Home > Uncategorized > Does the BJP oppose pseudo secularism, secularism or both?

Does the BJP oppose pseudo secularism, secularism or both?

What does the Sangh Parivar oppose, secularism as enshrined in our constitution or pseudo secularism as defined by Advani in the 90s or both? Somewhere along the road from the 90s, the shrill brigade’s rhetoric in the Parivar has shifted its attack from aberrations in secularism as practiced by the Congress to an attack on the concept itself. What alternate does the Parivar have in mind?  Surely it can’t be a Hindu theocracy? Twenty years after Ayodhya, not one votary from the Parivar has cared to define what Ram Rajya is or how it might be worked in praxis. Is the Parivar pulling down a central pillar of our constitution without having an alternative in mind?


As early as antiquity men realized that Gods could not always tell the truth. Or they chose to do so in an ambiguous fashion. When Gods do not tell the truth, Man must not only find his truth from his own discourse but in doing so also tell it. The secular idea of the Greco-Roman culture was swept aside by the advent of revealed religions of Christianity, and later Islam, when once again only God, or his priesthood, told the truth. Slowly, the rationality of the Greco Roman culture was smothered and snuffed out as the bureaucracy of the priesthood extended its hold on public discourse.  The unspeakable dark ages followed and the light of creativity was banished from human discourse for centuries.


Renaissance is wrongly credited with the birth of the secular idea. That is true only if we forget the 800 years in antiquity when the secular idea was practiced in everyday life of the Greco-Roman pagan culture. Our own civilization insists that  each individual experience his or her own personal God in an empirical fashion. This ideal did not in any way detract from the faith of those who still chose to consult God. Secularism then is at least as old as the concept of God in recorded history.


Much intellectual effort has gone into distorting secularism. In particular, it has been conflated with the notion of all religions being equal. This conflation is particularly dangerous because it leads to the notion that the State must treat all religions equally. That appears deceptively plausible until one realizes that the primary contract of equality before the State is between the Citizen and the State. No interloper, such as the religious clergy or a cultural organization, speaking for a religious denomination, can intermediate the primary contract and claim “equal” treatment from the State on behalf of citizens. Such an act legitimatizes groups such as the Mullahs and the Sangh cultural organizations that have no political role to play in our polity.


There is also a need to avoid over-working the secular concept and endowing it with all sorts of magical cures which detract from its utility. It should be reduced to its minimalist configuration which is that our laws are made by consensus amongst us as equal citizens without reference to any particular religion. And they are enforced equally for all citizens irrespective of their religion. It is worth emphasizing that just the fundamental rights in our constitution taken together guarantee a secular state for any other notion would be inherently incompatible with them. So a separate affirmation of our secular credentials is wholly unnecessary and redundant. Separate personal laws for Muslims and Hindus should ideally converge into a uniform civil code. However, their existence doesn’t negate the secular ideal because laws need to be made by consensus and need to be informed by the governability of the issue under consideration.


Just as Gods cannot be relied on to tell the truth at all times neither can secular laws. Not all aspects of real life are either known or governable. Laws address but a small sub-set of issues of community life where a consensus exists and where the issue itself is governable. There are vast areas of our community, personal and private lives that are beyond governability where we may choose to be guided by religion, culture, tradition, family or friends. We cannot govern the unknown in a pre-determined fashion. We must also actively avoid doing so because such regulation chokes off creativity which is the life blood of progress and development. A minimalist configuration of secularism affords the maximum freedom to citizens to pursue their way of seeking the truth and this freedom includes the freedom to seek truth through religion itself. Secularism neither denies God nor interferes with his work.


We aren’t born hardwired for secularism. Early upbringing gives us a notion of our identity and separateness from the other that is neither wrong nor inappropriate. This stays with most of us for a life time. The secular idea comes much later in life and is a matter of education and acculturation. Therefore, if education and experience don’t reinforce the secular discourse, it diminishes. The alternate political discourse based on religious identities gains ascendancy. This can only accentuate religious differences rather than stress commonalities and consensus. It is therefore high time that both the main political parties sort out their difference on this crucial issue. To let it go by default, or to politicize the issue as is their wont, is rather dangerous and disingenuous.


Hinduism as a pagan religion is intrinsically open to the secular ideal. Unlike revealed religions it is not doctrinaire. Furthermore, despite the pernicious caste system it has never developed a priesthood that wielded political power as an organized clergy. [RSS is in many ways an attempt to overcome this hurdle to political power but hasn’t really succeeded.] Therefore the best way to fight resurgent Mullah obscurantism is to emphasize the secular ideal that comes naturally to Hindus and put it up as model for others. The jarring discourse of the shrill brigade in the Sangh Parivar vitiates this struggle against obscurantism. In fact it lends legitimacy to a reactionary clergy. Nothing could be more self-defeating for our polity. The Sangh must clarify its position on secularism precisely. While it must opposes appeasement of obscurantist forces and exposes vote bank politics, it must not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. mukesh
    July 11, 2011 at 2:32 am

    sonali, m writing this comment before reading this post. BJP is traditionally the party of ‘middle class’. Middle class’ class character is selfish. It always wants resources for itself in the name of the poor. They dont have n e ideology or class ( thats y they r MIDDLE) but to harvest profits out of n e possible means. Dosnt matter if they have to sell their own god “RAM” and sold it for the rate of a badshaha “Babur” this is only one example out of many. above all they hates to be questioned.

  2. July 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I want to suggest that the Renaissance men and women knew that they were reviving an idea of secularism that thrived in the Greek and Roman worlds. That’s what they deserve credit for, not inventing it.

  3. July 13, 2011 at 4:14 am

    What do I say? Ditto. There is an urgent need for the Hindu voice to find a less combative tone. Defense is the first act of war.

  4. Chara
    July 15, 2011 at 11:33 am

    You tweet on so many issues at times sensibly,at times humorous,at times giving us a wake up call but sadly at times you sound like a rabid rouser.We respect views but pl don’t stuff it down our throats.Keeping in mind the hot headedness of yours I am sticking my neck out & advising you to take a leaf out of Tavleen Singhs book whose articles are written with tact & finesse.To end you may equate me to anything but it dosent matter.I am a proud practicing Hindu sending you this message from a Christian prayer meet.Humility is an important facet which you need in vast measure.

  5. July 15, 2011 at 11:58 am

    You nail the argument when you say – “secular concept … should be reduced to its minimalist configuration which is that our laws are made by consensus amongst us as equal citizens… that will diminish the shrill voices from both side of religious spectrum. Uniformity in law will take wind out of appeasement and thus removes the fodder which is feeding religious right wing (consciously avoiding naming RSS or Mullah – saying religious right wing) green or saffron.

  6. Almondice
    July 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Well written

  7. hyder ali
    July 16, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    very well written i must say. ..btw could you please unblock this handel(hyder_aly) on twitter. realy sorry for whatevr mistake i made. wont tag you again in my tweets. i totaly agree with the issues you point to.

  8. August 22, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Sonali…..you ALWAYS make sense even when I disagree with you! In the above post you nailed it babes…..;)

  9. July 1, 2012 at 10:25 am

    Ms Sonali u and yr obession with BJP, Modi, Hindutva and Secularism. For Christ’s sake please define the word Secular. Is Britain secular when the head of church and head of state is the Queen. is Germany secular where Christians pay a tax to the CHURCH. is the U.S. secular where president obama took an oath on the Bible.
    May be am a FOOL – please help me understand. Yrs Truly Secular

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