A Borrower from a bank is not required to disclose his religion in an application, so far. And there has been no report of discrimination against minorities in banking institutions. There is already a mechanism of disbursal to minority community. But soon, a banker writing a loan cheque will have to take into account the borrower'sreligious practice. For, according to a report in The Economic Times, the government has asked the Indian Banker'sAssociation to earmark a part of total loan disbursement for members of minority communities. On January 9, the banking division under the Finance Ministry told the IBA to set aside 15 per cent of priority sector lending in all categories for this segment. IBA in turn has asked member banks to furnish details of loans to minorities. This is the latest of the innovative communal initiative from the Manmohan Singh government.
On the Republic Day, 57 years after India became a secular democratic republic, we are posing this question as to how will this politics of appeasement affect national unity? Will it create contrived and bogus grievances deepening divisions in the society or will it strengthen our sense of oneness and belonging? The politics of appeasement started by the Congress under Mahatma Gandhi in the early 1920s, resulted in the country'svivisection. The tragic history is not forgotten. The wounds of partition have not yet fully healed. But the UPA in the last three years has embarked on a course that mocks at those who talk about national integration. They are not taking a calculated risk. But brazenly provoking a divide through cynical machinations. The Planning Commission reports say that at least 26 per cent of India'spopulation is living below poverty line. If emancipation of this deprived segment is the priority why talk only of 13 per cent Muslims, all of whom in any case are not below poverty line? As such, learned maulanas of Muslim Personal Law Board have decreed that Muslims cannot take to banking or insurance, polio drops or yoga classes, as these militate against their religious dogmas. The Sachar Committee appointed by Manmohan Singh claims that only three per cent of Muslim children go to madrasas. The evolutionary volume was an attempt to tell social scientists that the ?Missing Muslim? in jobs was not the result of madrasa education. Sachar was trying to emphasise on a chimera of conspiracy against Muslims for their backwardness. At another place the report stated that the condition of Muslims is worse than that of Dalits. Immediately an action plan is under way for Muslims, but mum is the word on the equally deprived Dalits.
One of the instant reactions was from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy followed by HRD Minister Arjun Singh. Reddy said in his state he was going to finance madrasas in a big way to encourage Muslim education. Arjun followed suit and announced enhanced funds for madrasas all over the country. The contradiction is striking. On the one hand Sachar says Muslim backwardness cannot be attributed to madrasa education?which means madrasas are not good enough?but our Congress leaders want to push our poor Muslim children right into the vortex of madrasa theology by funding and mushrooming them. Pro-Muslim politicians are promoting Urdu, Arabic and Persian studies for Muslim students. Will it fetch them jobs? But it sure enough helps drain our scarce national resources. By the same logic they should be promoting Hebrew for Christians. But that community is wise enough not to take such an insult as an encouragement.
We are not here on the conventional wisdom that the madrasas are the hatcheries of terrorism and Al Qaida. With state assembly elections drawing closer, there is a ferocious bullfight on the streets of UP for Muslim votes. Mulayam Singh Yadav, who feels Congress has stolen away his mullah cap, is flooding the Urdu press with advertisements listing his achievements in appeasements from opposing US plans on Iran and Iraq, hanging of Saddam Hussein, Danish cartoons and certificate of encouragement to terrorist outfit SIMI. His list is unending. He accuses the Congress of not doing enough, even betraying the Muslim cause. To recount all that Mulayam has done for Muslims, according to his sponsored pull-outs, it would look as if he had not done anything else on the administrative front. Hence, perhaps Nithari and UP'sdubious reputation as the most unsafe place for children, women and good citizens!
Yet, Sachar says, UP is only just behind West Bengal, in the deprivation of Muslims. The red bastion under the CPM takes the top slot in Muslim deprivation. Is it that the comrades? obsession with Muslims in Pakistan, Bangladesh and West Asia made them forget about their next-door brothers? The comrades are not that easily cowed down. They blurt, Sachar Committee Report is accurate about everything else except West Bengal. They don'tmind even if that means, the BJP-ruled states like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, have better and enviable record in Muslim empowerment. So much for the red concern for the white cap.
There is an interesting survey taken up by the Left leaning socio-scientific NGO Shastra Sahitya Parishad; Kerala: How it lives, How it thinks released last month. According to the survey, it is not minority Muslims or Christians but Hindus comprising 54.47 per cent of Kerala's3.2 crore population who are at the economic downslide. The survey, by the Marxist NGO, says Hindus in the state form the major chunk of the state'spoor with over 39 lakh living below poverty line. Condition of Hindus is worse than that of Christians and Muslims in employment, land holding and income. And the survey says the condition of so-called forward castes is more pathetic than the backward caste Hindus.
What we are focussing on in this special issue is how the policy of appeasement pursued by politicians is unsettling Indian polity. The travesty of this vote-bank politics is that it arrests India'sgrowth as a strong sovereign nation. The politics of appeasement as Swapan Dasgupta says is not about empowerment but the concocted grievances centring on the yearning for political power and theocratic state. The issues that the UPA parties are parading as Muslim specific have practically nothing to do with the core concerns of Indian Muslims. The average Muslim or Christian has no trans-national concerns. He knows India is the land of his destiny, his homeland. Cultivating a false sense of grievance, creating a siege mentality the UPA is consciously instigating communal hatred. How far it is going to help it electorally is to be seen, but it has severely damaged India'smarch to nationhood.