“(On the other hand) There was also a terrible satisfaction amongst Muslims, who had not completely forgotten the Partition’s unpleasant aftermath. Hindus and Sikhs were alike paying for their ‘sins’. They were paying for the blood they had drawn in 1947.”
(At Home In India: A restatement of Indian Muslims, P.115)
Can there be more barbaric and fascistic observation than the aforesaid statement on anti-Sikh riots (1984)? Moreover, the man who dared to say so is none other than Union Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khursid. He seems to be blaming Hindus and Sikhs even for the Muslim Leaguers’ “Direct Action” in the late 40’s. No vibrant secular nation can allow such a person to occupy a position, which has full potential to communalise the polity and concomitantly resurrecting the sub-nationalism. Khursid is a child of his time. He and his ilk are trained in a polity, which is entirely based on power discourse. The prime objective has been to gain political power and the first victim of such counter evolutionary politics is national interest. When the country was Partitioned on the basis of religion, the Congress realised that the country paid the price for the social philosophy it followed during the colonial period when secularism was treated as a slave of Shariat. Dissent against such policies and politics remained unheard and marginalised. For instance, when Nehru initiated Muslim Mass Contact programme Govind Ballabha Pant argued that “it was not necessary to lay emphasis on the Muslim Mass Contact” and advised Nehru that Congress should stick to its old policy and creed of representing the “masses of India regardless of caste or creed” after the Partition the Constituent Assembly deliberated the futuristic social philosophy of the Indian state. And it rejected old politics and policies based on reservation on the basis of religion as divisive, anti-secular and anti national. Not only Sardar Patel but members like Dr HC Mukherji (vice chairman and Christian by faith), Tajamul Husain (representative of the Muslim League) all of them categorically stated that in a secular democratic polity of India the concept of minority was anathema to its historical tradition and pluralistic social order. The new ideology remained defeated before the politics of vote-bank. And the fathers of the Indian Constitution have been derided unequivocally by the proponents of minority (Shariat) centric secularism. Iqbal A Ansari, whose service was solicited by the Sachar Committee, described the role of Dr HC Mukherji and Tajamul Hussain as follows, “That he was ever ready to play a subservient role became very clear during the debate on minority rights, when he went to the extent of declaring that there was no place for the concept of minorities in secular state.”
The Indian state created institutions and structures which helped the dominant actors in politics to ensure their political power. Since Muslim constituted the biggest vote-bank, the political discourse revolved around its irrational demands, aspirations and leadership. One such instance is creation of National Commission for Minorities (NCM). The fourth annual report of the commission in 1981-82 unambiguously stated that the existence of such institutions gave fillip to unhealthy competition among political parties to claim as a champion of minorities. It thus recommended its dissolution and to make it a part of the secular institutions like the Human Rights and the National Integration Committee. It remained unnoticed. Justice M H Baig proved right. The infection grew over the years and the UPA government made a great communal leap when it formed the Ministry of Minority Affairs. The discourse for power legitimised minority communalism and sectarianism as a necessary component of secularism. And for all practical purposes the term and concept ‘Minority’ became interchangeable with Muslims and their sectarian demands and interests.
Communalism combat edited by Teesta Setelvad and Javed Anand was not only one but several political observers described the Sachar Report as a “Minority Report”. The government formed commissions and committees to ensure Muslims that the state is prepared to pay for their vote-bank. Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Commission both are complimentary to each other and are products of such power discourse. The former created a propitious ground for religious reservation as an immediate task and separate electorate as an ultimate objective. Ranganath Mishra Commission went a step ahead and legitimised the demand for religious reservation by recommending 15 per cent reservation for so-called minorities. Both the former judges consciously went against the provisions of the Indian Constitution, which prohibits the reservation based on religion. Some people aspire to be nation builders and a few possess ambitions to be prophet of Balkanisation. One does not have to wait for decades to judge the role of the two former judges!
