Constituents of the State in Hindu Polity

Hindu Political thinkers and texts dealing with polity have deliberated on the conception of elements of state or what factors constitute a state quite comprehensively. Though there exists sort of consensus on what are the elements of the state, but there exists some interesting variations as well. I’ll be considering the views of Arthashastra, Manava Dharma Shastra (Manusmriti), Yagyvalkya Smriti, Kamandaka’s Nitisara and Brihaspati’s Arthshastra to provide a synopsis of the concept. The elements of the state in Hindu polity are often referred as limb (अंग). Starting with the Arthashastra of Acharya Kautalya, he considers that state has 7 elements: The sovereign (King or Republic council depending on the type of government), The Ministry, The country (राष्ट्र or जनपद), Capital (दुर्ग/नगर), State exchequer, Army and Allies.

The view of Acharya Kautalya is the traditional view of the Hindu Polity as this is accepted by Yagyvalkya Smriti as well. Kamandak in Nitisara upholds the position of Acharya Kautalya and as Kamandak also quotes from Brihaspati’s Arthshastra in his Nitisara, we also know that Brihaspati was of the same opinion. The text which differed from this was Manusmriti which didn’t consider the sovereign and allies as elements of a state. The exclusion of allies might be explained by the fact that the time period in which Manusmriti was written and the place where it was written, the kings of the neighbourhood states were antagonists which reduced the importance of allies. But Kamandaka in his Nitisara gives a glimpse of international affairs of the Hindu Polity. According to him, there was a concept of मंडल (mandala) in which four states were allies of each other which ensured the twin purpose of maintaining the balance of power and strategic peace.

Then exclusion of sovereign from the list of elements of state is due to an explicit proclamation in Manusmriti regarding the question of real sovereign. In the eyes of Acharya Kautalya, a king is sovereign as he is the one excutes the law (दण्ड) since without a king, there will be no enforcement of law. Obviously, the old principle of Hindu Polity was still upheld in this arrangement that Dharma is supreme and the king doesn’t enjoy Sovereign Immunity. If a king errs in administration of law, he will be fined as per Acharya Kautalya. He is subject to the trial of law and not above it. This is in direct contrast to the maxim of ‘Queen can do no wrong’ of Britain or Bhutan’s prevalent law that the king can’t be subjected to the law. Even in Nepal whrn Hindu monarchy existed, they had abandoned this principle of Hindu Polity and accepted that king can’t be subjected to the law.

Manusmriti says that the real sovereign is धर्म (dharma) and a king should never administer the law alone. It’s a fact that king never administered the law alone in Hindu Polity and the concept of trial by jury and independent judges (धर्मस्थ) have been mentioned in Arthashastra, but as Manusmriti provided a common law code for both Dharma (religious/sacerdotal) and Artha laws (civil and criminal laws), this provision of real sovereignty was made more explicit with the provision that only a Brahmin could be the judge of civil court while making no such claim on the judgeship of criminal court. Manusmriti also limits the law making authority of the king.

When it comes to the question of which element amongst the seven is the most important, Acharya Kautalya gives the rule that the element mentioned first is the most important and the importance of succeeding elements decreases in series. This is logical in the view that allies who are external to the state have been mentioned at the end. The high importance of council of ministers is the reminiscent of the old vedic tradition of समिति (samiti) which had the law making authority of popular will. Vedic literature has termed सभा (sabha) and समिति (samiti) as the two daughters of प्रजापति (Prajapati). Council of ministers has been treated as king-maker in Brahmana-s such as Aitareya Brahman while Acharya Kautalya had termed council of ministers as eyes of the ruler. The importance of capital, state exchequer and army is fairly obvious and perceptible to modern eyes as well.

Farewell, Mr. Donald John Trump!

Farewell, Mr. Donald John Trump. I never wished that we will have to write it in 2021 but like everything else, it had to end either in 2021 or 2025. Despite all the attempts to tarnish your legacy and presidency, you’ll go as one of the greatest Presidents of US in the history for the ones who seek the truth. You were not meant to be the president. You weren’t ever meant to be a political leader. You were everything which we despise in a political leader – loud, uncouth, flamboyant, and questionable demeanour. But your greatness stemmed from this very aspect of the personality which people despise.

In 2016 President election, you rose through the ranks surprising everyone irrespective of their political ideology. Conservatives despised you because you were not a neo conservative establishment figure nor someone who was known to be a conservative. Liberals despised you because you grabbed ’em by pu**y. It was inconceivable in 2016 that Hillary will be defeated. Not because Hillary was an inspiring leader but Church of Liberalism had fixed the moral responsibility for everyone to ensure that a female becames the president of the US for the first time. Well, all the aspirations of ‘Madam President’ were buried by you in the deep abyss of Atlantic ocean.

