Reservation: Another Muslim Issue

There indeed is a strange irony in which issues regarding Indian Muslims are dealt with politically and by the media. Little time is spent in labeling them as “suspect terrorists,” holding their organizations as responsible for “promoting” terrorism and in even arresting and/or shooting them down, without giving them a chance to prove their innocence. It does not take long for such “news” to hit headlines and remain among the top “news” as well as a politically significant issue for quite some time. Well, if the Indian politicians and others are so adept at painting a negative image of Muslims, what has prevented them in taking steps to ensure development of this community?

Yes, this refers to “secular” politicians — apparently concerned about welfare of Indian Muslims — having time and again voiced their commitment towards development of this community. Sadly, the same politicians seem apprehensive- even scared- about actually initiating constructive moves in this direction. True, in their hearts they may be genuinely “secular” and also keen on progress of the nation’s Muslims. But, whatsoever remains confined to their hearts and even to paper, including Rangnath Mishra Commission report, carries little relevance till it actually spells concrete results.

It is indeed ironical that though the Mishra report was submitted on May 21, 2007, the government is still taking its own time in studying it and deliberating on which of its proposals can be implemented in ensuring uplifting the status of minorities. One is compelled to wonder as to how many more months, perhaps years would the government take to actually seriously consider the report itself. The time factor: — from the formation of commission, report’s submission to tabling it in the Parliament cannot be missed. In fact, analysis of the time-factor only seems suggestive of the commission’s formation being more of a political gimmick than a move directed to actually ensure progress of the minorities. The commission was formed when the Congress-led coalition was gearing up to face parliamentary polls. Though the commission did not take long to submit its report, the government probably preferred keeping quiet about it then.

Where the minorities were concerned, the government’s posture indicated that the coalition should be given another chance in power to be able to implement the report’s recommendations. If the then government willed, it could have initiated work on the recommendations shortly after the report’s submission. Political strategy however did not guide the government to take this step. There was and still is - the fear of losing support of majority community’s votes- which let the government keep quiet on the report till it faced the ballots. Had the coalition lost the parliamentary polls, the report would have probably lost even the political value it held then for the government. The Congress-led coalition’s return to power, however, demands that the government should begin working on the report.

One cannot ignore the government’s decision to table it in the Parliament only when the winter session was about to end. There is no denying that the government cannot remain oblivious of elements keen to prevent implementation of the report. The same groups are also against progress of minorities. Besides, members associated with them have time and again taken the lead in targeting minorities. Amid this context, what does the passive approach of the government towards implementing the report suggest? The government has tried justifying its stand by saying that it is not in a hurry and will study the report before actually deciding on the measures that need to be followed. This simply amounts to government actually keeping quiet on the report till perhaps it starts preparing for next parliamentary polls. If the government actually refrains from taking any serious step towards its implementation, it would also suggest that it is guided less by concern for minorities’ welfare and more by the fear of anti-minority communal elements.

So what does one learn by this scenario of political developments. The people in power are adept at making promises for welfare of minorities but apparently scared of taking constructive action in this direction. They fear that any genuine move towards minorities’ development would provide ample ground for the extremist elements to excite a communal frenzy and perhaps a loss in electoral support from the majority community. If this is the case, the government should have in the first place not even considered formation of the Mishra commission. The commission’s formation only indicates that rather than give importance to its recommendations greater attention should be paid to political compulsion that probably led to it being formed. It is not simply the political “sensitivity” of its recommendations but that of the government tacitly acknowledging that welfare of minorities may well be omitted from its agenda. Till the government actually changes its present stance and starts working constructively on taking steps towards minorities’ development, the commission’s recommendations may be viewed not just as another exercise in rhetoric but as “omissions” deliberately made in its agenda.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2010 on page no. 18

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