Vinod Mubayi and Daya Varma


Independent India’s leaders declared that the country belonged equally to all its citizens; Jinnah said the same thing for Pakistan on the eve of its independence. Unlike Pakistan, which declared itself an Islamic republic, India did not change its stated objective of secularism but neither did it take firm steps to ensure that this objective was realized in practice.. There are many victims of this failure but Muslims, the largest single religious community after Hindus  are its worst victims as is clear from  the article” Persistent Exclusion of Muslims in India” by Ayesha Pervez in this issue of the Bulletin.


Although only the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) family which includes the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is the obvious outfit for Hindu domination of India, none of the parties from communists to Congress have Muslim representation that is commensurate with their population. This skewed representation affects the priorities and programs of ostensibly secular political parties. As far as the Left is concerned, the Muslim problem does not fit into an anti-imperialist and anti-globalization scheme and hence it is not worth tackling. Muslims, though far more numerous than Adivasis, are not the indigenous Adivasis whose land and livelihood is threatened by giant mining corporations and so they do not qualify for any one’s attention.  India has many languages to which English as the language of the elite has been added, so we do not need Urdu any more.


Most jobs in India require some form of interview for selection. There are invariably more candidates than jobs and consciously or unconsciously because of inherent prejudices, it is quite easy to keep Muslims out.


Modern Indian culture, especially for the Hindu middle class, was shaped by Swami Vivekananda, who in his Chicago lectures of 1893 treated even Buddhism as a ‘rebel child’ of Hinduism. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s Anandmath set the scene with its rabid anti-Muslim rhetoric, before the mantle passed into the hands of Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar and Advani.  But this effect is not limited to die hard Hindus; that would not do much damage to a new India. It blunts the consciousness of all political parties from Maoists and communists to Congress. These parties have programs for every section of the society but not for Muslims. On their part Muslims are too afraid to demand their rightful place for at the slightest assertion of their rights they are accused of being fifth columnists at best and terrorists at worst.  Only a concerted political, socio-economic, and educational effort by committed secularists and progressives can hope to make a dent in this dismal situation where over 150 million people, with only a few exceptions, find themselves shunned, discriminated against and isolated, unable to get a fair deal in jobs, opportunities, even housing in many urban areas like Mumbai. Even in states like West Bengal, that was ruled until recently by the Left parties for more than 30 years, the Muslims’ share of government employment or education is far below their proportion of the state’s population.  This is a shame, no matter which way one looks at it.

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