Even after your extraordinary electoral victory, liberals started the well organized campaign of destroying the legitimacy of your presidency. They started calling for your impeachment even before you had taken the oath. They created another imaginary creature of Russian interference to undermine your presidency. They labelled your supporters as white supremacists and Neo-Nazi. Everyone who wasn’t against you was against humanity, empathy and progress. They made you the very embodiment of evil. Anyone who was remotely associated with you was declared to be categorically evil.

Amidst all the challenges, you behaved like a warrior. You ensured that the mainstream media will never regain its credibility again. You ensured that America will at least be aware about the impending challenge of Leftist totalitarianism. You never minced your words. You called Islamic terrorism what it’s. You had the courage to call out the fraud of Critical Race Theory and Leftist dominance in academia. We didn’t expect because you were never involved in any ideological battle prior to your presidency. US economy did extremely well before Covid-19 changed the dynamics but that doesn’t negate your greatness.

Amidst a Covid hit economy, nationwide riots engineered by BLM and Antifa, and widespread electoral frauds, you gave such stiff competition. You could do everything because you were never conventional. You represent a new set of ideas which will have their enduring impact. Trump may go, Trumpism is going to remain. You couldn’t drain the swamp but you agitated the swamp. When you had won, I called it as significant event as fall of Berlin wall. I may have overestimated it that time but I feel that I was right considering what we have witnessed this month. And yes, you were a good friend of India (not NRIs). You’ll be sorely missed but who knows, there might be interesting times ahead.

The Conundrum of Sanskrit ‘Non-Translatables’

Rajiv Malhotra’s recent book ‘Sanskrit Non-Translatables’ has kindled important discussion on the problem associated with translation, especially in the context of concepts. This book has the stated aim of Sanskritizing English as the author believes that translation of Sanskrit words into English results in loss of authority for Sanskrit. I won’t go into the stated aim and rather focus on the technical aspect of the issue with translation. The choice of word ‘non-translatable’ is bit odd as the standard word used for denoting the problem of translatability in Linguistics is ‘untranslatability’, and the words which can’t be translated are known as ‘untranslatables’. It’s a fairly standard term used in Linguistics with which translators have dealt with for years.

When it comes to Untranslatability, it’s divided into two categories – Linguistic Untranslatability and Cultural Untranslatability. In Linguistic Untranslatability, the difficulty in translation from source language (SL) to target language (TL) is due to morphological or grammatical reasons. For example, Sanskrit verbal roots have their future tense form as well while English verbs don’t have that. There are multiple such examples, but the issue discussed by Rajiv Malhotra is Cultural Untranslatability which arises due to having no equivalent word of any concept/idea/object etc. in the target language. Though Malhotra claims it to be innovative idea, there is nothing innovative about the problem nor the solution.

In the case of Cultural Untranslatability, there are multiple options for a translator to still go ahead with the task, because the primary objective of a translator is to overcome the linguistic barrier by translation. What Malhotra has suggested is known as borrowing. So, if one has to translate Dharma into English, rather than trying to find an equivalent word in English, Dharma will be retained as Dharma. The advantage of this method is that the reader gets his vocabulary enriched, but perhaps with loss in meaning as it’s not expected from a reader of English to know words from Sanskrit without an explanation. This method has other problems as well.

When it comes to translation of the objects such as food or cloth, using the borrowing method is very useful as you don’t have to translate Dhoti in English as ‘unstitched single piece cloth’ but when it’s employed in translation of ideas and concepts, new issues are encountered. The development of any language and its concepts is intimately connected with the cultural sphere in which it originated and became popular – as language is not the fundamental reality – but a device invented by humans to convey the reality. Two languages which belong to radically different cultural spheres will seldom have affinity of ideas and concepts, and if borrowing method is used without applying strict control, the fundamental purpose of translation will be lost.

Take the case of word as simple as ‘विवाह’ (vivaha). The English translation is ‘marriage’ but the meaning of विवाह and marriage are different due to their different cultural and religious significance. For a Hindu, विवाह is one of the sixteen sanskaar-s while in Christianity, marriage is considered to be sacred institution strictly monogamous in nature. So, the translation of विवाह into marriage is prevalent and even accepted because translation doesn’t aim toward near certain accuracy, but an attempt to transmit the meaning. So, when a Hindu hears the word marriage, he doesn’t understand it in the Christian sense but in the Hindu sense because his understanding is on the basis of his own religious and cultural understanding.

