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Is the BJP Breaking Down On Secularism?

By Tishara Garg

When Modi was sworn in as the 15th Prime Minister of India, the entire nation was celebrating; India finally had a leader who could be entrusted with the mammoth task of stabilizing the economic and social front, as well as spearheading growth. After so long, “achhe din” of good governance seemed to be here. But this landslide victory came with its own apprehensions. With close ideological and organisational links to the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), many feared that Hindu fundamentalist organizations would be allowed to flex their muscles under the patronage of the new government, and that the future of religious pluralism and secularism was in danger.

These concerns haven’t turned out to be untrue. After just six months of the BJP coming to power, incidents of forced conversions, a number of controversial remarks on religious minorities and macabre arson on religious institutions began to rule the front page. The Modi government on Republic Day, in a print advertisement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, made a glaring error in the Preamble of the Constitution, removing the words ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’.

BJP’s role in the “Ghar Wapasi” campaign, which advocates converting Muslims and Christians to Hindus, based on the premise that all citizens of India were originally Hindus – has drawn a lot of flak across the country. Using BPL cards as bait, a Hindu fundamentalist outfit converted a large group of poor Muslims in Agra, who were oblivious of their intentions. The incident created an impasse during the Winter Session, blocking the way for a lot of pending, and definitely more important bills. Hindutva hawks going on about a ‘Christian and Muslim-mukt Bharat’ by 2021, and the Prime Minister’s silence on the same, steps up the troubles for the BJP’s non-secular image all the more.

Their alleged involvement in the incendiarism of a church in Dilshan Garden has also stirred up protests from religious outfits, as well as from the Opposition. Early in the morning, when the church was set ablaze by a group of vandals, the Opposition didn’t waste any time. They stated that the incident was connived by a group who wanted to polarize the people of Delhi on religious lines ahead of elections, patently alluding to the BJP’s liaison.

Yet, all what the media and the Opposition bombard us with can’t be taken as sacred. Notwithstanding what the skeptics have to say, the Republic Day blunder, contrary to what many believe to be purely intentional, might actually have been a mistake on designer’s part who used the original copy of the Preamble and not the amended one (the two words socialist and secular were added as a part of the 42nd Constitutional Amendment). Although the BJP attempted to face these issues head on without being evasive or defensive, their efforts were foiled by its own loquacious party members, time and again. Also, there is no concrete testimony that bears witness to the BJP’s involvement in the ‘Ghar Wapasi tamasha’, or the despicable fire-raising of the church whatsoever.

What is needed right now on the BJP’s part is principled politics along secular lines. The Prime Minister, who otherwise tweets, uses Instagram and gives long speeches, will do well in breaking his deafening silence on an issue that riles the nation. It’s time that the BJP realises that on a national front, it has to systematically do away with an RSS influence (or at least pretend to do so), so as to break the ice with religious minorities. Those tied to the apron strings of an organization with an ideology which wants to bring in a Hindu Nation, cannot remain secular, or in favour.

Tishara Garg is a freelance writer pursuing her bachelors in Economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce.  She’s been writing for Yamuna and Renaissance for past one year on subjects like Indian history, politics and culture. Currently, she is the Chief Coordinator of The History and Political Science Society. An avid quizzer and a civil services aspirant, she also heads the quizzing wing and UPSC Cell of her college. She loves to travel and has a knack for ending things on a funny note but fails.

Edited by Anjini Chandra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist

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