Right now, in two different parts of India, members of two different communities, Hindus in Kerala and Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, are protesting against their respective state governments.
Both groups feel that they have been wronged by their state governments. That their freedom to practice their religion has been infringed upon. But if you look at the two groups, their respective demands and the way the issues are being portrayed in the media, you will discover the fundamental injustice done to Hindus under Indian secularism.
Indian secularism gives Muslim community the rights to public property but does not allow the Hindu community to even have private property!
Let’s examine the Muslim demand first. The Uttar Pradesh government has passed an order that prohibits Muslims from carrying out Friday prayers in certain public areas of Noida.
This has immediately been fed into the narrative of “Muslims under attack”. Questions have been raised: why can’t Muslims use public space to pray? Doesn’t the Indian Constitution give every person the right to practice their religion? Let them pray. They are not bothering anybody.
Well, except for the inconvenience when thousands of people take over a public space such as a road or a park and nobody else can use it. Anyway, let’s not worry about those minor inconveniences and focus on the main issue at hand. It’s not like somebody was wearing a Hanuman T-shirt or anything…
Some articles even appeared in print and digital media explaining the importance of Namaz in Islam and why we all need to make space for it.
The main argument comes down to this: Muslims have a right to practice their faith. And this means Muslims are entitled to go outside and use public property any way they want.
Now, let us come to the demand of lakhs of Hindus of Kerala. The Sabarimala temple is of great significance to them and they want to worship Ayyappa inside the temple as per the customs and rituals they hold dear.
But the State says NO! What happens inside the temple is subject to dictates of the State. In fact, the State essentially owns the temple through the government appointed Devaswom Board and can micromanage anything that happens inside it. The State will decide who gets to worship and how inside the temple. Hindus must obey.
In fact, the State can give orders at any moment to seize any temple and bring it under government control. Here you see the police force surrounding and seizing the Parthasarathy Temple in Kerala’s Guruvayur in November 2017.
What applies to Hindu temples also applies to Hindu run educational institutions. Anything owned by Hindu communities is automatically treated as public property under the law.
Apparently, the so-called religious freedom in India does not give Hindus the slightest right to control what happens inside their private spaces!
But Muslims of course, control not only what happens inside their private spaces, but are also entitled to go outside and control what happens to public spaces!
This is the contradiction that Indian secularism is built upon. It is almost heartbreaking to see Hindus of Kerala hold marches and vigils pleading to be left alone with their form of worship in their temples. Meanwhile, the idea of India brigade throws its full intellectual might behind a triumphant takeover of public space by Muslims for the practice of their religion.