The Arithmetic of Infinite Appeasement

Abdul Khaliq

The ordinary Muslim dreads the period just prior to the announcement of elections because that is when his community is pulled out from the margins and brought centre stage to become the plaything for the cynical opportunism, power games and vote calculations of the two competing camps- the right wing Hindutva nationalists on the one hand and the so-called secular formations on the other. That is also when the genie of sops and screams of appeasement rend the air. Creating a permanent rift between communities and isolating the Muslim has been the barely disguised policy of the BJP camp. What is disturbing is that the central government which allegedly represents the secular forces is also tacitly abetting polarisation of communities in the hope of garnering minority support.

Indian MuslimsLast week the government announced that it proposes to provide legal assistance to those who have been jailed on grounds of prima facie ‘doubtful’ charges in terror cases.  Predictably, the BJP has termed this as appeasement of Muslims, even those who are terrorists.  The government decision not only begs the real issues but is also a dishonest, cynical ploy to fracture relations between the two communities and reap unholy dividends.  Instead of taking measures to ensure that the investigating agencies do not wrongfully implicate innocent citizens, the government has shown its phony concern for Muslims with this meaningless but dangerous gesture; meaningless because the law in any case provides that every accused should be given legal aid and dangerous because it has provided fodder to the BJP to drive a wedge between communities.

Not to be outdone in the murky game of vote bank politics that gives the veneer of substantial help to a particular group but actually dispenses no special privilege, the UP government last week announced earmarking of 20% of welfare scheme funds for Muslims. The fact that the welfare schemes such as NREGA, National Rural Health Mission, Indira Awaas Yogana etc are nowhere linked to caste or community but are based essentially on economic criteria makes the proposal an exercise in sheer duplicity.It may be recalled the Samajwadi Party,earlier on,in it’s manifesto had promised a reservation of 18% in government jobs for Muslims.We are yet to see or hear any progress in the matter.One only hopes that Muslims see through the arrant absurdities and wicked motives that inform these proposals

 There are other examples of the Central government using Muslims in the guise of helping them.   Its opportunistic decision to provide 4.5% specific quota for Minorities within the overall 27% quota for OBCs in government jobs and IITs coincided with the UP elections last year.  The notification remained frozen as an unimplemented pious intention as it was struck down the by the Supreme Court.  Clearly a charade, it was known all along that without legislative endorsement the executive order was bad in law.  In any case, with certain categories of Muslims already treated as OBCs, this decision would have made little difference to the job prospects of Muslims.  But the unhappy upshot is that it has poisoned relations between Muslims and other OBCs.

The ruling party’s hypocrisy and tokenism is apparent from the fact that it sought to fiddle with aspects of reservation that have already factored in Muslims, but has been dragging its feet on the unacceptable discrimination against Dalit Christians and Muslims.  This is an issue in which the lofty principle enunciated in Article 15 of the Constitution prohibiting any discrimination on grounds of religion has been blatantly abused by the law makers themselves.  The denial of Scheduled Caste (SC) status to SC Christians and Muslims constitutes the worst form of discrimination.  The only argument against giving this status to them is that SCs who convert to these religions no longer face any social stigma.  Nothing can be more untrue.  The great Mahatma who knew this country and its people better than anyone else had this to say on the subject: ‘Whether the Harijan is nominally a Christian, Hindu, and Muslim or Sikh, he is still a harijan.  He can’t change his spots from Hinduism.  He may change his garb and call himself a Catholic harijan or a Muslim harijan or a Neo-Sikh, his untouchability will haunt him in his lifetime’.  Can the Constitution of this great land be tainted by endorsing this blatant discrimination?  The Constitutional amendments, as interpreted by our lawmakers, bear an uncanny resemblance to the philosophy of our home-grown right-wing Hindutva fundamentalists. A key concept propagated by one of the leading ideologues of the fundamentalists explicitly distinguishes between followers of indigenous religions from those that originated elsewhere. Muslims and Christians are foreigners in India which rightly belongs to the adherents of religions born here. Tragically, a similar mindset is evident in the denial of SC status to SC Muslims and Christians while granting this concession to SC Buddhists and Sikhs.

