AK versus NaMo

Neelanjan Mukhopadhyay, author of a much discussed book on Modi, made few interesting observations about AAP’s (Aam Aadmi Party ) foray into the electoral politics of Gujarat. Underlining the fact that Kejriwal’s entry into the state – wherein he tried to put the government on the mat for its acts of omission and commission – did raise expectations, he maintains that the momentum did peter away slowly.

What is more important to note that when the electoral battle started the party did not field a single candidate from the minority community despite the fact that population of Muslims in Gujarat is more than nine percent. According to the state leadership of the party it did not ‘find any suitable candidate from the community’ to contest elections. Questioning this explanation Neelanjan says that it thus did not challenge the prevalent norm that ‘Muslims are not to be given tickets’ by the mainstream parties. (Modi ki Raah Chale Kejriwal, Deshbandhu, 30 April 2014).

Any neutral observer of the whole situation – who is familiar with the fact that there are places where AAP did field ‘outsiders’ to fight elections – would also be of the opinion that this explanation seems insufficient and perhaps there are deeper reasons involved in this decision. If at the political level it could bracket BJP as well as Congress at the same level by portraying their alleged proximity to the Adanis’ and Ambanis’ why did not it try to make another strong political point by giving ticket(s) to candidate(s) belonging to the minority community. (To put it on record, the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate and Congress could muster courage to do it in only one constituency).

Why did it dither to do so?

Can we say that it was done to appear more ‘accomodating’ towards the ‘concerns’ of the majority community in a state which has been witness to a carnage more than a decade ago and a gradual silencing or marginalisation of minority voices ? Perhaps one can look back at its Delhi experience in fighting elections – where it trounced Congress from many of its safer seats, delivered a humiliating defeat to three term chief minister Sheila Dixit – but was later criticised for not being forthcoming on the menace of communalism. 

The absence of any candidate from the minority community from AAP (in Gujarat) would not have become a cause of concern if Arvind Kejriwal would not have decided to contest against Narendra Modi himself from Varanasi and the nuanced messages of his own campaign with rich symbolisms would not have become obvious. Media has already given coverage to the fact that the campaign formally started with Arvind’s ‘holy dip’ in the Ganges and is supposedly surging ahead with a bag of promises, the prominent one being to declare Varanasi as a ‘holy city.’ And as we go to the press one finds reports appearing in press that Kejriwal had gone for a ‘Ganga Aarti’.The AAP manifesto for Varanasi elections declares that

“Varanasi will be developed as the spiritual capital of the world and hence it will get the status of a holy city. “

Close watchers of the Varanasi situation may tell you that it has been an old demand raised by the conservative forces from time to time but to no avail and AAP’s electoral campaign has definitely added new ‘glamour’ to it.

Holy City, Unholy People?

Question arises what is a ‘holy city’?

Holy city is a term applied to many cities, all of them central to the history or faith of specific religions. Such cities may also contain at least one headquarters complex (often containing a religious edifice, seminary, shrine, residence of the leading cleric of the religion and/or chambers of the religious leadership’s offices) which constitutes a major destination of human traffic, or pilgrimage to the city, especially for major ceremonies and observances. A holy city is a symbolic city, representing attributes beyond its natural characteristics.


To be fair to Mr Kejriwal, he is not alone in promising ‘holy’ status to particular city.

In the sixty plus year trajectory of independent India there have been occasions where surreptitiously or openly few cities were declared ‘holy ‘ supposedly to cater to demands of different pressure groups or political formations. In fact in a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-racial country like India, attempts to declare particular cities ‘holy’ are not limited to the Hindus only.

Way back in early ’80s when Khalistani terrorism was raising its head the world came to know how Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – the radical Sikh cleric who died in Operation Bluestar – had demanded a particular code of conduct to be followed in Amritsar, a city which is revered by the Sikhs and which was duly implemented then.

There have been demands by Hindutva groups to declare Ayodhya holy city from time to time. In fact the focus of the Babri Mosque demolition movement had been to convert Ayodhya into a ‘Vatican City’ of the Hindus. And they have used every occasion to further their agenda. Few years back when Ayodhya witnessed a terrorist attack few of the senior leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had spewed venom calling for shifting ‘Muslims from the adjoining areas and the localities acquired in Ayodhya reiterating that there will be no guarantee of security of the Ram Lalla till they are not shifted.’

