[A Christian priest in a burned out church in Delhi (Photo: Florent Martin).]
During the last seventy one years since India became independent its sovereignty has been considerably strengthened, internal peace has been well maintained, enormous multifaceted developmental works have occurred ceaselessly and India’s standing has been going up in the comity of nations - all this has happened irrespective of which political party or coalition was in power. That’s the beauty of the Indian polity.
Recent Political Shift - From Ethical To Parochial
However, of late, the political bandwagon has regretfully strayed into the woods - from the abiding-ethical to the myopic-parochial. It should have continued to focus on far sighted policies for reconditioning and upgrading the country enough to make its mark in the 21st century world, garnering brownie points in favor of the well deserved claim to permanent seat in the UN Security Council and even otherwise becoming at least a regional super power. Instead, it is dissipating it’s precious energy just to make immediate electoral capital out of mass illiteracy.
It casts the spell of an apparently emotive Hindutva mirage over the scripturally unlettered, cognitively uninformed and vocationally unengaged minds of the teeming millions belonging to the religious majority. They are being told intermittently and in different ways that though their faith spans four-fifth of the national population - and it assuredly and justifiably dominates the Indian political landscape - ‘yet it is under threat of the minorities, specifically Muslims and Christians’.
The proponents of such ulterior designs had chalked out their multidimensional action plan well in advance and are moving forward accordingly. In mid 2014, TV serial Zindagi was launched - strategically patronized by a celebrity ‘law-maker’ of the ruling party - regularly showing Muslim family life characteristically in bad light - while simultaneously, programs eulogizing Hindu culture grew exponentially.
Fiduciary Allegiance Of TV Channels Exploited
Soon, the evening prime time debates on TV channels, owing fiduciary allegiance - through big business - to the ruling elite, turned into spectacles with the angry anchor aggressively and habitually finding fault with Muslims and their faith. To support him, unauthentic but pliable bearded persons are hired to malign their own community. Even a known Muslim baiter was imported from abroad.
Only 2 Muslim Ministers
As per the latest national Census 2011, at the national level, there are 14.2 percent Muslims in India. But in the new 44 member Council of Ministers of 2014 only one Muslim found place (as against the proportional propriety of 6) and that too with the Minority Affairs portfolio. Now in 2018 the strength of the central council of ministers has swelled to 78 but there continues to be only one Muslim cabinet minister and another junior minister (as against the proportional propriety of 12). Even the old party loyalist ex cabinet minister Shahnawaz Hussain has been kept out.
Churches Are Repeatedly Attacked
Within a year after assuming office the Government announced that Dec 25 (ex PM Vajpayee’s birthday) would be celebrated as Good Governance Day but no mention was made that for more than two millennia, Christmas is celebrated throughout the world on the same date. Later, during 2015-2018, Churches were repeatedly desecrated and vandalized in Delhi, Hyderabad, Goa, UP, Chhattisgarh, Telengana, Odisha and Tamilnadu.
AMU and Jamia Minority Character Opposed
The new central government changed its predecessor’s stand before the Supreme Court and insisted that the constitutionally mandated minority character of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia (both established by Muslims a century ago) should end. The Government also wants that seats should be reserved for Scheduled Castes in AMU and JMI. Conversely, it opposes the deletion of (anti-Muslim and anti-Christian) religious conditionality in the 1950 definition of Scheduled Caste. So, in dealing with minority interests the Government believes in “heads I win, tails you lose” policy.
UGC Aid Stopped To Centers Of Minority Empowerment
The University Grants Commission has now discontinued the usual annual grant to predominantly Muslim institutions - AMU, JMI, Hamdard University and Maulana Azad National Open University - for running the Residential Coaching Academies doing affirmative action to help empower the youth. The disappearance of the JNU student Najeeb, the subsequent gun shot attack on another student Umar Khalid near New Delhi’s high security zone and the government’s apathetic reaction thereto eloquently speak of the current anti-minority atmosphere in India.
Citizenship Amendment Bill and Assam NRC
Through the Citizenship Amendment Bill introduced in Parliament in 2016 the people of Indian origin were welcomed back in the Indian fold but, while doing so, Muslims were singled out for negative discrimination. Contrarily, the threatened disenfranchisement of four million people of Assam (through deletion of names from the National Register of Citizens) rubs salt basically into the Muslim wounds giving ‘glad tidings’ to the forces of majoritarian electoral polarization.
