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Is it time to move on?

S K Srivastava

Updated: November 10, 2014, 8:13 PM IST
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Vasudha kutumbha kum: and sarve dharma sambhava: are age old Indian concepts. Former is the idea of universal humanity without discrimination and the later co-existence of all religions born within or outside India. India, therefore, is unique as a multi-religious-ethnic-linguistic and cultural country. Some group of people, however, may be in minority in comparison to a social majority, holding more power. The powerful keep the control and minority often symbolizes neglect, oppression and helplessness.

The six Indian minorities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parses and Jain) have freedom to uphold their ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identities. Those industrious, some with education and self pride progressed while affirmative actions, during the last decades, have benefitted the socio-economically underprivileged minority groups, to some extent. But those having identity crisis stagnated, and are ever complaining and demanding.

The Colonial majority-minority divide and riot strategy, during the post independence electoral politics, kept Muslims under fear and unsettled and looking for support. Muslims being the largest minority and play a critical role in deciding electoral outcome, therefore, important for competitive politics, and since socio-economically weaker were easily exploited with crumb, and also appeased. The later prompted sub-minorities (dalit Christians) and sub-casts to demand separate identity to avail sops and reservation etc. Minoritism became a mean to extract concessions, and appeasement proved more irritant to others than improving social conditions of Muslims.

Every country has poor-middle and rich, upper and lower class, and discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity, caste or class etc. Everywhere there is majority and minority divide, discontentment and discomfort, and people take advantage to exploit or play politics over it. But in India out of all the minority groups -Muslims symbolizes minority in most discourses, and darling of media. Most times discrimination is highlighted, they are pitied and are in news for wrong reasons, and Muslim leaders interpreting Islam in asserting way on TV discussions.

They need to change names; Yusuf Khan had to become Dilip Kumar, Mahajabeen Bano-Meen Kumari, Mumtaj Jahan -Madhubala and Fatima as Nargis. But Dharm Devdutt Pishorimal Anand became Dev Anand, Harihar Jethalal Jariwala- Sanjeev Kumar, and OmkarNath Dhar as Jeevan. It is possibly, therefore, more for popular catchy names then being Hindu or Muslim. Had there been any compulsion, knowing Dilip Kumar a Muslim, he may not have become an idol Hero to millions of people, Mohd Rafi may not have become popular and so the Salim-Javed scripted movies. Ghalib, Faiz, Sahir and kaifi Azmi are widely appreciated and quoted Urdu poets. Waheeda Rahman did not change name and three Khans are most popular actors these days.

Similarly another argument is that Muslims find difficulty in finding house on rent. Indians are culturally too different with strong preferences. People avoid Punjabi tenants or Bengalis for the smell of fish, vegetarians (Jain) dislike non-vegetarian neighbour-he may even be a Hindu. The migrant people like to live near each other. In late sixties the destination for South Indians in Delhi was Karol Bagh and Madras Café in CP was their favourite joint. People with common culture and language like to stay together. But endemic riots have much to do with Muslim ghettoisation. Many Sikhs moved to Greater Kailash II during 1984 riots.

In a recent TV interview, Naseeruddin Shah was asked, "Did you ever felt discriminated as a Muslim and then added to emphasise that even certain Muslim celebrities... found difficulty in getting house on rent etc." He categorically said, "he and his brothers never felt any discrimination." That changed the colour of the interviewer with this answer- not on expected lines. Similarly in another TV interview one eminent Supreme Court lawyer said that he never felt discriminated as a Christian. In late 1975, a Lab technician of a Mission Hospital, who lived in its compound and was made to believe that he has no future outside the compound, till he visited Delhi and accidentally applied for a job in a large Delhi Hospital. To his surprise he got the job and despite opposition at home, he joined. His Nurse wife followed. Their examples showed the way for others.

Those who compete equally without complexes and work hard succeed while others stagnate, and blame destiny, religion and caste based discrimination or minoritism. Ironically even those who succeeded, some of them celebrities, when caught on a wrong foot take the support of "discrimination". One famous Cricketer when caught for misadventure and when the son of a senior police officer was caught stealing cars- talked of victiminsation for belonging to a minority community or a particular caste.

Hindus and 'Indian Muslims' are equal partners in daily socio-economic businesses and daily life discourses; they even have common rituals and superstitions. They are artisans, welders and car repairers, fruit sellers; makers of carpets and Banarsi saris and Hindus are their buyers. Ravan effigies and Laxmi-Ganesh duo for Deewali are mostly made by Muslims. We feel their absence when they go for 3 days Id celebrations or during riots. During recent Trilokpuri riots neighbouring HIG colonies (Mayur Vihar etc) felt the pinch. Be it Deewali, Christmas or Id- it is no longer limited to community; Christmas bazaar is increasingly popular. The inter-caste marriages have facilitated celebration of these festivals within a family with equal gusto.

It is diversity and not uniformity, is the law of nature. All Hindus are not educated or rich and all Muslims are not poor and uneducated. But the world has moved on. There is widespread awareness, especially among the new generation irrespective of caste or creed, that education is the key to avail opportunities with several options to choose from as never before, for economic prosperity; even their parents, may be poor, make all efforts to that aim. Muslims are taking to modern education in large numbers and asserting in the mainstream.

The sense of gender equality, individual freedom and aspirations for self prosperity has led to new awakening. Recently young Muslim women during AMU student Union poll protested when their freedom of expression was challenged in the name of Islam or Muslim culture. MIM's provocative, divisive rhetoric's to keep 'Mussalman' identity, during recent elections, does not interest the new generation; they have now become aware of themselves and their strengths to compete equally and grow. They do not want pampering or promises or any dictate from self styled Muslim leaders, but succeed with the spirit of enterprise, hard work and pride.

Indeed, Muslims are comparatively socio-economically poorer and sufferers of competitive politics, and innocents suffered during 'Jahadi blasts'. And they need their problems addressed, alley fears and security (to avoid ghettoisation), equal opportunities and jobs like any other. Communities be Hindus or Muslims or any caste have suffered enough of discrimination and riots- mostly political and engineered by outsiders, now desire for peace with mutual assurance as evident during the recent Trilokpuri riots where Hindus served refreshments for Muharrum processions.

Is it time to move on? Time to break majority and minority divide? One, majority in one place is in minority at another place. The Caste and religious identity are Indian realities and cannot easily be wiped away, but can that recede to private domain and not allowed to be used as instrument for political motives?

The decision lies with the people. Whether to be influenced by those who want to keep the divide and remain an object of pity or believe in the self, develop courage to compete and move on. An interesting slogan at the back of a Tempo-"mangnewale-kam kar". Politicians need to rise above petty exploitive politicking, and media more constructive. Indeed reforms for inclusive development with good governance remain the key to assure equity and social justice in our unequal society to an acceptable level.

It is not all that easy, yet is it time to move on?

Dr SK Srivastava
(Just Asking)
First Published: November 10, 2014, 8:13 PM IST

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