Few years back Babulal Gaur, Cabinet Minister in M.P government had in a G.O (Governmental Order) circulated  instructions about banning of eggs, meat and fish etc from few of the holy cities declared by the erstwhile Uma Bharati government way back in 2003-2004. One can still recall how after the said declaration by Ms Uma Bharati about Amarkantak, Ujjain etc, questions were raised about imposition of a Varna agenda not only on non-Hindus but also on majority of non-vegetarian Hindus.

When YSR Reddy happened to be Chief Minister of undivided A.P., under an ordinance number three and two related G.O. it was instructed that there would be ban on non-Hindu groups to undertake any religious activities in Tirupati and 19 other ‘holy’ cities. Analysts then had termed the move as emergence of ‘Special Religous Zones’ in 21 st Century India.

One can just imagine what sort of havoc such declaration under a secular dispensation can play with the life and liberties of people, communities who are considered the ‘other’ in the overall schemata of things. Apart from case studies done by democratic groups about impact of such steps on the livelihood of the people – where they are forced to stop merchandise in these ‘banned’ items – the more dangerous aspect of such declaration becomes the leverage it gives to majoritarian fanatic groups to take law into their hands and deliver ‘instant justice’ with the police becoming a mute spectator.

It is clear that in their hurry to challenge Narendra Modi and the brand of exclusivist politics he represents neither Mr Kejriwal nor any of his supporters have thought over their proposal to declare Varanasi a ‘holy city’ with all sincerity.

Varanasi : Question of Composite Heritage

Whatever might be the claims of the protagonists of this particular demand, even a cursory glance at the history of the city and its surroundings makes it clear that it disregards the rich composite heritage represented by the region. Many knowledgeable people have written about it and interested people may refer to the debates which have taken place already.

Very briefly, it is important to emphasise that Varanasi is of key importance not only for religious minded Hindus but Buddhists as well as Jains. Sarnath which is located just 13 kms north east of Varanasi happens to be the place where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma, and where the Buddhist Sangha came into existence. Isipatana (modern Sarnath) finds mention in Buddha’s preaching as well. According to him it is one of the four places of pilgrimage which his devout followers should visit, if they wanted to visit a place for that reason.

It is a city where many great Tirthankars of the Jain community – prior to Mahavir – were born and worked among people. Singhpur, a village approximately one km away from Sarnath, was the birthplace of Shreyansanath, the eleventh Tirthankara of Jainism, and a temple dedicated to him, is an important pilgrimage site. On closer scrutiny we also find few important shrines of Islam as well which are revered by Muslims of different shades.

The cultural importance of Varanasi could be gauged from the fact that it gave birth to the great rebel saint Kabir, Ravidas as well as Tulsidas in the medieval ages. Perhaps the rich cultural tradition of composite heritage found a new voice in the legendary Premchand in the early 20 th century who was born here only- who started his journey as a Urdu litterateur and later shifted to Hindi – but who is still respected by both the streams. Not very many people would know that in the early 50s the city elected a Communist Member of Parliament named Com Rustam Satin – with huge margins. It need be emphasised that Com Satin – belonged to the Parsi community – which had a very nominal presence in the city.

One can very well understand why RSS and its anointee Narendra Modi would like to obliterate this rich heritage even from the minds of the people as it does not suit their larger weltanshauung (world view) of ushering us into a Hindu Rashtra. Any proof that communities lived in peace with each other and were not always at war is anathema to their long term project of refashioning India. We have before us how they were nearly successful in doing similar thing with the image of Ayodhya which according to scholars also has a long history of composite heritage with elements of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam and Sikhism intermingling with Hinduism in very many ways. Reinventing tradition and myth, they claimed that Ayodhya has always been Hindu, thus tried to promote it to the status of a Hindu Vatican. Yet, as critical historians have pointed out, this claim stands completely unsubstantiated.

But why Mr Kejriwal wants to do walk in that trap is a moot question.

Even if one decides to leave the debate about composite heritage of the city here itself, another question still remains which demands greater introspection and contemplation from Mr Kejriwal. How this demand which tries to flow with the public mind to achieve a narrow political goal is qualitatively different from similar demands raised by forces of Hindutva mentioned earlier ? Can it be claimed that the demand to declare Varanasi a ‘holy city’ is qualitatively different from similar demands raised by the proponents of Hindu Rashtra.

