Secularism per se is a doctrine which arose in the modem West as a revolt against the dosed creed of Christianity. Its battle-cry was that the State should be freed from the stranglehold of the Church, and the citizen should be left to his own individual choice in matters of belief. And it met with great success in every Western democracy.
Had India borrowed this doctrine from the modem West, it would have meant a rejection of the dosed creeds of Islam and Christianity, and a promotion of the Sanatana Dharma family of faiths which have been naturally secularist in the modern Western sense. But what happened actually was that Secularism in India became the greatest protector of closed creeds which had come here in the company of foreign invaders, and kept tormenting the national society for several centuries.
We should not, therefore, confuse India’s Secularism with its namesake in the modern West. The Secularism which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru propounded and which has prospered in post-independence India, is a new concoction and should be recognized as such. We need not bother about its various definitions as put forward by its pandits. We shall do better if we have a close look at its concrete achievements.
Going by those achievements, one can conclude quite safely that Nehruvian Secularism is a magic formula for transmitting base metals into twenty-four carat gold. How else do we explain the fact of Islam becoming a religion, and that too a religion of tolerance, social equality, and human brotherhood; or the fact of Muslim rule in medieval India becoming an indigenous dispensation; or the fact of Muhammad bin Qasim becoming a liberator of the toiling masses in Sindh; or the fact of Mahmud Ghaznavi becoming the defreezer of productive wealth hoarded in Hindu temples; or the fact of Muhammad Ghuri becoming the harbinger of an urban revolution; or the fact of Muinuddin Chishti becoming the great Indian saint; or the fact of Amir Khusru becoming the pioneer of communal amity; or the fact of Alauddin Khilji becoming the first socialist in the annals of this country; or the fact of Akbar becoming the father of Indian nationalism; or the fact of Aurangzeb becoming the benefactor of Hindu temples; or the fact of Sirajuddaula, Mir Qasim, Hyder Ali, Tipu Sultan, and Bahadur Shah Zafar becoming the heroes of India’s freedom struggle against British imperialism or the fact of the Faraizis, the Wahabis, and the Moplahs becoming peasant revolutionaries and foremost freedom fighters?
One has only to go to the original sources in order to understand the true character of Islam and its above-mentioned luminaries. And one can see immediately that their true character has nothing to do with that with which they have been invested in our school and college text-books. No deeper probe is needed for unraveling the mysteries of Nehruvian Secularism.
This is not the occasion to go into the implications of this Secularism vis-a-vis India’s own spiritual vision, India’s own cultural wealth, India’s own national society, and India’s own native nationalism. I have dealt with this theme elsewhere. Suffice it to say that the other face of this Secularism is Hindu-baiting, which profession has been perfected by many scholars, scribes, and politicians, and has so far proved immensely profitable. I need not give the names. The stalwarts in this field are very well known.
The Bombay Malayalee Samajam has, therefore, rendered a great service in providing a test case, that of Tipu Sultan, for exposing the true character of Nehruvian Secularism. To the best of my knowledge, this Secularism has never faced a challenge such as was posed before it by the scholars and men of public spirit whom we meet in the pages of this book, Tipu Sultan: Villain or Hero? The wealth of first-hand source materials presented in the articles that comprise this book, portray not only the base metal that was Tipu Sultan but also the components of that alchemy which has transmuted him into twenty-four carat gold. VOICE OF INDIA is proud that it should have the privilege of publishing this study of an arch villain being sold as a great hero.
The fight for truth which is described in this book, has proved fruitful. The Statesman dated May 24, 1993 reports: “Once again Tipu Sultan has become a controversial topic in Karnataka. First it was the serial produced by Sanjay Khan which attracted criticism and protests from people, now it is the bicentenary of his death which has created quite a stir… the Karnataka Board of Wakfs has organized the bicentenary, Urs-e-Sharif, of Hazrat Tipu Sultan Shaheed (R.A.), from May 21 to May 23 this year.... This has led to speculation that the Government will again spend several lakhs of rupees in 1999 to observe the 200th death anniversary of Tipu. The State Government has, however, remained tightlipped over the issue and left the Board of Wakfs to answer these questions.” Had there been no challenge to the serial, the State Government would not have remained tightlipped. It would have immediately untied its purse strings, and joined hands with the Board of Wakfs for singing hymns of praise to the Hazrat and the Shaheed.
What the Hazrat and the Shaheed stood for is described by Mir Hussain Ali Kirmani in his book, Nishan-i-Haidari, which he completed in AD 1802, three years after Tipu’s death. Kirmani writes: ‘It happened one day that a Fakir (a religious mendicant), a man of saint-like mind, passed that way, and seeing the Sultan gave him a life-bestowing benediction, saying to him, ‘Fortunate child, at a future time thou will be the king of this country, and when thy time comes, remember my words - take this temple and destroy it, and build a masjid in its place, and for ages it will remain a memorial of thee.’ The Sultan smiled, and in reply told him that ‘whenever, by his blessings, he should become a Padishah, or King, he would do as he (the Fakir) directed’. When, therefore, after a short time, his father became a prince, the possessor of wealth and territory, he remembered his promise, and after his return from Nagar and Gorial Bunder, he purchased the temple from the adorers of the image in it (which after all was nothing but the figure of a bull, made of brick and mortar) with their goodwill, and the Brahmins, therefore, taking away their image, placed it in the Deorhi Peenth, and the temple was pulled down, and the foundations of a new Masjid raised on the site…” That is the Masjid-i-Ala or Jama Masjid standing in Srirangapatanam on the site of a Shiva temple. One need not comment on Kirmani’s statement that Tipu “purchased the temple from the adorers of the image… with their goodwill”. It is not unoften that terror has produced this sort of goodwill in the minds of its helpless victims.
SITA RAM GOEL
June 10, 1993