Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint
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The month of November is going to be a test for secular politics in India. The Supreme Court is going to deliver its much-awaited Ayodhya verdict. The extension of the National Register of Citizens to the entire country can come about any time.

Parliament’s Winter Session should also begin this month. The Narendra Modi government is likely to propose, introduce or pass three laws of far-reaching significance: Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a central Anti-Conversion Act (ACA) and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).

We do not know if these five moves would get bunched up or be staggered, but we do know that the combined effect would be a push for Hindutva, accompanied by media blitz. No matter what the Supreme Court rules in the Ayodhya case (except in the unlikely event of the court treating this as a straightforward title suit and restoring the ownership to the waqf board), it would be presented as and converted into a grand victory for the Hindus.

A nationwide NRC and an amendment to the Citizenship Act of 1955 would be publicised as the final solution to the problem of Muslim immigrants. The UCC and ACA would be dressed up as the much-needed corrective to the anti-Hindu bias in the statute books. All in all, the regime will flex its muscles as the ultimate saviour of the Hindu interests.


Also read: Mohan Bhagwat throws a challenge at Modi, revives ‘Swadeshinomics’ amid economic crisis


Pro-minorityism vs soft Hindutva

The secular reaction is equally predictable. The Supreme Court verdict may be critiqued for its majoritarian bias. The UCC may be opposed for its insensitivity to minority concerns and the ACA for its abrogation of a constitutional guarantee of the minorities’ right to propagate religion. The NRC and the CAB may be rejected as a grand design to hound Muslims. In sum, secular politicians and intellectuals are likely to oppose all these measures as anti-minority, as steps towards a Hindu rashtra.

This is exactly what the BJP and the RSS would like them to do.

Time and again, they have set a trap for secular politics. And secular politics has obliged them by putting its foot right there. The triple talaq controversy was as good an example as any of this knee-jerk secularism that fitted perfectly into the Sangh design.

Time and again, secularism presents itself as compulsive pro-minorityism, as a cloak for vote-bank politics. Of late, compulsions of electoral politics have made some ‘secular’ parties like the Congress echo the Hindutva sentiment with a token discount in the name of secularism. This practice is seen, rightly so, as soft Hindutva. A sacred constitutional principle of secularism is conflated with the fraudulent calculus of what passes for secular politics.


Also read: Modi govt has been working for a Uniform Civil Code and we didn’t even notice. Until now


Need a differentiated response

Can secular politics respond differently? Instead of a knee-jerk minorityism or soft Hindutva, can we think of a principled secularist response to these five moves?

I think we can. I think the survival of secularism depends on crafting a principled response to cases such as these. So, let me propose an approach to responding to these five cases. Instead of rejecting all of these in the same breath, we need to evolve graded and differentiated response to each of these moves.

The secular response to UCC should be unequivocal acceptance and welcome. The idea that all family laws governing marriage, divorce, inheritance etc. should be subject to the same principles is consistent with the secular principles and recommended by the Constitution.

The UCC can take two forms. It may involve abolition of separate family laws governing different religious communities and its replacement with a single law. This would be cumbersome and an avoidable method. A much better route would be retaining separate family laws but removing anti-women and unjust provisions from all of these. Secularism is consistent with both versions, provided the family laws of any one religious community are not imposed on the others.

The response to an all-India anti-conversion legislation should be conditional acceptance. I know this suggestion is controversial. It is true that the idea did not find favour with the Constituent Assembly. It may be viewed as a violation of the constitutional guarantee of the right to propagate one’s religion. To my mind, these objections are not relevant to a law that prohibits conversion or re-conversion achieved through coercion, fraud or monetary incentive.

Hinduism and many adivasi religions do not have a hard boundary and are therefore vulnerable to institutionalised poaching. Laws to prevent such conversions already exist in 10 states. The only condition should be that extension of such a law to the entire country must cover not just conversion but also re-conversion and protect not just Hindus but all religions enumerated by the Census of India.