We know very well why the votaries of what is popularly known as Hard Hindutva decided to field NaMo from this particular constituency? They could foresee that if someone with a ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ tag can catch the imagination of the people in this ‘religious city’ as well then without raising the communal tempers further it can gain them rich political dividends.

And a better strategy to counter this blitzkrieg type of politics would have been not to appear a better Hindu or rather a soft Hindu but an uncompromising secular.

In fact for anyone who is concerned with maintaining communal harmony in this part of South Asia, the bloody history of late eighties and early nineties is a grave reminder that whenever there are attempts to upstage Hard Hindutva by Soft Hindutva – the way Congress under Rajiv and Rao tried to do – the gainer has always been Hard Hindutva.

By faith Hindu, by choice Secular

It is said that the relation between religion and politics correlates with the relation between sacred and the secular. And the long journey towards secularisation of society effectively means removal/exit of the ‘sacred’ from the functioning of state and society and its reconstitution on secular foundations. The fact of the matter is that a dangerous cocktail of religion and politics has been a bane of polity and society in this part of South Asia and one does not see an immediate end to it.

We should never forget that founders of constitution decided to move ahead on these lines in an atmosphere which had seen enough inter-communal bloodletting and killing of innocents. Despite the challenges involved in the process they resolved that unless and until we ensure separation of religion and politics similar bloodletting may occur again.

Imagine an alternate scenario which could have been followed by Mr Kejriwal.

Instead of engaging in the public display of his religiosity – by taking a ‘holy dip’ in the Ganges or by participating in the Ganga Aarti (nobody is here questioning his right to do so) – he could have as well declared that by faith he might be a Hindu but for him it is a private matter and by choice and by practice he believes in clear separation of religion and politics.

This move would have definitely cost him few votes but could have helped him set an alternate agenda in these critical times when the very idea of secularism is being questioned, challenged and derided as never before. Yes as far as NaMo brigade is concerned there would not have been any impact on their brazenness but looking at the fact that Mr Kejriwal has been able to fire imagination of thousands and thousands of people all over the country who have taken the plunge with all sincerity and dedication to ‘cleanse the system’ this move could have sent a different message altogether. It would have placed him in the ranks of a Visionary who is not only adept at flowing with the public mind but is ready to challenge it also on crucial junctures.

Perhaps he could have remembered the great poet Majaj who has rightly said :

Masjidon main maulvi khutbe sunate hi rahe,

Mandiron mein barhaman ashlok gatey hi rahey

Ik na ik dar par jabeen-i-shouq ghisti hi rahi

Aadamiyat zulm ki chakki mein pisti hi rahi

Rahbari jaari rahi, paighambari jaari rahi

Deen ke parde mein jang-i-zargari jaari rahi.


(The mullah and the pundit and their ceaseless sermon

Man bowed before each one of them but did he learn

The great messiahs came claiming divinity. Their religions, mostly ruses for plunder turn by turn.)


19 thoughts on “AK versus NaMo”

  1. I think political parties should be expected to allot seats to minority community on the basis of what proportion of their votes come from those communities, particularly in winning seats. There is no sense in asking a stridently hindu party like the BJP to show us its Muslim candidates, much like I would find it ludicrous to ask the MIM in Ahmedabad or the Indian Union Muslim league in Kerala to give 50% tickets to Hindus in keeping with their percentage of population. In short, it’s a silly demand in a multiparty polity. If India were like China where all candidates belonged to one party then it might make sense to wonder why there were no Muslim candidates.
    As for AK’s dip in the Ganga, I fail to see what anyone could have against it. Obviously was mere theatrics, but for the left to say that Modi should wear Skull caps while AK should not take dips in the Ganga is bordering on the hypocritical. Similarly, I wouldn’t expect Mehbooba Mufti to take photos holding a trishul, but it would be entirely natural for her to be seen in a Muslim shrine.


    1. aretas, your comment actually deserved to be deleted as it was completely off-topic and if you look at our comments policy, we reserve the right to delete such comments. More importantly, between 11.07 am when you posted your first comment above (which was passed) and a subsequent one at 11.54 am, chiding us for not posting yet another you had already posted at 11.13 am. And by 11.54 you demand to see your comment passed! What temerity!
      Further, let me also tell you that your comment is not only not “a serious comment, albeit couched in humorous language”. It is a vicious comment as can be seen from the following:

      “Either quote from the Tirukkural alongside your Majaj, or admit that your website is a front for North Indian savarna Hindu/Ashrafi Muslim imperialism masquerading as a pan-Indian social movement.”