Even in the political context, such difficulties are plenty. The popular translation of राजा (raja) is king but when we see the difference in concepts, it’s again incorrect. In the Western political context, a king has divine right of kingship enjoying legal sovereignty while in the Hindu polity, the authority of a राजा is on the basis of social contract regulated by Dharma. If we insist on borrowing, there will be no further communication possible between different groups of people who understand only one common language as each of the languages will insist on sticking with their own terms for the sake of accuracy leading into loss of semantics in the communication.

The approach which I find more sensible is using the nearest possible equivalent word in target language followed by an explanation. In Nyaya Darshan, शब्द (shabd) is one of the valid methods of knowledge and it’s often translated as ‘testimony’ by Hindu philosophers operating in English language, but they follow it with explanation to ensure that the readers in the target language understand the concept, though not necessarily learning another word from the source language. Such method becomes even more critical in translating words such as बुद्धि (buddhi) which has different meaning when used in Nyaya Darshan and Yogachara Darshan of Buddhists. In such cases, it’s imperative to choose the closest equivalent word followed with explanation.

The project started by Rajiv Malhotra is laudable in the sense that it will be quite helpful for translators in understanding the difference of meaning even if they’re using the near equivalent word in English unlike the current scenario in which many translators aren’t even aware about such significant conceptual differences. However, I’m bit skeptical about efficacy of the project if taken too far as it will result in our reduced ability to communicate outside the group, or even within the group since most of the Hindus themselves have very superficial understanding of Sanskrit and other Indian languages.

Rao and Modi: Difference in the Politics of Economic Reforms

Amidst the orchestrated and well-planned agitation against the Modi government by alleged farmers, there emerges clear difference between the approach of P V N Rao and Modi in managing the political aspect of economic reforms. A comparison can be done keeping in mind that both of them were facing different challenges, but the crux of the issue was economic reform. The magnitude of Rao’s economic reforms was much more than what Modi is trying and has done so far. Rao became the PM of India in June 1991 and within a month, he had taken three key economic decisions – devaluation of rupee in two steps, bringing the new industrial policy which did away with public sector monopoly and licensing, and a truly transformative budget. The only excuse which Rao could give was the imminent Balance of Payment Crisis but, that didn’t mean a justification for the means adopted by Rao.

Rao faced opposition from all the directions – within his own party, Communists, BJP, trade unions, big industrialists and others. And Rao adopted a different strategy to deal with each of the groups. For the committed Congress party members, Rao realized that the mental slaves of Nehru clan would only understand the language in which Nehru and his descendants hold the key importance. To this group, Rao said that he is merely continuing the legacy of Nehru’s industrial policy which was later distorted by others. In the Tirupati session of Congress in 1992, his rhetoric of linking reforms with Nehruvian socialism was enough to make economic liberalization feature in the resolution document symbolizing a formal approval of reforms within the party. Rao obviously didn’t have any respect whatsoever for Nehruvian socialism, but he was employing the rhetoric effectively.

After the 1991 budget, 50 Congress MPs had signed a letter criticizing the budget which favoured economic liberalization. The commitment of Rao for economic reforms could be seen from the fact that he had asked Intelligence Bureau to prepare a note providing the list of all Congress MPs who were against the liberalisation and also the particular aspect of liberalization on which they had disagreement. [1] For Communists and Left wing economists, Rao practiced indifference as he knew that they’re incorrigible and it’s futile to waste time with them. When the big industrialists expressed their discontent over allowing foreign capital, he didn’t roll back any of his policies though he met them personally and conferred Bharat Ratna on J R D Tata.

Rao also played an extremely smart move of projecting Manmohan Singh as the face of economic reform. He let Manmohan face all the questions on economic reform within the parliament and outside it as well. This ensured that Rao didn’t have to explain what he didn’t know, and divert attention from himself which he had learnt through experience. Until Rao became the PM of India, he was a committed socialist. When he was the CM of Andhra Pardesh in 1970s, he brought legislation on land ceiling for which his justification was completely ideological while making himself the face of this contentious act. The result was disastrous for Rao culminating into being forced to resign.

Let’s look at the Modi government now. The biggest drawback of Modi is that he is surrounded by people who are either less competent than him or completely incompetent. The three bills which have become the subject of controversy, Modi’s communication on them is unclear. He had the best option of advertising it as bills which would enhance the economic freedom of farmers but his communication has been more focused on addressing the concerns of MSP. MSP in this particular case has been used as a diversion tactic which would have been supplementary to the central narrative for the government.

