Will the Congress Party and Its Secularism Save the Muslims of India?

Many Muslims seem to think that some secular ideology, not Islam, will save them. Some choose to blend Islam with Marxism, for instance.

One case study is India. Some Muslims there believe that their redemption lies in opting for nationalistic secularism in order to somehow repel the governing and rising brand of Hindu nationalism. But is this hope justified?

A few weeks ago, Tripura, a state in the North East of India, witnessed apocalyptic violence against its Muslims.

As the BBC reports, Muslims are around 10% of the 4 million population of the state. Hate crimes, powered by a Hindu nationalist organization close to the ruling BJP party, targeted Muslim individuals, Muslim businesses, and, of course, mosques.

Obviously, it’s not the first manifestation of state-facilitated Islamophobia since Modi was democratically elected in 2014.

RELATED: Remember When Hindutva Called for Gang Rape of Muslim Women?

Thanks to the resulting riots which made headlines in world media, we all remember how in 2019 the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and its evil twin, National Register of Citizens (NRC), were basically a legal way to make every single Muslim of India potentially stateless in his own ancestral land.

As a reaction, many Muslims have looked for solutions. Some claim the easiest solution is to rely on BJP’s prime rival, the Congress, a party which is basically synonymous with secular politics in the country. But is the Congress even “secular”?

The Congress, or the Politics of “Soft Hindu Nationalism”

Perry Anderson, the famed Marxist writer from the U.K., created some controversy with his 2012 book The Indian Ideology, where he attacked the founding myths of modern India through critical historiography.

One of the main targets of his criticism was Gandhi, called “Bapu” (father) by the masses of Indians. Anderson accused Gandhi of injecting religion into politics, unlike the early Congress which “had been studiously secular” before Gandhi’s leadership. In particular, he pointed out how Gandhi injected Hindu mythology in Congress’ rhetoric, thereby alienating the Muslim masses.

Indian political scientist and professor at NYU, Kanchan Chandra, writing for Foreign Affairs, blames another set of figures. Indira and Rajiv, a mother-son duo who were PMs in the 70s and 80s respectively. They both initially began as “secular” but then pandered to “Hindu majoritarianism.” For instance, the mother favored Hindus in Muslim-majority Kashmir, while the son let Hindus pray at the disputed site of Ayodhya in North India, where, a year after his death (like his mother, he was assassinated), a Hindu mob would demolish the Babri Masjid, destruction which, as per Chandra, also destroyed “Congress’ secularist credentials.” Since then the party, “has given up on making an ideological case for secularism.” In fact, as she notes, they also dropped the word “secularism” from their manifesto, and the current “Gandhi” which leads the party, Rahul, barely talks of secularism.

But is this only a matter of few Gandhi-like figures? Well consider Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was one of the main influences on the “pacifist” Gandhi (it’s Tilak which launched “swaraj” or “self-rule” that Gandhi would famous amplify later on). Tilak was the one who injected radical and violent Hindu ideology into Indian politics to the extent that several analysts of Hindu nationalism (Christophe Jaffrelot, Chetan Bhatt, et al.) call him the “spiritual father” of this movement, and he was a member of the Congress!

As William Gould notes in his book Hindu Nationalism and the Language of Politics in Late Colonial India, the Congress party rallied behind slogans of “cow protection” for purely electoral gains. A major example of this is the Congress’ local politics in Uttar Pradesh in the 20s and the 30s. What makes the Congress’ politics in Uttar Pradesh particularly disturbing is that it is the single largest Indian state (population estimated at 230 millions in 2021). Furthermore, “cow vigilance” has resulted in the death of countless Muslims there. Not surprisingly, the state is ruled by Yogi Adityanath, a miniature monk who’s the most openly Hindu nationalist figure in contemporary Indian politics.

What’s Next for the Muslims of India?

Muslims of India have long embraced the idea of “composite nationalism” (or muttahidah qaumiyat in Urdu), that is, Hindus and Muslims are the same “nation” because of what’s perceived to be shared characteristics, from a materialist perspective at least (food, language, etc.).

RELATED: Kashmir: The Forgotten Struggle and the Terror of Hindu Nationalism

Composite Nationalism has been supported by many Muslim religious figures, such as Maulana Azad, Maulana Madani of Deoband, etc., even if many argue that what these Muslim religious figures had in mind was a sort of federation where Muslim interests would be safeguarded, not the unitary and highly-centralized India post independence of Nehru. It’s said that Allama Iqbal wrote the following couplet precisely for these ulama who, he thought, lacked perspective in the more mundane areas of politics and secular ideology:

Mullah Ko Jo Hai Hind Mein Sajde Ki Ijazat
Nadan Ye Samajhta Hai Ke Islam Hai Azad!

In India, if bare leaves are given for sajdah,
The dull priest thinks Islam has gained emancipation.

Perhaps Iqbal is being unfair with such sentiments (which, by the way, could apply just as well to the supposedly politically-savvy liberal Muslims in the contemporary West). But considering the “secular” Congress’ long flirt with Hindu nationalism, a nationalism that regularly attacks Muslims and accuses them of “love jihad,” “narcotics jihad,” even “juice jihad,” (yes!), Muslims should reconsider placing their hopes in such a party and its supposed secularism.

Ultimately, secularism is an idol which asks only for blood and gives, in return, only blood. As history has shown, it certainly can’t save us in this life, let alone in the more important life to come.

RELATED: Secularism Is Not Neutral. It Is Suppression 

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Anfal khan

Brother it’s true.
After indian independence , indian muslims are living with great humiliation. Whatever the problem is ,all are going to be into muslims head. Muslims in india are constantly apologising for partition of India since day one on socio political sorroundings. After indian independence almost every religious sects gained their political power by forming political and social organisations,but muslims were unorganised and unempowered during the same period of the Congress rulings.

Main problem with indian muslims is that they are too weak islamically . They are mostly indoctrinated with secular ideology mostly by Congress and cpim(communists),but ironically Hindus who preaches secular ideas in india are also people who doesn’t ready to oppose hindutva. Hindutva ideology is fuming in india same time muslims are not really proud of Islam. They tends to think by apologising all matters around the world that would change the mind of hindu nationalists,the same people who killed tens of thousands of innocent muslims ,lakhs of muslims had to flee from their homes ,lost their economical stability ,etc…..

Alhamdulillah I had to say some organizations like popular front of India are constantly working to empower Indian Muslim’s from 1990’s itself from the South Indian state kerala, they told the masess. That rss are planning to take over the country, muslims should be united, but you know most of so called muslim groups warned against us by false accusations and presumptions.

Even a social organisations that is purely by muslims are considered as extremism but the same time they don’t pull their tongues against thousands of organisations not only hindu but also spreading hate speech publically and waging war against muslims and Islamic ideology.

Brother I do appreciate your involvement in voicing the problems muslims in india are facing.. and I request you to look into the Indian case study and that would benefit all muslims around the world insha allah..

Baz (SL)

As an Indian Muslim who has lived in both India and a western country, I can comment about this here with a bit more “inside perspective” than the authors and commenters on this blog who are not Indian. If I can compare Indian politics to America, the “Indian National Congress” party is roughly the Indian equivalent of the Democrat party in the US, while the “Indian People’s Party” or BJP is like the US Republicans, maybe only a little bit more right wing than the US GOP.

The Congress party are not anywhere near as Hindu nationalistic as BJP. If Congress party leaders make a few quotes or references to Hindu gods or scriptures and its leader shows off his temple visits, it doesn’t mean that they are Hindu nationalist, but rather its just the equivalent of US democrat Joe Biden sometimes quoting bible verses in his speeches and showing off that he regularly goes to church.

Many Indian Muslims tend to support the Congress party for more or less the same reason why Muslims in America support the democrat party and its Liberal extremist politicians, i.e. In both countries, the Muslims are scared that the right wing party who emphasises their majoritarian religious identity will start persecuting Muslims like the Jews in Nazi Germany. That’s why they support the more relatively secular or Liberal or socialist or pro-LGBT Party, purely as the “lessor of the two evils” to keep away the right wing party. Its a similar scenario in many other western countries.

Baz (SL)

Another thing that I’m not sure if you guys understood properly, is that the word “secularism” does not have the same meaning in India compared to western countries like France. Don’t conflate the two different versions of secularism with each other. In France secularism means suppressing or restricting practice of religion in public (e.g. Hijab), which I call “Hard Secularism”. The “secularism” of India which is championed by the Congress party and its Indian Muslim supporters, is nothing like the French-style hard secularism.

Instead the Congress party’s Indian secularism is much more closer to what I call the “Soft Secularism” of America where the state strongly supports the right of everyone to openly express or show off their faith in public, while the state is still neutral and not biased towards one religion at the expense of another.

