Thursday 22 October 2020

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Thinking Freely

Secularism and Fascism


Secular mind -- being a free mind -- is always happy. The clarity of perception of such a mind is always more than that of a mind clouded by religion, nationalism or such other divisive ideology. Secularism is a reality of moment to moment existence. It is not an ideal.

On the eve of the Lok Sabha elections it is but fitting and proper to delve a little deeper into the concept of Secularism and the concept of Fascism.

The Preamble to the Constitution of India declares India to be a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC.
What does the word "secular" mean? This acquires importance because those who reject the secular principle of Indian constitution have taken care to malign this word so much that its real meaning is often ignored or not known.

Secularism is defined as NOT belonging to , or living in a monastic or other order. Secularism is a state of mind that is not connected with religious or spiritual matters. 

This is how it is defined in Oxford and other dictionaries.

What does secularism imply?

There are implications to the individual and to the State or Government.

The term "secularism" was first used by the British author George Jacob Holyoake in 1851. To Holyoake, secularism was the manifestation of thought that is not based on the precincts of religion or dogma. In his own words, "secular knowledge is manifestly that kind of knowledge which is founded in this life, which relates to the conduct of this life, conduces to the welfare of this life, and is capable of being tested by the experience of this life".

Secularism is thus not an argument for or against any religion. It is the one independent of it.

A secular mind is a holistic mind. It does not recognize the barriers that divide humanity. It does not recognize the barriers of economic class, nationalism, religion, caste, sex etc. A secular mind tries to reinforce certain positive concepts in the society, viz:

1. Deep respect for individuals and for small groups of which they are a part.

2. Equality of all people

3. Each person is an individual and shall be helped to realize their particular excellence in society.

4. Breaking down the divisive barriers in society

These principles have been stated in the treatise "The idea of a Secular Society" by D.L.Munby in 1963 (pp 14 - 32)
Secularism is a political doctrine, not a religious one. Secularism is not atheism. Atheism is centered on the absence of God while secularism implies absence of interest in all religious questions, including atheism.

Secularism is therefore absolute, unconditioned freedom of the mind. It is the freedom to be creative in whatever way one can, provided that way is not divisive -- provided that way does not reinforce the barrier between man and man or man and woman.

Since such freedom of thought and action, as that guaranteed by secularism, is essential for the growth of human being, secularism has a profound connection with humanism. Secularism, like humanism, embraces human reason, ethics, social justice and philosophical naturalization. It rejects dogma, super-naturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality in day to day life and decision making.

Secular mind -- being a free mind -- is always happy. The clarity of perception of such a mind is always more than that of a mind clouded by religion, nationalism or such other divisive ideology. Secularism is a reality of moment to moment existence. It is not an ideal. An ideal is always an invitation to a conflict. Secular mind, being free of ideals, is also free of conflict. a society or a Nation comprising such secular individuals is a free and happy Nation.


Implications of secularism to the Indian state have been elucidated by the Supreme Court in the landmark judgement of  S.R.Bommai v Union of India, 1994. Hon'able Supreme Court said “Secularism is one of the basic features of the Constitution. Secularism is a positive concept of equal treatment of all religions. This attitude is described by some as one of neutrality towards religion or as one of benevolent neutrality. While freedom of religion is guaranteed to all persons in India, from the point of view of the State, the religion, faith or belief of a person is immaterial. To the state, all are equal and are entitled to be treated equally. In the matters of the State, religion has no place. And if the constitution requires the State to be secular in thought and action, the same requirement attaches to political parties as well. The constitution does not recognize, it does not permit, mixing religion and State power. Both must be kept apart. That is the constitutional injunction. None can say otherwise so long as this Constitution governs this country. Politics and religion cannot be mixed. Any State government, which pursues non-secular policies or non-secular course of action, acts contrary to the constitutional mandate and renders itself amenable to action under Article 356.

Given the above position, it is clear that if any party or organization seeks to fight the elections on the basis of a plank which has the proximate effect of eroding the secular philosophy of the Constitution would certainly be guilty of following an unconstitutional course of action.”

