India is a country which is home to many cultures and religions. It is a country which has had a tumultuous religious history, but remains a secular nation till date. Since the partition of 1947, there have been numerous communal conflicts that have taken place in various parts of India. These communal conflicts have brought to the fore the communal divide that exists between different communities of the ‘secular’ India. Till a few years back, this divide was only evident in the scattered conflicts that used to grab media attention. But in the recent years, this divide has been continually highlighted by the political parties of India in order to increase their vote bank.
A clear example of this religiously inclined political propaganda is the situation in the state of West Bengal just before the State Assembly polls. Over the past few years, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been successful in arousing the “Hindu” consciousness among most Indians to such an extent that they are ready to rise to any situation that challenges their culture and religion. This propaganda has been used by the party over and over again not just to win the 2019 election by a huge margin but also the state elections in various states. A similar plan of action is being carried out in the state of West Bengal prior to the upcoming elections. A deliberate fanning of the communal sentiments of the people is being done in order to make them feel the need to side with a particular party that appeal to their religious consciousness and vote for them.
As opposed to the Hindutva right, the leftists who are so called the ‘secularists’ make a very weak opposition which is often lacking clarity of intentions and strength of character. Even though the number of people who believe and support secular values are large, the resonance of their voices are often drowned by the storming Hindutva right wing people and the media which is controlled by the government in a huge way. Also, the frequency with which one is labelled as an ‘antinational’ for having a different set of opinion has created a sense of fear to express freely. The other political parties, who are opposing the BJP, have their own agendas under the banner of promoting secularism. The creation of the Indian Secular Front party by a Muslim cleric is one such example. In spite of having the word secular in the party’s name, the coalition of this party with the Congress was much ridiculed by the people because of the fundamentalist views of the creator of the former party who is well known for his religious speeches. The lack of conviction in the parties standing for election has put the Indian people in dilemma about casting their vote. Thus, sticking to their religious sentiments and voting seems rational to them.
So the question remains, can politics in India be practiced without religious propaganda? Not in the near future. Since having a religious propaganda has made a few parties taste power, the scheme of things may not change anytime soon. However, when the focus shifts to fulfilling the basic needs of the society in general without religious considerations, then the political scene in India may see a new beginning.
Below are a few questions to the people of India and the government authorities-
1- Are the people of India willing to raise their voices against the political parties trying to merge religion and politics?
2- Why no action is taken against those who are trying to stir up people from minority religions like Muslim and Christianity by chanting “Jai Shree Ram” during political campaigns?
3- Can the political parties simply focus on doing their part for the society and people rather than trying to incite people from minority religion in the country?
4- Why government authorities do not learn from other nations like Canada where people live and let others live irrespective of their religion or original nationality?
5- Have the government authorities ever tried to listen from the people of minority religion in the country if they feel safe? – If the central government itself is raising the propaganda of “Hindutva” across, how can they feel comfortable?
6- Last but not the least, can a political party in India win just by showing their plans for the people, the work they have done, how are they planning to address the issues and their readiness for crisis situations? If yes, we would like to see that happening!