Secular education policy alone can unite people against fascist designs to precipitate divide and disharmony
Recently hijab controversy raged in the state of Karnataka. The media, particularly electronic media, has been propagating this issue throughout India. The controversy arose in a PU college of Udupi, a costal city district of the state. In the controversy, six girls refused to remove hijab as it was their custom, when the college authorities insisted on only wearing uniform. Countering this, a group of boys appeared on the scene in a pre-planned way with saffron shawls and saffron head gears. There are some videos in circulation, in which a few people are found distributing saffron-coloured shawls and head gear (‘peta’ or ‘pagidi’ in local language) to the students. As per media report, a minister’s son was distributing those saffron wears and later collecting them back. All these items are stated to have been brought from either Surat or Varanasi according to a section of the media. The boys insisted before the college authorities that if the girls were allowed inside the college with hijabs, then they should also be allowed with saffron shawls and saffron head gears. The college authorities stopped both the sides and did not permit them to enter the college. Within no time, such incidents were reported from many other cities of the state as well. Wherever hijab wearing girls came to the colleges, a huge number of boys wearing saffron shawls and head-gears arrived at the spots. Whether they were students or not, nobody can say. This very fact was indicative of a well-planned design behind deliberately inciting divide and disharmony among the students belonging to two religious communities. Then suddenly the Bommai-led BJP government of the state called for a cabinet meeting and passed an order making uniforms compulsory for all those students in such colleges where it’s made compulsory already. At the same time, viewing growing tension the government closed all the educational institutions for three days.
Hindu communal motive was evident
Meanwhile some students belonging to the minority community approached the Karnataka High Court seeking verdict in favour of wearing hijabs by girl students. The case was first taken up by a single judge but later transferred to a three judge Division Bench, which included the Chief Justice of Karnataka. On the first day itself this Bench gave an interim order requesting both the parties to come in prescribed college uniform only, but not with hijab or saffron shawls and head gear, till the final verdict was pronounced. Again the Karnataka government closed down schools and colleges for another three days! So the students lost working days for almost a week. In some colleges, authorities provided a private place to remove hijab to attend classes. In some colleges, the minority community girls were not allowed to enter the college in the name of high court order. Some girls argued that hijab was their custom and religion is greater than education. Hence, they went back without attending classes. Some BJP leaders and cabinet ministers too were found to threaten the minority community girls to ‘go to Pakistan’ and ridicule them by saying, ‘you don’t want education’ etc.. Clearly, these utterances smacked of Hindu communalism and anti-minority hatred that the RSS-BJP-Sangh Parivar have been in avid pursuit of.
One interesting incident deserves mention. In Mandya city (a city adjacent to Mysore), a girl walking with hijab, was followed by a group of boys demanding her to remove hijab and shout ‘Jai Sri Ram’ slogans. Suddenly she turned back and shouted ‘Allah ho Akbar’ instead. This scene wherein this single girl boldly challenged a bunch of saffron-clad boys went viral throughout the world. From various quarters, the girl received contributions as reward for her brave act. In turn she declared that the entire money would be donated to poor people, for ambulance service, for hospital etc. Some reporters asked her, ‘are you not angry with these boys, who misbehaved with you?’ She replied ‘after all they are ignorant, they were misguided, I don’t want to complain against them. They are my brothers, they need to be educated’. A redeeming gesture indeed! This gesture is also widely appreciated in all quarters.
Genesis of the issue
For a correct appraisal of the hijab issue we need to study the history of growth of secularism and the peculiarities of our country. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, Founder General Secretary of the SUCI(C) and an outstanding Marxist leader and thinker, in course of his brilliant analysis of Indian freedom movement based on Marxist methodology, had shown that the mainstream of our freedom struggle was led by the national bourgeoisie, who compromised with imperialism and feudalism, and was represented by Gandhiji, Nehru, Patel and their followers. Alongside, there was another the uncompromising petty bourgeois revolutionary trend represented by Kshudiram Bose, Bhagat Singh, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Chandra Sekhar Azad, Ashfaqulla Khan, Surya Sen, Preetilata Waddedar, etc. Comrade Shibdas Ghosh pointed out that Gandhiji was undoubtedly an honest man—had honesty of conviction. But his socio-political line known as Gandhism had been a tool in the hands of aspirant Indian national bourgeoisie to prevail over the uncompromising trend and ultimately usurp power following exit of British imperialism. It bears recall that in Europe, be it in England, France or Germany, bourgeois democratic revolution was accomplished in the rising period of capitalism. The leading personalities of the Renaissance movement had waged revolutionary struggle to democratize society based on secular concept. But by the time freedom struggle started to take root in India, capitalism, riddled with world-market crisis, had not only lost its uncompromising, revolutionary character but entered its decadent stage. As explained by Comrade Shibdas Ghosh: ‘‘…it should be noted that in India the process of formation of nation started in the second half of the nineteenth century, when capitalism, as a world social force, had not only lost its revolutionary character but also become definitely anti-revolution. Over and above this general characteristic, Indian capitalism had its specific features. Unlike western capitalism, which grew independently, Indian capitalism grew and developed under the domination of foreign finance capital with feudal relations surrounding it. As a result, it had a stunted growth.’’… (On Communal Problems)
In the meanwhile, the Great November Revolution had taken place in Russia in 1917. USSR was established under the leadership of Great Lenin and thereafter led by Stalin. Capitalism had been overthrown, socialism established, and a working class state established. That is why Comrade Shibdas Ghosh pointed out that mortal fear complex of proletarian revolution got reflected in Gandhiji’s thoughts and he adopted the policy of compromising with imperialism and feudalism. On the one hand, Gandhiji did not want militant movement against British imperialism. He preached non-violence as a weapon. He took recourse to Satyagraha, absolutely peaceful means of protest. On the other hand, his struggle against feudalism and its evils in the social- cultural sphere was also compromising. That is why Comrade Shibdas Ghosh pointed out, in Europe where the bourgeois democratic revolution was accomplished, the struggle had been uncompromising and revolutionary not only in the political field but also in the socio-cultural field. But ‘‘the Indian nationalist leadership not only did not try to free the Indian masses from the bondage of religion and democratize the society by carrying out the tasks of social and cultural revolutions, it took up, on the contrary, religion as a vehicle of propagating nationalistic ideas. Indian nationalism, therefore, was basically religion-oriented. This religion-oriented nationalism manifested itself in the form of Hindu religious revivalism.’’ (ibid.)
