Secularism is the separation of religion and state. Simply put, religion has nothing to do with how a country is ruled. The state itself, at least structurally, is atheist. No one will be discriminated against on the basis of religion. This is the most widely accepted definition of secularism.
There are a few other motivated definitions, which border on selectively perpetrated fraud.
As a soldier, I am absolutely apolitical. I have nothing whatsoever to do with any political party. I do not understand politics, and neither do I wish to.
But I understand defending the physical and the ideological frontiers of India. I understand it far better than any politician ever will. And the ideology of India is enshrined in its Constitution.
When we pass out of the academy, we swear an oath not on our holy books but on the Constitution of India.
“I hereby solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to The Constitution of India, as by law established and that I will, as in duty bound honestly and faithfully, serve in the regular army of the Union of India and go wherever ordered, by land, sea or air, and that I will observe and obey all the commands of the President of the Union of India and the commands of any officer set above me, even to the peril of my life”.
At that moment, the Constitution of India becomes our holy book. We cease to be Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. We become something far greater. We become Indians.
Do you see the mention of religion anywhere in this oath? There isn’t any. And therein lies the seed of secularism in the Indian Army. The Indian Army is the guardian of India’s ideological frontiers because it believes. Faith is the cornerstone of this ideology; faith that all Indians are equal before law. And this ideology has to be protected by conviction if needed, and by violence, when necessary.
During training, when all of us were always on the brink of exhaustion every moment, when giving up was always easier but never an option, we forged a brotherhood so strong that that it has withstood that most fearsome of tests, time.
It never occurred to me that Bali was a Sikh, Sinha a Hindu, Nihal a Muslim and Sam a Christian. We were merely trying to cope, each fighting his own demons and trying his utmost to survive the fire and brimstone that the OTA threw at us every minute.
When we entered the academy, we were of different faiths. I don’t know what the Indian Army did to us, but after a year of training, our souls had turned olive green. Gradually, the uniform and the flag became the reasons for our existence. And carefree college going youngsters became the defenders of a nation.
Many of those defenders are no more. They were martyred defending India and all that this nation stands for. I have lived with such real examples for a very long time. That’s why it becomes impossible for me to wrap my head around hatred in the name of religion that I see everyday, perpetrated by politicians and fringe groups. These fringe groups are found in every religion.
When you see a Sikh offering Namaz, a Muslim leading the Janmashtami pooja, a Hindu kneeling at Church and a Christian offering sewa at a Gurudwara, you know that you are in the Indian Army. And you know that you are privileged.
The Indian Army has places of worship called “Sarv Dharma Sthal”, a common place of worship for all religions. Ram and Rahim are at peace here. There is no conflict. There can never be, because the nation is above everything else. Religion comes much later, if at all.
Secularism, or “sickularism” is a much-abused term today. It has come to mean all that it should not; pandering to minorities and special privileges. But the Indian Army still maintains the original and pristine definition of secularism, without an iota of deviation for the past 69 years, because they have not allowed politicians and their politics to sully it.
There are no vote banks in the Indian Army. There are only victors and martyrs.
We Indians are 1.2 billion strong. For centuries, invaders have taken advantage of the divisions that we created and thrust upon ourselves. We have been ruled for millennia. We are divided, we fight amongst ourselves, we bicker and we intellectualise insignificant things because we lack unity and common cause.
We are responsible for our fault lines. These fault lines are making us weak. And weak nations do not sit at the high table of the United Nations Security Council. Weak nations are not respected.
Overt and covert enemies surround us and they mean us mortal harm.
Any person or organisation that disrupts social harmony, that stops India from taking that great leap towards superpower status, has to be stopped with overwhelming force. It could be Muslim groups creating organised havoc in West Bengal or the Shiv Sena doing its brand of insidious and selective vigilantism – both understand the language of violence but have never been confronted with it. They are used to being mollycoddled by the powers that be. They think they are infallible. I am not suggesting that the army be given the responsibility for bringing them to heel; that’s no solution. But a small introduction to the Indian Army would not be such a bad idea. Let them see death clothed in olive green from close quarters, just for the sake of “education”.
I am not fully aware of what is happening in Malda, West Bengal. It would be wrong for me to comment and fuel speculation and rumour. But let me assure you, whatever it is, it will go away with the first Indian Army column marching through the streets. I have seen it in 1992 in Bhopal. The civil administration requisitioned for “aid to civil authorities” after days of rioting. But when they finally did, and it was announced over the radio, every rioter went home quietly. Bhopal returned to normalcy in a few hours. The rioters knew this – a confrontation with the Indian Army goes just one way.
To be strong, we must be united. But this secularism should not be the “sickularism” of the khadi. It must be the secularism of the Indian Army.
Who are Major Shaitan Singh, CQMH Abdul Hamid, Subedar Joginder Singh, Lance Naik Albert Ekka and Lt. Col. Ardeshir Tarapore? Each was awarded the Param Veer Chakra for bravery that will boggle the imagination of generations. They are INDIAN heroes. They are SHAHEED.
This is the brotherhood of olive green. This is secularism, Indian Army style.
The author is a retired Army veteran. He is now a renowned defence analyst. Needless to mention, Major Arya is a proud nationalist Indian.