There is a well- known adage that ?the biggest gap in the world is the gap between the justice of a cause and the motives of the people pushing it?. Nothing explains this better than the positions of all those ?secularists? who think that reservations exclusively for Muslims of the country'snational resources to a certain limit will go a long way in ameliorating the plights of the Indian Muslims.
In the first place, the above assumption exposes one fundamental drawback of the ?secularists?. And that is the fact that despite their long domination over the Indian polity (after all, they have been ruling both at the centre and in most of the states most of the time since Indian Independence, and they have been dominating the media, government, academia and the social sector), they have not done anything that is really tangible as far as the Indian Muslims are concerned.
In fact, the Sachar committee'sfindings that these ?secularists? are pointing out to justify their current obsession with reservations for Muslims are nothing new. Way back in 1998, the National Sample Survey had pointed out the following: (1) A total of 52.3 per cent of Muslims are below the poverty line; (2) the monthly income of Muslims is only Rs. 150; (3) 50.5 per cent of Muslims are illiterate; (4) Muslims educated up to high school are 4 per cent; (5) in government services their share is 4.4 per cent; (6) for starting any business enterprise 3.7 per cent Muslims got financial loans. Similarly, it is to be noted that even though 53 per cent of Muslims are self-employed (as artisans), the government loans, technical and financial loans to them, according to Reserve Bank of India figures of 1992, had been highly negligible. Only 5.06 per cent of the grantees of bank loans were Muslims.
It is also interesting to note in this context that ?Muslim Indian? (not to be confused with Indian Muslim) leader Syed Shahbuddin in a press conference at Calcutta on March 19, 2001 had said that the Muslims in West Bengal be granted ?backward status? by the state government. According to him, ?Muslims of West Bengal are even more backward than those in neighbouring Bihar and Assam. The government has a responsibility towards improving their condition?. Now that Shahbuddin has been proved right by Justice Sachar (His report also says that Muslims in West Bengal are most backward and poor), then what has the CPM, which considers itself to be greatest among all ?secularists?, done for the Muslims in a state that it has been ruling for about 30 years without a break?
These examples only prove the point that the concerns of the ?secular parties? for the Muslims are only skin-deep. They are essentially using Muslims for votes.
Secondly, by advocating for the quota-raj, the ?secularists? are not going to really help the majority of Indian Muslims. After all, reservations for the SCs and STs, and now the OBCs, over the last 50 years have not exactly unleashed their talent. The benefits of reservations have been monopolised by few well-to-do or elite-sections among these sections only – see how the ?Balmikis? among the SCs complain that the befits of reservations have never reached them and how ?Meenas? among the STs are being accused of garnering most of the advantages among the STs. Similarly, when ?secularists? talk of exclusive funds for Muslims, what they are precisely doing is to promote the Muslim elites at the cost of ordinary Muslims.
This is not to suggest that there should not be affirmative actions but to point out that reservations constitute the worst route of socio-economic upliftment of the downtrodden. In fact, reservations encourage isolationist tendencies and its supposed beneficiaries become more loath towards national assimilation or integration. See how in recent years the caste and community consciousness in the country has arisen, thanks to the ?secularists?! Makers of our constitution wanted casteless society, but now we witness more demands for being declared SCs, STs and OBCs. Our freedom fighters wanted us to develop a modern outlook, but our ?secularists? are now encouraging those Muslim spokesmen who glorify the medieval practices.
It is, indeed, a pity that the Indian Muslim community has allowed itself to be exploited by the so-called ?secularists? of the Indian political class. By drumming into their ears the dangers posed by India'sRightists (BJP and the Sangh Parivar, in particular), these ?secularists parties? have not only prevented the natural assimilation of the Indian Muslims in India-at-large but also type-casted them as being against India'smajority community. This is all the more regrettable since the two communities co-existed for centuries without any ?secularist ? ideologies being propagated by the rulers of the day. In the process these ?secularists? in league with the Indian Muslim religious clergy has prevented the rise of the younger ?progressive elements? leadership in the Indian Muslim community.
The reality is that our ?secularists? are not genuinely interested in the upliftment of the Indian Muslims. Consider, for instance, the problem at Ayodhya. ?The Ayodhya-card? is said to be a potent weapon in the hands of the BJP, but then it is equally a potent weapon in the hands of the ?secularists?. The Ayodhya dispute has been before the courts since 1950. In the absence of a negotiated settlement between the two parties – the Nirmohi Akhara (the outfit claiming to represent the Hindu cause for the Ram temple) and Sunni Central Waqf Board (representing the Muslim contention now towards the rebuilding of the Babri Masjid), the only alternative is the speedy disposal of the case by the judiciary.
But look at what the ?secular parties? like the Congress, Samajwadi Party and CPM said when the Vajpayee-led government made a request to the Lucknow bench of the Allahbad High Court to hold day-to-day hearing of the Ayodhya case so that a verdict could be given at the earliest. They characterised the plea as ?pressurising? the judiciary and pandering to the Hindu communalists. Predictably, the Waqf Board followed the same logic. And curiously, both the Waqf Board and Nirmohi Akhara agreed that the central government couldn'trequest the Court to expedite the judgment since it is not a party to the dispute. It only shows how sincere they are to their respective causes!
As regards Hindu-Muslim amity (and that is what every nationalist Indian dreams for), it is instructive to highlight the views of Pakistani scholar Azimusshan Haider, who still claims to be proud of his ?India-origin?. In his highly perceptible book -? India-Pakistan Insights: Basics and Cosmetics in Human Affairs? (Karachi, 2001), Haider considers it futile to go into the rigmarole of the inconclusive controversy over the historical identity of the structure-that-was in Ayodhya. ?History, unfortunately, presents copious examples of tampering with religious institutions by votaries of another religion, whether by rulers or by commoners with varying degrees of instigation from political and religious leaders?, he says, adding that the Mandir-Masjid brawl is more psychological and politically ?tactical? than of any practical relevance to bulk of the people of any religion.
The Pakistani author is certainly not a votary of the Hindutva, but he finds it difficult to agree with those who give a communal colour even to the sub-continent'scustom of coconut-breaking or lighting the traditional lamp on inaugural occasions. Believing that ?the traditions and culture of the land and of the overwhelming majority of the people will inevitably be reflected in public life?, Haider has appealed to the Indian Muslims not to be ?exploited by political parties as a vote bank for election purposes?.
He, then, adds, ? A large section of (Indian) Muslims have apparently allowed themselves to be held hostage to this deceptive ecstasy of self-importance, without giving serious thought to its deeper or long term implications?.. Pleas of en-bloc voting imply ipso facto a sectional bias which is very antithesis of the idea of harmony in the Indian polity. But minorytism cannot provide a reliable sanctuary?.
In the ultimate analysis, minorytism creates social fissions, not integration. It promotes separatist outlook and invites angry reactions. India is as much a country of the Hindus as of the Muslims. But then ?secularists? tend to tell the Muslims that the Hindus simply do not matter in India. In that sense, the ?secularists? are, indeed, the enemies of the Indian Muslims.
(The author is a senior journalist and can be contacted at [email protected])