Indian Army Chief has advised Pakistan to become secular if it wants good relations with India. But how secular is India? It’s being rapidly steered towards a Hindu Rashtra (state) by religious fanatics. Over the past couple of years, Hindu nationalism has risen to a position of dominance in the Indian politics.
Gen. Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Indian Army said Pakistan cannot stay together with India as long as it is an ‘Islamic State’ and the opportunity may arise if Pakistan is ‘ready to become a secular state’.
“For this idea of countries coming together, Pakistan will first look at their own internal situation. Pakistan has made itself into an Islamic State. We are a secular state. How can we stay together when they say they are an Islamic state and there is no role for anyone else? If they are ready to become secular like us, I think there can be an opportunity.”
The Army chief’s statement of India being secular is a far cry. Since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014, the notion of ‘secularism has eroded away drastically’. Hindu nationalists, including leaders of the BJP, though they have claimed to adhere to religious pluralism, in others of their statements have clearly expressed anti-Muslim or anti-Christian sentiments.
The Constitution of India defines the state as ‘secular’ but the conception of secularism adopted by the authors of the Constitution took it as meaning equality of treatment of different faiths by the state, rather than a clear separation between the affairs of the state and religion. Besides, the regular appearance of political leaders, politicians and senior civil servants at temple functions contributes to the impression that the state really is identified, in practice with Hinduism. Moreover, Hindu nationalist ideas have penetrated the public discourse in India in such a way that they too are almost unnoticed for much of the time.
The Indian state has become identified increasingly with Hinduism and it plays a significant role in regard to the communal conflict – the incidence of violence between people of different religious communities, this has become both reflection and driver of the rise of Hindu nationalism. Hindu nationalist ideas have now become very loud and Hindutva is firmly part of the everyday common sense of the Indian politics.