Challenging the rise of majoritarianism

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D Raja writes: This can only be done by renewed focus on the real and concrete issues of dignity, livelihood, health, employment and housing

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration of the Kashi Vishwanath corridor in Varanasi. (Twitter)

The widely telecast inauguration of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor by Prime Minister Narendra Modi displayed the nefarious designs of the ruling regime. The invocation of Hindu symbols and ritualistic practices by the PM in a state function gave de facto official status to the majority religion. These developments throw open numerous questions regarding the relationship between the state and religion in a multi-religious, multicultural country.

While the Constitution categorically proclaims India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, the current ruling regime willfully ignores this promise. Choosing to stand true to the vision manufactured in Nagpur, this right-wing Brahmanical regime is prioritising intolerance. While direct physical violence by these forces is the most evident, one has to be equally wary of the deep discursive violence inflicted. For a political formulation whose imagination is propped up by religion, the multicultural reality of the subcontinent is unpalatable. While a single definition of secularism has been evasive, modern nation-states have since long grappled with this principle.

Scientific socialism since its inception understood the role religion plays in an unequal exploitative society. Marx famously wrote: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.”

In India, we saw the rise of the RSS-BJP in the uncertain years after the financial crisis of 2008-09, riding the chariot of Hindutva. The Hindu religion had no institution akin to the church and it remained heavily localised in practice. The RSS and its obsession with uniformity has propelled them to devise monolithic interpretations of certain strands of Brahmanical texts, which they wish to impose on this extremely diverse society. This thought is not only dangerous for communal harmony but it can also push us back by hundreds of years by diverting us from issues of material interest. Certain contemporary developments have been disturbing in this regard. Recently, a few municipalities in Gujarat embarked on a mission to outlaw the public sale of non-vegetarian food. A BJP MP from Gujarat issued an ultimatum to tribals that the benefits of reservation will be snatched away from them if they do not convert to Hinduism.

The elevation of the religion of the majority as the de-facto state religion becomes a real threat. We should be conscious of French thinker Voltaire’s words: “… whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” The rise of religious common sense can be challenged and rejected only by bringing back the focus on the real and concrete issues of dignity, livelihood, health, employment and housing.

The important question before us is: Should we let religion interfere with, or take over, the workings of a secular state or should we resist this deviousness of the Hindu right? The lessons of our independence movement and the sacrifices of countless freedom fighters point us in only one direction.

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Disclaimer: Challenging the rise of majoritarianism - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect point-of-view

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