Abhay Dubey's new book | Yogendra Yadav
Abhay Dubey's new book | Photo: Yogendra Yadav
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When a card-carrying secular intellectual challenges the secular orthodoxy of our time and it draws a blank by way of a response, you know that secularism is indeed in a deeper crisis in India than you imagined. Either smug in its ever-shrinking cocoon. Or resigned to its defeat. Or both.

The intellectual is Abhay Dubey, a well-known scholar based at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), with an impressive body of published work. He is a trailblazer for doing social science in Indian languages and a familiar commentator on television. Once a card-carrying Communist, he is known to be a fierce critic of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) politics, unlikely to defect to their camp. The challenge to secularism comes from his latest book, Hindu-Ekta banam Gyan ki Rajniti [Hindu Unity vis-à-vis Politics of Knowledge, published by Vaani Prakashan] that was released in February this year, at the height of anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act movement. This is the first detailed, well-researched yet provocative book-length critique from a secular perspective of some of the most cherished beliefs of Indian secularism.

In any other country, such a publication would have triggered passionate political debates, responses, and rejoinders. Nothing of that kind happened in the last six months. I have not been able to locate a single serious review so far.

An inconvenient truth

The initial non-response could be a function of language. Abhay Dubey writes in Hindi, and rather demanding Hindi at that (I had to consult dictionary a couple of times). You can’t hold it against him, unless you believe that he must dumb-down to the level of babalog Hindi understood by the English-speaking elite. But it is not hard to see why his argument has not travelled to the secular intellectuals that he critiques. This underlines his point about the disconnect between the English speaking middle-class world of liberal-secular ideology and the rest of India.

The deeper reason for silence around Dubey’s book could be that it confronts us with an inconvenient truth. It leads us to conclude that if the secular project stares at a historic defeat, it has no one else to blame. It is silly to think that secular politics has been defeated just by some clever and devious political machinations of Narendra Modi or Amit Shah. In the last instance, Dubey holds that the defeat of secular politics is a defeat of secular ideology. This ideology drew and started believing in a caricature of its adversary, floated self-serving myths about the past, subscribed to formulaic understanding of the present and trusted reluctant warriors and non-existent allies to fight the battle for secular India. Dubey holds a mirror to us: the harsh truth is that this defeat is very well earned. We can’t refute his argument, for we know it to be true. Yet we can’t accept it, for it unsettles our ready-made map of the world we inhabit.


Also read: Hate is hot in India. Colder ideas like constitutional patriotism must work harder to win


What secular historians get wrong

Abhay Dubey must be commended for picking up the courage to say that secularism tripped itself by systematically misunderstanding the Sangh Parivar. The arrogance of the Westernised Left-liberal-secular elite made them dismiss the intellectual lineage of Hindutva ideology because it drew inspiration from a religion. This hubris made secular ideologues overlook basic facts about the Sangh Parivar: that it draws upon the social reformist tradition within Hinduism, that its exclusion of Muslims has been successfully complimented by a campaign to include lower-caste Hindus, that it has successfully negotiated its way with modern constitutional democracy, that by demonising it as merely Brahminical and Fascist, we mislead ourselves and fail to understand the reasons for the rise of this ideology. The book prepares us to take on the real adversary, not just a straw-man.

This is related to the complacent reading of India’s past and present that secularists have perpetuated. Dubey’s book shows us how secular historians had convinced themselves and everyone else that ‘Hindu’ was merely a statistical majority, that the deeper diversities this label covers were more salient, that, therefore, a project of Hindu consolidation was ruled out. This led to the lovely yet lazy belief that the existence of pluralism, composite culture and the moderating logic of democratic politics would negate the possibility of Hindu majoritarianism. Dubey alerts that such a reading distracted us from recognising the historical truth that the self-description of “Hindu” evolved much before colonialism, mainly in reaction to then ruling political identity of the Muslims, that Hindu unification is a long term structural process aided by modern society, modern law and the logic of modern competitive politics. By moving from ‘politically correct’ language to a historically correct account, this book helps us understand why Hindutva ideology has become commonsense and why secularism appears anti-Hindu.