The government’s figures counting the numbers of text messages and mails sent to raise awareness are simply nonsensical because most of the people don’t read such things. Modi was telling his party workers to raise awareness about these bills in September, and if his party workers indeed did so, it doesn’t add up when we consider that government allowed such well-planned agitation to grow while it would have had considerable intelligence input on the brewing protest. The lesser said about his ministers is better. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar seems to have the sole competence of telling the media that his government would talk with the farmers. Nirmala Sitaraman is a liability who can neither do anything good with her economic policies nor put a spirited defence of government on economic issues. At least Jaitley had the ability to defend the government formidably. This government has already squandered the first six year in bringing incremental economic changes and the current protests would probably make the government skeptical of any big changes in the remaining tenure.

References:

1. Half-Lion: How P. V. Narsimha Rao Transformed India by Vinay Sitapati

Sri Aurobindo on Nirukta of Yaska

When I read ‘The Secret of Veda’ by Sri Aurobindo around 5-6 year ago, I had not read Nirukta of Yaska then and accepted his assessment of etymology of Yaska. However, after studying Nirukta, when I revisited the same text again, it became apparent that Sri Aurobindo was being unfair to Yaska in his assessment or he didn’t study Nirukta thoroughly.

Aurobindo writes in ‘The Secret of Veda’:

Yaska the etymologist does not rank with Yaska the lexicographer. Scientific grammar was first developed by Indian learning, but the beginnings of sound philology we owe to modern research. Nothing can be more fanciful and lawless than the methods of mere ingenuity used by the old etymologists down even to the nineteenth century, whether in Europe or India. And when Yaska follows these methods, we are obliged to part company with him entirely. Nor in his interpretation of particular texts is he more convincing than the later erudition of Sayana.”

While it can be accepted that Sayana’s interpretation is much more erudite, one has to consider the scope of the work of Yaska. The objective of Yaska was not to write bhasya (commentary) on Veda-s but to find the etymology and meaning of words which appear in Samhita-s while interpreting only those mantra-s which helped him in illustrating the meaning of words under the consideration. But agreement with the views of Aurobindo on the etymological methods of Yaska is difficult considering his methods were not only far advanced compared to his time but comparable to modern philology which Aurobindo considers a scientific discipline. Though a detailed discussion on these aspects have been done by Dr. Lakshman Sarup and Dr. Siddheshwar Varma, I’ll give some of the examples to showcase how Aurobindo’s assessment was not accurate.

Yaska broadly follows three principles in finding the etymology of a word: 1. If the verbal root can easily be identified in the word and the word can be derived from the verbal root following the rules of grammar, the etymology should be done on the basis of verbal root. 2. If the verbal root can’t be identified clearly, or the verbal root identified has a different meaning contrary to the meaning of the word, different forms of verbs need to be compared with different forms of verbal roots. 3. When no such similarity can be found, the etymology can be done by finding common syllables between the identified verbal root and the word.

Out of the three methods explained above, the first method is still the backbone of modern linguistics and well accepted. The second method is prone to errors while the third is non-standard. In reality, the third method is not employed by Yaska too often but he followed that because he was so committed to etymology that he believed that the meaning of every word can be found by following the methods of etymology. But if Yaska committed errors by following the latter two rules in some cases, does the modern linguistics get these aspects right?

The answer is unfortunately, no. Comparative philology which Aurobindo rated very highly borrows rules such as Change of Syllable, Elision of Syllable, Metathesis etc. from Phonology. Take the example of elision of syllable in which one or more sound may be omitted by native speakers. If I take the example of English, speaking ‘cannot’ as ‘can’t’ is one such example. But this method when employed in comparative philology for finding the etymological meaning is imperfect as elision of syllables is not consistent across even within the languages of same language family.

The genius of Yaska can be understood from the fact that the primary method which he followed for etymology is still the primary method for the etymology of Sanskrit words. His etymology is more often connected to a definite meaning. For example, the way he transfers the meaning of the same word to mean vagina and space in different contexts or same word denoting cow or rays of sun signifying the transfer of meaning based on similar actions is a work of pure genius. Yaska didn’t only surpass his predecessors, but most of his successors as well.

Did PM Rao Want Babri Masjid to Fall?

