  am  distressed that the first resignation was treated by the
government with scant respect and after it they dismissed the Kalyan Singh
government.  I  find  that  an  act  of  very  petty  political  vendetta.
Thereafter, to arrest the leader of the opposition, and to charge him on a
totally  fabricated FIR, an FIR that is not only illegal but is also illi-
terate, is both an insult to the person concerned and to the  intelligence
of the large mass of India.

     These were acts of pure political vendetta, not  statesmanship.   The
occasion for meeting the challenge of the times was lost, and every subse-
quent reaction of the Government of India has been of very  shallow  poli-
tics,  guided much more by factors like dissension within cabinet, discord
within the party, compulsions or pressures from outside, and the desire of
the present incumbent to somehow keep secure a particular office or chair.
This is distressing in the extreme because even a modicum of moral respon-
sibility for the events has not been accepted, not even by a single utter-
ance of the ruling party or the government.

_S_E_C_U_L_A_R_I_S_M _A_N_D _F_U_N_D_A_M_E_N_T_A_L_I_S_M

     I have heard that some of these things- 'death of  secularism',  "end
of  Constitution',  etcetera- are said because apparently there was a call
that 'Ayodhya is only the beginning' and that "there is  still  Kashi  and
Mathura'.  It is also argued that "secular' India has been destroyed; that
all this gives a go by to our Constitution, and so on. In  order  to  deal
with such arguments, I will have to spend a little time on stating what is
meant by 'secular'. What is secularism, what is  fundamentalism,  what  is
this Indian nation all about.

     The concept of 'Secularism' has been analyzed endlessly. But  follow-
ing  upon the incidents of 6 December, there is need to examine it afresh,
and at great length and in detail. It is no good simply a  brush,  dipping
it  in  tar and tainting the BJP with it. Here I want to dwell a little on
this journey that we started upon, really in 1976, but effectively when we
adopted  our  Constitution. It is not sufficiently well known that neither
in the original draft nor in the Constitution, as adopted by  the  Consti-
tuent Assembly in 1950, was there any word like 'secular'.  It was only in
1976, during that fraudulent emergency, when the Parliament  was  captive,
when  things  were  being done without debate or discussion, that the 42nd
Amendment to the Constitution was moved and in that amendment, the 'Repub-
lic  of  India'  suddenly became both 'socialist' and 'secular'. This is a
historical fact.

     Now if the original constitution-makers did not choose the word secu-
lar,  are  we to believe that they were deficient in some manner? Was it a
deliberate omission? Was it amnesia? It was none  of  these.  Because  the
concept  of secularism is a Christian concept. It is a derivative concept,
it is inapplicable to India.  I think that this is a fact upon  which  all
the 'super- secularists' ought to reflect deeply...

     Secondly, in practice, the word 'secularism' as we have used  it  has
acquired  two  characteristics.  One, it has been used as a device to gen-
erate fear amongst the minorities, and thereafter this fear is employed to
garner  the minority votes; a purely partisan and political consideration,
hardly secular. Inevitably, therefore,  after  constant  misuse  and  mis-
application,  the  very word has got perverted, politically. Today, if you
are a minority you can, for example, run your own educational  institution
without any governmental interference. Ramkrishna Mission, named after one
of the greatest saints India has produced, goes to the Calcutta High Court
and  says:  'We  are  a minority. We wish to run schools, give us the same
benefit as you give, for example, to  Christian  convent  schools,  or  to
Muslim  madrassas. We are not, therefore, to be categorized as Hindu.' But
this is only a small example.

     The real damage, I hold, to the very fabric of India  was  caused  in
the  decade  of  the  1980s.  I  cannot  imagine a more profligate decade-
socially, economically and politically. It  is  only  twelve  years  since
1981; yet, reflect upon how much has happened since then.

     In 1980, Indira Gandhi was returned to power.  In  1981  started  the
troubles  in  Assam.  They  kept on deepening, and in 1983 took place that
horrendous election in Assam. It is shocking that the deaths and  killings
in  Assam  at  that time numbered about 5,000. Or that the average vote in
Assam in the 1983 elections was barely  2%.   Yet  I  don't  remember  the
English  press or anyone else at that time pointing out, in similar terms,
the dangers of what was happening. Only the BJP was concerned  that  some-
thing  terrible  was  happening,  had  happened;  that it would profoundly
affect India.  What was the issue? Illegal immigration: the identity of  a

     In 1983 Punjab was already on the boil. If  one  recollects,  in  the
early  talks, and I was involved in the tripartite talks in both Assam and
Punjab, demands were separated into two: 'religious demands' and  'politi-
cal  demands'.  I  won't go into an analysis of the handling of the entire
situation except to point out a rather incontrovertible fact.

     When a decision was taken to  'create'  Bhindranwale  -what  happened
then  to the Constitution, the law, the courts? Bhindranwale was convicted
for murder. He was wanted for murder. He travelled all the way  from  Har-
yana  to  Mehta  Chowk.  After  Mehta Chowk, he travelled to Delhi with an
accompanying truck full of  the  young  Sikhs  armed  to  the  teeth  with
automatic  weapons.  And he went back to Mehta Chowk, from where he 'nego-
tiated' the terms and conditions of his arrest!

