Buddha-Dhamma, Secular Laws and Bahujan Politics in Uttar Pradesh: Indian Realities against Western Categories

By Das, Shiv Shankar | Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences, June 2014 | Go to article overview

Buddha-Dhamma, Secular Laws and Bahujan Politics in Uttar Pradesh: Indian Realities against Western Categories


Das, Shiv Shankar, Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences


Introduction

As it is largely accepted discourse in academia that secularism is the modern construction of Christian colonialism resulted from the european wars of religion in 16th-17th century and subsequent treaty of Westphalia. The journey of secularism from Europe to Asian-African societies along with colonialism carries some essential aspects such as its origin as a Christian-truth extracting the common principles among the many fightings Christian sects in the war of religion and secondly, the Hobbesian (1) law to govern society by keeping private and public sphere separate. In Hobbesian notion of social-contract theory of the state, the power to make law is handed over to a secular monster (head of the state).

The advocate of secularism argues that to promote good governance with peaceful co-existence and devoid of many secetrian violence, the binaries are constructed by which the law, politics, economy are made secular-public affairs far away from any applicability or importance in personal human affairs. So, the explicit intention is shown that these secular spheres will work as impersonal, neutral or in a secular way while in Asian realities these spheres were not separate but have been interwoven closely. For example, the emperor Asoka who was governing Indian subcontinent in 300 BC has closely mixed religion and politics and interestingly without any problem of sects and violence which worries the modern secularists. Unlike modern Eurocentric Christian notion of binary relationship between religion and secularism, for him, the polity/law and buddha-dhmma were very close to each other. Thus, the buddha-dhamma perspective on good governance is poles apart than European colonial legacy by which many problems in post-colonial Asian societies have loomed large. The category of world religions by which six-seven religions are given the status of global importance has led the negative consciousness among many communities not covered in these religions, subsequently leading enimity and arch competition among them. While for buddha-dhamma i.e. morality/moral laws is universal truth rather than in fragments or divisions. How we can divide truth!!

The most reverent figure for Indian Neo-Buddhists in contemporary period is B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), who took deeksha with almost one million people in 1956. He not only spread a dhammachakra pravartan during his deeksha ceremony but also was a main figure in Indian politics, who was largely credited as constitutional law maker. Though, in the Constitution, he separates the religion from the politics of the state, but his last book 'Buddha and His Dhamma' makes this binary non-functional. This point is defined by Timothy Fitzgerald in the following words,

   As the chairman of the Constitutional Drafting Committee Dr.
   Ambedkar was partly responsible for formalising the separation of
   religion from the non-religious secular state, and consequently
   contributing to the invention of reifications such as Hinduism and
   Buddhism. Yet, his final book Buddha and His Dhamma makes Buddhism
   difficult to distinguish from secular science or from the
   ideological basis of social democracy. Thus, while the Constitution
   separates religion and politics, Buddha dhamma as a system of
   egalitarian values and social democracy tends to problematise and
   even subvert the distinction. (2)

As Ambedkar in his book 'Buddha and His Dhamma' problematise the modern distinction of religion from politics, a similar ambiguity from western perspective is seen in the bahujan politics of the Uttar Pradesh. The Bahujan Samaj Party led by Mayawati, as a Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh four times (1995, 1997, 2002 and 2007) worked as subverting this distinction broadly but manipulated it in such a manner that not to go unconstitutional as well. Her government has been largely the cynosure of media criticism due to financing the architecture naming after the saints of egalitarian traditions such as Gautam Buddha, Kabir, Nanak, Ravidas, Jyotirao Phule, Shahuji Maharaj, Ambedkar and Kanshi Ram. …

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