      Let me tell you something. We try within our capacity to be as non-exclusive as possible. However, we are under no compulsion to publish your nonsensical invective. You are at liberty to think what you wish to, about us. Please yourself.


  2. Subhash, have you actually looked at the Varanasi Manifesto of AAP? It talks of establishing Varanasi as a sarvdharm pavitra nagri and as a heritage city. There is no indication that it thinks of Varanasi as a Hindu city. Just a factual input. You are of course, entitled to your views!


    1. Nivedita

      Yes, the manifesto does talk of Sarvdharm pavitra nagri but nobody can miss the fact that it talks about sacredness of the Ganges and the city at half a dozen places and also talks of developing ‘spiritual centre of tourism’. Two things are easily discernible : it’s language is couched in the terminology of religion and secondly, the Hindu imprint.


  3. AAP is by no means a communal party. But indeed it is time we start demanding that political parties stop pulling gimmicks based on religion (going to this or that temple/shrine, dipping in XYZ river, getting the ‘blessings’ of ABC rishi/imam/padre what not) during election season. It is all well to seriously engage with religious groups as they are part of society and may have legitimate concerns/suggestions. But what Kejriwal did was pure politicking and the author is right to call him out on it.


  4. subash,
    I think Nivedita’s clarification adequately addresses your concern. Fact is, that if what I have been told many years ago is true, the first act of an undivided CPI member in the 50s or 60s when he visited a village in UP was to visit the ram mandir. Even E J Hobsbawm, the noted marxist economist in Uk, who died last year had apparently desired that a fellow-jewish academic should perform some jewish rite on his death which she did in New york. All this can be criticised but all one can say is that Periyar EVR was an exception in stubbornly being atheist right through.


    1. v v
      I have no disagreement over the fact that individual members of the left movement have committed many follies but its adversaries cannot deny that its leaders have ever engaged in public expression of religosity – which is a norm with other mainstream parties

      And yes Periyar was unparalleled in the ‘mainstream politics’ who was ‘stubbornly atheist’.


  5. (This comment isn’t aligned with your view… feel free to delete if unwelcome).

    The article rests on a flawed premise. You expected Kejriwal to behave like the traditional leftist, and you were let down. Kejriwal is the “new left” which accepts faith. It is no longer the “opium of the masses”. If AAP members wearing their faith in public view helps, why not? The legitimizing effect of the ballot box washes all “sins” away, it is more powerful than a dip in the Ganga or baptism of any kind.


    1. KK
      I am definitely no political novice to expect from someone who has time and again admitted that “he is neither left nor right” to behave like a leftist. And you or for that matter anyone is free to discover a “new left” in him and I have no objection to that.

      Secondly, I think politics should not be reduced to the act of getting a few votes by any means and if someone talks of ‘cleansing the system’ or reviving the idealism of the independence movement, then it becomes more important that s/he does a radical rupture with the way in which votes are gathered by using caste, community, moneypower etc.


  6. Going For A Holy dip in a river or visiting a shrine with a chador,before starting a Campaign or Meeting some two bit Imam or some Mathadheesh in the belief that this would sway this or that section of the Electorate betrays a lack of trust in the intelligence of the people and is an attempt to mobilise people for political ends by exploiting their religious sentiments is an essentially anti democratic act and needs to be condemned out rightly, no matter who is doing it and how deeply secular the individual or her/his supporters might claim to be


