New Delhi: Ram Vilas Paswan, the founder president of Lok Janshakti Party, had argued for a secular India so ardently that it’s hard to forget how his critics had questioned him for joining hands with Narendra Modi’s government.
Paswan breathed his last on October 8, leaving a void. His admirers recalled his speech in Lok Sabha when he strongly opposed the Confidence Motion in 1996. It was a difficult hour for the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who resigned within 13 days of forming the government.
In his address in the Lok Sabha, Paswan exuded the idea of an inclusive India. His India was not a state with a religion. He had said, “When you talk of social justice, it means you provide justice to everyone in the society be it Dalit or Brahmin. India is like a garden full of flowers of each and every variety of species. There are Hindus, Muslims, Christians.”
He added, “That gardener is best in whose garden there are all types of flowers. Remember the gardener of such a garden is dishonest in whose garden only the lotus flower blooms and others wither away.”
In his view, such a garden has a short life, “Such a garden will not last,” he had said.
Mandir Mandal Politics
He built ably his coalition governments and spoke of building secular forces. His government worked in the interest of the poor, Dalits, backward and the weaker sections of the society. “Had our government not implemented the Mandal Commission and not worked for the backward classes, Ram Rath would not have been brought on the road. Ram Rath was brought to counter Mandal and usurp the rights of the poor “which resulted in the fall of our government,” he said.
Back then Paswan had blamed the RSS for the fall of the government. “I would like to add that both the times it was the RSS which was instrumental in the fall of our government. Therefore, whether it was in 1977 or in 1990 our government fell due to RSS. This time we are going to form the government of secular forces and it will last till five years.”
State Has No Religion
That time Hinduism was mentioned in the House. Paswan seized the moment to explain to Vajpayee the idea of India. “Just now Hinduism was mentioned. I want to thank the people of this country and I am proud of the fact that the people who are talking of Hindu Nation today should not forget that everyone has contributed a lot in the freedom of this country,” he had said.
He recalled the contributions of Khudiram Bose and Sardar Bhagat Singh who were hanged till death and spoke of Ishfaqullah, the Muslim freedom fighter who had said, ‘sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai dekhna hai zor ktna bazuein qaatil maein hain’ and was hanged till death.
“The state has no religion of its own. The state is neither Hindu, nor Muslim or Sikh. Water has only one quality, one religion. Nobody would like to put his finger in hot water but the cold water is useful for all. In the same way the state has one religion and that is justice. But if you add Hindu, Muslim or Khalistan, it will lose the very concept of justice.”
Paswan felt that Vajpayee had something else in his mind and expressed a different view under pressure. Addressing Vajpayee, he said, “He talks of Hindu nation. We can very well see that there are Hindu chief ministers. Tell me the name of any state where any Muslim has become a chief minister?”
How Many Muslim CMs?
Today the political representation of Muslims in the various assemblies and Lok Sabha are a dismal picture but in 90s his vision was of ‘Muslim CMs’ in different states.
He was worried about the fact that the country had only Hindu chief ministers, Presidents, Vice President, Prime Minister. He was disturbed about the fact that “99% of government jobs were held by Hindus” and said that this was not his idea of India. He said that when Mandal Commission was implemented by his government it was meant for social justice and not narrow communal imagination.
“I was stating that there are Hindu chief ministers in most of the states. The President, Vice President and Prime Minister of India are Hindus and Hindus occupy 99% of the government jobs. Only one percent of jobs are with minority people,” he said.
He also questioned the slogan of Hindu Nation. “Why is the slogan of 'Hindu Nation' being raised again and again and even if it becomes a Hindu Nation, what will a Hindu get more than this? “What does Hindu mean? Whether a Handful of people will rule and Muslims will only be abused? Will the people in power rule on the name of Hindus?” asked Paswan in the House.
While narrating the medieval Indian history, he also explained “Who is a Muslim?”
“I will tell you, who are Muslims and why they embraced Islam. Why did some members of our family become Muslims? When you stopped them from entering the temple, they went to Masjid. And when you did not permit them to dine with you, they joined the dastarkhwaanor langar. You are not going to eradicate the evils of the religion by simply resorting to other temporary devices,” he had said.