Persistent appeasement philosophy of Congress culminated in the Muslim League demanding Pakistan for Muslims and eviction of Hindus and Sikhs from east and west Pakistan.
Congressmen at any given opportunity do not spare to mention that theirs is a secular party and that it is the only party that understands secularism and champions its cause. As the debate in the winter session of the Parliament rages over the Constitution and its making and subsequent changes made during emergency there are many questions that come to the fore about what really is the mainstay of Congress’ politics. The Congress says that its policy is that of equal justice to everyone but the people doubt whether the policy is being implemented or not said AK Antony after the Congress rout in 2014 Lok Sabha elections in his post electoral analysis . The Antony thesis, as it is called, was set up to find the reason for the rout and in its report was said that the Congress was leaning too much towards the Muslims.
Much of this tag that the Congress has acquired is because of its appeasement policy towards the Muslims which it garbs under the guise of secularism. It has left no opportunity to resort to Blackmail Secularism threatening the Muslims covertly with ‘Vote for us if you do not want the BJP to rule because things are going to be worse for you under them’. Congress has in the past made it a point on every possible occasion to fan communal frenzy and then pose as the messiah of minorities. This was an art invented by the British to keep themselves in power and Congress has perfected it post independence.
The Congress’ history of being a communal party is long and deserves some mentions here: In 1920 after the demise of Bal Gangadhar Tilak when Gandhiji took over as leader of the Congress party, he would openly speak about Ram Rajya and the ways in which it was to be achieved. Gandhiji was so keen that he gave various interpretations of how the Ram Rajya would actually be achieved. The turning point for Congress’ communal politics was the Khilafat Movement when the Muslims and the Muslim League started demanding separate electorates. It was here that Gandhiji fearing the loss of Muslim support started to bring in religion into politics. Persistent appeasement philosophy of Congress culminated in the Muslim League demanding Pakistan for Muslims in March, 1940, and creation of Pakistan in 1947 and eviction of Hindus and Sikhs from present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Congress Government under Jawaharlal Nehru started ‘Haj subsidy’ for Muslims in 1959. Is such a subsidy secular? Indira Gandhi when faced by a losing vote-bank to the Opposition changed the Constitution Preamble and inserted the word ‘secularism’ in a bid to woo Muslims so as to dispel any ambiguity that might be in the minds of the minorities. This word the original architect of the Constitution Dr BR Ambedkar did not feel necessary to insert as he was against the appeasement politics of
the Congress. He said that appeasement sets no limits to the demand of aggressor.
Continuation of Article 370 conferring a special status on Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir; Genocide and eviction of Hindus from Kashmir to be made refugees in their own country. To placate Muslim uproar over Supreme Court’s judgement in Shah Bano’s case, the then Congress Government under Rajiv Gandhi passed the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 and nullified the said judgement.
The same Congress which had rejected ‘Communal Award’ in 1932 (which meant separate electorates for Muslims, Christians etc) that was promulgated by the British on the reasoning that it will divide the Hindu society is now spearheading Muslim reservation in government jobs and announcing quotas.
The Congress Government repealed Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) the way it had repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) in 1995 so as to prevent trail of those who get caught under terrorist activities these being mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
In 2005, Supreme Court termed Bangladeshi infiltration as ‘external aggression’ and directed that “the Bangladesh nationals who have illegally crossed the border and have trespassed into Assam or are living in other parts of the country have no legal right of any kind to remain in Bharat and they are liable to be deported.” It struck down the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983 as unconstitutional; termed Bangladeshi infiltration as ‘external aggression’ and directed that “the Bangladesh nationals who have illegally crossed the border and have trespassed into Assam or are living in other parts of the country have no legal right of any kind to remain in Bharat and they are liable to be deported.” But instead of deporting the infiltrators, on February 10, 2006, UPA Government brought in the Foreigners (Tribunals for Assam) Order to nullify the Apex Court’s judgement. However, on December 5, 2006, Supreme Court quashed this Order also as illegal and unconstitutional, and called for a strict implementation of its earlier judgement dated July 12, 2005 “so as to ensure that illegal immigrants are sent out of this country.” Shockingly, despite the Supreme Court’s clear directions, no infiltrators have been deported by the government.
Bharat became the first country to ban The Satanic Verses in 1988 as a pre-emptive measure. Muslim fundamentalists threatened massive protests against the allegedly blasphemous novel. Muslim politicians attacked Rushdie, stating all the while that they had not themselves read the book. Fundamentalists have incessantly targeted Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen, whose stance against the discriminatory Islamic practices against women has seen her exiled in Bharat. She too was hounded out from Kolkatta and Hyderabad with no politician let alone Muslim politician uttering a word.
In 2014 elections, the fight for the Muslim vote has intensified as Salman Khurshid, Union Law minister and the Muslim face for the Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, took on the Election Commission of Bharat. The Commission censured his blatant attempt to entice Muslim voters through a series of quotas for Muslims in government jobs and educational institutions. At an electoral rally, Khurshid challenged the Commission by asserting that his fight for ‘Muslim rights’ would go on, even if the ‘Election Commission hanged him.’
Bharat’s fight against terror is also being compromised for the sake of Muslim votes. The controversial Batla House encounter in New Delhi in 2008 is being communalised in the electoral battle. Politicians like Khurshid and Digvijay Singh of the Congress party are questioning the authenticity of the encounter despite the fact that the Union Home Minister has repeatedly vouched for its genuineness.
The UPA’s two governments were so committed to vote-bank politics that its Prime Minister went so far as to suggest Muslims had first claim on development funds. But all this did not cut much ice. The election results in Muslim pockets in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam and Andhra Pradesh were particularly galling for the party. A section within the Congress doubts the efficacy of Muslim appeasement as an electoral strategy. It would be worth mentioning from Congress’ own analysis that Muslims have begun to walk past the quota and other religious guises. The bulk of the Bharateeya population has begun to respond to an all-round developmental agenda, jobs, infrastructure, liveable cities and towns, improving livelihoods. The communal politics of Congress has come to a situation that it lacks credibility for the Muslim community especially the youth which is exasperated with quota politics, as they know it will get them nowhere in the emerging competitive world.
For a religiously divided country like Bharat, the ghettoisation of a community resulting in rising fundamentalism has dire consequences. Assimilation, not appeasement, is the requirement of the hour. ‘An appeaser’, said Winston Churchill, “is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.” This is the fate that stares Congress today.
Bhagyashree Pande (The writer is a senior journalist)