What is appeasement? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it: ?Placate (someone) by acceding to their demand.? The definition is somewhat incomplete. What if the demands are reasonable? Would meeting them be appeasement in the real sense of the word? But then the second question arises: What is ?reasonable?? When over a hundred mullahs called on the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, demanding the right to slaughter cows, the Emperor, to his eternal credit, refused to meet it. There is nothing in the Holy Book, he told the mullahs, that calls for the slaughter of cows. And that was the end of the matter. Presently cows are slaughtered in their hundreds and not an eyebrow is raised. According to the animal lover, Maneka Gandhi, ?thousands of cows are taken to Deonar in Maharashtra to be slaughtered illegally?. According to her ?there is a genocide going on with over two lakh cows being killed every day?, while the government looks the other way and boasts that India is ?the largest exporter of leather and meat in the world?.
The Indian Constitution provides equal status to all Indians. Articles 14, 15 and 17 restrict the government from giving benefits to a particular faith at the cost of others. But every year the government spends over Rs 300 crore on over one lakh Muslims wishing to go on Haj. Special flights are run. And apparently the prospective Hajis are provided free board and lodging during their trip. Hindus do not get such treatment whether they want to go Banaras, Rameshwaram or Sabarimala.
Not that Hindus are making a song and dance about it. The Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh wants to give ?first preference? to Muslims in providing natural resources. The Sachar Committee Report is produced as an excuse. Poor Muslims are to be treated as a special case. The Sachar Committee has even suggested the creation of a National Waqf Development Council with a revolving fund of Rs 500 crore. The reason given is that there are some five lakh acres that comprise Wakf property across the country whose current market value is estimated to be well over Rs one lakh crore. So who is poor? Wakf property, as one commentator, has correctly noted, ?represents booty gathered by medieval conquerors and distributed to their supporters as rewards of victory?.
The Turkish government abolished the Ministry of Wakf in 1924. The French colonial governments in Muslim countries realised the impropriety of Wakfs almost a century earlier. What Muslim leadership in India should do is to sell off this property and make use of the money earned to take care of the Muslim poor. That the Government of India would not dare to suggest. Should we call it appeasement?
Appeasement arises out of four factors: One, fear: The government is scared that if it is seen to offend Muslim sentiment, it may face a revolt. Two, pity. Those in power want to be seen as benefactors of the poor, especially a minority poor, even if the poor voted solidly for Pakistan and having voted for it, decided to stay on in India. Three, guilt. The government feels that it has been negligent of the Muslim poor, despite their having stayed on in India, and suffers from a guilt complex and Four, selfishness. By appearing to care and even showing willingness to give succour to the Muslim poor, the party in power hopes to get their votes in order to rule the country. Any one or all four factors may be responsible for the stand taken by the Manmohan Singh government, but one suspects that what has moved it is fear and selfishness. The government has no reason to feel guilty.
If the Turkish government can abolish Wakf, as could the colonial French, there is no reason why the Indian government should suffer Wakf property being held by the Muslim imams. If India can abolish zamindari, it can abolish the Wakf as well. This is where fear seats in. The Congress cannot forget one thousand years of Muslim rule. Slaughterhouses have proliferated all over India. While there are approximately 3,600 slaughterhouses operating legally in India, there are an estimated over 30,000 illegal slaughterhouses which are running without the government doing anything about it. It is plain cowardice. This is where Maneka Gandhi'sobservations are relevant. According to her, the slaughter of cows ?is happening hand in glove with the police and district magistrates who give false certificates every day allowing cows to be loaded into trucks. The fact that the entire leather industry is made from the hides of illegally killed cows or that the meat comes from young milch cows and their babies, is irrelevant to them. The police are delighted with this crime?.
One of the worst offenders in the capture and sale of cows to butchers is the Uttar Pradesh government. Also, adds Maneka Gandhi: ?In Mumbai, the Muslims like eating pregnant and milking cows. I have film footage of cows that are being milked ten minutes before their heads are sawn-off. Their udders are sold with the meat so that the buyer knows he is eating the flesh of a mother?. It is sickening but our Congress governments dare not interfere. A minor dargah has to be dismantled in Baroda to broaden the road and ease traffic but such a hullabaloo was raised about it that the city government had to tread carefully.
A 100-year old Hindu temple consecrated to Sri Muthu Mariamman at a place called Johor in southern Malayasia was demolished by court order but not a voice was raised by our secularists. It took British Prime Minister Tony Blair on November 22, 2006 to raise the subject of reported harassment of Hindus in Kazakhistan with Kazakhistan'sPresident Nursultan Nazarbayev when he met him, but has anyone heard the UPA government raising its voice? It is fear again. Just as it is fear to deal with the Muslim Personal Law Board.
Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister even dared not ?offend? Muslim sentiments in the famous Shah Bano Case. The name of the game is appeasement.
The militants in Kashmir could drive out Hindus?Kashmiri Pandits?from the vale in a clear case of genocide for no fault of theirs. The harassing was pre-meditated, but not a word is said. More than 400,000 Kashmir Pandits had to leave their homes and hearths. But they get no justice, even when more than 50,000 of them continue to live in hellish conditions in uninhabitable refugee camps. That is secular India. And appeasement is the government'swatchword.
We may ask the simple question: If we are to discriminate between one community and another, how are we going to achieve national unity? If every time a step is to be taken on any issue, should the government constantly be looking behind its back to see if it is being followed? It is one thing to be fair to all but it is quite another to appear to be ?appeasing? one community or another for reasons that are mysterious. It is nobody'scase that Muslims should not be helped. Neither is there any jealousy involved. But are we succumbing to pressures that are becoming increasingly unbearable?
According to Arif Mohammad Khan ?today the government only supports obscurantist organisations like the Personal Law Board, and in turn seeks their help to win electoral support?. If the UPA government takes in the Muslim League and Majlis Ittehady Muslimeen in government, is that not ?appeasement?? Does that make for national unity?
Soon after Partition was over Maulana Abul Kalam Azad told a vast Muslim gathering assembled at the Red Fort in Delhi what damage they had done to themselves by supporting Partition. When the point is made that Muslims must join the mainstream, it is not that they have to give up their religion. But, as the Sachar Report rightly has observed ?makers of Muslim identity?the burqa, the purdah, the beard and the topi?while adding to the distinctiveness of Indian Muslims have been a cause for concern for them in the public realm.? Do Muslims need to stay separate? In any public meeting it would be difficult to differentiate between a Hindu and a Jain and a Buddhist or for that matter a Christian or a Dalit. India is a cosmopolitan society and if Muslims accept that, they would contribute to a large extent to national unity. That unity is not achieved by keeping away from the rest of the people so openly and so deliberately. In the age of globalisation Islamic practices are increasingly tending to be anomalous.
(The writer is senior columnist and Hon. Director, Manipal Institute of Communication.)