Monday, September 30, 2013

Shinde is right….Minorities do need special protection

On the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Home Minister of India, wrote to all state CMs asking them to “ensure that no innocent Muslim youth is wrongfully detained in the name of terror” (TOI). This led to the “sparking off of outrage in the BJP over his “antisecular and divisive” move”. In May this year, Shinde had indicated he favored “fast track courts” to try Muslim youths accused in terror cases. Is this a Home Minister playing politics with religion and polarizing the country or is he one applying a soothing balm over communal tensions in which the minorities suffer the most?

Fortunately, we now have some data available on the deaths/injuries arising as a result of communal clashes. An HT story ( provides valuable insights. At an All India level, of the 107 people who died in communal clashes, 66 were Muslims and 41 Hindus. Of the 1697 injured, 797 were Hindus and 703 Muslims. In 2012, of the 93 killed, 48 were Muslims and 44 Hindus. And of the 2067 injured, 1010 were Hindus and 787 Muslims. There are state level figures also mentioned in the article, and in all cases, the number of Muslims is around 50%; sometimes going up to 65%. Equally, in the 2002 Gujarat riots, it’s a known fact that nearly 76% of all dead were Muslims (Wikipedia: 790 Muslims, 254 Hindus. Other sources put the number of Muslims killed at above 2000).

Why is it that a community which forms just 13.5% of the country’s population suffers more than half the casualties? Is it because Muslims foment terror and are violent by temperament, or is it because they suffer at the hands of fanatical Hindus? The answer to that question will depend on which side of the political spectrum one finds himself in. For me, having lived in Gujarat most of my life and having witnessed first hand several incidents, I feel Muslims are the victims. For a BJP supporter, he might find Muslims to be the perpetrators of violence.

But whatever the political views, can anyone deny that it is always the minorities who feel threatened, because of their lower numerical strength? Who deserve protection? Even special favors maybe? The BJP’s much touted “uniform civil code” is great in concept, but should it not be first practiced within Hinduism itself. Can the BJP say with its hand on its heart that Brahmins treat dalits equally? Do they drink water from the same well, and eat food at the same restaurant? What is this entire khap system in the North, if not a representation of a divisive Hindu community?

Maybe the BJP should ask Indians living in foreign nations how it feels to be a minority. About racial discrimination. How did it feel when the recent crowning of an Indian-origin girl as Ms. America led to a volley of racial abuses on twitter? Did we not feel that the US authorities should act against such perverts? And what about the Sri Lankan Tamils, a minority community which has been attacked by the majorities there for long? Don’t we all feel they deserve “protection”? When riots broke out in Kishtwar in Kashmir recently, and the minority Hindu community felt threatened, did Arun Jaitley not make a dash to that place? He did it to show support to the minority Hindus right? But how good would it have been if the majority Muslim population had come to the protection of the Hindus? What’s wrong if we, as the majority community in the rest of India, make a special effort to protect the Muslims? How about actually going out of the way to make them feel safe?

The BJP talks about Pundits in J&K, and about how the Congress doesn’t do enough for those who have been evicted. Fair point, but can BJP supporters please first read the history on J&K and understand that state has a unique status in India? A few pages of Ramachandra Guha’s “India after Gandhi” should suffice. That aside, the vast army deployed in that state has protecting people, mostly Hindus, as one of its main responsibilities right?

The problem is that most BJP supporters want to see India in a monochromatic hue, similar to how Jinnah envisioned Pakistan. What they don’t realize is that we will end up becoming, like Pakistan, a hot bed of terrorism and violence. Religion is a matter of personal faith, and should never be allowed to be practiced in public. Those who find this unacceptable should look at the history of the world. Most countries that have gone to war have done so on the matter of religion. Whether it was the crusades of the Christians against the Muslims from the 11th to the 13th centuries or the present struggle between the two communities in the Middle East, it is religion which has led to wars. When Sudan was divided recently, it was divided into a Christian South and a Muslim North. This is true across the board. Play politics on religion… will divide the country.

The BJP doesn’t like the concept of a “secular” India. They would like India to be a Hindu Rashtra. RSS ideologue and its second “sarsanghchalak” Golwalkar was candid enough to say that the three biggest ills facing India were 1) Muslims 2) Christians and 3) Communists. For a BJP completely in the embrace of the RSS, especially under Modi, Golwalkar’s message is the gospel truth, to be pursued with zest and vigor. How can we even expect the BJP to understand the import of Shinde’s statement?

The real truth is that Shinde did the right thing by asking that minorities be treated fairly. Fairly, not favorably. States don’t need to be told to not hold Hindus wrongfully, it s understood…..but they do need to be reminded about the minorities. To urban pseudo-intellectuals, this may look communal. My only request to them – try living like a minority for once…..

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