As for the NRC, the response should be a qualified objection. There is nothing in principle wrong with a government’s attempt to have an updated and verified list of its citizens. It is simply not correct to say that the NRC was an anti-Muslim conspiracy. The real problem with any attempt to extend the NRC through the country arises when the rules and procedures are discriminatory or when the burden of proving one’s citizenship is placed on the citizen, as in Assam. Such a policy would cause havoc not just for minorities, but also for crores of poor and vulnerable citizens who cannot produce documentary proofs. This is what secularists should object to.

Ayodhya dispute is the trickiest of all issues and calls for a spirit of honorable compromise. Seen as a simple title suit for the ownership of the land where Babri Masjid once stood, there is no doubt that the waqf board has a valid claim. But secularists must resist the temptation of taking this narrow legal view, just as the courts must resist the path of establishing what stood on that ground prior to the mosque.

Given the intractable complexity of this dispute, it is best to settle for a grand bargain. Instead of nitpicking the court’s verdict, the secularists should be open to accepting any fair and honourable compromise offered by the highest court, provided it is a final closure to all such disputes.

The CAB, the proposal to amend the citizenship law of the country, must be met with complete and resolute resistance. This bill amounts to saying “no-Muslim please” to any immigrant. This would be an abandonment of the right to equality and abrogation of the secular principle enshrined in the Constitution. If religion is admitted as a basis for the citizenship of Indian republic, we bring back the two-nation theory. This goes against the very idea of India. If Gandhiji was alive, he would have no doubt undertaken a fast-unto-death on this issue. This is the issue on which principled secularism must pitch its tent and fight the battle to save the soul of India.


Also read: Why a Muslim women’s group is pro triple talaq ban, but doesn’t support Uniform Civil Code


The author is the national president of Swaraj India. Views are personal.

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19 COMMENTS

  1. My take::
    CAA: I oppose CAB/CAA as a nationalistic national. When we know some are illegal immigrants, why should we presume persecution in their home country and grant not just refugee status, but straight away citizenship without even receiving an application or verifying their claims? We cannot afford to be so magnanimous. If at all possible, we should fight against any persecution and harassment in their country and strive to return them safe. Even Christian countries are not giving blanket citizenship to persecuted Christians from elsewhere. e.g., President Trump of USA promises to return ALL illegal immigrants irrespective of their being Christians or not. Repeal CAA and bring the law back to what it was. Let persecuted Hindus, Christians, Muslims etc from any country apply for citizenship on Individual merits.

    UCC: I welcome UCC. But make the existing uniform but optional “Special Marriages Act” mandatory to all communities. That will suffice. No HUF or property inheritance rights to anyone. Everyone must work, and earn whatever wealth or position they can, and not be “namdharis” as mocked at by our beloved PM. e.g., a deceased senior doctor’s clininc will be passed on to the best doctor who claims a stake, not necessarily son or daughter. Of course, rules and guidelines could be provided to give precedence to the deceased person’s family unless it has no other property and has no able bodied earning member. A compulsory life insurance by every earning person may mitigate such crisis.

    ACA: People can practice their religion but cannot propagate. If we allow propagation, how can we ensure there is no inducement, material or spiritual, present or future?. No new Gods or new religions after a cut off date.

  2. “Hinduism and many adivasi religions do not have a hard boundary and are therefore vulnerable to institutionalised poaching.”

    oh, that sneaky way to divide tribals from Hindus.. usual leftist tactics. What exactly Mr YoYa mean by “adivasi religions”?

    • Adivasis have different religious practices.Their Fogs aredifferent and their worship is different. They do not fit into the vedic or vaidic or santana dharma.