  7. Subhash and Sohail,
    I think it is time we have a proper debate on this issue. This is a really critical time and perhaps this is when we should be asking ourselves some serious and tough questions.
    (i) Are you both arguing that believers have no place in politics? I think KK above puts the question quite starkly – and this actually goes beyond the specific persona of Arvind Kejriwal. I suppose you are not. If you are, then I am afraid this is like living in a make-believe world. Ninety percent, if not 99, in India who either contest and also those who vote, are believers. I want to ask both of you: what do you have to say about them? Is there any language available in your political dictionary that even remotely allows any kind of engagement with the believer?
    (ii) I think Sohail, the point you are making is actually somewhat different – it is about the instrumental use of religious symbolism like visiting a temple or mosque, not because you are a believer but because you want to get votes. The point is well taken. But how are we to determine when it is done instrumentally and when it is done with faith? My sense though is that both you and Subhash would reject it outright even when done in good faith – correct me if I am wrong. My problem here actually goes beyond personal belief and unbelief. I have often found myself doing things I do not believe in ( and I am sure, you have too), because – if one were to take Gandhi’s phrase – one has faith in the faith of others. If my doing something means so much to them, and it does not really affect me in any other way, I prefer to go along. On occasions where it matters, and I need to put my foot down, I would.
    (iii) But most importantly, let me come to the key issue involved – that of politics. That is to say about change. Change implies changing the way people think and an essential precondition for this is the possibility of dialogue. This means firstly, that there should be a common language where the believer and the activist can converse. It also means secondly, that there be a certain minimum trust between the two sides for the dialogue to be sincere. The option that both of you spell out will certainly protect your purity – you can “condemn” whosoever you want and satisfy yourselves that you have lived an uncompromised life but that does little to change the situation on the ground. This goes to the heart of the communist failure in India. Not that they have remained pure either but that is another matter.
    With respect to tackling the issue of communalism, we have had two models in India:
    (a) the communist model – that basically sought to occupy the abstract secular space that you are advocating above. There are important advantages to this position insofar as it allows people from all communities to inhabit this space. That is why a large number of radical, anti-Muslim League Muslims could be drawn to the communist party, alongside radical secular Hindus. The problem with this position, however, was that you had to exit and disengage from your community in order to be able to inhabit this space. That effectively ensured that communists remained a small and ineffective radical sect, with no purchase on the actual politics of the country. The two exceptions, Bengal and Kerala, remained exceptions because there the communists rode the tide of Bengali and Malayali nationalism and therefore, retained some degree of engagement with the larger community. By now however, the bhadralok character of this Bengali has also become too manifest.
    (b) the Gandhian model, which refused the abstract secular ground and recognized that the battle against communalism was to be fought primarily within the communities. Indeed, it was primarily to be fought within the Hindus, given that nationalism was increasingly becoming hostage to a Hindu nationalist common sense. It is a tribute to the success of the Gandhian model that he had to be actually physically eliminated and that till he was alive, the majority of Hindus could not be weaned away towards the Hindu nationalists. All of Gandhi’s actions – from the very language of his politics to his periodic fasts were replete with religious symbolism. And yet, he was not simply a leader to the Hindus and a large number of non and anti-ML Muslims recognized the power of his intervention as well.
    Today, the first model has become ever more ineffective and has virtually no takers. The main battle for ‘secularism’ if you please, is being fought within communities in a language that can no longer inhabit the happy comfort zone of the now defunct Left.
    We will of course, continue to differ over Kejriwal and AAP, but it seems to me that the real battle that is being fought and will be fought against communalism will be fought here. By avoiding the faultlines that the BJP/ RSS so want to exploit and shifting the debate to matters of more immediate concern – corporate corruption, cronyism, gas prices and price-rise in general, Kejriwal has opened a new front. These are issues that uncover another faultline that runs deep in Indian society and where the 90 percent stand opposed to the 10 percent who loot. By displacing the secular/ communal question and reorganizing the political division in this fashion, Kejriwal has not evaded but made communalism relatively ineffective in public discourse in these elections. That is quite evident in Banaras and in Punjab for example, where the AAP campaign could neutralize the media blitz. The battle for justice for the victims of 1984 and 2002 (among others) will have to continue in courts and other institutions. However, if electoral divisions are allowed to be polarized along Hindu/ Muslim lines, let there be no mistake, we are destined to lose. In a majority versus minority polarization, even dalits and tribals can be interpellated as Hindus. The communalization in Western UP shows this very clearly in the case of dalits.


  8. Dear Aditya

    I agree with your proposal that we should have proper debate on this issue and I sincerely hope that other more knowledgeable and experienced people would also join it not only to enrich it but also to take it to a higher level.

    Let me admit at the outset that my intervention is not going to be ‘rebuttal’ of sorts point by point – supposedly to establish ‘correctness of my understanding’. Here are few ideas which have been agitating me for quite sometime and your response rather helped few of them precipitate further.

    As far as fighting communalism is concerned I have always felt a discomfirt about the manner in which left has looked at the question and have always maintained that if we try to fight it on the basis of Hindu/Muslim lines then we are ‘destined’ to lose it everytime. As an alternate ( or should I say correct ?) path to fight communalism , I have tried to link it with the issue of Brahminism etc ( I do not want to repeat what I have already written on Kafila and other blogs/websites). Recently, in our ongoing debate with likeminded people engaged with the anti-communal movement we have sort of reached a consensus that another way to fight communalism could be to raise the issue of democracy in all its ramifications.In this backdrop I have found merit in the manner in which Kejriwal and AAP have tried to shift the debate and have tried to raise issues of immediate concern to fight communalism. And I sincerely feel that the left can learn a lot from this intervention.

