Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari’s fulmination about Muslims’ plight in India is as astonishing as it is deplorable.
Interestingly, his own persona gives the lie to the subtext and text of the speech he delivered at the Inauguration of the All India Majlis-E-Mushawarat Golden Jubilee in New Delhi on August 31. According to him, “the principal problems confronting India’s Muslims relate to,” among other things, “education and empowerment, equitable share in the largesse of the state, and fair share in decision making.”
Ansari got the best education any Indian citizen can aspire for: graduation from St. Xavier’s college, Calcutta. He was enlisted in the elite Indian Foreign Service; he has served as Vice-Chancellor of a prestigious varsity, the Aligarh Muslim University; he has risen to the post of the Vice-President of India. Therefore, it is astonishing that he rants against the “deprivation, exclusion, and discrimination” of Muslims.
And what, pray, is it that the Muslims are deprived of, excluded from, and discriminated against? Indian Muslims enjoy all the constitutional and legal rights the non-Muslims enjoy; they have been Presidents of India, important ministers at the Centre and in states, generals, corporate tycoons, top cops, senior bureaucrats, film and sports stars, and so on.
Most of his assertions about the deprivation, exclusion, and discrimination of Muslims are derived from the Sachar Committee Report—an execrable document that was roundly condemned for statistical manipulation, the bid to recognize Talibanized madrassas, and making recommendations that would be inimical to the interests of polity, economy, and security.
This is not to say that Muslims do not suffer from backwardness, especially in the social and educational spheres. Ansari would like us believe that “the default by the State or its agents” is at the root of the problem, but an objective analysis would show that the community and its leaders are mainly responsible for the situation. They have vehemently and persistently opposed any meaningful social reform, progressive legislation, and modernizing initiatives. What happened in the aftermath of the Shah Bano verdict? How many peddlers of Muslim victimhood like Ansari have made a call to end polygamy? How many of them have called for the reform of the Muslim personal law?
In fact, several leading lights of the Muslim community campaign for the abominations like Islamic banking, stricter imposition of Shariat laws, and other illiberal and misogynistic practices.
It is also saddening that the Vice-President of India is trying to distort history. Ansari said, “The Independence of India in August 1947, and the events preceding and following it, cast a shadow of physical and psychological insecurity on Indian Muslims. They were made to carry, unfairly, the burden of political events and compromises that resulted in the Partition. The process of recovery from that trauma has been gradual and uneven, and at times painful. They have hesitatingly sought to tend to their wounds, face the challenges, and seek to develop response patterns.”
Notice the equivocation and the resultant disingenuousness and prevarication. Discussing “the burden of political events and compromises that resulted in the Partition” without specifying who did what is dangerous obfuscation. It is like saying that the burden of political events and compromises in Germany after the First World War resulted in the Second War and the Holocaust; the disingenuousness lies in not blaming the Nazis for the apocalyptic consequences. Similarly, in the Indian context, too, not naming the Muslims for the violence preceding to and following Independence is tantamount to subterfuge. Who demanded and got separate electorates? The Muslims. Who made a call for Direct Action Day—a misleading term for the anti-Hindu pogroms carried out by the Muslim League—in Calcutta on August 16, 1946, that left thousands dead and one lakh homeless? The Muslims. Who demanded and got a separate state? The Muslims.
Yet, Ansari says that his co-religionists have been “unfairly” made to the burden of political events! He wants us to believe that they were the victims!
And what does the learned Vice-President of India—he has been Visiting Professor for Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia—recommend? Affirmative action, a euphemism for quota. But reservations are given to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes because of the socially and culturally sanctioned oppression they faced for centuries. The Muslims, on the other hand, were the ruling community for most part of the second millennium.
It may be argued that several other backward classes or OBCs like the Yadavs also have never been oppressed but they are also the beneficiaries of quota, so Muslims also become eligible for reservations. The argument is flawed because the Mandal Commission report was a fiction, not worth the paper it was printed upon; and quota for Yadavs and others was morally wrong though it proved to be politically expedient.
Reservation for Muslims has also been rejected by courts on more than one occasion. It is about time that the pillars of Muslim society like Ansari did some introspection and strove to root out fanaticism and narrow-mindedness. Marketing victimhood will do no good to the community.