  3. Uniform Civil Code (UCC), a central Anti-Conversion Act (ACA) and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB). Are the top priority concerns for for the intellectuals of this world. They will not write articles demanding rigorous and expeditious investigations of the Gandhis, Chidambarams, Patels and the likes for alleged loot which could have gone into improving the lives millions of citizens of this country.
    They will oppose the AADHAR in every which way possible, because anonymity is the most effective protection against getting caught but will not answer a simple questions HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO MANAGE WITHOUT MEASURING ?
    They thrive in indiscipline under the guise of the Human rights, freedom of expressions and think they can fool people by going round in kurta pajama with an Arafat like gamcha and JHOLA.
    They all love to be political advisers, because only incompetent politicians need political advisors.
    They will only ask questions but never give a constructive suggestion to solve a problem.
    For all their intellect they will shy away from suggesting that all religious activities should be confined to homes and within the compounds of the religious places not on the streets because they know which section will accept it with least resistance.
    They will never spell out what exactly is the special status of Kashmir other than giving taxpayers money and not asking for accountability nor will they tell us how is the cultural identity of a Kashmiri is different from any other identity in the country?
    Finally did Babur buy the land in Ayodhya ? OR was it just a land grab by an invader?
    After the independence the identity as a Hindu grew just as the BPJ did. Thanks again to political advisers of the incompetent rulers. A competent ruler needs an adviser for everything from agriculture to finance to defence etc. but not for politics because that is his core competency.
    Ayodhya is not a BJP-RSS trap, it is creation of the political advisors to incompetent leaders who were in fact the remote controls.

  4. A very reasonable and clear article. However, so-called seculars will not accept. I think (1) Ayodhya should go to Hindus with a hefty fine on WQf board to re-build the Mandir. and (2) we do need the citizenship bill.

  5. WE HAD NEVER EVER HEARD OF NEHRU OR RAJAJI -BOTH TALL INTELLECTUALS – VISIT A TEMPLE OR SPORT ANY MARK ON THEIR PERSON TO IDENTIFY THEMSELVES WITH ANY RELIGION . BOTH WOULD HAVE MADE NAME AS AUTHORS AND INTELLECTUALS EVEN WITHOUT THE STANDING THAT POLITICS GAVE . RAJAJI HAS WRITTEN NOT ONLY GREAT BOOKS ON RAMAYANA AND MAHABHARTA , BUT HAS ALSO AUTHORED GREAT COMMENTARIES ON BHAGAVAD GEETE, UPANISHADS , ETC . IT WAS A VIRTUAL ILL-EDUCATED -LIKE TODAY;S BJP’S DUOPOLY – INDIRA GANDHI WHO MIXED HER RELIGION WITH HER POLITICS AND GAVE THE BJP AND ITS PROGENITOR THE RSS AN UNDUE AND UNWORTHY SPACE IN POLITICS . THE CONGRESS CONSIDERING ITS HOARY TRADITION MUST NOT PLAY THE IMMORAL POLITICS THAT IS ON DISPLAY IN THE LAST SIX YEARS-BLATANT COMMUNALIZATION AND PURCHASE OF LEGISLATORS AS IF THEY ARE CHATTELS ARE THE CURRENT CREDO OF THE BJP. ONE HOPES, FOR THE SAKE OF INDIA, THE MODI-SHAH’S BJP IS DRIVEN BACK AND CONSIGNED TO THE DUSTBIN OF NOT-SO-PROUD HISTORY OF THE COMMUNAL POLITICS OF INDIA

  6. A very reasonable and clear article. However, so-called seculars will not accept. I think (1) Ayodhya should go to Waqf board with a hefty fine on BJP to re-build the Mosque. and (2) we do need the citizenship bill.

  7. A nuanced and Pragmatic approach .Instead of leaving it at article stage it would be nice if Yogendraji takes initiative along with non dogmatic persons like Shekhar Gupta and builds a civil society iniative around his proposal.Politics is not just forming or running government but alsomobilising timely intiatives.

  8. All liberal, left leaning, pseudo sickulars must be aghast after reading this article. But if what Yogendra wrote is the one he honestly believes in, then he will be aghast to know that he will be declared as a Hindu by RSS! I am with him on various issues he dealt with except CAB. On CAB, the position is a nuanced one and can be easily misunderstood. CAB is not excluding only one community for the sake of others but it is for those who are persecuted and feel that they have nowhere else to go other than India, being the natural sanctuary for such people in dire distress. There is nothing to read beyond that in CAB. Hypothetically, let us say if there is any Muslim wanting to enter India from say Pakistan, that specific case will be looked into through usual humanitarian angle and applicable international conventions. But for others, we ought to have a specific legal obligations on the State to protect the safety of the persecuted ones.

