The tragedy of Muslims in India is that even after 72 years of the country’s independence, and despite their earnest efforts to look for that elusive political protector who would deliver them from the endless nightmare of communal violence, riot after riot has broken the back of the community in independent India.
In the past, the only problem of the community that was highlighted was of their security. But even then, without eradicating the root of communal divide, the Muslims were given hollow promises of safeguarding their lives and properties by the so-called secular political parties to capture their votes.
Under these circumstances, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to shake off his divisive image and reach out to the minorities at a ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament where he delivered a speech after being elected leader of the BJP and NDA parliamentary parties. No doubt, Mr Modi at the beginning of his second term as India’s Prime Minister has sought to position himself as a ruler committed to serving every section of society.
Mr. Modi significantly said, “the minorities have been deceived the same way as the poor. Their education and health should have been in focus…(but) an imaginary fear was created to use them as vote banks”. He further said his first term was about ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’, his second would stand for ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas’. These are reassuring words from our Prime Minister, but the sad truth is that such a surcharged situation has been carefully created where physical attacks on hapless Muslims in the country help a large section of Hindus get reassured for it demonstrates how Muslims can be ‘subjugated’.
The Prime Minister must agree that during the entire campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the ‘common enemy’ image of the Muslims was dinned into the minds of a large section of Hindus through every possible means of communication in order to keep ‘majority vote bank’ intact. During the post-Babri Masjid demolition period, the BJP started a crusade against minorityism, which eventually became the crusade against the minorities.
As a result, an ominous feeling grew even among the educated Hindus that the minorities have been pampered, appeased and spoilt for years by a ‘benevolent’ Congress government, at their cost. But the fact is that the Muslim populace is largely illiterate and mired in grinding poverty. Modern education, trade and industry did not make much headway among Muslims. They have been lagging behind by decades in industry, trade, profession, and as members of a modern intelligentsia, modern middle class and modern bourgeoisie.
According to the Sachar committee report, conditions of Muslims in India are worse than that of Dalits. At this juncture, it is imperative to find out why and how Muslims became the victims of vote bank politics all these years after partition. True, political parties with vested interests never allowed the community to think of their socio-economic problems and educational backwardness. India was divided in 1947.
The creation of Pakistan was the result of a fear psychosis of losing Muslim identity in India with eighty per cent of its Hindu population. But after the creation of Pakistan, about one third of Muslims were left in India with its Hindu majority. They could not relinquish the moral burden of partitioning the country in the face of implacable hostility of a section of Hindus, though, not all Hindus. If India is a secular country, it is because majority of Hindus are secular.
Otherwise, nobody could have stopped India becoming a Hindu state after the creation of Pakistan in the name of religion in 1947. However, the fear was aggravated in independent India that upsurge of self-consciousness in the majority community would take advantage of its numerical superiority to modify the secularism of India and thus the cultural identity of the Muslims would be reduced to something meaningless.
As time passed by, Muslim community tried to unload the baggage of partition and as a result, they realised the necessity to come out of the quagmire and refused to be exploited any more for their insecurity. The shift in attitudes built a wave of confidence for Muslims to try and modernise and become part of the Indian mainstream. Even Muslim girls came forward to create a niche for themselves.
The urge of change among the community stemmed from political compulsions and a changed economic and social environment. This urge of change was significantly evident without an attack on and denial of Islam. But on 6 December 1992, in that single flush of insanity at Ayodhya was lost the confidence of the single largest minority of India. The Muslim community again began to feel insecure and alienated. The ghetto became the general Muslims’ protective cocoon.
The BJP under Narendra Modi came to power with full majority in 2014. Since then cow and beef related violence created immense fear among the Muslims. Once again, the Muslim community anxiously scouts around for security. The ultra rightwing organizations chiefly generate such fears, which the opposition parties with vested interests tend to exploit. Now the Prime minister has been elected leader of the BJP and NDA parliamentary parties for the second time having secured massive mandate – even bigger than 2014.
Addressing the BJP and NDA parliamentary parties, the Prime Minister talked about eliminating the policies of fear to which the minorities are subjected. Now he has to demonstrate that he is leader of the entire country who wants to promote inclusiveness by attacking all forms of polarisation in the social and political space.
But the question is after such a mammoth electoral victory and that too after having marginalised the Muslim votes, will Mr Modi take up the challenge? Practically speaking, he does not need to but if he takes up the challenge, history will remember him as a statesman who endeavored to make his country strong and stable on the basis of inclusiveness, harmony, peace and power.
(The writer is Editor, Dainik Statesman)