Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Uma on Rethinking Secularism

Congratulations to Uma Dasgupta of Indian Writing for winning third prize in the Indian Express essay competition. She's posted an edited version of her essay at her blog, and I would encourage people to go check it out.

(Note: I looked for the winning essay at the Indian Express website, but couldn't find it. If anyone has the link, I would be grateful for it.)

Uma's essay is a literary and ethical approach to India's experience with secularism, with quotes from Saadat Hasan Manto, Amitav Ghosh, and yes, Aamir Khan (!) along the way.

The part that really stands out to me as worth underlining in triplicate are the following proposals for strengthening Indian secularism:

(a) Punish the guilty. Whether or not the victims seek revenge is not relevant; they have a right to seek justice, and the State has a responsibility to see that those who are guilty must be punished.

(b) We all know that the Babri Masjid was systematically broken down on 6 December 1992. Is it entirely appropriate for the State, if it is truly the secular guardian of its people's interests, to leave the matter to the courts? The ethical thing for a secular State to have done would have been to rebuild a structure that has been pulled down during its tenure; if, on the other hand, the time for rebuilding the mosque is long past and the matter now pending court settlement, the answer is in not letting the wounds fester as they have been festering for so long, but in working towards a firm and fair closure.

(c) Follow the rule of law in every case. Under the present legislations, there are more than sufficient provisions to suppress the incitement of hatred. The State should invoke these provisions swiftly in every case, until such activity subsides altogether.

(a) and (c) should be obvious, no-brainers. But in India, with its troubled judicial system, they are not.

Rebuilding the Babri Masjid -- point (b) -- is a more questionable proposition practically speaking, as I think Uma knows. But her emphasis on the necessity of pursuing some final alternative ("firm and fair closure") has not been widely considered even by secularists. Thus far, it seems even the Congress government is mainly dedicated to maintaining the status quo, so that the problem of Ayodhya (among many other problems in Indian secularism) lingers on like a hot coal at the bottom of the stack.


Jay said...

Maybe this is a cynical cliche, but the brutal truth is that it is politically advantageous to both secular and religious governments in India to leave the Ayodhya issue unresolved - the former to use as a bogeyman and the latter to use as an election platform.

7:24 PM  
msingh said...

The question of why the specture of bogotry on a mass scale is able to rear it's ugly head with such devastating consequences needs to bo addressed.

One of the root causes has to be the uderlying unspoken acceptance of corruption that permeates through all layers of Indian society. Now if the police force was ethical, professional, not tainted by the scandal of bribery, it is entirely possible that the killings in 1984 or the demolition of the Babri mosque might not have been so catastrophic.

The question of how to root out corruption, well that’s a hard one.


7:03 AM  
Sanjay said...


Not sure what is meant by a "religious government" in the context of your statement..


6:40 PM  
Jay said...

Sanjay - e.g. a BJP coalition.

10:42 AM  
Sanjay said...

Sorry Jay...but how was it "religious"? did "BJP Theocracy"*I am looking for a definition*, measure up to theocracies around the world?

I hope you check back on the subject..else won't know where to reach you...:)


4:12 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home