    My problem with Mr Kejriwal and his brand of politics is at a different level. He is adept at what I have called ‘flowing with the public mind’ but is ‘not ready to challenge it’ – the way a Periyar did or a Phule accomplished. And it runs throughout his ‘AAP’ experience. e.g. The ‘Somnath Bharti experience’, Yogendra Yadav’s finding merit in ‘Khap’ or the manner in which AAP website during the initial days of its 49 day experience at the helm of Delhi affairs mentioned one of its achievement as ‘enlisting intruder – ghuspaithiya was the word used – Bangladeshis ‘ ( which was suddenly withdrawn without any explanation)

    Secondly, I do not think that the struggle to fight communalism can be reduced to the binary of what you have talked about ‘Communist Model’ and ‘Gandhian Model’. The manner in which Nehru looked at the question and tried to deal with it cannot be said to be a subset of ‘Gandhian Model’. Perhaps it can be presented as a ‘third way/model’ to fight communalism. One marvels at the struggle he waged – rather singlehandedly/lonely within the organisation – to fight the menace of Communalism. The tragedy is that the man under whose leadership we could move onto a secure secular road is derided like nothing else and therefore no question of learning from his intervention arises. He skillfully used his popularity to put the communalists and other conservative elements on the mat. His fight was not only against the openly communalist but also against those who were part of Congress but were sympathetic to the ‘Hindutva’ cause.

    Thirdly, I never said that ‘believers have no place in politics’ but would like to emphasise that anybody’s belief should remain restricted to their private domain only. Plain and simple. My contention is that the biggest bane (abhishap) of politics in this part of south asia is this dangerous cocktail of religion and politics. Look at the trajectories followed by India and Pakistan – who were part of a single British India merely sixty plus years before. What made the difference ?

    Fourthly, the most troubling part of this anti-communal discourse which wants to make peace with religion supposedly to establish a dialogue with the believer is that it does not want to learn from experiences in our own neighbourhood.

    Fifthly, one needs to revisit the whole idea of secularism – which effectively means separation of religion and state – which got reduced here in the form of Sarv Dharm Sambhav.


  9. Personally speaking, as a sympathizer of AAP I do not mind if Kejriwal is using religious symbolism. However, there is a line between (a) saying `Har har mahadev’ or `Allah ho akbar” at a political rally and (b) making a deal with the reactionary sections within a community to garner votes, and I hope that AAP will not go down the second path. For example, I would much rather prefer a party raising the issue of innocent muslims languishing in jails for years on false charges, than having a mullah or an imam declare that he supports that party.


