The hallmark of Nehruvian Secularism has always been the perversion of Secularism at the altar of minority appeasement. Secularism, as it is, is extremely unfit for the Indian context, something that the makers of our Constitution were intricately aware of. Secularism as a concept developed in the West for conditions that were exclusive to those regions. And when the same concept is applied to the Indian context with the added mix of liberalism and minority appeasement, the morbid ideology acquires disastrous proportions.
O’Sullivan’s law posits that “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.” In a similar vein, another wise man once opined, “Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left.” Under current circumstances, as a friend said, the second maxim can be modified into “Cthulhu swims left, but the current is always against it.” Thus it happened that on the 26th of January, 1950 when the Constitution of India first came into effect, the word ‘Secular’ was not included in the Preamble of it.
With the passage of time, however, the word ‘Secular’ was forced into the Preamble of the Constitution. And years later, it’s only the minutest of the minority of the country that remembers that the introduction of the word ‘Secular’ in the Preamble was made when Democracy in the country was not functional, that is, during the emergency. And as the years progressed, not only has the word ‘Secular’ to describe the Constitution been normalized, the most depraved of perversions in the name of Secularism is forced upon the country.
The year is 2020 and much of the contradictions that were inherent to the Indian Union are being resolved. Decisions of monumental significance are being taken and policies are being implemented with the view to resolve disputes that have hindered the progress of the Indian Union ever since independence. The abrogation of Article 370 and the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act are two instances of such. However, there are a couple of avenues that haven’t been broached yet when it comes to a coherent government approach.
I am, of course, referring to the Government control of Hindu Temples and the allocations that are made by governments to Abrahamic minority religious establishments. On the face of it, the two issues may appear to be completely unrelated but when a couple of layers are removed, the connection between the two becomes evident. Furthermore, one also has to remember the fact that Hindu Temples are taxed while minority religious establishments are given a free pass by the governments. When one sees the minority specific schemes and the simultaneous taxation of Hindu Temples, the connection becomes evident.
It is not farfetched to argue that the money that is being looted from Hindu Temples by various governments inevitably ends up funding minority specific schemes and doles that are handed out, with the explicit objective of securing minority votes in most cases. It is something that nearly every ‘secular’ party is guilty of. According to a report published on IndiaFacts in 2016, the then Congress government in Karnataka spent crores of rupees for the support and expansion of Christianity, including the renovation of existing churches and construction of new Christian community halls.
A report from November 2019 stated that the Telangana Government led by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao sanctioned Rs. 1 lakh each to 200 Christian Churches in the state for Christmas.
The Andhra Pradesh Government led by Chief Minister Jagan Reddy announced that his government will be paying Rs. 5000 as a monthly honorarium to pastors. This was apart from the whopping 50% increase in assistance for Christians travelling to Jerusalem and other Biblical places.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, too, is not averse to the disease despite his apparent devotion towards PawanPutra Hanuman. In January 2019, the Aam Aadmi Party Government in Delhi introduced a salary hike for the Imams of Delhi and the helpers of Mosques. Not merely that, it was announced that the salaries of imams outside the purview of the Delhi Waqf Board would be covered by the government of the Union Territory for the first time.
As per the announcement, the salaries of the imams under the Delhi Waqf Board was hiked from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 18,000 and that of the helpers from Rs. 9,000 to Rs. 16,000. For the mosques outside the purview of the Delhi Waqf Board, the salary of the imams was fixed at Rs. 14,000 and that of helpers at Rs. 12,000.
These are just four instances of minority appeasement mentioned here. The actual number is far too numerous to count. And it is not just the state governments that are prone to such policies. Even the minority specific schemes that are implemented by the central government under Narendra Modi are the same in principle. The manner in which only Hindu Temples are taxed while the religious establishments of minority religions are given a free pass when combined with the minority specific doles handed out by governments to secure the minority vote is a gross violation of the principles of Secularism.
Furthermore, the government control of Hindu Temples leaves them open to loot and plunder by the Secular State and it is something that happens far too often to be considered a small matter. When seen together with the implementation of minority specific welfare schemes and doles, it appears that the money that is being looted from Hindu Temples is being spent on these communal schemes that only strengthen exclusivist proselytizing religions. All of this tantamounts to a perverse situation where Hindus are being made to pay for the destruction of their own civilization.
To give the example of just one Temple, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams’ contribution to the Andhra Pradesh state government was spiked from Rs 2.5 crore to Rs 50 crore in the month of January this year. The contribution will go towards the Common Good Fund (CGF), Endowments Administrative Fund (EAF) and Archaka Welfare Fund (AWF). In addition to that, it has been decided that the contribution will be hoked by 10% every five years. And all of this is apart from the Rs. 16 crore that the TTD pays annually to the “Dhoopa-Deepa Naivedyam” scheme.
In May 2018, the Chief Priest of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, Ramana Dikshitulu, had accused the state government and Temple administration of corruption, impropriety and mishandling of Temple affairs. Following his accusations, he was made to retire by the TTD Board and was replaced by A Venugopala Deekshitulu. He had also directly accused then Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and the officials appointed by him for the disappearance of jewels donated by devotees. During an interview with Prema Sridevi of Republic, the Chief Priest said that he was victimized for meeting Amit Shah when the BJP President visited the Temple and he showed him how hidden treasures from the temple kitchen was stolen away.
At the same time, numerous efforts are made by state governments to take more and more Temples under its control. For instance, in December 2019, the Andhra Pradesh government made an attempt for a hostile takeover of the Ahobilam Temples, quite obviously, for the lucrative benefits. Such takeovers often happen against the wishes of the devotees. In June last year, Vellalur Nadu held a protest against the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department’s decision to take over three ancient temples. The temples had been under the control of these villagers for nearly 500 years.
It also needs to be remembered here that in the case of government-controlled Temples, a lot of the revenue generated is diverted towards paying the salaries of the government-appointed employees and a significantly less amount goes towards the actual affairs of the Temples. As a consequence, the management of the Temples continues to deteriorate while the state gets fat on the piety of the devotees.
For the future of the Hindu Civilization, it is of paramount importance that the control of Hindu Temples and their finances is returned to the Hindu Community. It is the duty of the Indian Government to ensure that a suitable framework is developed through consultations with all stakeholders from the Hindu Community to pave the way for the safe return of control. The NDA Government was reelected to power with a massive mandate in 2019 and consistent with the path it has chosen to tread, this is another conflict that must be resolved in the near future.
Furthermore, new laws are necessary to disbar governments from implementing minority specific schemes. At the same time, laws must be brought in to tax minority religious establishments at the same rate as Hindu Temples. These are essential for the principle of fairness and equality and at the same time, essential for safeguarding the Hindu Civilization against existential threats. In the absence of such provisions, what we have currently is not secularism, what we have is an organized effort to relegate Hinduism to the museums.