Also read: Hindutva rise must be pinned on historians who told us Hindus, Muslims lived peacefully once


Course correction

No wonder, this distorted understanding led to a myopic politics. Abhay Dubey points out the well-known weaknesses of secular politics: exclusive focus on defence of minority rights, inability to speak against minority communalism with the same force as Hindu communalism, and the tendency to gloss over Congress’ inconsistencies and failures in upholding secular principles. He also makes bold to question many other secular political strategies: the idea of an imminent revolt against ‘Brahminism’, ‘bahujan’ unity as an antidote to majoritarianism, dependence on dominant OBC castes and better-off communities within Dalits to carry out the project of social justice and fight for secularism, or the assumption of Dalit-Muslim unity. The failure of these strategies is for everyone to see. You may not agree with all of Dubey’s critique, or with his historical interpretation in each case. Yet the book’s project of identifying and confronting the weaknesses of secular ideology and practice at this moment of its worst crisis must become a project of our times. This would be painful, but willingness to face it is a sign of confidence, evading this is a sure sign of death.

Abhay Dubey provides us with a resource to undertake this project. He identifies alternative but overlooked voices within the secular camp that cautioned against such simplistic understanding and short-sighted politics. He draws upon historian Dharma Kumar, sociologists Satish Sabarwal, Imtiaz Ahmed and D.L. Sheth, political scientists Suhas Palshikar and partially Rajni Kothari and Rajeev Bhargav as sources of an alternative understanding that is prepared to look at the inconvenient facts and proposes a more nuanced course of action. We need to take this quest further to Mahatma Gandhi’s own candid engagement with the Hindu-Muslim question, to Rammanohar Lohia and his followers, and even to Right-leaning thinkers like Dharmpal and Nirmal Verma.

Any such attempt would obviously invite the charge of kowtowing to the powers-that-be, if not of being a closet Hindutva supporter. The author anticipates this reaction and offers a mature response: “If so, I would overlook [such a reaction] as a product of despair born out of the continuous defeat of liberalism and secularism in our public life.” The only way to respond to this historic setback is to face up to the mistakes of secularism and do a course correction. Abhay Dubey has started this conversation. Let us hope that this early silence would be followed by vigorous debates. An English translation of this book could be the first step in that direction.

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

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Yadav (to be read YoYa herein onwards), and Dubey are high on proteins, low on carbs (lets for easier understanding call them) morons. Dubey’s name itself is sufficient to not venture into a (physical or digital) store that may have a reck for his purposeless rants based on simplistic assessments about man made conflicts in Indian subcontinent.

    The author of the alleged book and its promoter both are attempting to compliment each other and find an audience, that’s not happening in this lifetime.

    Till such time that any so called thinker radically shifts his/her focus and relooks at the written spoken history with seen and experienced facts, there’s no point writing fictional essays. ‘The impact of the History is the Present’ and alleged heroics of characters has to be reevaluated at the time when their ‘supposed’ acts have brought a ‘null’.

    1. 2 years from 1857 when Mangal Pandey rebelled was the time the first Hindu-Muslim riots happened in context of Ayodhya.

    2. 28 years after 1857, a British civil servant formed congress. The term Congress was chosen by the “13 British colonies for the Continental Congress to emphasise the status of each colony represented there as a self-governing entityFormation of congress”. There is no proven reason to believe A O Humes intention was any different particularly when Gandhi too was contesting for ‘Dominion Status’ for India. And history proves that Congress that operates under the same tricolour as that of Indian Republic was handed over the custody of disjointed India by the brits. Not only this but the brits themselves ignited the conflict of Kashmir by aligning with Pakistani state & non-state actors to imprison Brigadier Ghansara Singh (appointed by Raja Hari Singh) and declare Gilgit-Baltistan accession to Pakistan. That conflict has ensured territorial dispute, purchase of arms at the cost of development, threat of war, Pakistan sponsored terrorism and closely interconnected the furtherance of Hindu-Muslim Conflict in India.

    3. The year congress was born, the brits had made another investment in India, i.e., The Ayodhya dispute reached the courts precisely in the year congress was formed. Any historian ignoring these facts is merely a toddler.

    4. Secularism was buried deep the day Shahbano was defeated by a coward, power hungry dynast who couldn’t do the right thing just like his grandfather couldn’t do the right thing in 1949 at Ayodhya. Both times the owners of powers decided to sacrifice India for their continuance in power.

    History is not a chapter in isolation, it’s a science that delivers results forever, even after the change in course happens. Its only when one traces another nation that stands in-between two hostile expansionist ideologies, disproportionate population to resources, totally corrupted dynastic rule culture, weakened legal apparatus can one make a comment on what India is, should’ve been and would be.

    A lie was made modern history of India, further expansionism was named secularism, dynastic rule was accepted as meritorious, anything native was ridiculed and those who’ve ideologically or socially nothing to do with India ruled not only politically but converged into each jurisdiction of our society. It has to end for India to start.

  2. Much before Islam or Christianity came to India there was a deeply anti-Hindu prince called Siddhartha Gautam and another called Mahavira. All the abuse showered on anyone today with a critical attitude towards the savarna-protection machinery called ‘Hindutva’ was directed at the Buddhists and Jains a millennia ago much before someone called Ghazni set foot on Indian soil. The fact is these upper caste bigots will never accept any philosophy or system that challenges their ‘right’ to freeload off the work of rest of Hindu and Indian society . Vikas Dubey is their real model followed by Yogi Adityanath.

  3. Dividing people on the basis of religion in India is not an accident but a result of carefully crafted policies by the British colonial rulers. The following lines from the concluding pages of “Anand Math” by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee ( Translation by Sree B.K.Ghosh) which summarize the purpose of the book and what lesson the reader should draw from it are eye openers. In the words of Bankim Chatterjee
    “..the Mussulman kingdom is destroyed..Further slaughter of living creatures is useless .. Unless the English rule this land, there is no chance of the renaissance of eternal religion..so we shall make the British our rulers..so long as the Hindus do not become wise worthy and strong, British rule will endure.The subjects will be happy under British control.. O wise one! Desist from fighting the British…The English are now merchants,..they do not care to undertake the responsibility of government.Under the pressure of this Sanatan rebillion they will be compelled to undertake the responsibility of governing this country..The Sanatan rebillion has come only to put the British on the throne..you have helped to establish British Rule.Give up fighting,let people engage in cultivation..The British are our ally and friendly power..Besides none can be victorious ..in a war against the British.”
    It is no wonder that Bankim Chandra Chattarjee who served as a high ranking officer in British India was also honoured with the highest award OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire). “Vande Matram” contnues his legacy and ensures that people do not forget the advice he gave them and which is given in the extract above from his book “Anand Math”.

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  4. Why are these (those who comment on Yogendra Yadav ‘s writings) so cynical? Why don’t you guys just look at he has been doing these years? Please

  5. During last 10 days I have posted many comments but you did not print. If you have blacklisted me, kindly inform so that I need not waste my time again.

  6. Undereducated jhollawallas who wrote fake history that started with mughals and ends with family are saying they can no longer spread lies, divide Hindus and ensure the FAMILY that is corrupt stays in power. That’s the correct interpretation of this write-up.

  7. I cannot believe that Yogendra Yadav has written this piece criticising the secularists. Even students of history knew that sickularists got India’s history wrong, by attributing “Hindu” concept to the British. As rightly noted by the author Dubey, the term “Hindu” finds place in Vijayanagar inscription in Kannada in 14th century itself. Though Savarkar politicised the word “Hindu”, it has always been a collective reference to the dharmic practices, culture, art and literature of the people who were later on grouped as Hindus. But, the secularists saw what they wanted to see. Today’s generation is better aware of the distortions in Indian history caused by the Eminent Historians of JNU and their ilk. In India Secularism has always worked in support of minority commumnalism.

  8. One more Anti Hindu writer marketing another Anti Hindu writer, but with social media, young Hindus are becoming increasingly knowledgable about Hindu past and the danger posed by these Leftist Prestitutes, Muslims and Christian missionaries and Naxals, so Yogender you better of packing to Pakistan along with your family.

  9. In my view the word secularism should be replaced by ‘Pluralism’ because most of the people like to worship. Pluralism faces the problem of blasphemy practised by Muslims. Muslim bigotry has exposed again and again the farce called secularism.

  10. Well if you needed this book to wake up the left ideology, that itself is a problem. As what is said in here is common knowledge amongst the common people.

    – This problem is there for all left parties globally, hence the rise of right wing politics at a global scale.

