National Muslim strategy: We need to change the gear

Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood,

In the holy Quran (17.70) God says that on each human being He has bestowed equal dignity. Elsewhere (49.13) He reveals that, for the sake of facilitating mutual cognitive and interactive convenience, He has apportioned the humanity into nations and tribes. That way, both individual and group existence has been accorded divine recognition and patronage. From several other verses spanning about a dozen chapters we can discern God’s message of expediency, wisdom, and constancy being the sine qua non for both individual and societal purposefulness and prosperity. While saying all of this, God’s addressees include the entire humanity – extending to all classes of human race. Let’s explore how best we can use this triple divine mandate for rectifying the social discrimination against the scheduled castes and ‘other backward classes’ and, taking them along, unitedly restore justice and fairplay to the disadvantaged Muslim and Christian communities in India.

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The recent 65 years of Indian history since Independence in 1947 unambiguously evidences that Muslims are extremely backward and lag behind the followers of all other religions in every field of progress. This has become particularly conspicuous since the documented reports of Sachar Committee and Mishra Commission appeared in the public domain. These reports also bring to the fore the following factors behind such backwardness: (1) Since 1950 Muslims & Christians have been excluded, through a central executive order defining Scheduled Castes, from 15% of the membership of parliament and state assemblies, government offices and educational institutions. (2) Most of those electoral constinuencies which have substantial Muslim population even though Scheduled Castes (SCs) are non-existent or numerically insignificant there have been earmarked for SCs. (3) Anti-Muslim prejudice is deeply ingrained as a part of the national sentiment. And, (4) Successive ruling establishments consider it enough to handpick a few Muslims and sprinkle them over some innocuous government positions without caring to restore ground level rights and justice, institutionally, to the larger Muslim population.

As a concomitant instrumentality thereof, for the last 65 years – through well planned designs permeating the entire political spectrum – the Muslim community has been kept entangled in clouds of uncertainty and apprehension viz-a-viz it’s very existence. The so called secular dispensation seeks Muslim votes against guaranteeing the community’s protection and security. On the other hand, the Rightist extremists reach out to the teeming innocent and often under-educated non-Muslim voters against preempting (though actually non-existent) ‘risks of Muslim onslaught jeopardizing the Hindu identity’. In the process, dubbing Indian Muslim nationals as foreigners or terrorists has become a politico-bureaucratic fashion. Imprisoning Muslim youth for long years, releasing them for want of evidence and found not-guilty and then forgetting about the heinous injustice and excesses committed against them has become a national culture. Showing down Muslims in the school text books has taken the shape of an undercurrent epidemic. And, ironically, successive non-Muslim generations grow to adulthood in the midst of such sub-conscious parochial ethos.

Thus, the Muslim community’s cup of forbearance overflows while facing, negotiating and manouvering such planned, repeated attacks on its national identity, dignity and internal solidarity. This takes its toll of the Muslim consciousness, seriously deflecting it’s required focus from the community’s progress and advancement. In this way, some forces have successfully intruded the Muslim side of the playground largely limiting the community to playing a defensive game.

We, the Muslims and Christians of the twenty first century India, have a huge responsibility to bear upon our shoulders. We need to take institutional initiatives to metamorphose the negative currents into positive projects. For that, we need to adequately strategize.

Even in 2013 and even under Right to Information Act the Central Government is unwilling to disclose the details of what all transpired in its files behind inserting the infamous Para 3 in the President’s Scheduled Castes Order of 1950. Secondly, through its long inaction, the Government has practically refused to heed the Sachar Committee, freshly appoint the delimitation commission and, through it, get the electoral constituencies with substantial Muslim population de-reserved freeing them from the unjust, illegal and irrational knotty tangle and, thus unhook them from the SC grapnel. Thirdly, the Government has not yet withdrawn it’s anti-Muslim notification of 2010 to fill 1400 additional positions of Indian Police Service through a limited competitive examination. And the list goes on.

On the national politico-electoral chessboard, we the Muslims and Christians of India, have been innocuously moving as Pedestrians for the last 65 years. We must definitely shun the faintest intention to garner a century at this slow progress. As Indian socio-political entities we have miserably failed and got severely insulted and humiliated landing in the depth of retrograde abyss. We have no right to pre-fiddle with the social life of our upcoming generations. Now is the right time to change the gear of the communities’ strategy. Instead of remaining as Pedestrians on the national chessboard, we must gird up and empower ourselves like the Queen which can move several squares in different directions.

