Distorted secularism, Hindu bashing
are bane of our polity?
A threat to territorial integrity?
By Shyam Khosla?
Reminding Muslims that they constitute 17 per cent of the country’s population, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Dr K Rahman Khan has asked the community to forget their petty differences and vote in such a manner that the community’s strength in assemblies and Parliament is proportionate to their population.
This is nothing if not an open call to Muslims to vote only for Muslim candidates that too not by a fanatic Muslim but by a person perceived to be a liberal Muslim occupying a high office in Parliament. He made this communal and divisive appeal in his address at a conference hosted by Bihar Pradesh Quami Tanzeem in Patna on January 22.
Not a murmur from the “secular crowd”. Imagine what the reaction of the “secular-liberal” crowd would be in the event of a similar appeal to Hindus was made by a prominent Hindu leader. There would have been howls of protests and demands for putting the man behind the bar for trying to destroy the secular fabric of polity. In our country where public space is dominated by votaries of distorted secularism “Muslim votes for Muslims only” doesn’t hurt our sensibilities, while it would be rabidly communal and against the interest of the nation for anyone to talk about and work for Hindu consolidation even if the ultimate objective is to get rid of caste, faith and linguistic divisions in the Hindu society. No senior leader of the Congress party that claims to be a flag bearer of “secularism” has uttered a word against Dr Khan, who is a senior Congress leader of Karnataka, for making such outrageous statements under the garb of Muslim empowerment.
This is not the only example of the Congress party and Government’s pandering to Muslim communalism. Behind the scene efforts by Congress Governments to prevent the eminent author Sulman Rushdie (who holds an Indian passport) from participating in the Jaipur Literature Festival is a matter of national shame. Apprehending that the author of The Satanic Verses participation in the Festival might send wrong signals to the Muslim voters in UP and other states, where election process is on, the Congress Governments in Delhi and Jaipur resorted to dirty tricks to prevent the author from participating in the festival.
When Rushdie made it known that he didn’t need a visa as a PIO and that he was entitled to visit India anytime, the Government saw it to that a message was conveyed to the controversial author that three hired killers from Mumbai underworld had been given a “Supari” to kill him during his proposed visit to Jaipur. That this fake security threat had been invented by the Government of Rajasthan was exposed by the Maharashtra police by denying any knowledge of any plot to eliminate the author. Rajasthan police now claim that it was informed about the plot by central intelligence agencies and it was on the basis of this information that the police cautioned the organisers of the festival and the author against participating in the festival.
An “outraged and very angry” Rushdie had since slammed the Government for fabricating a threat to his life in order to keep him away from the festival. It wouldn’t be out of place to mention that Rajiv Gandhi was the first Prime Minister in the world to impose a ban on The Satanic Verses long before a single Indian had an opportunity to lay his/her hands on the controversial novel. Pandering to fanatic Muslims’ demands appears to be the Congress Government’s top priority while commitment to democratic values and liberalism are only talking points so far as the Government is concerned.
Tall promises of more and more religion-based reservations in services and legislatures are yet another manifestation of the competitive minorityism among most political parties. Votaries of the distorted version of secularism turn a blind eye to the fact that founding fathers of our Constitution had discussed at length the issue of religion-based reservations and had wisely decided against it. They rejected communal reservations precisely because they had witnessed the tragedy of Partition that was the direct result of separate electorate and communal reservations for Muslims.
In the early years of 20th century, these communal demands were orchestrated by the colonial rulers to widen the gulf between Hindus and Muslims in order to weaken the freedom movement. The Congress party accepted separate electorate and Muslim reservations hoping against hope that such concessions would persuade the Muslims to join the freedom movement. So rattled was the political class by the consequences of that monumental folly that even Jawaharlal Nehru, the hardcore “secularist”, had hailed the rejection of communal reservations as a historic turn in India’s destiny. Unfortunately, the political class seems to have forgotten the heavy price the country had to pay for this Himalayan blunder. Congress-led UPA announced only days before the announcement of the Assembly elections in five states a sub quota of 4.5 per cent for minorities within the 27 per cent OBC quota to appease the Muslim voters ignoring the hard reality that backward communities among Muslims were already enjoying benefits of the OBC quota in services and educational institutions. That this sub quota would hurt the interests of Hindu backward communities was of no concern to the Congress.
Finding that Muslims were not impressed by this election-eve concession, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid promised that this sub quota would be raised to 9 per cent after the elections. Not to be left behind, the Samajwadi Party came in support of the demand voiced by sections of Muslim community for 18 per cent reservations for Muslims not only in educational institutions and services but also in elected bodies including state assemblies and Parliament. Further, the SP demanded amendment to the Constitution to nullify the Supreme Court ruling on the cap of 50 per cent for overall reservations. Although these pronouncements are part of the mad race among “secular” parties to garner Muslim votes in the on-going assembly elections, it would be wrong to be oblivious of the long term implications of these promises. Religion-based reservations may lead to the demand for separate electorate for minorities that may eventually lead to yet another vivisection of the motherland.
Hindu bashing by the mainstream media has created a vicious atmosphere in which any person or organisation promoting Hindu interests and Hindu consolidation is treated as a political untouchable whereas those demanding religion-based reservations and “Muslim votes for Muslims only” are hailed as secularists. There is an urgent need to sanitise young media professionals on sensitive issues. Media’s job is to inform and educate and not to create dissensions where none exists. ?