The Congress has time and again been guilty of playing footsie with ‘soft’ Hindutva.  It will be recalled that in the 1980s , the Rajiv Gandhi government, having catered to Muslim ‘appeasement’ in the  Shah Bano case, sought to rectify the balance by throwing open the doors of the Babri Masjid to the Hindus for worship of Lord Ram, whose idol was installed inside the mosque in 1949.  That was the starting point of a chain of events that ultimately destroyed the Babri Masjid.  In the same amoral cynical manner, the present government surreptitiously hanged Afzal Guru earlier this year with the clear intent of taking the wind out of the sails of the BJP’s persistent refrain of minority appeasement in not executing him.  That he was hanged before the Supreme Court delivered its judgement on executing prisoners, including Guru, who had served inordinately long prison sentences; that he was not one of the attackers of Parliament; that he did not kill anybody; that he was held guilty of being an accomplice not on the basis of direct proof but on ‘circumstantial evidence’, are critical issues of justice that were considered subordinate to satisfying ‘the collective conscience of the nation’.  However, the mass conscience is not similarly outraged by the fact that Rajiv Gandhi’s Hindu assassins continue to escape the gallows.  Owaisi is sent to jail for his hate-filled speech but the archetypal apostle of hate, Praveen Togadia roams free to spew venom against the Muslim community.  More hurtful than anything else, the fight against terrorism is deeply tainted with religious overtones.  Scores of innocent Muslims have been arrested and tortured only because of their religious affiliations.  Such colossal injustice has become routine in the life of the nation and is seen as normal ‘collateral damage’ in the fight against terrorism. Can you blame Muslims if they harbour the thought that all men are equal but some are more equal?  They are distraught at the selective application of the law.

For decades the BJP’s theme song is that Muslims are a pampered favoured community who have embraced group privilege at the expense of the majority.  The absolute hollowness of this vicious myth is poignantly reflected in the socio-economic plight of the community.  Muslims languish on the margins of society at the bottom of the ladder, almost at par with the Dalits.  A recent government survey conducted by the NSSO has noted that among various religious groups, Muslims have the lowest living standard with an average per capita expenditure of a mere Rs. 32.66 per day as compared to Rs.37.5 for Hindus, Rs. 51.43 for Christians and Rs. 53.30 for Sikhs.  Accused of being government’s ‘damads’ (sons-in-law), Muslims constitute less than 6% of the staff strength in the Central Government.  In fact a recent NSSO study reveals that the recruitment of minorities in government jobs including PSUs, paramilitary   forces and public sector banks has actually dropped from 7.25% in 2009-10 to 6.24% in 2011-12.  The most recent report of the National Monitoring Committee for Minorities Education (NMCME 2013) shows that Muslims have the lowest literacy rate among communities at 59% against the national average of 65%.  In urban areas, the illiterate percentage of Muslims is 42.9% for males and 50.5% for females against the national average of 27.7% and 36.5% respectively.  There is damning evidence to show that the State has failed to foster an effective, unbiased and inclusive system that could facilitate an adequate presence of Muslims in educational, professional and vocational institutions.  On account of communalisation of the public space, Muslims are not able to access all the opportunities available, leading to their continuing isolation and ghettoisation.

Muslims want to bridge the distance between communities, not exacerbate it.  They are heartily sick of the politics that uses secularism as a cloak of convenience.  Like their fellow countrymen they know that for a united, equal and just society, they need to cross the religious divide and care for one another as brothers.  As a troubled, besieged community, they are painfully aware that the communalism of one group feeds on the communalism of the other.  Rather than being given nominal group privileges, they want a level playing field in education, in the job market, when looking for accommodation or when an act of terrorism takes place.  To modify what Martin Luther King said in the American context, the Muslims hope that they will not be unfairly judged by their religious identity but truly judged by the content of their character.

(The author, a former civil servant, is Secretary General of Lok Janshakti Party.The views  are personal.akhaliq2007@gmail.com)


Most Popular

To Top

Enable BeyondHeadlines to raise the voice of marginalized


Donate now to support more ground reports and real journalism.

Donate Now

Subscribe to email alerts from BeyondHeadlines to recieve regular updates