There are signs of a departure in the political language used by the Sangh Parivar to counter “secular” parties, with key BJP and Sangh ideologues questioning secularism as a concept.
Till now, the dominant language used by Parivar bigwigs had been true secularism as against “pseudo-secularism”, which meant ‘minority appeasement’ in the garb of secularism.
At a recent conclave on secularism, sources said RSS general secretary Suresh (Bhaiyyaji) Joshi asserted that the term was ‘undemocratically’ inserted in the Preamble to the Constitution by Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime. RSS Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh Manmohan Vaidya declared that secularism was irrelevant in India.
Mr. Vaidya said: “Secularism evolved along the themes of separation of the Church and State in Europe and since India doesn’t have a history of theocratic states, the concept of secularism is irrelevant in the Indian context.”
BJP leader Balbir Punj is believed to have noted that while discussions on religious population based on the Census were considered “communal”, demands for caste data were seen as “secular.” Mr. Punj refused comment.
Delhi University academic and co-author of Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flags, a book on the Sangh, Pradip Datta told The Hindu : “This is clearly a departure in the political language used by the BJP camp, which has for a long time used the word ‘pseudo-secular’ for rivals, thus not rejecting secularism per se.”
He said the latest line seems to have elements in common with some sophisticated arguments made by respected scholars independent of the Sangh, like T.N. Madan and Ashis Nandy, who have questioned the need for the concept itself.
Asserting that the Hindu Right didn’t reject secularism, veteran academic Partha Chatterjee had written decades ago that secularism wasn’t an answer to the Hindu Right. “Indeed,… the campaign of the Hindu right often seeks to mobilise on its behalf the will of an interventionist modernising state, in order to erase the presence of religious or ethnic particularisms from… law and public life, and to supply, in the name of ‘national culture’, a homogenised content to… citizenship,” Prof. Chatterjee had said in an influential article on the Hindu Right.