On Shaurya Diwas, as it happens every year, the question of the role of PM Narasimha Rao in the demolition of Babri Masjid resurfaced, but the Left and Right both are incorrect on it. The Right in the recent years has started believing that Rao was performing Puja when Babri was being demolished, while Left has maintained it since 1992 that Rao was the mute spectator of an event which permanently destroyed the ‘secular’ fabric of India and whipped up ‘communalism’. Apparently, neither of these is true which I’ll try to illustrate.

First, the claim of whether Rao was performing Puja between 12 PM and 2 PM when he was unreachable to politicians such as Jairam Ramesh and Arjun Singh who tried connecting to Rao. This myth is based on the assertion of Kuldip Nayyar who claimed that he was apprised about it by Madhu Limaye. Unfortunately, this is not true as Madhu Limaye had no knowledge of what was happening in PM’s residence. Left had a different version which claims that Rao was sleeping. Vinay Sitapati in the biography of Rao has shown that Rao was neither sleeping nor performing Puja. During the hours when Hindus were reclaiming Ayodhya, Rao was in conversation with Naresh Chandra (His special advisor), Godbole (Home secretary), Vaidya (IB Chief) and others monitoring the developing situation.

The obvious question is, if Rao was monitoring the situation, why couldn’t he act? The reason is straightforward – Rao had no option. The central government has no control over either the state police nor paramilitary forces unless President Rule is imposed. Even if Rao decided to impose President Rule, it would have taken at least couple of hours to call the cabinet for it and get the decision approved. Meanwhile, the action was over by 2:30 PM while had begun after noon. But, another precarious question was even if he imposed President rule and asked paramilitary forces to mobilize, the force couldn’t have achieved anything amongst the sea of more than 2 lakhs people unless there was violence of unimaginable proportion.

We also have to consider Rao’s political understanding here. Unlike Mulayam, Rao was concerned about dwindling popularity of Congress amongst the Hindu voters. He had written later that the Congress suppressed every visible expression of Hinduness by terming it non-secular. Rao was no anglicized elite, nor a Marxist though he had very strong socialist leaning. He was a practicing Hindu to the extent that he had decided to head an ashram in 1990 while contemplating his retirement from politics. He had excellent relationship with the Honourable Sringeri Shankaracharya and despised the likes of Mani Shankar Aiyer.

But did Rao really want to fall Babri Masjid? The unequivocal answer based on what’s available publicly is no. Rao was given the option of dismissing Kalyan Singh government in November after the announcement of Kar Seva on December 6. But Rao didn’t agree to it as he couldn’t invoke Article 356 in the anticipation, which would have later been politically unforgiving and legally untenable. Instead of it, Rao met BJP leaders, VHP leaders, RSS leaders, heads of many monastic orders etc. in the month of November to secure an assurance that the mosque will remain unscarred on December 6.

In the last bid to protect Babri Masjid constitutionally, Rao’s government filed for the receivership of the site in November end in Supreme Court which was later dismissed by the court as UP government assured the apex court that mosque will be protected. So, though Rao was sympathetic to Hindu concerns due to his own background, he can only be praised or blamed for not invoking Article 356 to impose the President Rule. The real hero was Kalyan Singh who had given written orders that irrespective of the circumstances, firing on Kar Sevaks won’t be allowed. The Hindus will remember the name of Kalyan Singh for centuries for his role in paving the path for the reclamation of Ayodhya.

References:

1. Half-Lion: How P V Narasimha Rao Transformed India by Vinay Sitapati

Anti-Hinduism: Key Element of Khalistani Terrorism

The general view which majority of Hindus holds regarding Khalistani terrorism is that Khalistani terrorism was a creation of Congress which had little to do with Sikh religion or history. This particular view is more prominent amongst the Hindus who see RSS and BJP in favourable light but unfortunately, it’s incorrect view. The role of Congress in this particular context can be considered as that of a catalyst which requires careful scrutiny, but considering Congress as the prime factor is misleading. But I don’t blame Hindus for it as Hindu psyche has acquired the terrible habit of never understanding how their adversaries see themselves. Hindu mind is too happy to repeat the comfortable myths or half-truths. I’ll try to summarize the key ideological positions and the sources of those of the Khalistan movement.

Let’s discuss the key ideological tenets of Khalistani terrorism before we come to their sources. The most important element of Khalistani terrorism is that Sikhs constitute a nation in themselves who need separate nationhood to preserve their distinct identity. The second one is that the free nation of Sikhs will be achieved by the application of force as bravery and valour is inherent in the conduct of Sikhs. Apparently, these ideological positions can’t be sustained in the vacuum and a narrative based on facts and imagination need to be constructed to gather support for the movement amongst the masses. These ideological positions are sustained by carefully constructing narrative on the basis of Sikh history and Sikhism.