In 1950 our constitution surely mandated reservation for the non-Muslim, non-Christian dalit citizenry of the nation and later for 42% of the population being ‘other backward classes’. That undoubtedly resulted in some educational and economic upgradation of this valuable segment of the national population. However, there is not even an iota of improvement in its inter-segmental social status. The SCs and OBCs are still languishing in the same centuries old lowest unenviable echelons of the society. They are even now suffering from the mental torture and genuine complex of frustration, deprivation, exclusion, and social regression. They are continuously stuck at the bottom of the societal milieu. In the social hierarchy consciousness of non-SCs and non-OBCs there is not even a single degree of pro-SC/OBC orientation. For bringing about that transformation, tens of millions of people will have to say goodbye to their thousands of years old social culture that is deeply ingrained in their religious literature and traditions. The entire pro-SC constitutional structure of 1950 and the later modifications thereto failed to bring about necessary changes in the people’s minds. For this purpose our entire constitution and the statute book could not function as a kaleidoscope of sorts.

To fill up such painful vacuum like the one created in the psyche of the SCs & OBCs and to apply a soothing ointment to their injured sense of general habitual belittlement, fourteen centuries ago descended from the cave of Hira, a Messiah known as the Mercy to Mankind (pbuh). He gave to the humanity the ultimate panacea to soothen up the wounded hearts and to benevolently fill up the hurting psychic gaps. He announced the abolition of slavery. Equality was proclaimed to be the pivot of social interaction. Then, why can’t we bring about a revolution and cheer up our fellow citizens ? For that why shouldn’t we use our gifted panacea ? Why shouldn’t we try to make the prediction of Allama Iqbal come true:

Nikal ke sahra se jisne Romaan ki sultanat ko palat diya tha,
Suna hai ye qudsiyon se mainey wo sher phir hoshyaar hoga.

The angelic voices say that the lion that emerged from the deserts and overturned the Roman Empire would re-energize itself.

We will have to properly comprehend and appreciate the basic Islamic exhortation and will have to actually put it into practice. I have talked in detail to the Scheduled Castes leader Mr Udit Raj about this important issue. To my pleasure, he told me that he fully agrees with the Justice Mishra Commission and Sachar Committee that the abominable Para 3 should be excluded from the President’s Scheduled Castes Order of 1950 and the conditionality of specific religious allegiance must be deleted from the definition of the scheduled castes. He has also given his views in writing. Then why shouldn’t we Muslins apply the eternal prophetic alchemy to eradicate the 65 years old religious bias. I also talked to Christian leaders regarding this. They too are on the same wavelength as Muslims about the religion-based deprivation that has been going on for 65 years and they wholeheartedly support this campaign. If Para 3 is deleted from the executive order of 1950, then the Muslim & Christian barbers, blacksmiths and cobblers will have the same constitutional consideration and rights which are enjoyed by Hindu/Sikh/Buddhist barbers, blackmiths and cobblers etc for the last 65 years. That means, they will have the right to contest and be elected on the reserved seats of parliament, assemblies, district/taluqa parishads, panchayat samitis and gram panchayats. They will have the right to the reserved posts for inclusion in the bureaucracy for which selections are annually made through the Civil Services examinations of the UPSC. They will be entitled for the reserved seats in the quest for admission in the educational institutions.

For this, we, the Muslims of India, will have to simply become better and true Muslims. We will have to transform our hindsight for a heartful appreciation of the worldy phenomena preparing ourselves to meet the Lord on the day of judgement with a sound heart and be eternally rewarded. In that light, we will have to do our best for the human uplift. Fully and enthusistically implementing the prophetic mandate given to us in the context of promoting total human equality, we have to extend our hands of love to all specifically including our SC and OBC brethren, assuage their feelings hurt for centuries and lovingly restore their dignity like every other human being’s. That way, we can proceed hand in hand. Then our combined electoral strength (even as per Census) can mount up several fold giving us wider edge at the hustings. Thus, we have to value the SCs & OBCs, embrace and respect them, and jointly strategize with them going by what God has commanded us in the holy Quran.

The author is President, Zakat Foundation of India. Email: [email protected]