Thursday, November 3, 2011

Communal Award

An Essay Towards Balkanisation

By Dr. Santosh Bhattacharya

Political parties are now desperately trying to promise job reservation to Muslims and Other Backward Classes by amending the Constitution in the name of “protection of minorities”. Even the Prime Minister is reportedly seeking consensus on the issue of Muslim reservation. India will become a union of balkanised religious and caste groups.

The demand for Muslim reservation has arisen because in certain states the community can swing the election results. The so-called secular parties find it convenient to woo them, by promising quotas in government jobs and educational institutions. UPA-II exists on the support by such state parties.

What will the Muslim reservation lead to? After Partition, the vast majority of Hindus, not necessarily supporters of the BJP, consider the Muslims who stayed back as impostors, who should have gone to Pakistan, their homeland. Hence, they do not support any reservation of State benefits for Muslims. On the other hand, the Muslims who stayed back complain that they are ignored and oppressed by the Hindu majority, resulting in lack of development. They demand that the secular State should give them equal opportunities, often termed as "reverse discrimination". However, whatever may be the arguments for or against reservation for Muslims, the fact remains that such State programmes will reinforce the already-existing Hindu-Muslim divide in society. The Muslims will always try to remain as a closed and separate community to garner the advantages of reservation.

Lest somebody thinks that this perception of India’s Hindu-Muslim divide is an expression of over-reaction, a brief history of the country's polity over the past 62 years will prove the contrary. Consider first the Muslims. Kashmir is a tell-tale example of Muslim separatism. Whatever the secularists, the Congress leaders, and the so-called democratic leaders in Kashmir may say, there is little doubt that the overwhelming majority of Kashmir’s Muslims refuse to be citizens of secular India. They have driven out the minority Hindus from the Kashmir Valley, and want Kashmir to be a Muslim State on the principle of the 1947 Partition. They may decide to be an independent State or to join Pakistan.

All other demands raised by Muslims are intended to keep the community as a separate category, no matter what some sophisticated Muslim celebrities say. They do not have any influence over the Muslim masses. They are totally against a Common Civil Code. Branding the Hindu majority as oppressors, they demand reservation in jobs and other State benefits, proportionate to their population as equivalent shareholders of the State. They refuse to recognise any distinction between Dalits and others within the fold of Muslims.

The separatism of the Muslim masses is manifest in the field of sports. When India plays against Pakistan, Muslims in India and outside support the other country. Even Muslim celebrities speak up against perceived discrimination against the community, but not in the wake of blatant communalism.

Hindus are no different. Hindu and Muslim communities were never integrated and remained separate throughout history, even after centuries of Muslim rule, despite well-meaning efforts at integration by some kings and saints. Since India followed the Hindu religion since time immemorial, Hindus consider India as rightfully belonging to them, and not to other communities whose religions were imported from other countries. All communities in under-developed countries consider their own religion to be superior to those of others and refuse to integrate with them socially. So do the Hindus. The origin of our Hindu-Muslim divide is much more deep-rooted than it may appear.

However, Hindus are responsible for harbouring animosity. The Congress agreed to Partition for the sake of power. The overwhelming majority of Hindus never reconciled themselves to the development. In their reckoning, the Muslims connived with the British to force Partition. Hence, they hold Muslims responsible for dividing their motherland, and their age-old animosity towards Muslims only intensified. The Hindu middle class swears by secularism, but they do not treat Muslims as equals. Muslim resentment has grown in parallel over the years.

The BJP is no less responsible than the Congress for the communal situation. The party and its cohorts like to imagine that the Muslims have no rights, even the rights to which the minorities are entitled to. The BJP opposes reservation for Muslims, it refuses to accept the existence of Dalits within Muslims and Christians, and is opposed to refugee status to Muslims fleeing from Bangladesh and Pakistan. The BJP, however, is forthright in its views, as distinct from the Congress. The latter is no less communal, but it takes recourse to sophistication.

The Hindu masses, even if they don't support the BJP on every issue, do nurse their separatism, which explodes whenever India and Pakistan are opposed in sport. The Hindu sportsmen openly declare that they consider the contest with Pakistan as ‘special’. It will be difficult to find a Hindu championing a Pakistani team opposing India, even though they are unquestionably superior in talent.

The communal situation is worsening day by day. Could it lead to further balkanisation? To prevent that, various suggestions are being advanced. Kashmir can be allowed to opt out as a Muslim territory, in accord with the principle of Partition. Those who advocate this formula think that the Kashmir issue is at the root of the present communal militancy. Those who oppose such a step argue that it will amount to accepting the defeat of secularism, and will strengthen the demand for sending all Muslims out of the country, which is not feasible. A large majority of Muslims, who have stayed back, are rooted here. Thus, Kashmir has pushed India to a cul-de-sac. Possibly, India has to live with the Kashmir imbroglio, the price of the original sin of Partition.

Apart from Kashmir, India is threatened by further balkanisation in the wake of the recent moves by the Congress and the Communists to reserve jobs for Muslims by conferring the OBC status to the Dalit segment of the community. Since reservation for Muslims is unconstitutional, the political parties want to bypass the problem by bracketing as many Muslims as they can within the OBC category. This is constitutional, as decided by the Supreme Court. They argue that since the OBCs are backward, they need reservation for development, in government jobs, and educational institutions including the centres of higher learning. Muslims will get the benefit of reservation through the backdoor.

The country is thus faced with the danger of further balkanisation between Hindus and Muslims. The political parties must stop pursuing this policy of reservation. Islam does not recognise any Dalit. Experience suggests that there can be no uplift of non-Muslim backward classes through reservation. They require special measures to avail of educational opportunities as do the Muslims.

Reservation for Muslims and OBCs, in addition to such special measures, may also help in their “development” over time. But the immediate effect of such reservation policies will surely consolidate the groupings around religion and caste, leading to strident demands for constitutional reservation on the basis of the proportion of population both in the Centre and in the states. If the Constitution is thus amended, the number of Muslims in the Lok Sabha will be around 70 (12 per cent of the total Indian population), instead of their present number of around 30 elected by political parties. A similar representation may be evident in the state assemblies. Such balkanisation of the representatives in the legislatures will have an immediate effect because of their large numbers. It will be permanent in character because of group interest. The Indian State will become a Union of “balkanised” groups. That precisely is the way in which reservation will lead to balkanisation.

Courtesy: The Statesman Kolkata 28 Sep 2010

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