As a sixth grade student I had learnt that India is a secular country; that the state does not have a religion, neither does it patronize any. I grew up believing what I had studied; but as I have grown up, I have realized that this is a big lie. The country is secular only in the text-books. In the thoughts of the people living in the country, we are just pseudo secular. The only difference between us and a non-secular country is that instead of having one state religion we have many. We do not patronize any religion but various sects in the country patronize their own religion. Somehow the feeling of brotherhood and camaraderie that should exist in a secular country is no where to be seen. In short, we are not secular. We are just a collection of non-seculars.
With the elections, this fact was evident rather clearly. The greatest event of our democracy is so stained with incidences of religion based politics and cheap communalism that it makes a mockery of our secular ideologies. I do not blame the political parties involved. In a nation of pseudo seculars that is the best bet for a win. I narrate below the simplest steps of winning an election in our political system. (Pardon my sarcasm. It arises from my deep contempt for what is going around.)
Step 1: Go to the census office and find out the population distribution across major religions. This is very important for the steps to follow. Sometimes I believe that the whole process of conducting a census is an act in disguise to fulfill this need.
Step 2: Identify which religion goes with your image. Or better still, which does not go with your opposition’s image. In case you are confused, choose “Hindutva” – it will make headlines, will earn you the support of local goons and you will be in good books of some popular political parties who have been doing this for quite some time. You can learn a lot from their experiences.
Step 3: Write an inflammatory speech with explicit mentions of the other religion even if you do not mean what you say. You might end up in jail for a couple of days. But then getting a bail is easy in this country. The whole legal proceedings will last a few days before your lawyers prove your innocence and you will be acquitted of all charges. By then, all the newspapers and news channels will ensure you enjoy iconic status in the country.
Step 4: Pick up a sensitive communal issue and shrewdly politicize it. In a nation where religions have thrived side by side for centuries there have to be minor differences. Your job is to pick them up and make them look big enough for a brain wash.
Step 5: Select a particular temple, church or mosque wisely (depending on who your vote bank is) and prove that there existed an insignia of your patronized religion exactly at the same place. Gather a few illiterates and demolish the structure. A few people will get killed in the riots that follow but do not worry; this makes you a national figure. As for getting accused in the process, trust our law and order and our judiciary. They will not disappoint you.
Step 6: Spend enough in the elections to let the common people know of your above achievements.
Step 7: Once you win the elections, on the day you take your oath, you will work towards making India a SECULAR nation along with a host of other things.
Perfect. Welcome to politics in India. By this time you would have definitely joined the who’s who of the political brigade of the second largest democracy in the world while the sixth graders still learn India is a SECULAR country.
And do not worry. In a nation as diverse as ours you will always find something to divide the people into. Religion is one such thing. You can always have the Rich-Poor, the City-Village, the Literate-Illiterate, the Industrial –Agricultural and many more distinctions to divide the people and make them fight while you make merry.
And count on the people of this country. They will never figure out the secret of your win that I have so lamely mentioned. You see, they are not blind. They have decided to keep their eyes shut. They do not want to see!