     All this was sending out various kinds of signals to the collectivity
of  that  which  is  called  'this  country of ours'. The army, despite my
protestations in writing, was finally employed at the Darbar Sahib. I  was
here, in Delhi, from October 30, 1984 to November 7. Over 3,000 Sikhs were
killed in a week, most of them  in  Delhi.  Almost  a  decade  after  that
tragedy  not one person has been found guilty, let alone punished. Who was
the Home Minister then? P.V. Narasimha Rao. And the successor PM announced
that 'jab koyi bara ped girta hai to dharti hilti hai'!

     When a poor and aged divorcee from Indore,  denied  her  maintenance,
finally  reached  the  Supreme  Court  and  that Court ruled that whatever
faith, you are entitled to due upkeep, there was an uproar.  It  was  con-
sidered  an  interference  with personal law... government of the day bent
over backwards all over again and went through all kinds  of  contortions,
finally  coming  out  with an Act of Parliament annulling the judgement of
the highest court of the land. What was the message  that  was  sent  out?
That court judgements could be annulled if they proved inconvenient

     So far as the Babri 'masjid' and Ramjanmabhoomi dispute is concerned,
a  court case was initiated in 1949 and was finally ruled upon in 1955. It
then went to the division bench which ruled in 1956 that the idols  should
stay  in  the  structure, worship continue, although on grounds of law and
order, visitors could be prohibited from coming to the site. So a lock was
placed  on  the  'masjid'  and  there it remained until 1986. In that year
(1986) the Magistrate was persuaded by the government of the day  to  have
the lock removed. Regular darshan now became routine.

     In the meantime what had taken place in Kashmir? Almost 200,000 Kash-
miri  pandits  were  driven  away  from their homes. I don't recollect any
delegation of concerned Indians going to Jammu saying that what  has  hap-
pened  is  wrong,  or  protesting  against  the  indignity  that  had been
inflicted on Indians by converting them into  refugees  within  their  own

     All this also sent out a  message.  On  a  political  there  are  two
aspects  to  this  message: One, that this whole misemployment of the term
'secularism' or 'secular' is coming home to roost. If you misemploy  some-
thing,  then you have to pay the price. And two: that as a nation we still
have to confront the real questions.  The  sum  total  of  it  being  that
'secularism' is but a handy device; it is a pliable political convenience;
a 'force multiplier' of votes.

     When we examine what happened on 6 December, we have to do so in  the
context  of all that took place before it, including the efforts to arrive
at a negotiated settlement. No doubt, on 6 December, our  leadership  lost
control.  Without  doubt,  a wrong took place. But in this act of destruc-
tion, I do not see the kind of cataclysm that people are pointing out,  or
wish  to  draw attention to. What I do see is that those verities, or what
we treated as verities, certain fixed points of our political  comportment
that  we  were  working  with for the past 50 years or so, and to which we
continued to  subscribe  (despite  the  fact  that  they  had  lost  their
relevance),  finally  collapsed.  I  think  in a very real sense, and this
might hurt many, a political era ended on 6 December. It is  a  matter  of
great  sorrow  to  me  that  this transition from the old order towards an
emerging India- you can question whether the emerging India is the 'right'
India  or  it  ought to be moving differently- had to occur accompanied by
violence. But it is without doubt a transition from the old to the new.

     That is why when cries of 'end of secularism', 'Gandhi  was  murdered
on  January  30, 1948, but his soul is being buried now', or 'mixing reli-
gion with politics is unacceptable', are raised, people  forget  that  the
person  who  first  did  this  was Gandhi. And he used religion with great
finesse and dexterity. He talked of Ram rajya. It was he who said that cow
protection  to me is so important that I will give up the freedom of India
for the protection of the cow. And, therefore,  cow  protection  became  a
constitutional  obligation.  We  forget  all  these  things because we are
obsessed by, and, understandably perhaps, overawed by the  horror  of  the

     So, what 6 December and Ayodhya do is to bring  the  two  strands  of
secularism and nationalism to the forefront. Ayodhya and 6 December really
mean that finally, even as we are putting that past behind us, it is still
only  a  search, rather it is the beginning of a search, a search that was
inarticulate all this time but which is now going to be much more  articu-
late,  much more focused in political terms. Whatever else you might think
or say, this is certainly not the demise of India.  It  is  also  not  the
beginning of any theocratic state.

     Have no doubt that this land of ours shall survive. We have not over-
come  many  centuries of foreign occupations and other varieties of disas-
ters both natural and man-made; we have not survived drought,  hunger  and
great destitution only to now be pulled under because we wail like widows.
It is really up to us to mould this event and the consequent  opportunity,
to  see  it  for  what  it  actually it is: a milestone, a catalyst of the
transformation of our great land, in its march  for  its  inevitable  date
with a glorious destiny.

                                                       (Courtesy: Seminar)

"Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after truth and if today it has become mori-
bund, inactive, irresponsive to growth, it is because we are fatigued. As soon
as the fatigue is over, Hinduism will burst forth upon the world with a  bril-
liance perhaps never known before."-Mahatma Gandhi in "Young India", 24-4-1924

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