Secularism in crisis, it is now time for Modi to speak out

Are you, like me, disturbed by developments over the last two weeks? I cannot say they are proof of a deliberate attempt to undermine our constitutional commitment to secularism but they certainly seem suggestive of it. And the prime minister’s deafening and deliberate silence only adds to my concern.

First, however, the background. We’ve had a spate of Hindutva-style comments since the new government took over. The love jihad assertions we already know about. In addition, Mohan Bhagwat has claimed all Indians are Hindus, Kalraj Mishra said Hindutva is India’s identity, Sushma Swaraj asked for the Gita to be declared India’s national book and Niranjan Jyoti called those who are not Ramzadon haramzadon. In fact, you could say the prime minister started this when in June, in Parliament, he said a slave mentality of 1,200 years is still troubling India.

The issue is: Are these just innocuous and silly mistakes? Or do they reflect a communal or, at least, a non-secular mind-set? Worse, do they add up to some sort of deliberate attempt to hinduise India by changing our perception of ourselves?

I would have dismissed all of this had the Bajrang Bal and Dharma Jagran Manch (DJM) not launched a campaign of conversions. We now have adequate proof the 57 Muslim families converted in Agra were lured by misleading promises of BPL, aadhaar and ration cards. Though postponed, the same organisations wanted to convert 4,000 Christians and 1,000 Muslim families in Aligarh on Christmas. At least two BJP MPs, Yogi Adityanath and Satish Gautam, were to be present.

Secularism in crisis, it is now time for Modi to speak out by Karan Thapar

Rajeshwar Singh, the DJM’s convener, added to my concern when he said: “Aligarh was chosen because it’s time we wrest this Hindu city from Muslims.” Christmas was chosen because he wants a trial of strength between Christianity and Hinduism. “If their religion is better they can stop them … if they come to us on Christmas, its the biggest rejection of their faith” (Economic Times, 10/12).

The Dharma Jagran Manch has said its target is 200,000 conversions a year. When you set a target you can hardly claim the conversions are voluntary! A target is something you set out to achieve.

Finally, the government has decided to observe the 25th of December as Good Governance Day in honour of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya. But did they forget it’s also Christmas? Or do they believe Messrs. Vajpayee and Malviya are more important than Jesus Christ?

Would Mr Modi have chosen Diwali or Holi for Good Governance Day? Undoubtedly not. So how did he dare to choose Christmas? This feels like a calculated affront to Christianity and Christians.

Now, do you see why I’m troubled? I want to believe the best of this government. I want to trust them. But in the last fortnight their actions have made it hard if not, almost, impossible.

We voted for good governance, transparency, economic growth and for a united future as Indians. Am I right in feeling all of that has taken a back seat in the last 15 days? A very different BJP has somehow emerged at the centre of the stage and is now defiantly presenting itself.

In contrast, the prime minister, who usually has so much to say, is silent. Does he approve of what’s happening? But if he’s critical of his allies and MPs why doesn’t he openly say so? Public silence can only damage his image.

Speak out, Mr Modi! We need to know where you stand.

Secularism in crisis, it is now time for Modi to speak out by Karan Thapar