Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Radical and the Faithful

Here is a piece that I wrote in the editorial page of the Indian Express on Thursday, August 6, 1998.

The topic remains relevant and even more urgent these days, especially since the holy war unleashed by George W Bush and his gang of neo-cons on the one hand is sought to be met by the united front now being forged by leaders like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and iran's Ahmadi Nejad, on the other.

This is reproduced with a hope of generating a discussion among the readers. So kindly respond:

Unlike the days when the faithful and the left found themselves divided by irreconcilable differences, ruling out any common approach to social or political issues, contemporary India throws up a host of new challenges and opportunities likely to bring them closer.
Minorities are genuinely concerned that their position is threatened, with the series of provocations on the part of the Hindutva brigade and the secular concept itself being attacked, and their feelings are more or less shared by a left committed to fight the spread of communalism in society and polity.

But in spite of the commonality of interests and even the fact that the minorities do realise the sincerity of the left perceptions and commitment vis-a-vis the minorities, they have failed to work together in a conscious effort to forge a genuinely secular political platform.

What we have seen as the secular fronts in contemporary Indian politics were only conglomerations of casteist and other sectarian interests in alliance with the leftand centrist parties, essentially committed to the single-point agenda of capturing power. In all these experiments ever since 1977, there has been little or practically no participation or leading role for the minorities with their special problems and grievances. Now even this ramshackle alliance has come unstuck with little prospect of a new realignment in the near future. No firm and meaningful secular alliance is possible in India unless it is built upon the solid foundation of the minorities.

In Kerala where the united front tactics were first experimented and perfected, the Christian and Muslim leaderships and their respective political parties have generally remained aloof and alien from the left-led alliances, except on a few occasions. This has been the case right from the first Communist ministry led by EMS Namboodiripad in 1957 and to this date they remain more or less with the Congress alliance. We can cite many reasons for this but it is also to be remembered that until recently the Congresscommitment to the principle of secularism was unchallenged and the minorities had accepted this as a fact. But this mindset is fast undergoing a change as the Christian hierarchy and the Muslim ulema are now amenable to the idea of an understanding with the left to safeguard secular interests.However, this is an alliance based on necessity, a product of compulsions of contemporary political life. As such it would remain fragile and uneasy, showing a tendency to fall apart especially in the event of sections in the minority communities exploring possibilities of accommodation with majority communalism. Such an eventuality would be disastrous for the country's future, but it is a probability as we have seen sizable sections of Muslims, even in UP, flocking to vote the BJP and its allies for ensuring more safety.It calls for a deeper and cohesive new political alliance with a substantial representation for minorities so that they would be in the forefront of the struggle against communalism, and would not cavein under threats. It is high time the left and the religious leadership put their heads together in search of effective instruments cementing the secular alliance, and for this they would have to transcend the political realm and look for philosophical and ideological bonds. But this is a suggestion likely to be frowned upon, both by the ulema and Church, still steeped in conservatism, and also the left, mainly inspired by dogmatic theories of the thirties.

Still, there are feeble indications to the contrary. The minuscule section in the Church committed to liberation theology and the progressive Muslim groups and scholars calling for reforms, have expressed their willingness to work with the ``atheistic left'' giving hopes that in future this could be kindled into a decisive element linking the faithful and the radicals.Just as liberation theology finds common strands in Marxism and Christianity in social and economic concerns, Islam's inherent anti-imperialism and its economic concept vehemently rejectsthe capitalist credo of survival of the fittest. This could be an ideal ground for a new dialogue between the two.

(From The Indian Express, August 6, 1998

No comments: