By Former Indian Supreme Court judge Justice Mrkandey Katju
Speaking to journalists at the National Defence Academy, Kharakvasla, General Bipin Rawat, the Indian army chief, said that if Pakistan wants good ties with India, then it must become a secular state, instead of remaining an Islamic state.
Two issues arise here : (1) It presumes India to be secular, but is it ? (2) What was the real reason for Partition in 1947? I am placing my own point of view on both these issues.
Is India a secular country?
The Preamble to the Indian Constitution proclaims India to be a secular country, and Article 25 guarantees to all its citizens freedom of religious belief and practice. However, this is only on paper.
The ground reality is very different. The truth is that India is a highly communal country, most Hindus being communal and so are also most Muslims. When I am with my Hindu friends and relatives, and they know there are no Muslims present, they often spout venom on Muslims, calling them fanatics, etc. When a Muslim is lynched by cow vigilantes most Hindus are indifferent, and some are in fact inwardly happy. One terrorist less ! Our oft proclaimed ‘secularism’ is therefore only skin deep, and is a fig leaf.
The truth is that secularism is a feature of modern industrial society, not of the preceding feudal society. India is still semi-feudal as evident from the rampant casteism and communalism prevalent in our society.
Why do I say secularism is a feature of industrial society? This needs to be explained.
In feudal societies human groupings are small and scattered over rural areas, ( few people residing in cities ) and religion has a powerful hold over the minds of people. People of other religions are often regarded as devilish and enemies. For example, in Europe before the creation of industrial society there were frequent violent attacks by Catholics and Protestants on each other, e.g. in the St.Bartholomew Day Massacre of Protestants in France in 1572. The Jews were often subjected to pogroms, many Christians believing that in their religious rituals Jews drank the blood of Christian children, etc. People of other religions and heretics were often burnt at the stake e.g. in the Spanish Inquisition and by the English Queen ‘Bloody’ Mary, etc.
On the other hand, in industrial society human groupings are large and concentrated in cities, in factories, offices, educational institutions etc. Hence in industrial societies there is much more proximity and interaction between humans, and when humans interact they realise that people of other religions are not devilish or enemies, as earlier presumed, rather they share a common interest with them of getting higher wages and better living conditions. Also, with the advance of science in industrial society the hold of religion on men’s minds becomes weak.
That is why secularism is a feature of modern industrial society, and unless such a society is created in India, it will remain a largely communal country, whatever its Constitution may say.
Gen Rawat believes that there can be good relations between India and Pakistan, and the way to do it is by Pakistan becoming a secular country. This statement again is naive and shows that the General, like most others, has little understanding of the historical British swindle called Partition of 1947.
There were two real reasons why the British partitioned India:
1. If India had remained united it could emerge as a powerful industrial giant, like China of today, and thus a big rival to British industry. This needs a deeper understanding.
Cost of labour is a big chunk of the total cost of production, and so if the cost of labour is less the cost of production is less, and if the cost of production is less one can sell his product at a cheaper price than his rival.
There is competition in the market, and one businessman eliminates another not by guns or bombs but by underselling him.
China set up a massive industrial base after its revolution of 1949, and this massive industrial base coupled with the cheap labour available in China enables the Chinese to undersell the whole world in consumer goods. That is why Western supermarkets are packed with Chinese goods which sell at less than half the price at which Western manufacturers can sell them (because of the much higher cost of Western labour).
Now Indian labour is cheaper than even Chinese labour. So we can even undersell the Chinese once we create a massive industrial base. But then how will Westerners sell their costly goods ? Who will buy them when we can produce the same goods for one third the price?
So to prevent India from developing a huge industrial base and become an industrial giant the British divided us on religious lines so that we keep fighting each other.
2. After the Second World War a massive arms industry was created by many Western countries, earning huge profits. By partitioning India, sales of a huge amount of arms to the sub continent has been ensured. Today India is the biggest purchaser of foreign arms in the world, and has already spent billions of dollars in this, money which a poor country with scant resources should have spent on the welfare of its people.
Hostile relations between India and Pakistan, even if not actual war, ensures purchase of a huge amount of foreign arms. That is why all talk of improving relations between India and Pakistan, such as that advocated by organisations like Aman ki Asha, is living in a fools paradise. In fact whenever it appeared that relations could improve, as happened when Prime Minister Vajpayee undertook his Lahore bus yatra, or recently in the inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor, it was followed soon thereafter by a Kargil War or statements by political leaders pouring cold water over the growing warmth.
General Rawat’s belief that relations between the two countries could improve only reveals his naïveté and callow thinking. If Pakistan declares itself a secular country, its very raison d’être will cease to exist
(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Indian Supreme Court judge and ex-chairman of Press Council of India)