Gandhiji, in fact, compromised with feudalism and did not uphold the banner of desired socio-cultural revolution for democratization of society. That’s why, he sang the song of ‘Ishwar and Allah being one and the same’, thus trying to unify people through religion and prayed to God that good sense prevailed on all. In this way, he brought Hindu religion, along with his personal belief in religious tolerance, into the mainstream of freedom struggle.
What is secularism
Now what is the concept of secularism? Secular means ‘this worldly’; it deals exclusively with worldly affairs. Thus, the concept of secularism denotes that state affairs, which are worldly affairs, are conducted independent of any religious considerations whatsoever, or carried out based on ‘non-recognition of a supernatural entity’, while religion is the personal affair of an individual. Thus, a truly secular state, in the words of Comrade Shibdas Ghosh: ‘‘…guarantees full freedom to the believers to profess any faith as well as to the non-believers. By carrying out the tasks of social and cultural revolutions, it democratizes the society and takes the wind out of the sail of religion,…’’ (ibid.) Naturally, secularism cannot be equated with encouragement to all religions as is often posed today. So, a secular state is supposed to be neutral to religion, should neither encourage nor discourage any religion and view religion as a private affair. I may be a Hindu, I may be a Muslim or I may be a Christian. I may go to temple or mosque or church or I may be an atheist also. It is entirely my choice. The state is neutral to the religious belief. That is called secularism.
Further, thinking of every individual is personification of this or that social thinking. Since, the capitalist society is class-divided, the thoughts of both the oppressing class and oppressed class are prevailing. So, every individual thinking should be analyzed on the basis of class approach and class base. That is the teaching of the philosophy of Marxism-Leninism based on science and experimentally verified truth. Wherefrom did Gandhi get his ideas? Comrade Shibdas Ghosh categorically told that Gandhiji no doubt had real love for people. But, he was not aware how his thinking and ideology was representing the bourgeois class interest in the best manner. The British imperialists from their class instinct could realize that Gandhism did not pose any danger to their bourgeois class interest. So they highlighted Gandhian leadership but cruelly suppressed uncompromising revolutionary freedom fighters. At that time, CPI was there. But we know that it did not develop as a genuine communist party. So, it couldn’t utilize the historic condition—isolate the compromising leadership, combine with the uncompromising leadership and move towards the path of establishing socialism in India just the way, great Mao Zedong accomplished Peoples Democratic Revolution in China by moving in the correct Marxist way.
Set to pursue his own belief, Gandhiji, in effect, wanted to prevent the thought of working class revolution from taking roots by all means. On the other hand, he wanted the unity of the people, because British imperialism was to be made to leave India. But he only went to the extent of uniting people that was required to transfer power from the British imperialism to Indian bourgeoisie.
On the other hand, this was not the approach of the uncompromising revolutionary trend upheld by Netaji Subhash, Bhagat Singh and their followers. Netaji gave a clarion call to the people ‘give me blood, I will give you freedom’. He told people that without taking up arms against the British colonial rule, it was not possible to achieve freedom. Because the ruling Britishers would suppress any upheaval in favour of freedom with arms. So, armed revolution was the necessity. Bhagat Singh also believed in armed struggle. He was also a militant fighter and believer in Marxism-Leninism.
