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EDITORIAL: 1-15 July 2001

Yes and no, Mr Kuldip Nayar

Despite the ever-increasing saffronization of all fields of life and communalization seeking to marginalize the Muslim community in particular, there are still strong secular stalwarts who do not hesitate to speak out the truth and come out loud to help Muslims and other weaker sections of our society in times of need and turmoil. Kuldip Nayar (KN), erstwhile editor of a number of newspapers and a former envoy to the UK, is one of this decreasing tribe. His honesty and steadfastness in the fight against communal forces is beyond reproach in these times when many secularists and socialists have changed their colours to reach the corridors of power on saffronite crutches.

In a recent article published in a Pakistani newspaper, Nayar saheb has spoken his mind and offered some advice to Indian Muslims. This article is reproduced in this issue on p. 12.

Coming from a true friend, it is our duty to welcome his views, give them a deep thought and adopt out of them whatever we think is beneficial for the community.

In his view it is suicidal for Muslims to found their own political parties on communal lines. He concedes that there is lack of employment, lack of education and lack of justice for Indian Muslims but the call for ‘reservations’ for Muslims, in his view, ‘take us back to the days when there were separate electorates, making Hindus vote for a Hindu candidate and Muslims for a Muslim...India's composite culture cannot afford that kind of atmosphere to return.’ He also concedes that ‘Muslims, by and large, feel lost when they think of the future and wonder what is in store for their children’ and wishes to broaden this question to: ‘ What is the future of the children of any citizen?’

KN’s other complaint is that ‘the Muslim intelligentsia does not generally speak out against fundamentalists among the Muslim community.’ A sequel to this complaint is that the Muslim intelligentsia ‘does not say anything when it comes to Kashmir or relations with Pakistan.’

To start with, it is not correct or helpful to bring pre-Partition issues in any dialogue with or about Indian Muslims. Today we are three generations away from those tragic developments which were not the sole responsibility of the Muslim League. Instead, the Congress and the umpteen communal organizations like the Hindu Mahasabha, Arya Samaj were also equally responsible. Muslim League gained popularity exactly due to the myopic approach of the Congress and the communal frenzy of umpteen ‘Hindu’ outfits, the like of which are over-active these days. True, there have been voices from time to time calling for a separate Muslim political party but the idea has never gained any popular support in the Muslim pockets. Many such outfits like the Muslim Majlis, Insaf Party and the revived Muslim League in the north have proved that Muslim masses do not vote on communal lines. And this is in spite of the chain of communal riots, PAC barbarism, marginalizaiton, falsification of history, capture of mosques, induced fragmentation of the Muslim society amid State and Hindu intelligentsia apathy. Media, controlled by the Hindu upper classes has consistently demonized Muslims and at present this has reached unprecedented heights when each Muslim mosque, madrasa and locality seems to be an ISI den and the Muslim community in general has been identified as an ‘internal security risk’ while it is the VHP and Bajrang Dal zealots who are openly imparting arms training to their militias. KN is wrong to think that SIMI started the Kanpur riots. In fact their demonstration was to take place next day.

Despite all this, Muslims have not lost faith in secularism as a state policy but they do not believe in secularization on Soviet and Turkish lines. Despite all the trials and tribulations Muslims have not supported the separatist movement in J&K. Is their denial of support for the separatist movement not enough? Muslims have, and rightly so, spoken against the security forces’ injustices in J&K and will continue to do so in future. Our society is in a flux. Freedom and democratic rights ensure for everybody to believe and disseminate his/her beliefs. In such a situation it is unrealistic to expect a single political line from any community.

The call for reservation for Muslims has been made from Muslim platforms but there is no consensus among the community on this issue. But how can Muslims be faulted on this count when there is no roll back, rather there are ever-increasing reservations for various segments.

The process of polarization is on in spite of Muslims, and the secular class is waging a losing battle. Muslims have a role and a stake in this battle but they cannot be ‘more secular’ than others. The current political mahabharat is between two sets of Hindu elites in which one is using the plank of secularism while the other is exploiting religion. Muslims will be part of this battle but their overzealousness will be counter-productive and injurious to their long-term interests.
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