After over six decades of Independence, haven’t we had enough of ‘minorityism’ in India? Is there minorityism in Britain? In the United States which is, in many ways, a multi-cultural society? In China which also has a large Muslim population, especially in Central Asia and a Buddhist population in Tibet?
Do these countries reserve seats for the so-called ‘Minorities’ in government appointments, for admission to government-run medical, engineering and similar colleges? If they don’t will somebody kindly explain why? It is obvious that they don’t suffer from any complexes as we in India do. We want to be more than fair to everyone and go out of our way to seem fair. In the process we not only hurt ourselves in the long run but add chaos to confusion. The very word “minority” should be banished from our political vocabulary.
There are no minorities in India: There are only Indians professing different religions. And why shouldn’t they? In talent one presumes they are no better or worse than the so-called majority-the Hindus. All Indians come basically from the same stock. Government jobs are not allotted by way of personal bias. They are presumably allotted on merit. Why should we presume that Muslims and Christians and others are less talented than Hindus and deserve special consideration? Considering how much caste-ridden Hindus are, in India everybody hails from a minority community. If talent, education and associated qualities are common to all Indians, irrespective of their religion or caste affiliation, where is the need to specifically allot 15 per cent seats in all non-minority educational institutions to “minorities” as the recently submitted Ranganath Misra Committee recommends?
Do we have to treat so-called ‘minorities’ as a bunch of ignoramuses to be given a leg-up when, even according to the Misra Report, in eleven states, Muslim males have a higher literacy rate than Hindu males, in thirteen states Muslim women enjoy higher literacy rates than Hindu women, that in ten states literacy rates among Muslims are higher than even that of upper caste Hindus, and that Christians have higher literacy rates (80 per cent) than the national average (65 per cent). In any case, the Misra Report says that “minority communities” candidates who can compete with others and secure admission on their own merit shall not be included in the 15 per cent seats.
Suppose, for instance and strictly for arguments’ sake, the minority candidates manage to secure 15 per cent seats on their own merit, are we to understand that another 15 per cent seats should automatically be given to the minority candidates raising their total to 30 per cent? What sort of justice is that? Besides, the Misra Report insists that Scheduled Caste reservation benefits should be extended even to those dalits who have converted to other religion by choice. We would have believed that once a dalit gets converted to another religion, he ceases to be a dalit.
Obviously the Misra Committee does not believe in that. So, in its own way, the Misra Commission wants to perpetuate untouchability. What is worse, a Scheduled Caste candidate converted to another religion stands a double chance to get a job than an unconverted SC, which would only encourage him to conversion. It is difficult to understand the logic behind the Misra Report. Add to this another factor: The illegal immigration of Bangladeshi Muslims into India. During the last five decades (1951-2001) the growth rate of Muslim population has been 244.68 per cent (Dialogue, Vol. 9. No.1). Already, it is claimed, several districts in Bihar have turned into Muslim majority districts. In West Bengal, the demographic change has become frightening.
Village after village in Murshidabad district which earlier were Hindu-majority based, are now Muslim dominated. According to Dialogue (October-December 2009) “barring the towns where they have some presence, the Hindus are in a minority in practically all the villages in Murshidabad.” Malda, a Hindu majority district has been turned into a Muslim majority district. South Dinajpur is on the verge of suffering from the same fate. Six of Assam’s 27 districts now have a Muslim majority. (Barpeta, Dhubro, Goalpara, Nagaon, Karimganj and Hailakandi). Soon the time may come when Hindus may be reduced to asking for reservations! Muslims are not so poor as many want us to believe.
Millions of dollars are pouring into Muslim coffers to set-up madrasas, which, one understands, have been multiplying all along the Indo-Nepal border. The Muslim community can build and sustain as many quality colleges as they require. The Muslims don’t need reservations. If they want to, they can well take care of themselves. Apart from all that, do we need to give the so-called “minorities” a permanent inferiority complex as people who do not deserve admission to colleges and jobs in government service but have to be provided the same as some kind of charity by the so-called secularists?
Reservations were first considered fair when so many of the upper and middle class Muslims left India for Pakistan after Partition, leaving a relatively poor and percentage wise illiterate Muslim population behind. But things have changed drastically in the last sixty odd years. Now the question may be asked: In a secular country can one think of a ‘majority’ and a ‘minority’ when all people in essence, are one: Just Indians? All people, irrespective of their religion or caste are equal. But the questions may well be asked: What if minority candidates do better in entrance examinations than their Hindu counterparts? Wouldn’t that affect Hindus access to educational institutions and government jobs?
The Government then has two options: One is to say that no matter how the ‘minorities’ even in a secular society do, they cannot get more seats than the percentage of their population commands. That may be a remote possibility, but it has to be faced. The other option is to say that in a genuine secular society, a minority has the right to get as many seats as their talent dictates. In either case, we must face up to truth. Hypocrisy is no virtue. Ad hocism to gain electoral support is all very well but the question of reservations to minorities and the very concept of ‘minoritism’ calls for a public debate. The question of ‘minoritism’ raises disturbing questions and it is unwise to duck them. It may be argued that time alone can resolve them and it is wise to let things be as now they are. But that is only fooling ourselves. The issue calls for clarity in thinking and courage to face up to all consequences.
(The writer is former editor of Illustrated Weekly and senior columnist,)