Freedom movement ended in a half-baked and truncated way
We know how Netaji’s INA had so many Muslims along with Hindus, all working together. So also there was a renowned common kitchen in the INA. For all castes and all people of different religions the same kitchen was providing food. Because an INA soldier is a soldier who is fighting against British, that’s all. He started the Jhansi Rani regiment in INA upholding real equality for women, or gender equality—a concept of women’s liberation once upheld by the Renaissance movement. This was the nature of struggle conducted by Netaji and other revolutionaries. That kind of culture Gandhiji could not promote. So he could not unite the people on secular democratic basis. In such circumstances, British imperialists and the Indian national bourgeoisie succeeded in promoting Gandhiji’s leadership and ultimately power was transferred to the Indian national bourgeoisie through compromise and the Congress, as their representative took the reins in independent India. Thus, India achieved political independence but not the desired abolition of exploitation of man by man by accomplishing working class revolution. Also, in absence of democratization of the society, Indian people remained disunited by caste, religion, region and ethnicity. In this way, our freedom movement ended in a half-baked and truncated way.
Congress never practised secularism in independent India and BJP is openly flaunting Communal Hindutva
In post-independence India, the Congress never followed a real secular policy. Its policy of encouraging all religions, as mentioned above, can never be a true secular policy. In this regard Comrade Shibdas Ghosh raised the question that if Pakistan is called a theocratic state because of encouraging Islam from the state plane, India encouraging all religions should be called a a multi theocratic state not a secular state. The Congress governments encouraged all types of religious practices in government offices and educational institutions. The Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers and other ministers publicly performed Hindu religious practices. Even in Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) ‘puja’ is performed before launching a rocket. On the other hand, Rajiv Gandhi government, after Shah Bano case, nullified the Supreme Court judgement to appease the minority community for vote. At the same time to placate the majority Hindu community, it opened the lock of Ram Lala in the Babri Masjid premises and virtually paved the way of fuelling Hindu communalism and disturbing Hindu-Muslim amity. So many times Congress governments not only divided the people on religious lines for petty parliamentary gains but also engineered fratricidal bloodbaths. Now the BJP government is openly flaunting its Hindutva credential, spewing venom against the minorities and keeping the air surcharged with communal fanaticism to divide people, create polarization along religious lines and thereby reap electoral mileage to grab power. This is the history of so-called secularism practised in India.
Now if we study the hijab issue in the background of this history, we shall find that it is a craftily hatched controversy. Performance of Hindu religious rituals and pujas of Hindu idols like Ganesha, Saraswati and Ayudh in educational institutions is a regular practice. So, our question is why hijab is only singled out and made a controversial issue? Is this not discriminatory, and being raised with the sole motive of fanning up rabid communalism?
BJP fanned up hijab issue to accentuate communal polarization
In all these decades of post-independent India, the bourgeois rulers have exploited the working class and toiling millions ruthlessly and pauperized them. Hunger, unemployment, inequality, retrenchment, inflation, etc., are ever growing. Life has become most suffocating. Different sections of people are coming forward and building up movements on their burning demands. As the assembly elections were due to be held in five states, the BJP was making all-out attempts to somehow capture power, particularly in UP. So it was trying to polarize people on communal lines by inciting communal frenzy. It exacerbated hate campaign against the minorities to garner majority Hindu votes.
Role of our Party and its mass fronts
Our Party and its mass organizations since inception have been demanding scientific, secular and democratic education. But the state and central governments never fulfilled the demand but did the just opposite. Even Vivekananda who believed in Vedanta had emphatically declared: ‘‘religion, hands off education’’. What a war cry! He and all Renaissance personalities demanded that education should be separated from religion, while religion should be made a purely private affair. Struggle for achieving this process of democratization is still lagging far behind. But now since all religious practices are allowed in the institutes, why has suddenly this hijab issue been singled out? If for the sake of uniformity in schools all religious practices are disallowed then hijab also may be justly disallowed. But keeping intact all other religious practices and rituals but banning only one, cannot but indicate rabid communalism.
The Karnataka State Committee of our Party SUCI (Communist) as well as its mass organizations AIDSO, AIMSS and AIDYO issued statements condemning the motivated move to fan up communal rancour and hailing the brave girl. Activists of AIDSO are actively moving among the students in hostels and colleges to expose the heinous design of the vested interest. Party and AIDYO, AIMMSS activists are working among the people and also carrying on their campaign through wall writing, citing quotations of Vivekananda, Netaji Subhash, Bhagat Singh and other eminent Renaissance personalities of Karnataka regarding religion, education and secularism. These quotations received wide coverage in various newspapers and TV channels. This is a good opportunity for progressive forces and revolutionaries to educate the people about these important issues and the sinister import of the Hindutva group.
But people, by and large, are not in a mood to fall prey to these heinous tactics. They have begun to understand the pernicious bourgeois design and are closing their ranks to voice protest. Different sections of toiling masses are coming into movements. Already we have witnessed a successful historic peasant movement. On 28 and 29 March, millions of workers under the united banner of 10 major central trade unions and associated organizations have called for massive nationwide strike. Our people have the history of fighting back the fascistic Indira Gandhi emergency.
So Modi-led BJP government will also not succeed in this evil design of driving wedge into the fighting unity of the oppressed millions by shrewdly playing communal card.