From the Viewsroom

Nehru and Sabarimala

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on November 20, 2018 Published on November 20, 2018

Scientific temper aside, Congress in Kerala is backing obscurantism

British thinker George Jacob Holyoake, who coined the term ‘secularism’ in 1851, was an atheist and editor of a newspaper, The Oracle of Reason. Holyoake defined secularism as a “code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human”. Among the many who were inspired by his writings were Jawaharlal Nehru, who championed the idea of secularism and wanted his party, the Indian National Congress, to take its ethos and practice forward.

Holyoake felt the term secularism was more positive than atheism. Nehru, an atheist and staunch humanist, wanted secularism to mean equal disregard to all religions in a country like India where he believed over-importance to religions and dogmas could endanger the diversity of the country as it could easily slip into majoritarianism and totalitarianism. “No country or people who are slaves to dogma and dogmatic mentality can progress,” wrote Nehru in as early as 1926, lamenting that “...unhappily our country and people have become extraordinarily dogmatic and little-minded.”

Jawaharlal Nehru’s idea of the Congress was that of a party that would uphold secularism in a modern sense. But India’s recent history has shown how the grand old party has merrily veered away from the days of Nehruvian secularism (that actually began even during his time), shrugging off its responsibility to promote scientific temper and modern, humanist values. The latest example of backward, patriarchal tendencies in the party holding sway is its response in Kerala to the controversy around Sabarimala. The State government is attempting to implement a Supreme Court verdict that allowed ‘women of menstruating age’ to enter the Hindu shrine of Sabarimala in South Kerala. Since the SC ruling, the Congress has been sitting on the fence on the issue, oscillating towards the right at times, helping add fire to the fury of the visibly agitated religious fundamentalists backed by the BJP, which is making its last ditch attempt to find a strong foothold in the State.

Even after Congress President Rahul Gandhi openly stated that all women should be allowed to enter Sabarimala, the State party unit, especially Opposition leader and Congress veteran Ramesh Chennithala, decided to turn a blind eye to Gandhi’s remarks and equated police action at the shrine — in which no casualties were ever reported — to ‘Operation Blue Star’ (ironically conducted by his own leader of yore, Indira Gandhi) and wondered if Kerala was under the rule of Hitler. And most senior leaders of the Congress seemed to be in endorsement of his views, which echoed that of the comments of the Sangh Parivar leaders in Kerala, prompting many observers to sarcastically term the party as a B-team of the BJP.

It is astonishing to see such retrograde behaviour from a party that claimed to represent Nehru’s idea of secularism. Clearly, the vote-bank politics of the Congress in Kerala on the Sabarimala issue severely belittles its secular credentials. This doesn’t augur well for the party as well as the country and people it claims to represent.

Deputy Editor

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

Published on November 20, 2018
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor