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JNUSU Elections 2019: Politics Beyond ‘Secular vs Communal’ Binary

Let us not be-fool ourselves into thinking that the claimed universality of the secular in India includes Christian and Muslim thought. Rather, it makes space for subtle liberal Hinduness (as caste) to seep into our everyday lived experiences.

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I had done all of my schooling in Christian schools exclusively since play school. However, the moment I came to JNU, I thought I was going to to be ‘liberated’ from my Christian morality and could become ‘secular, progressive and liberal’. But over a period of my varied political engagements, I realised the delusion of the polemic political practice in JNU as meaningless, and often as barriers to real communication that probably my Christian ethics would have prompted me to look for.

My engagement with the Ambedkarite- Muslim politics taught me the importance and potentially the value of my Christian ethics that I thought I had to cleanse myself off, as the dominant Hindu paradigm wanted me to become ‘secular’. Beyond the secular/ communal; national/terrorist; feminist/patriarchal binaries that I was used to thinking in from the language in JNU, I discovered politics to be in the spaces that can be in-between, not clearly marked. The Fraternity Movement, includes such intricacies ( Even if I often thought what I was up to being involved in a dominantly Muslim movement).

Involvement with the movement taught me think of secularity beyond state defined categories of the secular and most importantly, the dangers of engaging with questions on gender, sexuality and desire from liberal perspectives and the need for theologically rooted ethics in political praxis. Mainstream Christian subjectivity has been shaped very differently in the Indian (Kerala for me) context from Muslim and Dalit subjectivities, and often had skirmishes and differences of opinions. However, theological roots of Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Sikh traditions have emphasized on the critique of the Hindu Social order as a core to their understanding.

Let us not be-fool ourselves into thinking that the claimed universality of the secular in India includes Christian and Muslim thought. Rather, it makes space for subtle liberal Hinduness (as caste) to seep into our everyday lived experiences. What the Ambedkarite- Muslim movements ask for is not just membership as a physical marker (which is what the state centric political parties who are fighting fascism ask us for) but politics as a space for the democratization of our subjectivities through engagement with our own different epistemic traditions. ‘Identity’ politics as it is called with distaste and almost disgust on campus attempts emancipation without excepting all of us to discard our differences, but rather attempts to understand differences through real understanding of others. What’s important then is not political correctness in its liberal articulation, but an engagement that is genuine hence not secular, but one that believes in the principles of secularity, which is not just feminist or queer, but inter-sectional and inter-subjective in it’s worldview.

(The above post is written by Noel Maryam George, former MA student in School of International Studies, JNU).

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