Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

When will Muslims join the mainstream?

By M.V. Kamath

It obviously does not occur to some mullahs and other reactionary Muslims that by refusing to sing Vande Mataram and threatening to withdraw Muslim children from schools where it is routine to sing it, they are only telling their co-religionists to withdraw from the Indian mainstream.

Like the Muslim League of pre-Independence days, one Minister of Uttar Pradesh has called for the formation of a separate Muslim state within the Indian Union instead of Harit Pradesh in western Uttar Pradesh. It is one more divisive step that the Muslim community is taking which is self-destructive and will only alienate Muslims from their Hindu brethren further.

Refusing to sing Vande Mataram on extremely illogical grounds is bad enough. Demanding a separate communal state is inviting more trouble. Not that the idea will ever get accepted. But what it reveals is a sick mind that continues to be rooted in the medieval era. The argument one frequently hears is that Muslims are under-represented in every State Legislature as well as in Lok Sabha. But then whose fault is it. If Muslims refuse to join the mainstream and insist on being treated as a minority, they can hardly expect popular support. Past experience plainly shows that when communal peace prevails Muslims get more seats in the Lok Sabha. It is true that in the last fourteen Lok Sabha elections only a fraction of the number of seats they should normally deserve proportionate to their population were won by Muslims. The truth is that they had, on their own, forfeited the confidence of their Hindu brethren. If a minority lives apart and stays apart from the majority community how can it possibly win the trust, let alone affection, of the latter?

Consider the following figures: In the first Lok Sabha elections, if one goes strictly by population percentage Muslims should have got 49 seats. Instead, they got 21 seats. In the second Lok Sabha elections, the population percentage remained the same—but the passions aroused by the Partition was subsiding and the Muslims won 24 seats, three more than in the first elections. In the third Lok Sabha elections, population percentage-wise Muslim should have received 53 seats but they won only 23. The highest number of seats Muslims won was in the seventh Lok Sabha elections when, though population-percentage wise they should have received 53 seats they managed to secure 49—not bad.

Since then, largely because of emotional estrangement, the number of Muslims elected to the Lok Sabha has been falling. From the tenth to the fourteen Lok Sabha elections they should have got 66 seats but they could barely manage to get between 28 to 36 seats. The fourteenth Lok Sabha elections were in 2004 when Muslims joined different political parties, primarily to beat the BJP. Muslims got ten seats in Congress, seven in the Samajwadi, four in the CPM, four in the BJP, three in the RJD and one each in other local parties. They can win more, if they get over their antediluvian ideas and become a modern, liberated people, instead of a people suspect of terrorism and anti-Indian motives. They can’t get votes by putting their women in burqas and sending their children to madrasas when they should be sent to normal primary and secondary schools to be one with their Hindu and other students from the majority and allied religions.

There is another lesson that they should learn which is that hating the BJP and trying to curry favour from the likes of Laloo Prasad Yadav or Mulayam Singh Yadav or Mayavati will not help them. They will continue to remain estranged from the majority community, no matter what arguments the so-called secular parties may put forth to win their favour.

Neither in Bihar, nor in Uttar Pradesh has the condition of Muslims changed because they voted against the BJP. As Chaturanan Mishra, a former Union Minister of Labour (1996-1998) and a prominent figure in the Leftist movement in the country aptly noted in Mainstream (August 17), the Congress, allegedly the largest secular party nominated 39 Muslims in 1991 and 1996, of whom only 12 could win. Similarly, 32 Muslims were nominated by the Congress in 1998 but only seven could succeed.

Religion can never be the base of getting a ticket. Muslim citizens must come up in front and be seen as social workers, serving people of all religions. If they insist to live in the past as in the Shah Banoo case, or if they seem to be supporting SIMI, an ISI-financed student organisation—no matter how wrongly—then they doom themselves to being eternally marginalised. And they should not blame the majority community. As Shakespeare might have said to Muslims, the fault, dear sires, lies not in the majority but in yourselves that you want to stay separate.

Turks are not less Islamic because the Ataturk threw out the Caliphate and liberated Turkish women. The Indonesians are not less Islamic because they continue to adhere in many ways to their ancient Hindu traditions. They are not hesitant to call their airlines Garuda Airlines; they are not hesitant to give their children Sanskrit name like Meghavati or Saraswati (a daughter of former President Waheed); nor are they hesitant in putting the figure of Ganesh on their currency notes. An Indonesian production of Ramayana would put some of our own Indian artists to shame; but here in India a section of reactionary Muslims refuse to sing even the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram because somewhere down the line in the song there is a reference to Durga. And Indonesia is 98 per cent Muslim!

If Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a great Islamic scholar who had his training in Islamic law and jurisprudence in the famous Islamic University in Cairo, could respect Vande Mataram and stand to attention when it was sung at AICC meetings, surely lesser Islamic scholars can take a leaf from his book.

Many Muslim organisations increasingly seem to be taking their cue from fundamentalist Islamic organisation in Pakistan. It is not going to help them one bit and it is time they realise it. Muslims should not consider themselves a minority. India is a democracy and all citizens are equal. Hindus are not that stupid as to want to hurt Islamic sentiments of Muslims. But we need to live under a Common Law as citizens are equal in every way. For Muslims, especially, separatism should be deeply abhorrent. It should be shunned like the very devil. We are one people and India, as Mohammad Iqbal once wrote belongs to everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or community. Sareh jahan seh achcha Hindustan hamara should be our guiding mission. Then everything will fall in its place and—who knows—the time may come when under sound Muslim leadership, Hindus themselves may vote for Muslims. Who, today, is our President? Who, our Prime Minister? And who the leader of the Congress Party, oh?

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