These days India is hosting Baloch separatist leader Hyrbyair Marri. India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup confirming Marri’s presence in India, has said, “India has always been home to the ‘persecuted’ people from all over the world.” In this backdrop it will be interesting to take a look at the way India treats its own Muslim population. Discriminatory behaviour of Indian government towards the Muslims of India and Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) is on the rise since BJP came to power. Hindu fundamentalist government of the BJP is now openly subscribing to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology. Therefore, extremist elements of Indian society are picking up the courage to take the law in their own hand to the peril of Muslims. As a result, incidents of communal violence against Muslims have increased over a period of one year.
Muhammad Akhlaq was beaten to death and his 22 years old son was severely injured on September 28 in Dadri, Utter Pardesh, after it was rumoured that the family had been storing and consuming beef. Incident was triggered by an announcement by a local temple. Now the forensic tests have revealed that family had been storing mutton in their fridge and not beef! Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under strong criticism for not condemning the incident. Former IHK Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted “why there was no outright condemnation of the Dadri lynching?”
Denial of legitimate entitlements to Indian Muslims have attained such a proportion that Vice President Hamid Ansari has publically called upon the BJP government to take “affirmative action” to enforce rights of Indian Muslims as Indian constitution grants special “reservation” (quota) in government jobs, educational institution etc. He said these rights were admissible in Indian state practice but denied to Muslims. He gave example of many reports commissioned by successive governments and added that India’s Muslims faced issue such as identity and security, education and empowerment, equitable share in state funds and a fair share in decision making. He made these remarks at the golden jubilee celebrations of a Muslim entity, the All India Majlis-e-Mushawwarat (consultative meeting).
Indian newspaper “The Hindu” reported on September 02 that the Vice-President came under attack from the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on this count. VHP general secretary Surendra Jain said the Vice-President’s remarks were “communal” and did not reflect the dignity of his office. BJP general secretary Kailash Vijaywargiya termed the Vice-President’s remarks as not commensurate with the constitutional position that he occupies. “A Vice-President’s post is a constitutional position pertaining to the entire country and not to a particular community”. He added that Muslims enjoyed more constitutional right than in many Muslim countries and went as far as to say that “even the country’s partition was accepted to appease Muslims”.
There are various categories of marginalized segment of Indian citizens including Dalits, Mahadalits, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes (OBC), Extremely Backward Classes (EBC), etc. Vice President Hamid Ansari had merely asked government to take definite steps for rights of Muslims and other neglected classes in India. He had pointed out that caste discrimination existed among Muslim communities in India and “corrective strategies therefore have to be sought on category-differentiation admissible in Indian state practice and denied to Muslims”. Ansari had talked about recognising scheduled castes among Muslims and not reservations for Muslims on religious grounds. The statement was about the things already stated in the Sachar Commission Report. Privilege of reservation has been denied to Indian Muslim on the pretext of their overall number in India. Release of politically sensitive religious census data, ahead of elections in states such as Bihar, Assam and West Bengal is also aimed at creating the bogey of the so-called “Muslim dominance”.
Congress and Communist Party of India has supported Mr Ansari’s demand. Several reports including the Sachar Committee Report (2006) have highlighted the plight of the Muslims; indicating that on most socio-economic indicators, Muslim were on the margins or even worse than the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The Kundu Report (2014) commissioned to evaluate the implementation of the Sachar Commission had concluded that “serious’ bottle-necks remained.”
Quota is increasingly becoming a highly sensitive issue in the Indian political landscape. In August, the Patel community of Gujarat protested, in large numbers, demanding reservation of jobs for them. Provision of reservation has been cleverly utilized by some backward communities for their socio-economic and political empowerment. Moreover, the mainstream political parties have also exploited the issues for political gains. Support for Muslim reservation, however, is almost negligible. While Congress has paid lip service to the idea, BJP is aggressively against it.
Another Indian paper Business Line reported on September 04 that RSS has publically asserted its ideological supremacy and the right to “guide” the BJP government. This was amply demonstrated during the three-day Samanvay Baithak (coordination meeting) of the RSS and its affiliates, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi arriving at the venue on the final day to meet the 93 representatives of the 15 ideological affiliates of RSS. The meeting saw senior ministers making presentations with regard to performance of their respective ministries’ work before the RSS ideologues led by its chief Mohan Bhagwat. The CPI (M) and the Congress have termed it as “remote controlling” the government.
However, Bhagwat refuted the charge by saying that: “The Sangh works with the society. But we also understand the importance of the State and its role in transformation of the society. We have swayamsevaks and pracharaks working in all walks of life, including the government. This meeting was meant as a discussion forum between the Ministers and others who work with the society”. RSS Joint General Secretary Dattatray Hosabale did not shy away from asserting that the Sangh’s concerns on the economy, security as well as socio-cultural issues were conveyed to the ruling BJP.
Most glaring manifestation of Indian intransigence towards Muslims is its handling of the territory and the people of IHK. India’s 700,000-plus troops are stationed in Kashmir that makes it the most militarised conflict zone of the world. The law enforcement agencies are empowered by draconian laws which have frequently been condemned by numerous Indian and international Human Rights watchdogs. Another way to resolve the Kashmir dispute is through listening to Mahatma Gandhi, who said on 29 July 1947 in Delhi, “I am not going to suggest to the Maharaja (Ruler of Kashmir) to accede to India and not to Pakistan. The real sovereign of the state are the people. The ruler is a servant of the people. If he is not so then he is not the ruler. This is my firm belief…In Kashmir too the power belongs to the public. Let them do as they want.”
BJP government is communalizing the Indian politics which is likely to add to the plight of largest Indian minority—the Muslims. At the same time it is sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan through the likes of Hyrbyair Marri. Pakistan has taken the right step by informing the UNSG about Indian designs. The peace initiative offered by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his address to UNGA could pave the way for the peace and stability in the region. PM’s initiative proposes: Expansion of United Nations’ Military Observer Group in Indian and Pakistan’s mandate to monitor the observance of the ceasefire; Reaffirmation by both India and Pakistan not to resort to the use or the threat of use of force under any circumstances; Demilitarization of Kashmir; and an unconditional mutual withdrawal from Siachen Glacier. However, India does not appear in the listening mode.
[The Nation October 12, 2015]
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.