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Losing credibility over applause – NALSAR VC’s style

Losing credibility over applause – NALSAR VC’s style
NALSAR University of Law

Noted lawyer Mahajir responds to Prof Faizan Mustafa’s argument that “… if Hindus really feel threatened by Muslims and Christians, we must address their concerns and not shy away from discussing the possibility of a Hindu Rashtra.”

Shafeeq R. Mahajir

Public intellectuals are few and far between and when you collide with one, you collide with an analysis of matters of import that colours your own assessment of things.

Prof Faizan Mustafa, Vice-Chancellor of NALSAR, is a well known Constitutional Law expert, political and legal commentator who easily qualifies and is, therefore, a person whose words carry weight. That, on one hand, confers on him standing to merit respect, on the other casts on him the burden of weighing in on issues with a more than circumspect approach. So, reading his recent column, I felt let down and felt I should respond. I will cite what he writes in italics, then ask my questions sans italics.

Slogans like “goli maro…” and “Hindus are under threat” are catching people’s imagination. So, …we are losing patience with Nehruvian secularism.

Who raised those slogans? Who should be losing patience with whom? Is Nehruvian secularism to blame or those intolerant of minorities?

After systematic targeting of religious minorities, increase in lynching cases, partisan attitude of police during communal riots, use of religious symbols in public discourse…we have …added a religious test to the procedure of granting citizenship.

Do these aberrations of public law and order and communalisation of forces merit measures correcting those, or giving up secularism/pluralism under blackmail? If so, whither rule of law?

But if Hindus really feel threatened by Muslims and Christians, we must address their concerns and not shy away from discussing the possibility of a Hindu Rashtra. Minorities, too, are now fed up with this facade of secularism, with all state institutions tilting towards one religion.

Why and with what justification do “Hindus feel threatened” from Muslims and Christians? Does that not smell like intolerance? Do “we” address their concerns or do they address ours, given the admission in the professor’s earlier “systematic targeting of religious minorities, increase in lynching cases, partisan attitude of police during communal riots, use of religious symbols in public discourse”?

Perhaps some kind of Hindu Rashtra can help us bring peace and save the country from the path of self-destruction.

Despite the present Constitution standing hijacked and aberrations getting public intellectuals to consider surrender? Is “perhaps” not wishful thinking?

A Hindu Rashtra will certainly sound the death knell of the idea of India that celebrated diversity…

Is “systematic targeting of religious minorities, increase in lynching cases, partisan attitude of police…” how diversity is “celebrated”?

Just like several other modern theocracies, a Hindu Rashtra could guarantee substantial rights to religious minorities.

Could?! When Constitutional guarantees are being played football with? Judicial redressal sounds fictional? Equality and Free Press are rumours? Is fantasizing justified, where lives and future of not only Muslims and Christians comprising fifth of a nation, but hundreds of crores of secular Hindus are concerned? Could…and what if it does not? Will reversal be possible?!

It will …uphold modern ideas of human rights, particularly the right to equality and non-discrimination.

Even while State power is, on paper, Constitutionally shackled, unequal treatment screams from every official portal, decisions of Temples of Justice shock the conscience, stink of discrimination fouls every field, legislation is skewed… does the Professor have mysterious awareness of what a Hindu Rashtra will look like? Malevolent even with such shackles, on what basis or from what experience does he expect “equality…non-discrimination” freed from even those?

Hindutva fanatics will be hugely disappointed to know that the Hindu Rashtra will not be entirely different from the current secular state.

Is the current state secular? Or, ostensibly secular?

 It will neither disenfranchise religious minorities nor will it take over their religious places or deny them the right to property…

NRC, NPR, CAA… Babri Masjid… Exit professorial credibility?

Legally speaking, the declaration of a Hindu Rashtra would merely require a 15-judge Supreme Court bench to overrule the basic structure limitation on the Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution.

Is Rajya Sabha being “judicially reinforced” not a step in that direction?

In fact, that’s why Indian secularism talks of equal respect for all religions.

Talks…isn’t it short of walking that talk?

…it is possible to have a Hindu Rashtra even under the secular model.

How? When the Constitution mandates all acts of State be consistent with Directive Principles? Or, superficially secular, subcutaneously communal?

We, too, may declare Hinduism to be the official religion of the state and, like England, give equal rights to all citizens ensuring freedom of religion and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion.

When without any such declaration of equality stands denied everywhere?! Professor, when we created the nation, we gave ourselves the Constitution and all rights: who is now to give us what is already ours, and sought to be unfairly, illegitimately, withheld?

Israel does not have a written Constitution. But its basic law guarantees human dignity, liberty, equality and freedom of religion.

Do law’s guarantees mean anything if those are not judicially enforced? What were the professor’s comments on judicial responses in re Babri Masjid, Article 370, Kashmir lock-down, Delhi events?

In fact, Sharia courts have more powers than Jewish, Christian and Druze courts and their decisions are executed like verdicts of civil courts.

Shariah Courts will operate only between Muslims inter se. What does Israel do when Israeli citizens occupy Palestinian land and homes, and how does it practise apartheid, professor?

Pakistan’s Constitution …lays down “adequate provision …for minorities to freely profess, practise their religion and develop their culture”…Article 36 says that the state shall safeguard due representation of minorities in federal and provincial services. Accordingly, the Constitution reserves seats for them.

So many lives lost…if the Union government was only informed how well Pakistan protected minorities, wouldn’t it have excluded Pakistan from CAA?!

If we go the Pakistan way, will we agree to such a reservation?

We. Will. Not. Go. Pakistan’s. Way. Why fantasize reservation of seats for minorities when we see delimitations altering electoral demographics?

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh restored secularism as a basic feature of the Constitution.

In the professor’s own experience and observations after judicial responses in re Babri Masjid, Art. 370, Kashmir lock-down, Delhi events, would he care to predict what our Supreme Court would do?

If we are really fed up with the separation model of secularism and want to adopt the jurisdiction model with India being declared a Hindu Rashtra or giving Hinduism the status of dominant spiritual heritage, we must ensure that it brings with it genuine liberalism, substantive equality, modernity and, above all, state responsibility towards religious minorities with the guarantee of freedom and cultural autonomy.

One, we are fed up with the façade of secularism and the undercurrent of majoritarianism in every field. Two, no thinking person or patriot wants India being declared any such thing. Three, “we must ensure” is fantasizing: When “we” can’t even ensure equality, state callousness is prevalent as deep-rooted malaise, all guarantees are reduced to ashes and handcuffs, and judiciary plays hands-off, how would you ensure these?! Haven’t you heard demands for Muslim-mukt, Christian-mukt Bharat?

If even this cannot bring to an end the project of hate and polarisation, we have no option but to strengthen our original concept of secularism and work towards the emancipation of state from religion.

Ah! Admittedly there is “the project of hate and polarisation”. Only, the professor did not think far enough: We have an ongoing “project of hate and polarisation” raising huge challenges even while ostensible your Constitutional guarantees remain officially enforceable. Even those gone, a Hindu Rashtra in place, equality substituted with official chest-thumping inequality, ostensible non-discrimination with proud fascist discrimination, public spaces overrun, intellectuals swept aside by the mitr-society, education substituted with indoctrination, history with hysteria, the “original concept of secularism” dead and buried, how will what is lost be then restored?? Will an emasculated judiciary, awaiting a “conducive atmosphere”, at the instance of a brow-beaten blackmailed tattered minority, compel rebuilding and restoration of any of India’s destroyed institutions?

Last I heard, Dumbledore was disinclined toward Indian Politics. Local versions of Voldemort are greatly enthused. The professor has won applause. And lost credibility.


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