How they denigrated the debate on secularism and democracy to an unimaginable level could be understood by unravelling the ideological postures of the Sachar Committee. Saiyid Hamid, member of the Sachar Committee sent a note to the Chairman Rajinder Sachar on September 19, 2005. It says:
“A large number of parliamentary and assembly constituencies with substantial Muslim population have been reserved under the category of the SC and ST. Consequently the representation of Muslims in the legislatures has been adversely affected. The reserved status of all these constituencies which has proved detrimental to minority interests needs to be withdrawn before the next Lok Sabha elections so that justice is restored to the Muslim across the country.” He further indicated that ultimate solution lies in separate electorate and representation to Muslims in proportion to their population and wrote, “the hard fact remains that the percentage of Muslim members of Parliament and state Assemblies /councils is much less at the national and state levels vis-a -vis their proportion in the population.”
Hamid was not alone in his mission. The Sachar Committee witnessed sharp polarisation of five Muslim members including member secretary and Officer on special Duty. They were preparing a ground for not a secularisation of politics and policies but Muslim agenda and politics in India.
Zafar Mahmood (OSD) in a letter to Algis, quoting Iqbal wrote on 28 April, 2006
“Individual existence has limited value…community’s life is more important. Fully dedicate yourself for the community… override the requirements of the self. Those who are running the madrasas deserve our deep sense of appreciation and gratitude. We need the services of madrasa graduates from cradle to grave.”
All secular sensitive institutions, like Indian Army, Intelligence, Public Service Commissions, etc, were unequivocally blamed for pursuing institutionalised discrimination with Muslims. Their role and integrity were questioned by those members who hardly count in their standing in their own public life and their contributions to Indian society and polity. For instance Abusaleh Shariff, member secretary wrote to JJ Singh, the then Army Chef on August 13, 2005,
“We fail to see how collecting this information would in any way convey wrong message to the troops adversely affecting the well established cohesion, regimental spirit and morale, and why it would not be proper to collect or collate such data. We appreciate your concern for your troops, however, what is disturbing and worrisome is your suggestion that we, in asking this information of you, are in some way contributing towards adversely affecting the morale of the Indian troops.
Given the importance of identifying representation of Muslims in all employment sectors, whether a ‘reservation’ policy is in place or not, we would be obliged if you would share the information we are asking at the earliest.”
Things went to such a pass that even the chairman Sachar had to spy against the member of the Committee. Following correspondence which I found during my research in Teen Murti Library unravels the pathetic communalism of the members of the committee. Sachar wrote a note on September 1, 2006
“Member secretary would kindly recall our discussion a few days ago when I asked him whether any information was being sought from RAW, IB, etc., he said that so far no such letters were issued. He added voluntarily that no information had been sought even from the DRDO and ISRO.
I had expressed my reservation in respect of seeking information at this stage from all these and similar other organisations in view of sensitivity involved. I added that particularly towards the fag end of the committee’s extended tenure we would do better to avoid any fresh controversy (like the one created earlier regarding the information sought from defence forces) also I have circulated among members the letter received from the defence secretary requesting that even the information already collected from the forces may not be used by the committee.
Thus I would suggest that the member secretary may please avoid sending the letters dated 31 August 2006 to the DRDO and the ISRO (which I have seen pending at the dispatch stage) seeking information from them.”
The Sachar Committee’s functioning needs to be probed by the parliamentary committee. There are umpteen instances, which shows that the committee violated not only its terms and references but created a poisonous atmosphere. Ranganath Misra Commission merely followed what the structure of power required for its existence. There is a need to secularise the Shariat but the Indian polity is bound to Shariatisation of secularism, and Sachar and Ranganath are two recent tools to do so. They must be opposed tooth and nail. The recommendations are not communal and divisive a complete retreat to the hey days of the Muslim Leagues’ politics.
(The author is associate professor in Political Science at DU and is honorary Director of India Policy Foundation.)