Tussle between Communalism and Secularism in India

By Haque, Mohammed Zahirul | Economic Review, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Tussle between Communalism and Secularism in India


Haque, Mohammed Zahirul, Economic Review


After the fall of I.K. Gujrals United Front Government on 28 November 1997, the 12th general election has been scheduled to be held in India- the sixth largest country of the world having a large area of 1266.595 sq. miles and a dense population of about 966134000 people with a density of 760 per square mile with variegated religions cultures and languages with more than 82% Hindus and 13% Muslims. India has 600 million voters.

The polls for all 543 seats of the National Assembly will take place on four staggering dates of February 16, 22, 28 and March 2, and the final results will be announced within a week.

There are three main groups in the arena (1) The United Front, (2) The Congress, and (3) The Hindu Nationalists.

The United Front is a loose alliance of more than a dozen disparate parties. It was formed only two years ago with a view to filling in a political vacuum. This is the first election in which the Front is campaigning under an umbrella of joint manifesto. But analysts say that the Front is yet inherently unstable. The group consists of the centrists, the leftists as well as the regional parties lacking national perspectives and having contradicting objectives.

The United Front is unlikely to form a majority. Its minority governments formed by H.D. Dave Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral continued to work because the Congress, the second group in the house, coalesced with the Front with a view to keeping the Hindu Nationalists Party BJP and others out of power. But when the Congress pulled the plug, the government of United Front could not sustain and fell on the ground. Their chance of forming a government has become more remote, because of the exit of the Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has hinted to rejoin hands with the Congress with a view to preventing the Hindu Nationalists from coming to power.

The All India Congress Party which is practically wielded by Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is the oldest nationalist party of India founded in 1886. Although it is inherently Indian nationalists, yet owing to the Hindu majority it has a tilt towards Hindu communalism. It has, however, the credit of struggling and fighting against the British empire, and wrestling the freedom of India from it. The Congress has also the credit of ruling India for more or less 45 years out of 50 years of Indian Independence. But its popularity has been steadily declining since early 1980s, because of the upsurge of regional parties having narrow outlook.

The Congress was cast off when it was voted out of office, and replaced by the Hindu Nationalists, the fanatic communalists, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the largest Parliamentary Party. Worse of it is that sore e of the Congress leaders now stand discredited and are facing corruption trials.

The Hindu nationalists have flocked together under the banner of the best organised Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It enjoyed power for a very short while in 1996 just to collapse within a fortnight after failing to establish a majority in the hung parliament.

This time the BJP has grown in height in a spectacular fashion since winning just two seats in 1984. It is still in power in five out of twenty five Indian states. It believes in "one nation, one people, and one culture" Its critics call it fascist and for that reason a threat to India's secular constitution. Yet the party claims that it is not at all communal or anti-Muslim. Still it has cast little impact on the Muslim Society. The Muslim scholars think that this party is not at all trustworthy and should better be prevented from grabbing the power. In a meeting organised by the Aligarh University old students forum, political scientists and professors of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jamia Hamdard, Delhi etc. said that the whole community should fight tooth and nail to keep BJP out of power. The consensus in the meeting was that the BJP was "a communal party," in whose regime the largest minority is sure to be made a target of their atrocities. …

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