Triple Talaq Highlighted - Waqf Properties Mistreated
A Muslim practice of negligible numerical consequence like Triple Talaq has been picked up for making a mountain out of a molehill while large scale encroachment of Waqf properties not only goes ‘unnoticed’ but, in effect, these properties are officially offered on the platter for non-Waqf utilization by the government agencies and others. In the parliamentary standing committee on the Waqf Properties (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Bill, 2014 only one Muslim MP was appointed out of twenty members of Lok Sabha (lower house). Wherefore, sadistically overruling the well argued bureaucratic reasoning, the Committee’s minutes were drawn to prejudice the most genuine Waqf interests.
Surya Namashkar Made Compulsory
During 2016, in more than 1200 schools under the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation, Surya Namashkar was made mandatory. The Hindu scriptures and many modern day websites of the community loudly declare that this is the worship of Sun which is fundamentally prohibited in Islam. Such blatant interfaith discrimination is expressly prohibited in the Constitution (Articles 15, 25, 28).
Interfaith Marital Couples Assaulted
The Indian Constitution gives freedom of interfaith marriage. But these days if a Hindu girl decides to marry a Muslim boy the heavens fall in India. The so called ‘Love Jihad’ (anti-Muslim derogatory phrase coined by Hindutva stalwarts) goons have been having free hand to physically assault the couple and ‘stop’ such relationships. In the well known case of Hadiya the Supreme Court had to intervene to establish the supremacy of the Constitution.
The prime minister’s speech in New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan (government convention centre) in the presence of the visiting Jordanian King and earlier his foreign detour to greet the then Pakistan premier Nawaz Sharif’s family were exercises of cosmetic value - as superfluous as the ‘sabka saath sabka vikas’ slogan.
Shamshans Pitched Against Qabristans
The prime minister knows well that large number of half a million Waqf properties in India are under unauthorized occupation. There is widespread encroachment of Muslim graveyard land (Qabristan) and it is the Government’s statutory duty to protect these properties.
On the other hand, there exists no such issue pertaining to Hindu cremation grounds (Shamshan). But during the UP Assembly election speech delivered at Fatehpur in February 2017 the PM pitched Shamshans against Qabristans.
In August 2017, out of thousands of various kinds of educational institutions, the new State Government of UP singled out Madarsas to unjustifiably point out towards them the needle of suspicion of being ‘unpatriotic’. The whole exercise ultimately fizzled out but not without exacerbating the communal cleavage.
Since 2014, there abruptly emerged an unprecedented trend in India when a few dozens of hooligans suddenly appear on a street and lynch a poor Muslim individual on the pretext of saving the cow - considered sacred by many Hindus. The group ensures proper videography and the clip is widely circulated on the social media creating interfaith hatred. The official reaction ranges from apathy to supporting the perpetrators of the crime. The Supreme Court has again intervened to censure these "horrendous acts of mobocracy".
Lynching Becoming Part of Indian Culture
In fact the official eye has been so much squinted that, according to some observers, lynching might be on way to becoming a ‘part of national culture’. The other day in Jharkhand a mentally challenged person was lynched on suspicion of his involvement in a rape case. On Independence Day 2018 a group of Hindu youth menacingly climbed the main stairs of Delhi’s Jama Masjid (world heritage) and raised communally offensive slogans there.
Thus, conspicuous efforts are being made to provoke some Muslims or Christians somewhere into some reaction based on which a national issue could be tailored giving opportunity to the pro-right TV anchors and and spokespersons to negatively brush the entire Muslim-Christian citizenry during the forthcoming electioneering aiming at majority polarization.
Muslim and Christian Patience
Yet the credit goes to the minorities to have remained calm and patient. On Fridays the sermon concludes with the Quranic injunction (16.90) to raise oneself from the realm of ‘justice’ to the higher orbit of ‘compassion’ even while dealing with the aggressor. Besides, the minorities feel reassured with another silver lining that the majority of Indians have a sound heart, they do not approve of such divisive political agenda and many of them even protest, time and again. God bless the nation.
[Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, IAS and Former OSD Prime Minister Office, is Convener, Watan ki Fikr. Contact him at email@example.com.]
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