To be completely honest, the real question should be whether it’s true that secularists hate nationalism?!? And the logical answer is that it’s not real secularists who hate nationalism as nationalism is nothing but loyalty and devotion to one’s nation and secularism is nothing but the separation of religion and religious activities from the affairs of the state.
Keeping Nation first isn’t a crime.
It is only in India that secularism is assumed to mean religious tolerance. One can be secular and intolerant to other religion at the same time…but not in India. As Mahatma Gandhi once said
“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody’s personal concern!”
Thus, the father of the Nation himself was both a true nationalist and a true secularist.
Let’s take another example from history i.e. Adolf Hitler who – whether you like it or not – was both a true- albeit-fierce Nationalist and a true Secularist, which created a terrifying intolerance – the holocaust. [Note: For people wondering how a fascist dictator like Hitler could be a Secularist…here’s a fun- fact: Hitler repeatedly advocated that Nazism was actually a secular ideology that was founded on the principles of science, which in the long run could not co-exist with religion.]
Even if we agree to the strange Indian interpretation of secularism, then too nationalism has nothing to do with secularism as you can be a true nationalist and yet be a religious fanatic.
In fact, to understand the concept of ‘secularism’, you need to step back in time – to the year 1846 to be precise, when the word finds its first recorded use. Thus, etymologically speaking, the word ‘secular’ is derived from the Latin word ‘saecularis’ meaning “worldly” or “temporal” – that is, “relating to worldly as opposed to spiritual affairs”. If you still need a lesson from the lexicon, consider this – secular activities are those everyday chores that have no religious meaning ascribed to them. For example, when you wake up and brush your teeth or even answer nature’s call — you are undertaking secular activities. But the moment… you open your mouth and even utter the word ‘religion’…you no longer remain secular.
Thus, the problem in India arises due to a deliberate distortion (and politically-driven) definition of the term “Secularism” whereby these Pseudo-Secular Parties have tapped into the hearts and minds of minority groups and fed them the new idea of pseudo-secularism, rousing and instilling fear for their personal gains and interests. So today if anyone belonging to a minority religion praises his/her religion and propagates it (as a mission)… it’s acceptable but the moment a Hindu talks proudly of his Hindu heritage, he is seen as being Communal. These Pseudo-Secularists are against nationalism for they misinterpret it as “Hindu Nationalism”…and this too is a political fall-out of BJP coming to power. According to these myopic “intellectual” zealots, the debate is now between the secular nationalism of the Congress and the Hindu nationalism of the Bharatiya Janata Party. What they seldom realise is how they have managed to hijack the political narrative…twisting and contorting it till it fits into their larger political agenda…while the nation and its people fight for basic food, clothing and shelter. How ironical?!? It’s little wonder then…why these so-called “secularists” hate nationalism!