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The truth is not out there!

The two articles [1, 2] could not have been any more different – one on Poland’s tilt towards anti-communist Catholicism, and the other by a Communist leader in India about the relevance of the first battle of Indian independence (this year marks 150th year of the 1857 mutiny). Yet, both represented the failure of politicians to separate religion from politics.

The first article describes, how, in post communist rule Poland, Catholicism is being equated with anti-communism, so that when the newly appointed archbishop was accused (and conceded guilty) of having helped Russians as a spy, there is a paradox of kinds. However, by getting the archbishop to resign, the politicians have scored a point that might just help them win the next election.

On the other hand, Sitaram Yechury starts the other article, by making a hero out of Bahadur Shah Zafar who was the (notional) head of the 1857 revolt. By posturing Zafar as a Mughal ruler and quoting RSS’s anti-Muslim stance (in a completely different context) he paints a picture wherein siding with the BJP (RSS’s political arm) becomes anti-national and thus furthers the cause for what he calls a ‘secular front’ government.

What stands out in both articles are the argumentative flaws. The first one says:

Would it have been better if, 50 years from now, Polish Catholics had discovered from the long-sealed archives that their beloved archbishop - subsequently perhaps primate and, who knows, even second Polish pope - had been supping with the communist devil?
To be frank, 50 years later this news would hardly have any value and hence cease to be a political weapon. Does it matter today if some archbishop is posthumously discovered to have leaked news to Nazis? Or will it matter if we find out that some Indian Sadhu helped the British? Apart from some media hype or a public debate somewhere – nothing would change.

Similarly, everyone knows well enough that Bahadur Shah Zafar was an incapacitated king by the time of the 1857 revolt. His nomination as the head of the revolt was merely a rubber stamping to ensure that the revolt does not get fragmented.

Indeed the decisive battles of the British were always with the Maratha empire which by the late 1700s had a strong foothold over 2/3rds of the country. The last battle of Panipat or the battles of Jhansi and Gwalior (remember Mahadji Sindhia?) were more important events than the capture of Zafar by the British or the murder of his sons.

And finally, the RSS stance might have been against the Mughals – but never would that have been pro-British Raj. Against the Raj, all political and apolitical groups were united.

The problem is that across the world, people however religious, do not want to mix politics with religion. Politics now simply stands for governance, not theology.

Increasingly as economics takes precedence over military security, quality of life over jingoism - politicians are finding it difficult to survive with gestures without performance and they are trying to find newer excuses to lure the electorate away from issues towards non-issues like secularism or Catholicism.

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