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Indian secularism under threat: from Ahimsa to Himsa

It is very unfortunate that fundamentalism and extremism have not only plagued India’s neighbours, but have also emerged as great threats for the plural Indian state

James

THE fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace, not only in this world but in all the worlds. The Hindu philosophy of war and peace can be seen in sacred Hindu texts such as the Vedas, The Law of Manu and the Bhaghavad Ghita. In Hinduism, violence is always considered the ‘wrong’ approach.

The two pillars of Gandhism, meanwhile, are truth and non-violence. Mahatama Gandhi propagated ‘Ahimsa’ which means ‘no injury to any one’. Ahimsa is a very important belief in Hinduism which means trying to fight injustice and evil but without using physical force. Gandhi, moreover, also propagated non-violence.

The Gandhian concept of religious tolerance and harmony is also evident in the Indian constitution. The Indian constitution, moreover, is a secular constitution and one of the best written semi-rigid constitutions, which does not believe in any kind of discrimination based on colour, caste, creed and religion.

It is very unfortunate that fundamentalism and extremism have not only plagued India’s neighbours, but have also emerged as great threats for the plural Indian state. The present Indian government is trying its level best to eschew ahimsa. It has already damaged India’s global reputation as a secular state.

Recent mob attacks by extremist Hindu groups affiliated with the ruling BJP against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumours that they sold, bought, or killed cows for beef. Instead of taking prompt legal action against the attackers, police frequently filed complaints against the victims under laws banning cow slaughter.

Even after Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally condemned such violence, an affiliate organisation of the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), announced plans to recruit 5,000 ‘religious soldiers’ to ‘control cow smuggling and love jihad.’ So-called love jihad, according to Hindu groups, is a conspiracy among Muslim men to marry Hindu women and convert them to Islam.

Tribal communities too remained vulnerable to displacement because of mining, dams, and other large infrastructure projects. Christian persecution also continues abated, meanwhile, under the rule of the Hindu nationalist party. In fact, a report by an evangelical group describes the year 2017 as ‘one of the most traumatic for the Christian community’ in 10 years.

It is now time for the Indian government to take serious action against all Hindu extremist groups that are involved in massacring other communities. This will also be an excellent example for the rest of the South Asian region

Last year was the worst since 2007 and 2008, when about a 100 Christians were killed and thousands of Christian homes were burned down or destroyed in the eastern state Orissa’s Kandhamal district, says the ‘Annual Report on Hate Crimes against Christians’ in India in 2017, released by the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

The commission recorded at least 351 cases of violence against Christians in 2017, and the report says the actual number could be much higher, since the list is not ‘exhaustive.’ Most cases, moreover, go unreported either because the victim is terrified or the police, especially in the northern states, turn a blind eye and refuse to record the mandatory First Information Report.

The violence is evenly spread across the months of the year, though the period of Lent and Christmas which involves a larger participation of people, is particularly prone to violence. Christian persecution, which includes violent attacks, destruction of Christian property and false accusations, has risen since the Hindu nationalist party won the general elections in 2014.

The governing party is connected with a Hindu nationalist organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose founder, MS Golwalkar said: “The non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of the Hindu religion, that is they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude toward this land and its age-long tradition but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment not even citizen’s rights.”

It is now time for the Indian government to take serious action against all Indian Hindu extremist groups that are involved in massacring other communities. These Indian Hindu extremist groups are now extending their boundaries beyond the Indian borders and their agendas have been globalised rather than with in Indian territory. This will also be an excellent example for the rest of the South Asian region. It is also time for both India and Pakistan to revisit the Liaquat-Nehru Pact of 1950, and both states must also take practical steps for the well being of the different ethnic and religious minorities in their respective countries. Global superpowers, for their part, must revisit their foreign policy choices in light of the human rights record in a South Asian perspective.

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