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    July 2014

The politics of hollow symbolism


“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…Where the world has not been broken up into fragments/By narrow domestic walls…Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way…Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.” ---Rabindranath Tagore With a few days left for the completion of the 100 days of the new sarkar, every move of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being intensely scrutinized and dissected. However, there can be no discussion on Modi without a debate on the concept of “secularism” in Indian politics. As the Urs of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the shrine which holds a great significance in Indian politics for centuries, is nearing, the political circuit is keeping a keen watch on Modi. There is a tradition going on for centuries that Sultans, Badshahs, Hindu Kings, British Viceroys and Prime Ministers post-Independence have visited the Dargah to seek the blessings of the Sufi saint to rule India. While one school of thought opines that Modi, who never shied from asserting his Hindutva principles and has always shunned “skull cap politics”, will stick to his belief, the other school is of the view that now that he has become the Prime Minister of a democratic nation, Modi will visit the shrine to prove his secular credentials. Our Cover Story brings to its readers an insight of the entire issue.  Though it would be interesting to see whether Modi will follow the norm set by his predecessors or he will take a detour and deviate from the age-old tradition, the debate also throws light on the ugly face of Indian politics where pseudo-secularism and hollow symbolism get prominence over the real issues of development and communal harmony. For decades, pseudo-secular elements have played vote-bank politics by camouflaging their crimes under the muslin wrap of secularism. They forgot that merely paying a lip service and embracing the outward symbols of religious identity can never be a solution to the plethora of socio-economic issues confronting India’s minorities.   Donning a skull cap or visiting a Dargah is purely Modi’s personal choice. A politician should be judged on the basis of his work and not through the prism of hollow symbolism.  The visit to the Nizamuddin Auliya shrine might prove a litmus test for Modi but at the same time it will also be a test of our “progressiveness” whether we allow ourselves to bow down to hollow symbolism which has done nothing for the betterment of any community or whether we should rise above petty vote-bank politics and move towards creating an environment where different communities do not merely co-exist but cooperate and work together to build a true secular India.   

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