Don’t Blame Indian Muslims

Who should be blamed if till date Indian Muslims are denied a fair and unbiased treatment in this country and if they are still not viewed as national citizens? Indian Muslims cannot certainly be held responsible for a communal prejudice still maintained against them in certain quarters. Sadly, the present government has yet to take adequate action about its concern on this issue. Rather, the recent report on the performance of the government suggests that United Progressive Alliance prefers remaining silent on grievances faced by Indian Muslims.

The report does refer to the much talked about 15-point programme of the Prime Minister for the welfare of minorities. It may be recalled that some time back plenty of noise was made about the advantages that this programme spelt for Indian Muslims. The new report certainly refers to minorities but does not specifically name any of the minority communities, including Muslims.

 The report also states that 15 percent of “targets and outlays for schemes” included in the Prime Minister’s 15-point programme for welfare of minorities “are focused on minorities.” This naturally demands attention to what has the government decided on the remaining 85 percent of this programme.  

What is more disturbing is that the reference to government’s policies regarding minorities has been made under a section with heading “Social Inclusion.” So, should one assume that the government is conscious of the fact that Indian minorities (including Muslims) are not viewed as much a part of the Indian mainstream as they are entitled to as Indian citizens? But then, if this is the case, Indian Muslims cannot be blamed for this attitude towards them. The crucial question is, who/what should be blamed?

Little importance is given to the hard reality that in 1947, patriotism of Muslims made them opt for staying here than cross the border and become Pakistani citizens. They preferred partition of their families for the sake of remaining here as Indian citizens. It is indeed a tragedy that sacrifices made by Muslims as Indian citizens to this day continue to be ignored and also overshadowed by a discriminatory approach held towards them. Why should the Indian Muslims be blamed for this?

 Similarly, during electoral season, a lot of noise is made about the so-called Muslim-vote, particularly in areas where the population of Muslims is more than 20 percent and several parties are in the fray. To date, there has been no instance of Muslims of any constituency having voted en bloc for any particular candidate simply on ground of his/her being a Muslim. In fact, no Muslim party or leader can claim to have any national appeal for Muslim voters across the country that can have a crucial impact on turning the political tide during elections. Religious affinity for any candidate and/or party does not decide the vote of Indian Muslims in general. Rather, they exercise their political decision primarily on the ground of their secular values. In essence, secularism decides electoral decision of Muslim voters and not religious identity of candidates and/or parties fighting the political battle.

Understandably, there prevails a trend even among “secular” parties to display their concern for Muslims by giving substantial importance to Muslim clerics during their campaign and giving tickets to Muslims for contesting elections. But this is reflective of political strategy exercised by non-Muslim “secular” parties and not the electoral decision taken by Muslim voters. In fact, unnecessary hype has apparently been deliberately raised about the so-called Muslim-vote to try and polarize vote banks along religious lines. This strategy has worked where Dalit vote-bank in Uttar Pradesh is concerned but not in the case of Muslim votes. Please note, secularism displayed by Muslim voters has played a major role in defeating communal politicking indulged in by religious extremists in UP.

 Isn’t making noise about Muslim-vote, when in essence it doesn’t really exist, equivalent to polarizing politics along religious lines giving advantage to extremists keen on communalizing this space? Why should the Muslims be blamed for this?

 Sadly, Muslim secularism continues to be virtually ignored to this day. What else is suggested by the ease with which Muslims are held as suspect terrorists even when there isn’t substantial evidence against them? What explains the killing of largely Muslims in “fake encounters” manipulated either for political reasons, communal bias or to secure promotion and rewards in services?

 Electorally, despite Indian Muslims having strongly asserted their secular identity, it is a tragedy that there prevails a communal bias against them, which is suggested by the hype raised about the non-existent Muslim vote. What is worse than ignoring Muslims’ secular credentials is holding them as targets of communal frenzy, in the name of countering terrorism. The Indian Muslims are playing their role as responsible citizens in the interests of the country’s secularism and making their mark in various fields, including media, sports, films and others. But if they still are not viewed as a part of the national mainstream, who should be blamed for this?

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 June 2012 on page no. 11

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