Their reading of Sikh history to justify the rights of Sikhs to have a separate nation is based on the formation of Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699 and the Sikh empire of Ranjit Singh in the 19th century. The formation of Khalsa which Hindus consider as the genesis of a military order to protect Hindus from Mughals is considered as the beginning of separate Sikh nation by the Khalistani terrorism. They argued that since there were five visible marks associated with Khalsa which didn’t accept the conception of caste within the order, it marked the beginning of Sikhs’ quest to separate nationhood. I’m not addressing the factual validity of their position, but merely illustrating what they believed.

The example of Ranjit Singh’s empire was given to demonstrate two elements – that Sikhs are capable of carving out a separate nation of themselves and Ranjit Singh’s rule was a period of peace, prosperity and communal harmony. The examples of Sikh history highlighted by them to justify their demands, and the other aspect of their movement was based on identifying the enemies who were preventing them from obtaining freedom. Here, Hindus enter into the equation as the enemies of Sikhs, which was justified on the basis of Sikh theology and denigration of Hindus based on certain historical incidents.

They postulated that Hindus and especially Brahmins were determined to wipe out Sikhism because it opposed idol worshipping and didn’t accept the conception of caste. The examples given were the placing of murti-s in Gurudwara by Udasi Mahants before the Akali movement, reconversion movement of Mazhabi Sikhs by Arya Samaj and other such minor incidents. Dal Khalsa even went to the extent of considering Brahminism as the biggest enemy of Sikhism. They emphasized that unlike the superstitious caste-ridden polytheistic Hindus, Nanak conceptualized Sikhism as universal faith based on single god and equality of believers. It was also done to show that Sikhism is closer to Islam than Hinduism.

The second aspect of Hindu hatred was propagating the narrative of Hindu treachery or ungratefulness. They argued that though Sikhs have been defending Hindus from Mughals, the Hindus have turned extremely ungrateful by not showing enough gratitude for the protection offered by Sikhs. Guru Gobind Singh’s campaigns against the Hindu kings of hills were portrayed as a reaction to Hindu treachery. As, a mainstream Sikh Tavleen Singh takes pride in Guru Teg Bahadur allegedly protecting Kashmiri Pandits, Khalistani-s also used such sacrifice of Sikh Gurus to show that Hindus didn’t appreciate their sacrifice enough. This should be a lesson for Hindus who never get tired of repeating that Sikhism is the sword of Hindus. Implicit to this narrative was the assertion that a Hindu is coward while a Sikh is martial. Rajputs were denigrated by them by asserting that they gave their daughters to Mughals in order to showcase that even the supposedly brave ones amongst the Hindus were no match for Sikhs.

Since they were convinced of Hindu cowardice, they told their followers that if Sikhs follow the tenets of Khalsa faithfully, Hindus who control the Indian state will simply wither away. They even calculated the figure of the number of Sikhs required to conquer Hindus by equating one Sikh with 1.25 Lakhs Hindus. They argued that the Brahmin-Baniya state of India which has denied freedom to Sikhs will not be even able to respond. But they also faced a difficulty in reconciling the historical hostilities between Sikhs and Muslims as support of Pakistan was crucial in achieving their aim. For this, they suppressed the persecution of Sikhs by Muslims in the history and emphasized on the rare occurrence of harmony amongst them. One such highlighted incident was the alleged case of a Sufi Pir participating in the foundation laying ceremony of Harminder Sahib.

As you can see in the above paragraphs, the enmity against the Hindus was the central element of Khalistani terrorism. Also, there is considerable overlap between the Khalistani conception of the Sikh history with the mainstream Sikhs as far as the hypothesis of Hindu ungratefulness and Hindu cowardice is concerned. Many Sikhs were convinced that placing murti-s in Gurudwara was the attempt of Hindus to destroy Sikhism. It’s also obvious that not everyone believing in these things will also ask for separate nationhood but it’s important to be aware about the ideological position of your adversaries.

Islam and Islamism: Difference in Semantics

The term Islamism in the recent time has gained currency owing to different factors and it creates confusion in the mind of people who are not aware about how Islamism and Islam mean differently for the people who consciously use it. In general, Islamism or Political Islam is considered as an ideology which uses the principles of Islam and its primary texts to call for Jihad, establish an Islamic state and build the entire political system on the basis of Islam. Even the conservative media outlets of the West such as National Review, Frontpagemag, The Federalist etc. use Islamism to characterize the ideology behind the violent Islamic terrorist attacks in the Western hemisphere. It’s also a relatively safe word in the world of political correctness without being accused of bigotry towards a specific religion.

