[Untouched By Economic Growth: Data from the 2011 Census shows that the Muslim community, the largest minority in India come out pretty much at the bottom of most socio-economic indices even a decade after a high-level government probe (Sachar Committee) into their historical disadvantages led to policy actions. (Photo Courtesy: Hindustan Times)]
Muslims have been appeased – showered with sops since independence, by successive Congress governments. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is back to its favourite accusation normally raised during election time. The BJP occasionally raised this accusation also when the erstwhile governments announced (just announce because there is a wide gap between announcement and implementation) any ‘minority specific’ scheme. Recall how the BJP was up in arms against Dr Manmohan Singh when he said “Minorities must have first claim on resources.”
However, in an attempt to portray that it believes in ‘Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikaas”, the BJP put its favourite agenda on the back burner ahead of the 2014 Parliamentary election. It was also because it’s newly coined “development agenda” was selling like a hot cake. The same even helped the Hindutva party win the 2014 elections and form a government in New Delhi.
But, in the ongoing Uttar Pradesh election, desperate to win at any cost, the BJP is back to its tested and tried anti-Muslim hate agenda. It started with Prime Minister Modi’s accusation that the Akhilesh government discriminates on the basis of religion by his now infamous “Electricity during Ramzan and Holi” and “Land for Qabarastan and Shamsan Ghat” rant.
Few days later, BJP president Amit Shah came with “KASAB” acronym for the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP). Taking queue from Prime Minister Modi, Amit Shah also accused the Akhilesh government of discrimination and bias, saying the distribution of free laptops lacked transparency. Finally, while addressing a rally in Maharajganj on Sunday he said a BJP rule in the state will end the policy of “appeasement”.
By now it is already clear to everyone why the ‘appeasement bogey’ has replaced ‘development’ and ‘Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikaas’ at this stage of Uttar Pradesh elections. BJP’s political opponents are of the view that Modi’s party is back to its old game of “communal polarisation” fearing looming defeat. We will have to wait till March 11 to know if they are true. But, the question which needs to be asked now is this:
Are successive governments really involved in appeasing the minorities – read Muslims, meaning showering sops on them, that too at the cost of and practicing discrimination against the Hindu majority population as the BJP publicly and so confidently claims?
And if yes then why the Muslims are, and continue to be, at the bottom of economic pyramid?
The 2006 Sachar Committee Report throws enough incite on this. For me the findings of Sachar Committee Report were not new. What was new was the acknowledgment and seal of the government that Muslims are really struggling and there is an urgent need to do something good for them. Dr Manmohan Singh’s quote “Minorities must have first claim on resources” was also in the same context. The BJP and the coterie did make a hue and cry. But, the erstwhile UPA government announced some important measures, including Prime Minister’s 15-point Program for Minorities. However, sadly enough, the measures that could have been a turning point for the minorities ended in dismal failure or had very little positive outcome.
I would be lying if I did not acknowledge the sincerity and commitment of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government with which it tried to implement its minority centric schemes despite strong opposition. But, the reasons why these schemes could not be properly implemented were because of biased bureaucracy, corruption and rampant discrimination at most of the places, and lack of knowledge and insight of the issues concerning the minorities and the means to reach out to them at some.
I came to this conclusion when as a Resource Person I delivered lectures and interacted with top district officials in Maharashtra during the workshops on Prime Minister’s 15-point Program for Minorities. Barring a small number I found many of the top officials determined and eager to successfully implement this program in their districts. But, the UPA government organized these workshops sometimes in 2013 i.e. at the fag end of its tenure when the officials were left with very little time in their hand to do anything fruitful.
That the UPA government’s minority centric schemes, or as the people in the country are made to believe “Congress-led UPA government’s criminal and ill-intended minority appeasement drive”, could not produce the desired results was revealed to me when I led the Maharashtra team of Action Aid study on the “Socio-Economic Status of Indian Muslims: Seven Years Post Sachar” completed. The study was completed in 2014 and we could gather ample amount of data suggesting how the bureaucracy failed in achieving the desired targets.
Once it became clear that there are very few cases which could be counted as positive, I especially advised my team to go an extra mile to find out some glaring positive examples. But, as we moved deeper and talked to the people belonging to the beleaguered community more and more tragic stories were there waiting to haunt us.
I can recall three case studies. One is of a Muslim post-graduate professional. He applied for the post of Public Relation Officer (PRO) at Aurangabad Municipal Corporation. He fulfilled all requirements, cracked all tests and got appointment based on merit – no due to any favour, appeasement or reservation. His appointment was however overruled by the Shiv Sena – the party ruling the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation. The Shiv Sena did not have any justification for its decision. Hence he approached the court and got his appointment restored after a lengthy and expensive legal battle.
In the second case a Muslim woman scientist was in Pune University when APJ Abdul Kalam, then President of India, visited Maharashtra’s leading institution. He was so impressed by the young scientist that he recommended her to the university. She remained there for years hoping to get a permanent job but failed. She later shifted to South Korea and then to Japan.
In the third case which I can recall now is the story of a student. After completing graduation in Malegaon with flying colors, he shifted to Pune for post-graduation. He was able to get admission on merit. But, had to terminate his studies half way as he could not get the minorities scholarships he banked on while taking admission.
These are just few cases to show how Muslims have been subjected to discrimination, bias and denied their dues even on merit.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) should note that after the Sachar Committee report the hugely inflated appeasement balloon has already been burst. If there was still any doubt then it was put to rest by Action Aid and later Post-Sachar Evaluation Committee headed by Amitabhh Kundu in their respective studies. Therefore, it is prudent to say that the BJP is risking its own reputation if it continues to raise such accusations. For, raising false, baseless and unsubstantiated accusations as opposition and as a ruling party are two different things.
[Aleem Faizee is Founder Editor of ummid.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]