image caption: Gurmukh Singh OBE and new elected Indian PM Narendra Modi

Hindu Nationalism Versus Indian Democracy

There is an extreme-right global surge in politics. In the arena of power politics, there is a shift from use of military might to exploitation of economic power to influence other nations. In India, Bhartya Janata Party (BJP) led by the charismatic Narendra Modi, has scored a sweeping victory on the wave of Hindu nationalism. It will take India even further away from democratic rule and is already well past the point of no return.

It is not my intention to repeat the analysis of Indian election results by impartial scholars and their bleak predictions about the future of the Indian democracy and the plight of the minorities. The historical reality is that an Indian secular state never existed except in name. Three religions were represented around the negotiating table &ndash Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Of these parties to the division of the sub-continent, only the Sikhs had experience of an egalitarian Khalsa Raj in which all were treated as equals and all had a fair share in the highest offices of the state, including highest ranks in the mighty Khalsa army.

In 1947, the short-sighted Sikh leadership, overtly conscious of their small numbers but forgetful of their great miri-piri heritage which had delivered independence from foreign rule, surrendered their political future to the crafty Hindu leaders. Such amnesia about their great past would cost them dearly in the years to come.

From the outset, Indian state power was vested with one family, the Nehru-Gandhi dynastic rule. Later, following some interim experiments in coalitions, it changed to Narendra Modi led BJP. From the colonial past, India inherited a tendency to dominate from a central point (hegemonistic proclivity). That means centrist control so that state governments depend on central control and direction. The only difference from 2014 onwards was that BJP led by Narendra Modi, won the elections decisively on their own (282 Lok Sabha out of 543 seats in 2014). That trend is picking up pace and is likely to continue to the great cost of Indian democracy and pluralism.

The bracketing of Sikhs, Budhists and Jains with Hindus in Article 25 of the Constitution violated the distinct Sikh identity. It is a sacrilege to imply that Sikhi requires a Constitutional safeguard to ensure reforms such as throwing open the doors of its religious institutions to all classes and sections of Hindus. Why Hindus only? The doors of Sikh institutions including Gurdwaras are always open to all religions, except, of course, the management of Sikh institutions, which is in the hands of Amritdhari Khalsa. Sikhs are lumped with Hindus, while Muslims, Christians and Parsees have their own independent religious traditions.

Sikhs who led the independence movement, have always taken a stand in the best interest of the country. Historically, they have been more patriotic and made the most sacrifices for the freedom and welfare of the people of India than all other Indian communities put together. Guru Nanak Dev ji used the word Hindostan in his Bani when lamenting the atrocities committed by the invader Babar.

Attempts to own Sikhi as a sect of Hinduism will continue to be resisted. More so as the Indian juggernaut keeps rolling towards a Hindu Rashtra.

Gurmukh Singh OBE