The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance has, in successive incarnations, been determined to give Muslims and Christians extraordinary precedence and weightage, with a clear long-term objective of driving Hindus out of public spaces.
The writer has always maintained that Secularism was imposed upon an unsuspecting nation solely to ensure the negation and erosion of the Hindu ethos in the nascent Republic. In contrast, minorities were empowered to maintain their separate identities and pursue their separate agendas. Initially they enjoyed political weightage as a vote-bank of the dominant Congress party, but as they began to experiment with other ‘non-communal’ parties to increase their communal powers, the UPA has sought to buy their loyalty by offering economic precedence as well. Hence Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s fatuous declamation that ‘Muslims have the first claim’ on national resources!
The UPA’s accidental ascent in 2004 proved to be a boom-time for minorities, even though the Italian-born Roman Catholic Sonia Gandhi failed to become Prime Minister. She became UPA chairperson mentor, leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party, and enjoyed Cabinet rank as head of the National Advisory Committee (till the office of profit controversy forced her to resign).
Sonia Gandhi moved to implement her minority agenda with alacrity. Pope John Paul II had previously called for planting the Cross in Asia; in America, President George Bush, Jr., had launched the Joshua Project 2000 for conversion of the unreached masses world-wide. It is within this paradigm that we must view UPA’s setting-up the Rajinder Sachar Committee and later the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities, headed by Ranganath Misra, retired judge, Supreme Court.
Given India’s current demography, it made sense to promote the 13 per cent Muslims at the expense of the Hindu majority. But as we have seen in Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and even Srinagar, evangelists target Muslim communities as determinedly as they target Hindus and other non-monotheists. Christians (already believed to be 7-8 per cent per cent of the population) are confident of using minority provisions to further their interests, and eventually overtake Muslims in making conversions to the ‘true’ faith.
The Sachar Committee, set-up to evaluate the social, economic and educational status of Muslims, in its report in 2006, called for path-breaking efforts to include Muslims in the national mainstream and address supposed inequities experienced by them. It recommended creation of an Equal Opportunity Commission, modelled on the UK Race Relations Act, 1976, to look into the grievances of religious minorities. This fallacious but vicious attempt to equate Race with Religion is now on the anvil, and can only add to inter-community strains.
Racism is a child of colonialism. When White Christians went to other lands and enslaved people (Africa) or colonised them, the discriminatory relationship between the ‘Master Race’ and the colonised was called ‘Racism’. Based mainly on colour consciousness, it held that the enslaved / colonised were inferior human species, worthy of subjugation. Racism is a pervasive western reality (currently experienced by Indians in Australia) and cannot be equated with strains among peoples of different faiths. Moreover, how can faiths that conquered and ruled India – Islam and Christianity – suffer poverty, ill-education, or other forms of discrimination!
The Equal Opportunity Commission will make normal life impossible. A Muslim unable to buy a house at a favourable price can level allegations of discrimination against the seller; a bad employee cannot be dismissed if hailing from a minority group. The fight against terrorism will become virtually impossible, as every police officer can expect to be arraigned before this Commission.
True, Sachar does not recommend reservation in education and jobs for Muslims, as that would be ultra vires of the Constitution and liable to be dismissed in court. But it coyly seeks “multifarious measures, including reservation” for Muslims with similar traditional occupations as Scheduled Castes, and wants such groups designated as Most Backward Classes, with reservations disguised as ‘affirmative action’ (an American catch-phrase) so they cannot be constitutionally challenged.
The report reflects preconceived notions: the Muslim community shows “deficits and deprivation” in almost all aspects of development; Muslims rank above SCs/STs but below Hindu OBCs, Other Minorities and Hindu upper castes; and Muslims are most backward in States with large Muslim populations, such as West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam.
Sachar suggests specific initiatives to address educational, career and political deprivation among Muslims: free and compulsory education; institutionalising the process of evaluating school textbooks to better reflect community-specific sensitivities; setting-up quality government schools, especially for girls, in areas of Muslim concentration and providing primary education in Urdu where the language is widely used.
The Ranganath Misra Commission, which submitted its report in 2007, recommended 15 per cent reservation in education and government employment for minorities; 8.4 per cent out of the existing OBC quota of 27 per cent for minorities; and inclusion of Muslim and Christian Dalits in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe list for reservation benefits.
In the 2005 winter session of the Parliament, UPA pushed a Bill extending SC, ST and OBC reservations to all educational institutions, including private schools, excluding minority institutions though education and conversion are both lucrative industries! UPA reacted sharply when a division bench of the Allahabad High Court concurred that the Aligarh Muslim University is not a minority institution as it was created by an Act of Parliament, and hence cannot reserve 50 per cent seats for Muslim students. Congress also tried to subvert the Andhra High Court decision striking down five per cent reservations for Muslims in State employment.
UPA-I pushed for caste-based reservations in the private sector, till Wipro chairman Azim Premji expressed corporate India’s dislike of the measure. The Right to Education has made reservation in education irrelevant. The Centre annually collects Rs 6,000 crore as education cess; setting-up the required number of schools will achieve cent per cent literacy in one decade.
Reservations to converts are a ruse to finance conversions through the public exchequer. Soon evangelists will demand access to SC/ST seats in the Parliament and the State Assemblies – political reservations by the backdoor!
The critical issue is ‘Caste’. The British realised caste was the iron curtain which frustrated attempts to convert the population, and hence attacked caste. But evangelists realised that the best way to increase their numbers was by gaining access to caste-based reservation benefits. After Mandal Commission listed some ‘Muslim castes’ among OBCs, Christians began to press for SC/ST benefits for ‘Dalit Christians.’
But can those who have renounced their Hindu identity, and ended the so-called social stigma associated with Hinduism, justly receive the benefits of a caste identity equated with being Hindu? Christianity and Islam cannot be allowed to use caste to undermine Hindu society from within. Nor can they mistreat converts and garner reservation benefits in their name!
Clearly, larger issues are at stake than can be dealt with in the course of an article. Hindu society must view any move to extend special political, economic or educational privileges to minorities as an assault upon India’s native religion and culture, its demographic balance, and its civilisational ethos. The Sachar Committee and Ranganath Misra Commission are state-sponsored assaults upon the unity and continuity of Hindu dharma in India, and must be seen as religious persecution on the part of the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA.
(The author is a senior columnist.)