Majoritarianism is Feared as Much as Monarchism

  • Nyla Ali Khan
  • Publish Date: Mar 21 2017 9:01PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Mar 21 2017 9:10PM
Majoritarianism is Feared as Much as Monarchism

                                                          File Photo/ KI

The increasing communalization of Indian politics is a juggernaut that seriously questions the myth of secularism in India

 

I have been working on my fifth book for a while, and I was in the process of compiling the speeches that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had made in Deoband, UP, in 1968, when the 2017 UP and Uttarakhand election results came in. Apropos!

In India, the uncritical reversion to fundamentalism and the superficial creation of a “unified” identity in the wake of right-wing nationalist movements has led to an erosion of unique and distinctive cultural identities.

The increasing communalization of Indian politics is a juggernaut that seriously questions the myth of secularism in India, and the increasing religiosity in Pakistan is just as damaging. As a poignant reminder to the student of Indian history and subcontinental politics, I would like to point out that Jawaharlal Nehru observed in the Constituent Assembly of India that the greatest danger to India will not be from Muslim communalism but from Hindutva which could potentially become expansionist and communally belligerent.

The polarizing rhetoric deployed by BJP bigwigs on the campaign trail in UP portrayed the nation as an invention that breeds relentless hatred.

The myopic vision of these bigwigs renders the nation all the more threatening because the belligerent politics that leads to its construction is internecine and does not bind Muslim to Hindu or Bengali to Kashmiri but rather sunders Bengali from Bengali, Kashmiri from Kashmiri.

Such an irregular politics polarizes these ethnic groups into Hindus and Muslims who are required to disavow their cultural, linguistic, and social unities.

This molding of collective identities by the evocation of pan-national religious affinities results in the stifling of minority voices that express divergent cultural and social opinions. The politics of the BJP has established an inclusion/ exclusion dichotomy in which those who belong, the majority, can be winnowed away from those who are outsiders, the minority.

Since Independence in 1947, the Indian polity has undergone dislocation and restructuring, with, as Aijaz Ahmad tells us, “contradictory tendencies towards greater integrative pressures of the market and the nation-state on the one hand, greater differentiation and fragmentation of communities and socioeconomic positions on the other” (191).

The Hindutva movement in India privileges the idea of an ethnically pure Hindu nation, and the communal riots in Gujarat that occurred in 2002 divided the state along religious lines causing such irreparable damage that its seismic tremors continue to destabilize other parts of the Indian subcontinent.

The prevalent majoritarian politics and uncertainty in India, helps in the institutionalization of unaccountability, and opportunists make hay while the unpredictability in Kashmir remains unresolved. Obviously, an important challenge then and now is the restoration of a democratic process in J&K, the validation of a secularism that recognizes diverse religious identities and allows for the accommodation of those identities within a secularist framework, creating new openings for people, including the young, to discuss public issues and become active participants. The aims of that process should be repair of the frayed regional and political fabric in all parts of the State.  Mainstream regional parties and separatists require a clear roadmap that enables us to preserve our identity, influence on legislative and decision-making process, not simply increasing our nuisance value.

I now segue into the speeches that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah made in Deoband in 1968.