  10. It is good that discussion, debate and clarifications are coming on this important issue. Here are some my observations and comments.
    (1) Arvind Kejriwal does wear his religious sensibilty rather too publicly. He has all right to do so. Nobody can demand legal action against him for doing so. However, since these are public actions, others too have a right to praise, analyse, criticise, or denounce him. After taking the oath of CM at Ram Lila Maidan, in his speech he claimed that it was an ‘Adbhut Chamatkar’ that AAP had won so many seats, and thanked ‘Ishwar, Allah and Wahe Guru’ for it. Was AAP’s victory really gods’ miracle? The point is, it was the result of “this worldly” hard work by AAP leadership, volunteers and public support. Even the most ardent believer- voters of AAP would not buy the argument that the AAP victory was a result of godly intervention in turning the electoral dice in AAP’s favour. AK may believe what he wishes, but his public statement is an example of a ‘false’ belief. This election has seen even more references to god/godesses from Mr Modi. He came to Banaras because ‘Ganga maiyya’ called him. He has declared that he believes that the god has chosen him to do the difficult task of ridding country of bad governance. About AK, given his sincerity in other matters, I am inclined to accept that he actually believes what he is saying, but I have little hesitation in saying that Mr Modi is lying. That is, even he knows that no god has chosen him, or no Ganga Maiyya has come in his dream asking her devout son to come to her. Are we going to not touch such faith based claims, take them at their face value, forsake our ability as rational cognitive beings to unpack, analyse or explore their hidden connections and motives?
    (2) What should be the place of faith in politics? A significant number of Hindus actually believe that their Ram Lalla was born at the site of Babri Mosque. L K Advani has clearly said Ram Janm Bhumi is a matter of faith and judiciary has no role in the matter. How do we respond to such assertions of faith. Just because a few thousand Ram Bhakts indulged in violence and arson, should the faith of crores of non-violent Hindus count for nothing?
    (3) Aditya Nigam has raised the question ‘What is the place of believer in politics?’ My answer would depend upon the meaning attributed to the world ‘believer’. If you ask a religious person if s/he is a believer, s/he would obviously reply in the affirmative. However if you look closely s/he would also be found doing many actions which can not be attributed to her/his religious belief. A man would be a god fearing fellow, begging for forgiveness in a temple, but at home he may be a monster beating and raping his wife. I think even other believers would agree that he is not acting as a believer at home, unless of course somebody’s religion commands him to beat women. So, the same person can be a believer in religious affairs and in other affairs his/her religious belief may count for nothing. All liberal democratic politics in the modern era is so designed that religious beliefs have no role in it. Our constitution invokes no god, constitutional authorities can take oath in their own honour, (without invoking any god). There is a clear contradiction between religious claims about omnipotence of a divine being and a constitution declaring a community of humans (We, the people ..) as sovereign. All modern constitutions are actually atheistic documents. There are other kinds of polities in which religion plays the central role: Kings ruled through a divine right. In Kullu all arable land of a village was believed belonging to the local deity, and all community activity, including village politics, was local deity’s service, Golwalkar is reported to have claimed that there is no need for a new constitution for Hindus, since they already had Manu Smriti. Against such real, or imagined polities in which religion played a central role, liberal democracies are so designed that religion has no role in them. The principle of secularism is a request to please recognise this reality, and behave accordingly, otherwise the entire scheme will fail.
    (4) A big confusion arises because a religious community and the community of a religion’s followers are taken to be the same. Hindu Community’s interest in the destruction of Babri Mosque was a purely non religious interest flowing from a fascist political programme. LK Advani may claim that it was only a matter of (his) Hindu faith. But we do not have to accept his claim, because, according to us, his political programme actually is a result of his fascist ideology.
    (5) Gandhi the archetypal Hindu politician had the guts to rebuke caste Hindus of Bihar, with the claim that the 1935 earthquake was a divine retribution for the practice of untouchability. (Tagore criticised Gandhi rightly. Large number of untouchables too had died in the quake,, so in what way it could be a punishment for untouchability!) At the time of Asa Ram Bapus, Ramdevs, Mr Modi, the VHP and Togadias, the likes of Mr Kejriwal, who publicly perform aarti and don big chandan tika on the voting day do not have the courage to tell large number of upper caste Hindus that they have allowed themselves to be fooled by a fascist conspiracy. Gandhi was religious, but he was enough of a modern and honest with himself, to not let his morality and politics become hostage to any religion.
    (6) Why then religion gets used in electoral politics of liberal democracies, if it has no place in its design? The use of religious symbols in elections is an example of false association between two very different practices. In a believer’s moral world all things religious carry positive connotation. Religion in politics is an effort to transfer that goodness to things very mundane. When we can criticize advertisements doing similar false associations (between a product and happy human emotions) why should we not do the same for religion in politics?
    (7) It is necessary to distinguish between non-communalism and secularism. There are diverse reasons for not to hate others, including some religious ones. Secularism demands the same on the basis of the nature of democratic politics. In democracies (not in autocracies like Ataturk’s Turkey) secularism follows from the concept of citizenship, citizens being equal irrespective of their other characters. Conceptualising and recognizing equality among humans who are manifestly different and unequal in their abilities, is an exercise in abstraction. Citizenship is a very abstract concept, understood and partially practiced only in the past few centuries. Is that a problem? Humans have this wonderful ability to use and misuse abstractions. Our words, poetry, concepts (including that of gods or a God), rules to make chapatis to abstruse theories of mathematics and physics, are all abstractions. But there are good abstractions and bad abstractions, like all things human. Religion in politics is a bad idea (as a false association it is not something which grows naturally, but is deliberately thought of and imagined) and a very bad practice. Not body can and should be punished legally for bringing his/her religion in politics, it is not a crime (citizenship gives that protection), however political leaders, parties and programmes can be, and should be criticized, or even denounced for doing it.


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