    The way Yogendra has come out with his ideas in this article augurs well for a civil dialogue between BJP and the opposition. Any other way to deal with this by the opposition will be handing over the narrative to BJP and create unnecessary bitterness all around. Modi and Shah will get it finally anyway.

    In case of Art 370, Congress could have played a mature role and helped government to sort out the fall out of the decision, thereby making it a national cause and denying solely credit to BJP. After all, Congress also agreed to the revocation of Art 370 though not the way it was done. By playing a constructive role, it could have contributed to the national interest. But they messed up. Let us hope now that Congress behaves maturely in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament..

  9. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone like Madhu Limaye, George or Vajpayee, who would study, articulate and speculate the impacts and then take a stand not even hesitating to praise and stand by the govt if it deserved so.
    We don’t have even any one like Chandrashekhar or Mohan Dharia in the ruling party too who will put the things to rigid scrutiny in the party itself.
    We don’t have even anyone like Kishan Patnayak or Khusbant Singh or Raghuvir Sahay who will act like strong opinion makers notwithstanding who are there at the helm of affairs.
    Of late we have made ourselves to live in somewhat highly polarised atmosphere created by all of us though going on blaming only political class.
    If at all we take some pain to stretch our memory, we will find that most of the things that BJP govt has done or proposed to be done have been discussed and pondered over right from Nehru days within Congress and its successive govts. That these could not be done depended on too many factors and circumstances.
    Take the simple example of Aadhar and constitution of UIDAI (a Congress baby) – originally thought over as a multipurpose solely and only citizenship identification proposed to have been made compulsory for virtually everything. Hon’ble Supreme Court didn’t allow it to be so is altogether a different story.
    What Yogendra ji proposes is very wise and ideal situation where objections and dissents should be based on solid ethos and real liberal outlay. But it is unlikely to happen as we have become people telling only Yes or No – no mid way at all!
    Criticising Modi for everything has become rather a fashion – mocking Rahul our habit. But where do we go after all?
    More than political class the intellectuals, opinion makers and pressure groups are to be blamed who are just failing to enlighten and guide the common men take prudent stand and decide wisely.
    Can we at least ponder over?

  10. Where were you all pseudo-secularists when pandits were driven away from their place, j& k and were forced to live on refugee- life in their own country? We’re you counting the stars or singing duets with other pseudo-secularists as long with communists and KHANGRESS serfs?

  11. Its time now to shut down these leftist media. These anti national media has no space now in india….Whats the problem you are having with nrc.. Uniform civil code and anti conversation laws..people in India are now more aware of your anti india mentality… These jehadi and anti hindu mentality media’s will be banned from india soon

  12. CAB should be rightly opposed. Can’t imagine s democracy where religion becomes basis of citizenship. Where are all the nitwit Hindus who have acquired US citizenship?

  13. So instead of falling into Bjp/Hindutva trap Mr. Yoge dra Yadav wants the so called secular parties to walk right into it willing and openly so that no one can blame them of opposing unjust laws and compromised ideas.

    kuddos to you sir.

  14. Is it not surprising that it took more than five years to find that these were the traps of the Sangh Parivar. It is the condition of mindsets of those who claim to be progressive/ left and liberals but keep pursuing their vested interests and deceive the gullible masses. The difference is that they are not still willing to come out of self-denial mode as they are deprived of the state patronage. Still aware that the learned established writer of this post won’t respond to this comment and would rather conveniently dismiss the comment as the work of a troll or a bot.

  15. So instead of falling into BJP-RSS trap, Yogendra Yadav and his type of Sickulars want voters to fall into the trap set by him and the Sickulars. This is not going to happen unless Sickulars’ mind is treated with anti dot to the lies and fake news spreading genes. Sickulars want to sell garbage to aspiring Indians. People excluding Modi haters can see through the trap laid down by the sickulars. People are wise to differentiate between what’s good for them and what’s bad for them. While Modi continuously repose trust in people’s wisdom, Sickulars continuously ridicule people for applying their choices wisely.

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