by Crescent International (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 25, No. 2, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1416)
In a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic country, that India is, secularism has been a far cry. The Muslim community has been the worst victim of this pseudo-secularism. Secularism means that the State should be neutral in matters of religion and should not patronise any particular faith. This is crucial for the survival and development of any multi-religious society. In India, ‘secularism’ has come to mean the ‘secularisation’ of non-Hindus - who are urged to join a distinctly Hindu ‘mainstream.’
The Indian Muslims constitute the second largest segment of the total population of India. Despite constitutional guarantees and safeguards any dispassionate observer will notice that this largest minority group is not getting a fair deal in free India. They are oppressed and exploited in every field. Innocent Muslims have been harassed and tortured under the Terrorist & Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) after the serial blasts in Bombay on 12 March 1993. In jobs they are underrepresented. The Muslim share in government jobs is about four percent and in civil services less than two percent - down from 24 percent in 1947.
The past and present governments of India, on the other hand, have pampered and appeased the Hindu community not only in cultural terms but also with innumerable caste- and religion-based reservations and concessions. Hindus are deprived of these concessions the moment they convert to another religion. No proportionate parity in reservation is given to Muslims in lieu of the Scheduled Caste facilities offered to Hindus. In military, police and bureaucracy Muslims are not recruited as a matter of covert State policy. In business, their representation is far from satisfactory. Where few persons have progressed, communal riots are engineered to finish them off economically. Generally, in every riot it is the Muslims who suffer most in loss of life and property. In education, they are far behind any other community. As a result, they continue to live in poverty, misery, degradation, illiteracy, etc.
There are relief provisions in the Income Tax (IT) laws benefiting Hindu undivided family (HUF), substantially reducing tax liability of the family as a whole. This is a positive advantage to Hindu families reducing their tax burden. Muslims do not enjoy any such fiscal benefit.
Regarding aspects of bigamy/polygamy, Muslims are far behind. According to the government census reports more Hindus than Muslims practise it. Bigamy in Muslims is limited to a few houses, due to individual, specific reasons. It is a ‘right’ very few Muslims can afford to exercise.
The Muslims in India are the all-round sufferers. Recurring anti-Muslim riots, for the last 48 years, with all their ferocity and savagery, have become a part of the Muslims’ life in the country. The Indian polity and political parties exploit Muslim votes for power and in return give them the added bonus of riots at Meerut, Moradabad, Malliana, Ahmedabad, Bombay, Bhiwandi, Jamshedpur, Kanpur, Hyderabad, Bihar Sharif, Bhagalpur, Tellechery, etc. The police/protective forces, instead of being impartial, start murdering and gunning the Muslims.
All this insult and injury, amounting to a clear violation of human rights, has been inflicted upon Muslims, under all governments run by various parties. And the Congress Party had played the largest role in this cruel game, simply because it had ruled for the longest period of time, in the biggest area of the land.
On the other hand, activities of the neo-fascist organisations like Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal had been accelerated by the Congress governments which had preferred to compromise at every stage.
So if the BJP’s idea of ‘real’ as opposed to ‘pseudo’ secularism has appealed to a wide cross-section of Indians, it is almost entirely because the Congress Party had, since the early 1980s when its Muslim-Dalit vote-bank began to disintegrate, been a quasi-Hindu party itself.
The Hindu card was used very successfully by Indira Gandhi. The current prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had acknowledged her majestic ‘Hinduism’ in the 1971 war. This card was used again, with even more finesse, in the Lok Sabha (Parliament) elections of 1984 that swept Rajiv Gandhi to power after his mother’s assassination. Afterwards, Rajiv continued to identify himself with what he considered Hindu causes while at the same time trying to keep the Muslims happy. It was Rajiv Gandhi who opened the Babari pandora box by getting the locks removed in 1986 and then allowing the shilanyas (foundation-laying) of the Rama temple in 1989.
And then, to the climax, there was PV Narasimha Rao, who was so proud of falling on his face in public in complete obeisance before sadhus (priests). When Babari Masjid was pulled down with his overt blessings on 6 December 1992 by the Hindutva (‘Hindu revivalists’) fanatics, Rao very proudly told a public meeting that raj shakti (political power) had bowed before dharma shakti (religious power). Rao gave the fanatics a very long rope that resulted in the most shameless act of 6 December 1992.
The Republic of India with its secular constitution received the biggest blow in its 45 years of existence when the entire might of the Indian State stood aside to allow the rampaging mobs of fanatics to destroy the 16th century Babari Mosque in Ayodhya.
The Indian government’s boast of a ‘secular’ and ‘vibrant’ democracy will stand exposed if the fanatical Hindu organisations are allowed to hold sway in India, and Hinduism becomes the ‘basis’ for religious discrimination against Muslims and other minorities.
What can be hoped from such a party whose record has been one of raising secular slogans while capitulating before the Hindu fundamentalists at every critical juncture? The child of imperialism and the Indian moneybags, the Congress, left things in the middle, be it the question of national independence or national construction.
Muslimedia - April 1996-August 1996