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MINORITISM: A promoter to Muslim separatism

Paper No. 474                                                   11/06/2002

by R.Upadhyay.

The Gujarat tragedy has once again brought the age old minoritism into focus.  There may be multiple causes like social,  political, economic and religious behind this problem, but the dangerous game being played by the political class since Independence has caused great harm to the unity and strength of the country.  Even though the concept of minoritism is against the spirit of the pluralistic order of Indian society the over powering and dominant political masters of this country are using it as a political tool for fulfillment of their personal ambitions.

The framers of the Indian constitution classified the people of this country between minority and majority on the basis of religion and incorporated certain special privileges and rights to safeguard the interests of the former. The intention was good, but they did not realize that the politicians from both the communities would use it as a hand maid to further their own communal politics and aggravate social tensions.  What has happened now is that the constitutional attempt has now become an obstacle to integration!

The concept of minoritism was initially used by the British for their colonial interests but the post-Independence political leadership used it for their vote bank politics.  While the conspiracy to play the divisive policy of divide and rule was hatched by the then rulers by granting the status of separate electorate to Muslims in 1909,  the post-colonial leadership of the country carried forward this ill-intentioned British legacy for their self seeking political interests.  In stead of uniting the people in the wake of partition of the country,  the issue was ironically legitimized to work as an extension of the communal award granted to the Indian people by the British.

While promoting a powerful force among Indian Muslims to fight for their share of political power,  the British also patronised a section of Indian leaders to counter the forceful nationalist group in the country.  This latter group developed a crooked version of secularism by granting special privileges to minority.  This privilege to the second largest religious majority of the country helped the anti-majority forces to replay the same divisive game of the British.  Such combination of religion and politics not only sidelined the ethical values of Indian society but it generated a national anger among the majority against the vast majority of Muslim minority, who were responsible for partition of the country.  The situation gradually turned into a fertile ground for consolidation of majoritarian forces which in turn added further fears in the minds of the minority as the so called secularists created the bogey of insecurity of the minorities.

Indian constitution is loud and clear that there is no discrimination on Indian citizens on account of their faith as all of them are enjoying the rights of full citizenshipRather minorities in India are accorded more protection with constitutional,  legislative, and statutory guarantees along with various national and international obligations.  But despite such protection, our experience of last 55 years suggests that the gap of communal mistrust between Hindus and Muslims is gradually widening. Why is this so and what could be done?

It is ironical that the Muslims kept themselves isolated even from other religious minorities in India. They were never found to be aggressively agitated on the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 or the  incidents relating to anti Christian agitation in the country.  This shows the extreme religious exclusiveness inculcated into them by their leaders.

Let me quote Rafiq Zakaria a noted Muslim scholar, who admitted in his book The Widening Divide," a deep study of the last hundred years of British rule has, however,  convinced me that at every crucial moment, when unity might have been preserved,  it is Muslims, who betrayed; but Hindus cannot escape the blame."

The term minority has a subjective definition; but no attempt was ever made to define it precisely in the context of the pluralistic order of Indian society. The general interpretation that a minority community means a community,  which is numerically less than 50% of the total population of the country may not give justice to inter or intra-religious minority. Hindus in Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Kashmir, Lakshadweep and Punjab states are in minority but they do not have any privilege of being minority there.  This would equally apply to many of the castes in different states in India!

Is there no lasting solution to this problem of Muslim minority in India? The answer to this most baffling question lies with Muslim intelligentsia as also the majority community.

Many consider the two nation theory as the main reason behind the widening divide between the two major religious communities in India. Rafiq Zakaria, a noted Muslim scholar remarked in his book The Widening Divide(Penguin Books 1996, page xvii):-" It is now universally except in Pakistan admitted that two nation theory did great harm to inter-communal harmony."

The two nation theory has done great harm more to the Muslims in India. At best the theory should have been seen as a tool for partition then and nothing beyond.  It needs to be buried deep and never to be resurrected. There is no doubt that a historical wrong has been done to the people of India and the communal division has affected India more than Pakistan..

Humanity may demand that majority must be considerate to allay the fear of insecurity from the minds of the minority.  But for this, minority is also expected to create an atmosphere of goodwill with the majority.  The secular fabric of the nation can be protected only when religious leaders belonging to both minority and majority draw a line between religion, personal and political life.

Protection does not and should not mean pampering.  Some would argue  that the security of minority lies with the goodwill of the majority which is the key to create such an atmosphere.  Rafiq Zakaria, expressed similar view, which is rather uncommon..  He said in his book entitled The Widening Divide (Penguin Books 1996),  "I believe placed as Indian Muslims are,  their well being and security lie in the goodwill of the majority, not in resorting to agitation and violence." A similar view expressed by the RSS chief received severe criticism from many quarters.

Conclusion:  Fringe groups are present in all communities and the Muslim community is no exception.  What is needed is that the Muslim intellectuals should take the lead in resolving the minority problem by letting their brethren to join the mainstream and not display the hypocrisy of trying to act as saviour of the community by actually widening the divide.  As said before and we maintain that the two nation theory should be buried once and for all.  Those who chose to stay in India are Indians first and Muslims next. There should be nothing like Indian Muslims or Muslim Indians.  There is a need to look at the special privileges,  whether such provisions are meant to uplift them economically and yet get integrated with the mainstream or whether these privileges perpetuate the division of majority and minority.

(The writer owes full responsibility of his perception discussed in the paper. E-mail<>)