By Ratnesh Katulkar
26 October, 2008
All the mainstream secular and progressive discussions in India appeared in a fixed format. Firstly, it starts with projecting Gandhi as a lone symbol of peace, non-violence and secularism and he is lauded with heavy titles like ‘worshipper of Truth and Non-Violence’ etc. his philosophy of non-violence and his brotherly treatment and sympathetic attitude towards Muslims are shown as references. Secondly, the illustrations of Hindu-Muslim unity are presented by putting examples where particularly Muslims have been playing active part in Hindu religious culture.
Emperor Akbar was one such mighty figure who had very good relations with Rajputs he gave equal treatments to Hindus by lifting Jazia tax, his respect to Pundits and his active participation in Hindu festivals were illustrated as examples. The translation of Brahmanic texts in Arabic, Persian and Urdu in medieval period are also frequently been referred. A Muslim Poet Ras khan is presented as an example who had composed many verses on Lord Krishna and now in addition there are serious attempts based on factual evidences to present the hardcore Muslim Aurangzeb as secular on the grounds that he had given huge grants to many Hindu temples for their building, repair and maintenance. In modern context the Hindu Bhajans sang by famous legendry singer Mohammed Rafi and other Muslim singers, and those Bhajans composed by Muslim lyricists for instance Zaved Akhtar and the Hindu devotional songs picturized on Muslim actors like Dilip Kumar and Madhubala and now bhajans performed by Khan-superstars are frequently been quoted. Recently Salman Khan’s Ganesh worship is one add in this list.
The next step of the mainstream secularists is showing the similarities between Hinduism and Islam for instance both believed in divine books, what Navratri is to Hindus is Roza to Muslims etc. Thus, such secular discussions end with a utopia of cohesive culture. The participants of such secular mission may be contented with their views but if such is their dream society where secularism is delimited to ‘Brahmin’ and ‘upper-class Muslim’ unity then is there any place for the Dalits and Atheists in it? Truly not because in such a condition secularism is not only dangerous to the above mentioned two communities-the Dalits and Atheists but it is equally harmful to the Muslims and other minorities, as such efforts of secularization is ultimately nothing but hinduization. A renowned Dalit thinker Mudrarakshasa rightly viewed secular Muslims as Brahmanists as in the process of assimilation of religions, there is even danger to existence of Islam and other minor religions, which is very harmful not only for them but also to Dalits and Atheists.
Barring category of professional actors, lyricists and music composers, some for instance Ras Khan, though he was born as Muslim but in all practical purpose, he was a devout Hindu; and those Muslims who for the sake of secularism were performing religious ceremonies of Hindus led possibility of losing their minority identity, as in long run they themselves or their children would be absorbed in the Hindu fold. Moreover, in present context it has been noted that many Muslims are bound to participate in Hindu festivals and rituals by both their donations and their presence only to ensure their safety amidst Hindu majority.
If one has noticed, the Hindu devotional songs sung by a popular Muslim singer Shahnaz Akhtar that is now being played in every Durga Pandals s/he can easily finds the threats to non-believers and other religious minorities in her songs. In one of her songs she challenged those who are not worshipping Goddess Durga, its lyrics is “Jo na Bole Maiyya Ki Jaykara uske Muh Pe Lag Jaye Tala, Aligarh Wala ,Nau Man Wala…. Jo hath na uthe Maiya Ke Jaykara Us Hath Me Lag Jaye Tala, Aligarh Wala ,Nau Man Wala ” (One who is not chanting the name of Goddess Durga his Mouth is sealed with a Aligarh brand lock and one who is not raising his hands before Goddess Durga he will be handcuffed) . It is not known who has composed such dreadful lyrics for Shahnaz Akhtar a secular-Muslim woman!
Does such individual could be the symbols of secularism and does this a real meaning of Secularism? Whatever one may say but certainly, it is not. Secularism is a rational terminiology, which does not mean assimilation, but it means plurality, diversity and a just society. This is the need of every society and it is especially accepted and expected mainly by the Dalits and Rationalists. Reason is not because they were the easy prey of communal violence but more than that, it is the class, which is secular in nature both in its ideology and in practice.
In the long written and unwritten history of Dalit struggle, right from reformist Buddha, to medieval Bhakti saints like Kabeer and Raidas to the leaders in Modern era Mahatma Jotiba Phule, Savitri Bai Phule, Shahu and Dr. Ambedkar there is not a single instance in their life, which was communal. The struggle that they did was far difficult from the struggles of nationalist-political leaders, as unlike them the Dalit leaders were not fighting with any educated and cultured foreigners. But they were struggling against their own countrymen and more so against their own co-religionists called ‘upper castes’ and in contrast with the British who despite lot of strong criticisms met by nationalist leaders, had faith in law and democracy the caste-Hindus on the other hand were not only illiterate but also more inhuman and violent. They did serious life-taking attempts on Dalit leaders; they attempted to kill Mahatma Phule and did violent activities against Savitri Bai Phule by pelting stones and Cow dung for her mission of providing education to women. But despite such violent attacks Phules’ remained silent and continued their benevolent activities and worked for spreading education to the women, shudras and the untouchables.
The Bhakti saints dohas are full of love, kindness and filled with mutual respects and equal treatment to all class and communities but even they were not spared of their lives and many of them were killed by caste-Hindus. They also mercilessly killed Buddhists and converted many Buddhist Viharas into Hindu temples, and they go violent against the peaceful and non-violent march of Dr. Ambedkar at the time of Mahad Satyagrah, a struggle for the right to drink water in public places. But Dr Ambedkar instead of violent retaliation remained peaceful and asked his supporters-many of them were retired army men, and had martial ability to teach lesson to their opponents-not to involve in counter violence. But the Buddha’s philosophy of peace and non-violence; and the establishment of first welfare state by Buddhist Emperor Ashoka, loving kindness of Bhakti Saints and struggles of Phule, Shahu, Ambedkar had no place in secularist discussion for them, these great humanists are not national figures but the leaders of a small section. In their opinion in the national level, Gandhi is the only symbol of peace, non-violence and secularism. In such opinion they easily ignored the fact Gandhi seriously opposed ‘religious conversion’-a constitutionally approved measure-which has always been praised by Dalit-Bahujan leaders but opposed by Hindu fundamentalists.
This is not the case of liberal secularists alone but the upper-class Muslims who are proud of their ‘high’ lineage are also not different as they always wished to develop close relations with caste-Hindus particularly Brahmins but they are looking Dalits as low. On the question of Dalit-Muslim unity, they completely ignore the role of the great Dalit icons and their philosophies but their immediate reaction is the example of Mayawati who openly supported Narendra Modi even after Gujrat carnage. However here also by branding Mayawati as sole representative of Dalits they completely ignore the role and ideology of other Dalit leaders like Ramvilas Paswan who risked his life to save the lives of Sikhs in 1984 riots and at the time of Gujrat riots he resigned from NDA Government as protest.
The leader of Indian Justice Party Udit Raj is actively opposing communalism and the leaders of faction ridden ‘Republican Party of India’ (RPI) Prof. Kawade, Ramdas Athwale, R.S. Gawai etc who despite their petty infightings had strong faith in secularism and they never compromised with communal forces. The Dalit leaders in south are also firm with their fight against communalism. But all these Dalit leaders are totally ignored in the liberal-secularist discourses. Such ignorance and negligence of Dalit ideology by the mainstream secularists and the upper-class Muslims are harming Muslims to fall prey before Hindu fascist and it is dangerous in building the real foundation of secularism in India.
Ratnesh Katulkar is a Ambedkarite Activist from Madhya Pradesh and PhD Scholar in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar National Institute of Social Sciences, Dr. Ambedkar Nagar MHOW (MP) 453441