Sunday, November 24, 2002

Secularism, Pseudo-Secularism, and L.K. Advani

Sometimes I sit and wonder how countries like India and Pakistan were blessed with their choices for leadership. While Pakistan has been lucky enough to have Generals Ayub Khan and Pervez Musharraf, in addition to Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, India has had the fortune to have such awesome leaders in place like Laloo Yadav, Bal Thackeray, and one of my most favorites, L.K. Advani. Dilip D'Souza on, has a great article discussing the term that is the favorite, it seems now of many Hindu fundamentalists in India, Pseudo-Secularism, or Psec.

"The danger of throwing insults about is that sometimes they come back to bite you. Home Minister L K Advani found out the truth in that this week. "Pseudo-secular" was a phrase he first dreamed up. Hordes of his fans took his cue and began flinging it around liberally, later shortening it to the clumsy "psec". They all thought they had hit upon the ultimate term of abuse, at least judging by the evident glee with which the term was used. "Psecs", they wanted us to believe, are a truly contemptible lot. So here we are today. Replying to a debate in Parliament, Advani announced that India can "never become a Hindu Rashtra" and was "committed to secularism". (Nope, no "pseudo" there). In doing so, Advani only echoed what others in power before him, those he specifically invented that phrase for, had always said. That is, in doing so, Advani was fully aware of the compulsions of being in power, as opposed to rabble-rousing from atop a Toyota dressed up as a chariot. But of course, this pronouncement incensed his own fans above all. "Mr Advani's statement," said Hindu Hriday Samrat Thackeray, "is a stab in the back ... of the Hindu community." If that wasn't an unkind enough cut, Ashok Singhal of the VHP offered this observation: "Mr Advani's secularism is pseudo-secularism."

At least Advani has come around to accept that India will never be a Hindu country.


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