This is the second in the series of "Understanding Political Identity" where I make a humble attempt to simplify the complex world of political identity and what are the different facets that form the derivatives of the sum which is the central point of discussion: political identity. In the last part of the series, I will explain my own stance, why do I believe in it and attempt to make a case for capitalism and against the popular yet suffocating, stenchful and nauseating narrative of leftist ideology. The different parts of the series are as follows:
P-1: Understanding Political Identity: Definitions
P-2: Understanding Political Identity: Role of religion
P-3: Understanding Political Identity: Major political values
P-4: Understanding Political Identity: An Indian perspective
P-5: Understanding Political Identity: Case for Capitalism in India
Photo by Prabhala Raghuvir from Pexels
Religion is generally associated with the far right spectrum as it is common for left to be godless. There are various names such as Christian conservatives, Hindutva or Islamist depending on the context. The politics of religion is an extremely common theme being played in societies which are not monolithic in their faith owing to immigration, proselytism, past invasions or migrations. In context of political identity, the role of religion becomes important in those countries of religious diversity because they prove to be a great, effective and reliable vote bank. Politicians do not really care about your religion as much as they care about your right to vote. The common theme of consolidation of minority votes by the incumbent and taking advantage of the insecurity of the majority by the opposition to come to power is not an Indian phenomenon but a global one. The fall of multiculturalism in Europe has seen the right groups gaining ground in the political ecosystem. Although this rise cannot be entirely attributed to this phenomenon because the rise of big government and increased social welfare programs that keep people poor also has played a role. The idea of religion or ethnicity is nothing more than a tool used by left to expand and consolidate minority votes, which in western context would be immigrants or refugees and Muslims in Indian context. The idea of religion or ethnicity is further exploited by the right to gain the votes of majority. Therefore, religious identities are seen as mere vote banks. There are nuances to the argument of religion. They might sound objectionable and disgusting but truth was never a sweet lollipop to begin with. I do not wish to probe further and elaborate on the incentives that propels the politics of religion as it would be out of topic discussion. The focus of the topic will remain the most contested term in the politics of religion, "Secularism".
Religion is the opium of the masses
remarked Karl Marx, the maniac who influenced the worst human beings in the history only paralleled to the likes of Genghis Khan in the amount of people killed. Religion has been the identity of a person since time immemorial which has provided the absolute and innate need of a person: meaning of life and what is their to know for the knower. Religion has been at the forefront in shaping a civilization's or nation state's moral code and social order. But a catastrophic upheaval happened during the French Revolution that proved as an inflection point for religion which was now looked upon as a tool of oppression. French revolution was a battle against the oppression of the Church on its state subjects championing the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Let me remind you here, that the religious context of French revolution is Christianity, and more specifically Catholicism. Therefore, we should not make any mistake of juxtaposing these values on other religions such as Islam, Judaism and Eastern dharmas. This phase, popularly known as the "Age of Enlightenment", which was a Protestant reformation, produced several philosophers like Voltaire, Rousseau, Locke, Montesquieu and Diderot. The values of individual liberty, use of reason and Republicanism were popularized. The idea of democracy was a product of this enlightenment which gave rise to the current concept of nation state. The history of French revolution has come to shape the present world affairs and it also gave rise to one of the most radical concept the world was to witness. Secularism.
Ayn Rand wonderfully describes on how to understand any term which you do not understand and do not want to make a mistake of misinterpreting.
"You must attach clear specific meanings to the word i.e. to be able to identify their referents in reality. This is a precondition, without which neither critical judgement nor thinking of any kind is possible. Take it straight, for what it does say and mean. Instead of dismissing the catchphrase, accept it - for a few brief moments. Tell yourself, in effect,"If I were to accept it as true, what would it follow?" This is the best way of unmasking any philosophical fraud. Intellectual honesty consists in taking ideas seriously. To take ideas seriously means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true."
Let us take the same approach to understand secularism and the role it plays in nation states who have imported these values as a result of Imperialism or Colonialism. The word "secular" means anything that is not connected with religious or spiritual matters. In political context, it means not subject to or bound by religious order(primarily and originally Christian religion). Therefore, we can safely conclude secularism means separation of any entity from religious or spiritual matters. By the extension of the definition, any person who does not indulge in religion or spiritual matters, both positively and negatively, can be viewed as a secular entity. It is important to understand that any entity who or that believes in spirituality, by making a distinction between religion as a cult or order and spirituality as a practice to realize the body, spirit and mind trinity cannot be viewed as a secular entity. A secular entity is totally and unconditionally disconnected from the religious or spiritual matters. This entity can be as small as an individual person or as large as a government or nation state. The choice of being a secular person mandates the principle of separating themselves from any religious matter both positively and negatively but this does not mean he loses his ability to criticize any subject or tenet. The power to critique is only as strong as its logical foundation otherwise it is simple hatred, mockery or disgust towards something that you do not approve of. But I will steer away my discussion from an individual person to the state or government because the former is a topic of its own and holds no significance in the current discussion.
The significance of the word "secularism" for our country is immense. A country which predominantly followed the Eastern dharmas such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and later Sikhism witnessed a millennium of Islamic invasion and British colonialism. This changed the nature of the continent which now accommodates people coming from different walks of life and most importantly religion. We need to remember that the whole premise of partition was due to religious differences. Extrapolating the definition of "secular" in context of nation state, a "secular" government does not interferes in any religious institutions, any matters that relate to religion, any form of regulation that tends to favor or handicaps a particular religious denomination and in its crudest form, does not have a declared state religion. A "secular" government does not view its citizens in terms of religious denomination but as an individual person.
For example, Many countries in Europe are secular nations although the citizens have all the rights to practice their faith or lack of. The role of the government is to preserve the individual liberty and freedom of speech. Therefore, the government of France, and not France, as an entity does not have the right to squash any sort of expression, how objectionable that may be but subject to public order which empowers government to suppress hate speech or speech that incites violence. This was evident from the infamous Charlie Hebdo incident, where two Muslim brothers took offence against objectionable publication of their Prophet murdering 12 people. In the subcontinent, only India is a declared secular state and all its neighbors, including China which despite being atheistic controls the religious matters of its citizen, are not. The architects of the Indian constitution were particularly worried about the reconciliation of Indian diversity and the horrendous trauma of the partition. On 15th November, 1948, Prof K.T. Shah proposed an amendment to incorporate the words secular, federal and socialist in clause 1 of the article 1. Dr. Ambedkar struck down this resolution arguing that the policy of the state, how the society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether. Any person who reads the Indian constitution can provide a testimony for its secular character. Secularism of the Indian constitution is axiomatic. Nehru was against the idea of expressly writing the word "secular" because it would disallow the government from any form of religious intervention, such as reservation system, protection of Muslim personal Law board, Hindu succession acts and ban on the slaughter of cows. Therefore, it was not included in the constitution yet the essence of secularism was already embedded. In 1976, a year later after application of National Emergency that in retrospective were the dark ages, Indira Gandhi moved to pass the 59th clause 42nd amendment bill in both the house of parliament which seeked to alter the preamble by substituting "Sovereign, Democratic Republic" with "Sovereign, Democratic, Secular, Socialist Republic". Despite express addition of the word secular, the state does not really follows the principles of secularism which is evident from the government control of the Hindu temple while staying away from other religious institution, a parallel law board for Muslim community, governmental benefits on the basis of religion etc. This hypocritical stance was never course corrected. The ghost of "political correctness" has trumped the sense of righteousness. In this article, I will refrain to indulge in explaining why expressed addition of the word "secular" is hypocritical and an unnecessary tenet of our constitution and how governments have failed to enforce the true ideals of our constitution because that is not the agenda of the topic we are dealing with.
Secular is a very superfluous word in the Indian context and worse is that it is very loosely used without understanding the meaning of the term. Any person who says that he is secular is not Indian. Although the statement is not true but it is not an exaggeration. Indians have been deeply religious. Our culture, unlike the the West and the Middle east, has primarily been inclusive and syncretized. The word secular is not alien to our people and therefore is not the right word to use in the Indian context. We are no secular state like France when we have laws to prevent blasphemy. This state of hypocrisy will always create tensions as it does now and more so than ever. Secularism does not invoke the necessary respect that one should have in a syncretic society. Pluralism is the righteous substitute of the word which demands harmonious coexistence of two or more principally different orders. Secularism, which it nauseatingly does, should not mean preserving the rights of minority by handicapping majority but to view the person as an individual, not a collective, and uphold his fundamental rights as per the design of the constitution. We do not need secularism but true implementation of the Indian constitution.
To read the third article in the series titled "Understanding Political Identity: Major Political Values" Click Here.