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Census and communalism
By Parwaz Rahmani

When a Muslim social worker of Mumbai said that this census is in fact a conspiracy against Muslims and minorities, some newspaper reporters got very angry and they ridiculed him. The fact of the matter was that the incharge of Mumbai branch of Muslim League, Muhammad Farooq Azam had stated on the basis of his personal experience and observation that the census officials are using unfair means and cheating in Muslim populated areas of the city. Correct information about Muslims is not being recorded and many Muslim households are being completely ignored. Government workers are filling up the forms in pencils and later on make changes as they like. He also said in his statement that non-Muslim workers should be replaced by Muslim workers for census work in Muslim populated areas and that the workers of his party should check up the filled up forms daily. A reporter of the Asian Age (13 February) has ridiculed and made fun of him for this statement. He has called Muslim League as self-styled protector of Muslim interests and that it wants to police the census work.

The Asian Age has, of course, made fun of Mumbai Muslim League leader’s statement but what are his views about the statement published next day (14 February) in the same paper. This statement was made by Dr Joseph de Souza, President, All India Christian Council. He said that effort has been made to communalize the whole process of Census 2001 which is evident form parts of the questionnaire given in the Form. Through the column of ‘religion’, people belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been compelled to describe their religion only as Hinduism, or Buddhism or Sikhism and no fourth religion other than these can be written. That means that there is no place for Islam, Christianity or any other religions or faiths or agnostics. If any SC or ST member describes his religion other than these three, his name will be struck off from that category. In other words he will be deprived of the benefits and concessions or privileges enjoyed by people belonging to these castes and tribes. According to Dr De Souza, there are special motives behind these questions. He also said that his council has issued a legal notice in the name of Registrar General of Census in this connection and demanded rectification of this provision.

It is quite possible that the statement of Mumbai’s Muslim worker might be somewhat emotional or that his statement might not have been made in a mild or dignified manner but the statement of the leader of Christian Council can never be called emotional or sentimental. The fact is that in this census unfair practices are being followed on a large scale in different ways and the dubious intentions of the government are found in the very initial stages i.e., publication of forms for this purpose. Now a third group has come forward to further the cause of unethical practices. In the first category are people who have decided to use the census process for some ulterior political motive. In the second category are people whose services are being utilized for this purpose. They are obviously working on the guidelines and instructions provided by the people in the first category. And now media has also come in the field to further their cause who, instead of reporting cases of complaints and unfair means according to journalistic codes, is behaving in such a manner that the complainant or the aggrieved person himself is being projected as guilty or communalist. The sections of people, who were likely to be affected, seeing the mentality and ulterior motives of the authorities should have become vigilant before the process of census began. But even now it is not too late and they should now remain alert and methodical. They should also have better rapport and mutual cooperation between different groups and organizations and they should also be more balanced and restrained in their utterances.
(Translated from Urdu)

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