Showing posts with label Muslims. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Muslims. Show all posts

Monday, December 10, 2012

Does secularism mean Hindu subservience?

The two hot debating topics this December first week were the demolition of a disused building in Ayodhya twenty years ago and the current Gujarat election. The Ayodhya anniversary has by now become an annual ritual which (especially) the English language media religiously (pun intended) runs through, dusting its old footage or commissioning new quotes from old columnists. The debate such as it is, is like a restricted club whose membership is closed to outsiders. It is like the yarn about investigating a murder that occurred during an Italian card game in New York. The investigator asks the first guy, ‘who fired the shot?’ and he replies, ‘I dunno. I didn’t see it. I was sitting with my back to the door, you see.’ The second guy says the same thing and all others say the same thing. It was one card game in which everyone sat on the same side of the table!

As the debate could have only one side, any new columnists would have to conform by spewing old arguments of the old columnists, but if possible, in new a idiom. Or face ostracism from what is known as the mainstream media. Even the few columnists who have a contrary view would have to shroud their views in a lot of verbiage as to practically make them unintelligible or at least sound neutral. Or pass them as social science theories. Columnists with a Hindu moniker have to be doubly careful to pass the test of secularism. Others are not hampered by any such shibboleths. Thus, to be admitted to the club while a columnist with a name like a Misra or a Sarma would have to constantly invoke the dangers posed by the ‘Hindu right’ to the ‘secular fabric’ of the nation, a Manu Joseph could be brazen about his concept of secularism. Joseph first dismissed the notion that India is secular in his December 5 column in the International Herald Tribune (India Is Not A Secular Republic). To make matters clear even for the dimwitted, Joseph elaborated his concept of secularism in his column of the same day in New York Times (Secularism in Search of a Nation):
“…what it really meant, without spelling it out, was that Hindus, who make up the majority of the nation, would have to accommodate themselves to the ways of the other religions, even if this meant taking some cultural blows.”
In order to leave no one in doubt, as to what he meant by ‘taking cultural blows’, Joseph elaborates:
“So, Hindus would have to accept the slaughter of cows, which they consider sacred (some Indian states have banned cow slaughter); …”
For Joseph this was not enough.
“… the Muslim community’s perceived infatuation with Pakistan;”
Having demolished an oft repeated if clichéd ‘the idea of India’, shibboleth chanted by the secular intelligentsia, he comes to the nub:
“…the conversion of poor, low-caste Hindus to Christianity by evangelists; and the near impossibility of getting admitted to some prestigious schools and colleges run by Christian organizations because so many places are reserved for Christian students.”
The last bit about ‘the near impossibility of getting admitted to some prestigious schools and colleges’ is a placebo thrown in to mask his main demand that India be made a grazing ground for number-starved Churches in the west. There was a time when Christian run schools and colleges were in demand but there is no such mad scramble for them now as non-Christian (calling them Hindu might offend secular sensibilities!) institutions offer quality education comparable to or even better than them.

As Joseph was writing in an American newspaper read mainly in America would he consider tendering the same advice to the Americans? For instance, being a secular nation, America should have taken the cultural blow of ‘the World Trade Centre being brought down by a few misguided youth’ and not waged a war first on Afghanistan and then on Iraq. Or that America should really not bother about some of its jobs being Banglored. Or that twenty-first century America should really be not so conservative. If it were not so why would a Bobby Jindal or a Nicky Haley would have had to go to such great lengths to conceal their ethnic identities and fabricate new ones!  

After all this din, the Indian mainstream media would have redeemed a bit of its credibility if it expended a wee-bit of its energies in mourning a humanitarian disaster that is comparable only to the holocaust. None bothered (or dared) ask, ‘if the day on which a disused structure was destroyed is to be described a black day and commemorated every year, what about the day on which an estimated 450,000 Hindus were exiled in their own homeland?’ Why do lofty ideals like secularism and composite culture do not have the same connotation in India’s northern-most state? If December 6 is to be celebrated as a ‘black day’ every year why don’t we commemorate January 19 the day on which the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits commenced in 1989 and did not stop till virtually all of them were driven out? By not speaking about it if not against it are not our intelligentsia and media guilty of complicity?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why should a secular nation have minority reservations?

Thanks to the Congress party’s unrelenting pursuit of vote bank politics the issue of reservations for minorities in jobs and educational institutions is back in the news. Designed as a ploy to regain a foothold in UP (as a key to capturing power at the centre in 2014), it carved out a 4.5% sub-quota for minorities (primarily Muslims) in the 27% reservation provided for OBCs. In its vulgar greed to capture power at any cost it conveniently forgot the sequence of events, beginning with the creation of separate electorates based on religious lines in the 1930s, which eventually led to the partition of the country. The creation of separate electorates was precisely based on the same logic and for the same reasons that the government now seeks to create reservations for Muslims.

As soon as it came back to power in 2004 the Congress party began planning its long term strategy to woo permanent vote banks that would be beholden to it. In the first fifty years after independence it expropriated the freedom movement as a convenient anchor to lay claim for power. During this period also it tried its best to project itself as a champion for the welfare of minorities.