While the Congress party is based on that kind of soft secularism, BJP doesn’t have the same reputation of being “secular” because many of its BJP politicians and ordinary supporters want to officially ban many Islamic practices in public such as salah/namaz on the streets, and they want to abolish the still-existing official secularism and instead formally convert the officially secular Republic of India into what they call “Hindu Rashtra”, which is basically something of a “cаliphate of Hinduism” that makes Hinduism the state religion or official ideology, which will give the state more of a direct legal excuse to change their covert tacit anti-Muslim discrimination into more overt direct anti-Muslim laws which explicitly restrict Islam.

Until now they have been disguising anti-Muslim laws like CAA/NRC in religion-neutral secular language that doesn’t explicitly mention Islam or Muslims by name. But converting the country to an officially Hindu Rashtra will let them directly mention Islam and Muslims and other faiths to single out for legal discrimination laws. So in the Indian context, “secularism” does not mean abandoning or reducing religion like France, but rather it means not making the country an officially hindu state which legally favours Hindus over other faith people, like how Isrаеl is officially a Jewish state that legally favours Jews over gentiles in its laws. So basically, secularism in India promoted by Congress and its Hindu and Muslim supporters means avoiding making the officially religion-neutral Republic of India into a “Hindu Isrаеl”.

Zane

You have missed the whole point. The criticism here is pro lgbt and secular liberal ideas that congress believes in and Muslim Skeptic’s target’s has always been that. Congress is not the lesser of two evil. It is bigger of the two evil. Right wing wants to take your life away and Left Wing wants to take your emaan away. Obviously, getting our emaan taken away is worse than our life taken away. I am in Indian here btw.

Baz

Right now in India the Congress party and other non-right wing parties have not started to aggressively push LGBT on Muslims yet like how the Western Liberal democrats do in the west. They are not yet persecuting Muslims for not supporting LGBT or radical feminism. Both parties Congress and bjp are almost the same regarding women’s rights and promoting female careerism. So that’s why I suggested that for now congress is still lesser of evils, although of course things could change in the future. The fact is that Conservative Islamic preachers like Zakіr Nаik could preach openly and freely under Congress rule but not under bjp rule.

The same reason for Muslims supporting Congress as lesser evil to keep away far right also applies on a regional level such as in West bengal where Muslims support the Trinamool party to keep away bjp, and in kerala where Muslims support their so-called соmmunist party (which is nothing like the Chіnese version since the Indian version doesn’t ban religion)

Sauban

Muslim skeptic team has mainly criticized pro-LGBT, secular liberal agenda.
You’ve missed whole point of this site.

Vimala Deshpande

The Indian Hindus have in the recent past begun to express their inner self of the hatred they had harbinged for several decades within their hindu society. These hindus have felt emboldened ever since the Hindu Fascist RSS / BJP have masqueraded power in New Delhi & Lucknow.

The only solution to this Hindu Fanatic rage is for the Muslims in India to develop and unite under the banner of federal muslim structure irrespective of their residential origins from Kashmir to Kerala or Tripura to Gujarat.

Else the Muslims are vulnerable to the genocide of their folks should they trust or to depend on the Hindu Zealots

Baz

The only solution for Мuslims in India is to have an external savior based outside India who can stand up for them. That’s why in the early 20th century Indian Muslims made the big campaign called Кhilаfat movement, because the then Ottoman-controlled саlірhate was the only one who could legally do anything to stand up for minority Muslims around the world since that’s his job as Кhaleefa. So Indіа Мuslims need a new version of that for today.

Saad

As an Indian what I can say is Muslim people tend to align with congress( Democrats) 1. Because they think since there parents, grand parents supported the party so they have to .. 2.they were the ones who struggled the most for freedom ( even though that’s partly true) 3. Muslims think that if they went hardcore in Muslim majority areas then the effects in the Muslim minority areas would be bas as it would trigger hindus and thus cause a politics based on hindi majority.

There are few harsh realities that the Muslims don’t like to talk about: 1. The annexation of Hyderabad (which was under nizams, it happened during the Democrats reign in which scores of Muslims were killed, raped, looted)
2.babri masjid was opened by rajiv Gandhi (Democrat)
3. Bihar riots ( under Democrats), many more( I have to look into it)
4. No economic development or any sort of development of Muslim majority areas.
5.Blocking or making troublesome laws so that the industries where Muslims had major control would collapse or they loose control of it. Like leather, meat(buff – India exports 3b$ ) , carpet.
Majority of the early riots after partian took place where Muslims were well off

These are the things which are commonly known, there are many which I have to look out for.
One may read about Dr kaleem ajiz, an urdu poet who wrote mostly against the Congress’s hidden anti Muslim agenda in his works.. His parents were massacred in riots. https://www.milligazette.com/news/1-community-news/11924-kaleem-aajiz/