Now let us take a look at "Fascism". The Oxford definition of fascism is “an authoritarian and NATIONALIST right wing system of Government and social organization." The dictionary says that fascism refers to a right wing, authoritarian, intolerant views or practices. Fascism believes in the supremacy of one national or ethnic group (like Hindutva in the Indian scenario) and insists on obedience to a powerful leader (like Modi in our scenario).

Fascist movements all over the world have had certain common features. They all came to power through a democratic process, they all venerated their Nation and they all had a devotion to a "strong" leader.

Economic views of the fascists are also typical. They advocate a mixed economy with the principal goal of achieving AUTARKY. Autarky is self sufficiency without external assistance or international trade -- in short --Swadeshi. Their economic policies are pro rich, protectionist and interventionist. Autarky that is imposed by the fascists has an underlying theme of business - nationalism. 

Georgi Dimitrov in his classic United Front says, "Fascism acts in the interests of the extreme rich and the imperialists but it presents itself to the masses in the guise of the champion of an ill treated Nation and appeals to outraged national sentiments. Further Dimitrov says, "Fascism puts people at the mercy of most corrupt and venal elements but comes before them with the demand of an honest and incorruptible government."

These words of Dimitrov are indeed ominous in the current Indian scenario.

Big businesses, both national and international, have always played an important role in the emergence of fascism. In his book "Wall Street and The Rise of Hitler", Anthony Sutton provides a documented account of the major role played by US corporates in funding the rise of Nazism. Ford, Coca cola, Hugo Boss, Bayer, Kodak, Volkswagen and many more were all with Hitler.

In the upcoming election, the Indian voter has to choose between secularism and fascism.

History has a strange way of teaching its lessons to humankind. Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on 30th January 1948. Fifteen years earlier on exactly the same day, in 1933, Adolf Hitler was sworn in as the Chancellor of Germany.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Your article was wonderful. It is good to talk about religion, it is very essential in our present life.

kenneth |

Dr.Mukul has been too bountiful to provide me too much of he knows. In my comment to his article I had pointed out how the words secular and socialist which were omitted by the founding fathers were included in the preamble with a cunning motive. We had Article 25 in place to assure all the varieties of religious beliefs not just Muslims and Christians but also to atheists, agnostics freedom of belief. As regards Fundamental Duties it is welcome. But 42 nd amendment was one of the most notorious amendment of those days and therefore some of its clauses were cleansed out in the subsequent amendments. Despite including these words Congress and their fellow travelers have not stopped the practice of communalizing the politics. Take Shah Bano case. Rajiv Gandhi allowing "shilanyas" at Ayodhya and yet opposing the Ram Mandir movement. Indira Gandhi calling India a second largest Islamic nation, carving out Mallapuram district of kerala on religious basis. There are hundreds of examples. Besides this making muslims and Christians secular is itself a blasphemy as per their scriptures. People of both these communities are supposed to have firm faith in God and Allah. It is a precondition. Whereas it is not so for a Hindu. My points have been altogether ignored by Dr. Mukul and have given unwanted dosage which is of no relevance to the subject. Lastly I do not intend to carry forward this debate any further from my side.

Madhav Bastodker |

My response is to Mr Madhav Bastodkar.

It is good to see that you have brought two issues here. First of Babasaheb Ambedkar and second of 42nd amendment.

Ambedkar and Gandhi never agreed on many issues. Ambedkar's concepts were largely extremist when it concerned upliftment of certain sections of the society. Classic example of this was the Poona Act. Due to Ambedkar's prominence and popular support among untouchable community, he was invited to attend the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1932.

In 1932, when the British agreed with Ambedkar and announced a Communal Award of a separate electorate.Gandhi fiercely opposed a separate electorate for untouchables, saying he feared that such an arrangement would split Bhramins and Dalits, dividing the Hindu community into two groups. Gandhi protested by fasting while imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail of Poona. The fast provoked huge civil unrest across India and orthodox Hindu leaders, Congress politicians and activists such as Madan Mohan Malaviya and Palwankar Baloo organised joint meetings with Ambedkar and his supporters at Yerwada. Fearing a communal reprisal and genocidal acts against untouchables, Ambedkar was forced into agreeing with Gandhi. This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast and Ambedkar drop his demand for a separate electorate, was called the Poona Pact. Instead, a certain number of seats were reserved specifically for untouchables (who in the agreement were called the "Depressed Class"). Ambedkar's demand for declaring the caste system unconstitutional was also radical. Instead, caste based discrimination was declared unconstitutional.