The use of the term Islamism essentially comes from French where ‘islamisme’ was used by French authors such as Voltaire. But in the old usage, Islamism was merely a synonym for Islam since Islam was generally called Muhammadism. This was especially much more popular in English world where Muslims were also called Muhammadans and their law sometimes called Muhammadan Law. The modern use of Islamism which differentiates it from Islam started in the second half of 20th century to characterize the resurgent Islam and many Islamic movements such as Muslim Brotherhood, Deobandi Movement, Hamas etc. The overall objective was to signify that the modern Jihad had little to do with the original Islam. What was more surprising, critics of Islam wholeheartedly adopted the term instead of liberals going for it.

But is the term Islamism really correct as it’s properly understood? Before I come to this question, I will quote the views of Bassam Tabi who is a Muslim German professor of Syrian roots. Bassam Tabi has written a book titled ‘Islamism and Islam‘ in which he argues that Islamism has nothing to do with Islam because Islam was a private ancient religion devoid of everything which is committed by Islamists. He pinned the blame on Europeans for giving birth to Islamism by alleging that Muslims got inspired from the 20th century Fascism creating the spectre of Islamism. He cited the example of Hassan Al-Banna of Muslim Brotherhood who had admired Hitler. Tabi prefers Islamism instead of Islamo-Fascism or Islamic Fascism which is also used sometimes. So, intelligent Muslims such as Tabi have latched on the opportunity to save Islam from criticism again.

In the current context, especially for media houses, it’s really difficult to use Islam instead of Islamism. At the same time, we must bear in mind that Islamism is nothing but Islam and attempts of people like Tabi are merely to mislead others. Islamic scholars have opposed the use of term ‘Islamism’ because they consider Islam to be a complete system which obviously includes the political aspect. In reality, the difference exists none but for the sake of semantics, if one has to use Islamism, we should return to its original meaning in which Islamism was synonymous with Islam.

French Secularism, Macron and Islam

Ever since Emmanuel Macron has taken a principled stance over the beheading of French teacher and signalled his determination to put an end to ‘Islamic Radicalism’, it has also provided a lifeline to people in India who are the proponents of ‘true secularism’ of French style instead of the Indian version of ‘positive secularism’. There have been people who have even gone to the extent of calling secularism of French style as only solution to the problem of Islam ignoring what secularism can achieve and the history of France since 1950s during which Muslim population of France started increasing. Let’s look at the efficacy of French secularism first which is the talk of the town.

French Secularism is based on the strict separation of religion from the state in the theoretical sense but I’ll show later that theory and practice is not in sync. A strict separation of religion and state means that there are no laws of the French Republic based on religious considerations such as Muslim Personal Law nor it gives special privilege to any religion. As a corollary of this separation, it also says that the government has no authority to determine and influence how a religion functions. People have the freedom to choose their own religion without any restrictions. French government recognizes religious bodies as specified by the law but these religious bodies don’t influence the law making process. Armed with these theoretical premises, French Secularism is nothing but a farce against the threat of Islam.

First, Macron has stated that the law and values of the Republic are supreme and if radical Islam threaten those, he will have to act. He is still considering ‘radicalisation’ as independent of Islam which is due to the baggage carried by French Muslims from their native countries. Macron believes that if he manages to create a French version of Islam as RSS believes creating an Indian version of Islam, the problem of Islam will be solved because his focus is merely on the radicalization aspect. But when Macron goes on to determine who will be the preachers allowed in French mosques or determine the content of Islamic theology to be taught in the schools, he is violating the principle of secularism that the state will have no authority in determining the content of a religion. Moreover, as secularism can’t ban any religion because it goes against the religious liberty and secularism doesn’t know how to evaluate different religious systems by turning a blind eye to their contents, Islam will still be a legitimate religion and no prohibition on Qur’an and Hadith which are the key to the problems. So, the two principles of secularism – religious liberty and state’s non-interference into religious affairs offer no protection against Islam, instead the second principle has to be violated as soon as Macron has to take any step.

