Saturday, May 10, 2014

Muslims are over-represented only in jails

Saba Naqvi re-visits the famous "moth-eaten" word, to describe the parlous state of Indian secularism. She particularly focuses on the dangers of polarization. It is nobody's case that BJP has anything to offer towards a unifying agenda. But what have the secularists ever done for India (and Indian muslims)?

the only area where Muslims are over-represented is in Indian jails  

Naqvi points out the effect of the poison pus from partition I (partition II is not mentioned, even though she talks about Axom and Bengal) but she should have also pointed out that ideologies are more poisonous than events.

The biggest and most powerful poison source is the two nation theory: "our heroes are their villains and vice versa," a logic that can equally hold true for Shia/Sunni, Urdu/Bengali, and all other ways that humanity can be divided. Today Pramila Rani Baruah is a hero for Bodos and a villain for muslims: this is the proud legacy of the TNT.

the rhetoric of Modi/Shah amounts to this: Muslims got two countries out of Partition and rejected secularism; why are they still in India trying to vote against us?

It is basically a massive con game. The agenda will be set by conservative muslims males who have only one thing in their mind: Islam khatre mein.....and that's it. It was the Shah Bano case that convinced the Hindu upper-caste, middle-class (the primary source of opinion-makers) that secularism should be ditched in favor of majoritarianism and gave rise to the BJP as a political player. The secularists are opportunists who would pursue soft-Hindutva (Congress in Gujarat) and soft-Islamism (Samajwadi party in UP, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal) to get votes. Sure they dont have a genocidal agenda, but they dont have the good of any community at heart. Politics to them is an exercise to simply feather their family beds. If the Aam Admi party stands apart from the crowd it will get the votes of deprived muslims as well as relieved hindus. If it adopts the same formula as the secularists it will be doomed to a cut in the vote-bank and nothing more.
Muslim equals terrorist equals Pakistani equals infiltrator equals Bangladeshi is not a new construct for the Sangh parivar. But in this election, the BJP is using the Bangladeshi immigrant rhetoric with particular emphasis as it believes there are gains to be made by polarising sensibilities in Assam, Bengal and Bihar. So the demonology only needs to be updated and tweaked. And this time the Muslim bogeyman returns in the shape of the “Bangladeshi”. The immigrant, illegal migrant, settler, foreigner etc.

At one level, these are all battles erupting around the Partition fault-line, the wounds that routinely get infected and begin oozing pus. At its base level, the rhetoric of Modi/Shah and even the more sophisticated right-wingers amounts to this: Muslims got two countries out of Partition and rejected secularism; why are they still in India trying to vote against us? If they want to stay, it should be on our terms, not those set by people who are infiltrators and terrorists anyway.

Communal ideology and prejudice are easy to spot and analyze. It is harder to confront the great crisis of Indian secularism, that is now so hollowed out that it makes it easy for communal forces to grow. One could even borrow the phrase Mohammed Ali Jinnah used for the Pakistan he got—“moth-eaten”—which is what the fabric of Indian secularism has become today. For those who still have idealistic stardust in their eyes, we must blink and accept that Indian secularism is not about some utterance of the soul as a Jawaharlal Nehru may have once imagined it. It appears to be mostly about electoral management by secular parties that involves first seeing Muslims as a herd and then trying to keep that herd together.

But the crisis of secularism is no laughing matter. The Muslim community has slipped on all human development indices. Yet in modern secular India, an entire mobilisation has thrived on the argument that they are “appeased”. There is indeed a section of the community that is appeased: the clerics. All political parties go to them. Last week, Priyanka Gandhi did so in Rae Bareli; simultaneously in Delhi Meh­mood Madani, an influential cleric from the Deoband tradition, who has of late been making pro-Modi noises, said “Priyanka would have been better than Rahul” for the Congress. 

Since Inde­pendence, sec­ular parties in India have approached the Muslim community through clerics and in the process given them legitimacy. The maulanas, in turn, have used the cover of “secularism” to keep retrograde personal laws in place and thereby their own relevance intact till presumably they land in paradise. They rarely talk of jobs, employment, modernity. The result now is that having been given “secularism” to eat and a vote to brandish, the Muslims of India have been left in their ghettos with many “sole spokesmen” of the community. It is these clerics who promise the deliverance of that herd during election time. Their projection of their own clout is often a fraudulent exercise.

As the BJP thrives, so will the clerics who live off victimhood and the fears of the minority community. Among the most successful is Badruddin Ajmal, who leads the AIUDF in Assam. In the 2012 violence in the state, he too had stoked the flames. A graduate of the Deoband seminary, he des­cribes “religious discourse and Islamic theological excha­nges” as among his favourite pastimes on his website. He is a perfume moghul with expansive business and charity interests, who no doubt sees himself as a protector of the community and a servant of Allah.

How did we get here? For one, the clout of the maulanas has increased ever since the Congress famously capitulated before them when it overturned the Shah Bano judgement in 1986. It is hardly worth restating that this not only pushed Muslims deeper into the ghetto, it eventually created conditions for the rise of the BJP on the stage of national politics in the late ’80s.

The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) was at the heart of that churning. Founded in 1973, it is a collection of clerics with a motley crew of professionals whose main purpose is to protect Sharia law. Of its 201 members, 101 are life members. They represent an orthodox male viewpoint that has not just been allowed to go unchallenged but has also been promoted actively by the secular state.

Outright corruption in the name of secularism too is part of the disease. Particularly so in the matter of Waqf properties that can be described as religious endowments made in the name of Allah for the benefit of the poor and needy in the Muslim community. There are approximately 3,00,000 registered Waqf properties in India on about four lakh acres of land (the second largest land holding after Indian railways). It is a national resource that should have been developed for the welfare of the community, as it is meant to. Instead, this resource has been mortgaged, sold and encroached upon with the connivance of the same clerical class in league with elected Muslim representatives. Waqf boards in all the states are repositories of corruption, yet they get away with it because any demand for scrutiny is described as an attack on Islam.

Meanwhile, issues that really concern the community such as employment, safety, prosperity are not addressed. The police and the entire judicial system is known for its profiling on communal lines and the only area where Muslims are over-represented is in Indian jails while even well-to-do members of the community are not rented homes in many localities in Indian metros. 

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