    – Why a person can’t be hindu or nationlist and still be a liberal ? we tend to pitch them against each other in the quest to attach leftist and liberal ideas together.

    – In my experience most people have shades of left ideology, right wing, centrist and liberal ideas ( i hate when people put left and liberal as one and the same ).

    – Stronger the left’s rehotiric , stronger the right wing will become.

    – Question for left wing parties – are you for true upliftment of humanity or does your victory lies in beating up right wind ideology.

  11. Liberals exploit caste to their advantage, i remember many journalists doing that, as well. If hinduism is getting united why are liberals worried?

  12. Yogendra ji , the wisdom Dube ji is imparting now was brought to the attention of Socialists/ CongressI/ liberals/intellectuals in seventies , almost 50 years back by Hamid Dalwai . His serene voice still rings in my ears telling this audience that their silence on Muslim communalism will give rise to Hindu consolidation but in vain ! He was denied burial land by wise clerics !
    Another irritating habit of Liberal ( in fact it’s incorrect adjective ) historians is to blame Hindus for everything , to some extent justifiable but glorify Muslim invasion almost as salvation can’t be ignored . But still nothing learnt . .Unless the fear in mind of Hindu that his beloved motherland will be partitioned again on the basis of religion is extinguished by behaviour of Muslims , Hindutva will succeed

  13. Quite a one sided paen being sung to a one-sided book of low quality. No need to waste money to buy such a book.
    The book completely ignores the insistence of Muslims to be a singular category. Even today I read an article in the Wire in which an anonymous writer, claiming to be Muslim, talks of how he feels scared in India. Such people who insist on being Muslim should go to Pakistan, the proper country for Muslims. In India, please live like Indians and stop talking of being Muslim and anti-Hindu and stop blaring the azan.

  14. All types of Indian seculars cynically exploited secularism for their own projection & enjoyed share in political power. Arranging Iftar parties during Ramzan with non-muslim hosts themselves in skull caps was considered secular. On the other hand no public celebrations were held during Hindu festivals by such seculars as this would be considered communal. No real improvement has come in common Muslim’s life because of such seculars as this was never their imtention. Only appeasement for political power was the motto. How long could this hypocricy survive. One day it surely
    was going to get exposed. Buddha had said that don’t swallow the red hot ball of iron and then say it hurts. Today all these seculars, who in fact are not seculars but opportunists, stand exposed and isolated. These elites never bothered to communicate with the common Indian.

  15. I am not an expert but here are my two cents

    Hindus are people of the land and were called as such other world since centuries. Outside world termed it for resident but leftist secularist made it religious identity.

    By this definition people were always secular as they followed sarv dharm sambhav which unfortunately is foreign to tribal abrahamic religions.

    Leftist secular compare the societal practices to religion and doing so highlight and glorify the tribal religion by denigrating sanatan.

  16. I wonder, why it required a book to understand Secularism and Liberalism.
    To me, they are simple, to be practiced in daily life and should be inborn traits.
    Secularism for me is, separation of state and religion. Period. By extension, rule of law.
    Liberalism is, to eschew, old harmful/ inane practices, and have rational understanding of things. Period.

    Rest is politics or in other words, politicians/ thugs, mainipulating situations for personal gain.

  17. “Hindutva ideology has become commonsense” is correct but “secularism appears anti-Hindu” is absolutely incorrect. Hindus consider themselves secular. It’s the liberals who don’t accept it. Ahbay Dubey is known for his anti Hindu views and no Hindu would care about him. Liberals real time behaviour proves beyond doubt that to be a Librandu, one must be expert at creating lies, fake news, fabricate data and manufacture stories to sustain their propaganda. Liberandus are nothing but crooks.

  18. Of late I am seeing regularly appeals in The Print asking for subscriptions on the grounds that quality journalism costs money. I would definitely supported you provided The Print had got genuine journalist to write for it. Shivam Vij, Dipak Mandal, Zainab Sikandar, Bismee Taksim etc do not fit that bill. Neither do people like Yogendra Yadav. Journalists should be transparent, unbiased and not let their personal ideologies influence their writing. Sadly this is not the case at The Print.