The Justice Rajender Singh Sachar Committee was constituted on March 9, 2005 to prepare a report on the social and educational status of Muslims (not minorities) in India. The other members of the committee were Mr. Sayyid Hamid, Dr. T.K. Ooman, Mr. M.A. Basith, Dr. Akhtar Majeed, Dr. Abu Saleh Shariff and Dr. Rakesh Basant. Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, a civil servant, was appointed as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to assist the commission. The Committee submitted its report on November 17, 2006.

The Committee was asked to prepare a report on the relative, social, economic and educational status of Muslims at the district, regional and the state levels by obtaining relevant information and conduct[ing] a literature survey. Please note the last part in the first item of the terms of reference. The Committee was not expected to conduct any field research; it just had to conduct ‘literature survey’! This gives the committee led by J Rajinder Singh Sachar virtually the latitude to write anything it wants. (That the said J Rajinder Singh Sachar later turned out to be an honoured guest of Pakistani ISI-Front, Gulam Nabi Fai is another matter.)

PRS Legislative Research (“PRS”) which posted a summary of the report on its website has this to say of the report: “Barring some generic observations about the cause for the ‘development deficit’ among Muslims, there is no explicit or detailed discussion of the causes of such conditions.” (Click here to see the summary: Sachar Committee Report)

Sample some of the recommendations of the report, apart of course from recommending reservations for Muslims which was the latent reason for constituting the committee:

“… Work out mechanisms to link madarasas with higher secondary school board.  
“Recognise degrees from madarasas for eligibility in defence, civil and banking examinations.”

On the other hand governments in various states have been merrily closing down Oriental Colleges, which were established during the British reign to impart Samskritic education in Vedas and allied sciences. The ostensible reason for closing these colleges, most of which were over a hundred years old is their dwindling enrollment.

But the most perilous course that the Committee recommended is in this recommendation:

“Establish a delimitation procedure that does not reserve constituencies with high minority population for SCs.”

If this course is followed the problems the nation is facing in Jammu & Kashmir are likely to surface in other states like Assam, West Bengal and Kerala. (See below for population ratios of these states.)

The following may be summed up as the report’s errors of commission and omission. The report did not take into account the bulk of educated employed Muslims that migrated to Pakistan when the country was partitioned. It did not take into account the numbers of Muslims engaged in trades and other professions. The Committee willy-nilly concedes that the “[…] most striking feature is the relatively high share of Muslim workers engaged in self-employment activity, primarily in urban areas and for women workers. […] Muslim participation rates in traditional manufacturing and trade (especially wearing apparel, auto-repair and electrical machinery) is much higher than for other groups, while their participation in the agricultural section is lower.” It excluded the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes from corresponding Hindu figures thus annulling any equity in its comparisons. Last but not least it excluded educated and well off Muslims from comparisons.

The Committee also had to concede that the literacy rate among Muslims @ 59.1% was slightly below the national average of 64.8%, “with the greatest gap in urban areas” for reasons already mentioned above, but that “the literacy rates were higher than those of SCs and STs.

The Committee ignored the fact that the country did provide fair and equitable opportunities to all and those Muslims who availed of them did prosper - in filmdom, in industry, in government / university jobs or in politics. If you go by the findings of the report, Asghar Ali Enginner, A. G. Noorani, Azim Premji, Syed Shabuddin, the Khan trio and other Muslim celebrities of Bollywood and a host of other Muslims in high places (Sayyid Hamid, T.K. Ooman, M.A. Basith, Akhtar Majeed, Abu Saleh Shariff and Syed Zafar Mahmood included) - all need reservations in government jobs!

The National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) has concluded that the findings of the Sachar Committee were manipulated. The committee’s job was all the more easier as it was given the theories; it was only expected to go out and find facts to fit into them! Lo and presto, it did it and how? Try as you might, you cannot accuse the Committee of objectivity or doing anything right either by commission or omission. The Committee’s report, to borrow from information technology jargon, was doomed to be GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) right from inception. The Committee set out with faulty assumptions, faulty data collection and faulty analysis and of course ended up in arriving at faulty conclusions.

However the report made certain interesting findings with regard to the Muslim population in India. The states with the highest percentage of Muslims include Jammu & Kashmir (67%), Assam (30.9%), West Bengal (25.2%) and Kerala (24.7%). In 2001 the population of Muslims in India was 138 million which grew to 150 million by 2006. Between 1961 and 2001 their population grew from 10.7% to 13.4%. The committee estimates it is likely to grow to between 18% and 21% by 2101. These statistics are quite significant in that they raise a query about the definition of minority as applicable to Muslims.

The Constitution of India in Article 15 (1) ordains that [t]he State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.; and in Article 16 (1) that “[t]here shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.”

By its latest executive fiat and in spite of court of after court questioning its motives the government at the centre seems to pursue a perilous course that might once again threaten the unity and integrity of the nation.