To illustrate how inept France has been in dealing with this challenge of Islam, I’ll take an example of Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan is an Islamic theologian, quintessential liberal Muslim and a product of French intelligentsia transported to US intelligentsia by the efforts of New York Times and New York Review of Books. Ramadan is an extremely intelligent fellow who advocates for practicing Islam in the purest form, but he combines it with other causes of liberals such as support for social justice, human rights, socialism and anti-Americanism. Ramadan was given a celebrity status by French press especially Libération and shown as someone who had solved the problem of coexistence of Islam with French society because Ramadan was extremely suave in his words and appearance. Lyon was the centre of activities of Ramadan during this period. But do you know about the ancestry of Tariq Ramadan? Tariq Ramadan is the grandson of Hasan Al Banna of Egypt who was the founder of Muslim Brotherhood. His PhD thesis was a glorification of his grandfather and when it was not accepted for being a partisan work, Swiss socialist intellectual Jean Ziegler persuaded University of Geneva to form a second committee to evaluate Ramadan’s thesis in which it was accepted.

I gave the example of Ramadan to illustrate that the primary concern of French society including Macron is the integration of Islam with French society rather than Islam itself and as long as there no treatment for the root cause of the problem, all attempts of deradicalization will fail. As soon as demographic advantage shifts to the Muslim community, French secularism will be a relic of past to be studied in textbooks. Another curious aspect of French Secularism is that French government nominates the Diocesan bishops to be appointed at Vatican in clear violation of secularism. Nikolas Sarkozy has accepted openly that France has Christian roots and the culture is still rooted in Christianity despite all the attempts to remove religion from public sphere. My word of caution is to not go very jubilant over what’s happening in France as the panacea advertised by Macron is inadequate to deal with the problem.

The Saga of Indian Muslim ‘Marxists’

The liberals and secularists in the company of their Marxist brethrens were whipping Hindus in January 2020 for not appreciating the poem of Faiz Ahmad Faiz in which he idealized the violent destruction of Pagan religions of Arabia by Muhammad. The petty minded Hindus were reminded that the historical instances of desecration of their temples and deities, and sacrifice of their ancestors in the attempt to save the vigraha of their deities are irrelevant when compared with the brilliance of literary devices which only the refined leftists could comprehend. In the defence of Faiz, the instant proclamation is that he was a Marxist and can’t be an Islamist. At this juncture, tracing the lines of history becomes important.

CPI which has the stellar history of giving the ideological impetus to the demand of Muslim league for a separate Islamic nation and supporting the Muslim league candidates in 1946-47 elections, didn’t have the same views about Muslim League in 1930s. CPI believed that Muslim League was a reactionary organization but new definition of nationalities was being crafted by Stalin and its application in Indian context was imminent. CPI gave the task of deliberating on the question of nationalities to Gangadhar Adhikari, former secretary of CPI who came out with the report saying that Indian nation had 18 nationalities, each having the right of self-determination, and the earlier position of India being one nation had to be abandoned. Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Sajjad Zaheer who founded Communist Party of Pakistan in 1948 were climbing the ladder of progress in communist movement during the very same time period.

In another significant event in the same period, CPI had secured the support of British government by offering their support in sabotaging Quit India movement in the return of lifting ban on CPI, which ensured that CPI could do its bit in the support of creation of Pakistan without any hindrance. In 1944, Sajjad Zaheer said that Muslim League had established its anti imperialistic character by now and CPI will support its demand of the separate nation in whatever ways possible. In the freedom movement thus far, it was the Hindu bourgeois forces who had been gaining the upper hands at the cost of interests of Muslim. Another CPI leader N K Krishna said that Muslims have remained politically and economically backward in all these years as national movement did little to curb Hindus’ control over finance. What happened later is a history which is well known.

After the partition, Faiz Ahmad Faiz along with Sajjad Zaheer were instrumental in setting Communist Party of Pakistan in the hope that they’ll be able to bring proletariat revolution in Pakistan. The romance of Islam and Communism in the absence of common enemy seldom lasts longer though. Communist Party of Pakistan attempted a coup through armed revolution in 1951 and CPP was subsequently banned in 1954 shutting the doors of possibilities for the likes of Faiz and Zaheer. The same story was repeated in Iran, Afghanistan and recently in China where two apex predators are up in arms against each other

The communism of Faiz didn’t even for a moment affect his conviction in the idea of Pakistan nor produced any remorse. His grounding in Islamic tradition was so firm that while protesting against an Islamic regime, the metaphors which he could think of was Islamic destruction of the religions of the kafirs. For quite a long time, we have been swallowing the venom spewed by the writers of Progressive Writers’ Movement which includes Munshi Premchand as well but through Faiz, the citadel is feeling some tremors which must continue in future as well. We are not dead civilization that we will celebrate the references of our historical wounds.

(This was published on author’s Facebook wall on January 3, 2020.)