What is important is that Ambedkar realized, to say in his own words , "Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realize that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.

Majorities are of two sorts: (1) communal majority and (2) political majority. A political majority is changeable in its class composition. A political majority grows. A communal majority is born. The admission to a political majority is open. The door to a communal majority is closed. The politics of political majority are free to all to make and unmake. The politics of communal majority are made by its own members born in it.

The minorities in India have loyally accepted the rule of the majority which is basically a communal majority and not a political majority. It is for the majority to realize its duty not to discriminate against minorities. Whether the minorities will continue or will vanish must depend upon this habit of majority. The moment the majority looses the habit of discriminating against the minority, the minorities can have no ground to exist. They will vanish." This, to him, was secularism.

Definitely Ambedkar was not RSS - like fascist.

Regarding 42nd Amendment, not only did it change the Preamble, it also added the important Fundamental Duties of Indian citizen following recommendations of Swaran Singh Committee. So important is the 42nd Amendment that without it our Constitution would look outdated.

Lastly Mr Bastodkar, I would like to say that for survival of any democracy it is important that that the religiously motivated must translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values. Their proposals must be subject to argument and reason, and should not be accorded any undue automatic respect.

If India were truly a secular democracy, political structures would reflect the reality of changing times by separating religion from the state, in theory and also in practice.

Thank you, sir

Mukul |

No political party in India/Goa is secular. Speaking in favour of or doing things all the time for minorities is also communalism. It is hyped so much for petty short term gains. Secularism and fascism are not inter-related at all.

Jayesh |

I am confused. On one hand Congressmen propagates secularism, Church of Goa issues advisory to vote for secular party His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to UK and US advises people against secularism In his firs Papal visit to UK on 15/10/2010 Pope launched attack on "atheist extremism" and "aggressive secularism". There are many such instances. Pope's understanding of secularism is different from the politicians of India whose secularism is a camouflage to hide their power lust. I fail to understand whom to follow. Pope wants us to be religious humans whereas Indian politicians want us to be voting animals. Better to follow original and true Pontiff..

Madhav Bastodker |

Writer seems to be ignorant of the fact that the original Constitution accepted in 1950 had no mention of :"secular and socialist" in the preamble of the constitution. Yet Indian state and governments were giving equal treatment and respect to people of all the religions. All religion includes Christians, Muslims and hundreds of religious groups within broad Hindu beliefs. People are ignorant of fact that minorities do not mean only Christians and Muslims. Parsees and Jews are often forgotten. Jains, Budhists, Sikhs, Vaishnavites, Shaivites, atheists, polytheists, animists are various beliefs within Hindu fold. But these groups do not form a vote bank or salute bank. Nor they regard any one as special even if you shout on rooftops that you are secular. Point is the author seems to have not read the debates in the constituent assembly when these two words 'secular and socialist" were sought to be included. Babasaheb Ambedkar fiercely opposed this. Certainly Ambedkar did not belong to notorious Sangh Parivar or BJP. Then in 1977 during emergency when entire India was converted into jail these two were incorporated by 42nd amendment. The mischief was done by cunning Indira Gandhi and henchmen like Bansilal, Bhajan lal, VC Shukla, Om Mehta etc. The peole were certainly not statesman like our founding fathers. But they succeeded in leaving one legacy of this word enough for Congressmen and their pamphleteers to survive for long and flourish.

Madhav Bastodker |

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Dr Mukul Pai Raiturkar

Dr Mukul R Pai Raiturkar is a consultant pediatrician & neonatologist practicing in Margao. He is the co-convener of Ami Goenkar, an organisation of secular young Goans working towards a novel approach to religious-political issues of Goa. Son of veteran Goan freedom fighter Mr Ravindranath Pai Raiturkar, he exudes unshakable faith in a liberal, secular and free spirited democracy of India.


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