  19. Yogendra Pandey, please translate Dubey’s book into English and formally join the Hindutva camp! It’s high time the Lohiaite minions at the CSDS joyously join the Hindutva bandwagon. After all, your wonderful pathfinder Lohia was himself a celebrator of sorts of the soft Hindutva. Had he been alive today, I think he would have been working passionately with Modi-Shah for the cause of national and Hindu unity. Moreover, you have worked under Kejriwal, you should have no problem working with the Hindutva custodians of Indian culture. Please shed all shame and spread the unique indigenous wisdom and social reformist agenda of Hindutva ideology! Take inspiration from the likes of Sushma Yadav and Bhupendra Yadav!

    • There is only one problem here. The author himself has confessed that he is semi literate in Hindi. So expecting him or those of his ilk more comfortable in non-Indic thought and philosophy like secularism etc., to meaningfully translate this is asking for too much.

      • That’s fine. Isn’t Hindi after all a foreign language, mostly borrowed from Persian and Turkish? What’s the difference between speaking it and speaking English, if you wanted to be puritanical about Indic thought?

    • Some persons smugly claim to be left/liberal/seculars are propping up the ogre of the RSS (which along with the BJP is clinically alive only) to instil fear among the Muslims. And unfortunately, Muslims love to be allowed to be pallbearers or flag bearers of such forces. Such a lopsided approach often boomerangs and help Modi politically. Lo! when Dubey or Yadav start realising the mistake of neglecting obscurantist among the minorities, they become subject of butt like the writer of this comment. So much venom is in the pen of this writer that he is calling Yogendra Yadav as Yogendra Pandey. With such critics, Modi does not need friends.

  20. Finally somebody has slapped Yogendra Yadav awake. Secularists believe that the Notion of Hindu and a unified Hidutva is a construct of today. They do not quite understand the symbolism of Shivaji in a RSS Shaka. I am not sure how many of these Englais’ sprechening elite have attended one. They have a condescending perspective of their opponent, and a derision of all things India (Hindu). That is the impression that makes them ANTI-HINDU.

    As Yadav notes, this battle against Islam has been going on for a 1000 years. It really does not matter what the Secular Historians write and white wash. The Ganga-Jamuna Tehzib is only in the Secular mind. The reality is far different. Instead of a more reasonable statement of the Muslims of India today are really Converted Indians and not Arab/Mongol, they stick to their guns of how Islamic rulers were benevolent. The anecdotes that sri-vaishnavaite grows up of Malik-Kafur. The stories of Melkote ring loud about the benevolence of Islam. The ruin’s of Indian temples paint a picture that is difficult to explain and paint a picture of Islamic benevolence.

    Post independence, they really do not have a counter to Partition and the rejection of India by Muslim leadership. The Gorilla in the room is that downright rejection of India as a unified nation of Hindus and Muslims. The explanation that not all Muslim leadership felt that way really is irrelevant to the reality of today. Pakistan exists and torments us all the time. The Secular proponents have to wake up and smell the coffee….

    • The Secular proponents are a fraud as they live in their make and believe world. Legally they are indians but by real time behaviour they are far from being Indian. They may write very nice thinks but they themselves don’t practice what they write.

  21. Well written in parts without shedding ideological prejudices completely. Glad that the author acknowledges that many in India’s chattering classes of the so called left liberal’secular type are functionally illiterate in their own languages. This linguistic illiteracy has naturally mutated into an inability to read and understand Indian thought unless translated into a foreign language. Whether the author acknowledges it or not many in this camp are no longer capable of appreciating the nuances of folk wisdom. Along with the foreign language followed a far greater influence of alien thought and philosophies to the extent of a complete negation of local wisdom. So Hinduism is bracketed into the slot of religion as understood in non-Indian philosophy. Social sciences are deeply influenced by concepts developed in completely different settings for eg. in theories of communism, capitalism, equality, communalism, secularism,socialism, liberalism, class differences etc. The day Indian thinkers develop concepts drawn from homegrown observations and experiences much of the conflict will vanish.

  22. Dear sir, someone like you, who is at ease in both languages and thought processes, should translate Mr Dubey’ book.

  23. Yogendra was thrown out of AAP and has no other takers so he has reached his low level that has to team up with Congress ‘The Print’ to spread lies.
    Yoy should change your name to a Muslim name because you are not fit to be a Hindu since you keep attacking us.

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