Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood for TwoCircles.net
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on the occasion of the Jordanian King‘s visit to India in the presence of a thousand plus Indian Muslims in New Delhi’s prestigious Vigyan Bhawan evokes an aura of a paradigm shift from his erstwhile perceived policy.
Modi admitted that many faiths have prospered in the Indian soil because of which the Indian message of peace and love has reverberated in the world. He relished basking in the unified ‘divine light permeating every particle’.
The PM fondly recollected Delhi’s Sufi backdrop and the Urdu origin of the capital’s name. He spoke of the socio-cultural diversity being the basis of India’s openness and the Indian national pride emanating from its mosaic legacy.
Modi juxtaposed the festive essence of the colourful Holi, the upcoming Good Friday and Buddha Jayanti as well as the not too distant month of Ramadan followed by the festival of Eid-al-Fitr ‘that teaches us sacrifice and mutual bonhomie’. ‘Indian democracy is a celebration of our age-old plurality’, he added.
Lauding the Amman Islamic Declaration and Jordan’s Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad’s book ‘A thinking person’s guide to Islam’ prime minister Modi wished that the Indian Muslim youth has the Holy Quran in one hand teaching him high morality and computer in the other empowering him through modern science and progress.
The fragrance of ideas and the sweetness of Mr Modi’s language used in Vigyan Bhawan do aesthetically soothe the Indian Muslim senses but before long the community rolls out of its ephemeral drowsiness and begins collating the present with the past before visualizing the future.
Modi’s 1st March 2018 music to the ears is at wide-angled variance with his earlier pronouncements pitching Shamshans against Qabristans and, yet earlier to that, repeatedly and aggressively bundling up all Indian Muslims under the censorious and offensive epithet of ‘Mian Musharraf’.
In his first address in parliament after taking over as PM, Modi had said some sympathetic words for the low economic condition of Muslims. A little later while responding to a foreign news anchor he had expressed faith in the Indian Muslims’ national loyalty. But, apart from that, all through the four years of his central rule, there have not only been umpteen individual physical attacks on Muslims but on many fronts, the country can make out that there has been a sustained effort to show Muslims down and hurt the Muslim causes and sentiments,
One tends to conjecture that the latest cosmetic change of track is caused by the recent electoral reverses and dwindling dividends of the policy of communal polarization – in multiple states – as well as the urge to salvage the tarnished world image of being anti-minority.
Add to that the massive general loss of small private businesses due to demonetisation and the uncontrollable cancerous spree of the half-baked GST regime. Top it with several big financial ransackers and pilferers on the run.
This profusion of contravening factors seems to have strategically though transiently sobered down the primitive, ungracious march towards Hindu Rashtra mellowing it down and camouflaging it with lukewarm conciliatory tones.
Nonetheless, the Indian Muslim wishes that such conclusion is counter-factual and that there is a genuine change of heart. In that case, the community expects the prime minister’s candy-coated epilogue to be followed up by ground level actions which are as follows:
1. Censure, haul up and punish those television channels who organize aggressive debates and other programs encouraging communal hatred in India.
2. Publish a status report of all the cases of lynching since 2014.
3. Stop mistreating the madrasas in UP.
4. Don’t unleash NIA against genuine interfaith lovers.
5. Publicly disown terms like love-jihad and Ghar-wapsi which have been coined to insult minorities.
6. Publish the statistics of atrocities committed against women of different faiths in India since Independence including the burning and killing for dowry as well as triple talaq. If warranted, based on statistics, make special laws against the evil practice.
7. Accept the minority character of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia and stop opposing it on flimsy grounds.
8. Maintain constitutionally mandated distance from the RSS, it’s affiliates and similar other organizations and publicly disapprove and discourage their anti-minorities rhetoric and posturing.
9. Publicly accept that Surya Namaskar is a Hindu worship and should not be forcefully imposed on all and sundry.
10. Both Yoga and Namaz have the effect of lifting up the soul and toning up the body. Encourage both of them equally and simultaneously.
11. Publicly embrace the constitutional secularism. Stop derisive pronouncements against this sacred statutory enshrinement.
12. There are youths who are put behind the bars on allegations of terror links but are ultimately declared by the courts as innocent. Financially compensate their sufferance and fine and punish those who proceeded against them with an ulterior motive.
13. There are a large number of persons displaced as a result of communal disturbances. Restore them to their homes, hearth, agricultural fields and vocations.
14. The Select Committee of Parliament on “Waqf Properties (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Bill 2014” had only seven Muslims out of its thirty members. Its recommendations were made in haste and are based on unverified claims, over-ruling the strongly argued objections of the ministry and without answering these objections. Reconstitute this Select Committee ensuring the presence of at least three fourth of its members being Muslim. Re-examine and reconsider the various clauses of the Bill. Restore the original bill and get it passed.
15. Resuscitate and revive the joint mechanism of the Archaeological Survey of India and the Central Waqf Council for dealing with the Waqf properties under the ASI control. Ensure it’s mandatory quarterly meetings and follow up.
16. Vacate the Waqf properties that are under unauthorized government control and restore these to the Waqf Boards.
17. Bring out a white paper on (a) Haj Subsidy and (b) sea pilgrimage between India and Saudi Arabia. That would clear up many cobwebs and would guide the Government as well as the Muslim community.
18. Provide bridge course options for encouraging madrasa graduates to join the national educational mainstream not only in 3-4 Muslim predominant universities but across the country.
19. Implement Sachar Committee’s recommendation of Alternate Admission Criteria for undergraduate admissions.
20. Setting aside preconceived notions, positively re-consider the RBI recommendation on permitting windows for interest less banking.
21. De-reserve those parliamentary and assembly constituencies and local body wards where Scheduled Castes are in small percentage and, instead, reserve those where they are in highest percentage, as required by law.
22. Delete para (3) from the Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order, 1950 and make the Scheduled Caste definition religion-neutral as recommended by Justice Mishra Commission.
23. Ensure at least one minority member in each panel of UPSC civil services interview and every other government selection panel at central and state level.
24. In Kashmir, Assam and Muslim predominant districts of other states take affirmative actions to educate the loitering children and mainstream the unemployed youth. Encourage public-private partnerships and subsidize the private educational initiatives in these areas. Reduce the requirement of land for opening schools and colleges there. Ensure publication of government job advertisements in local languages there. Ask employment bureaus to camp there on the eve of special recruitments.
Such and similar other ground level follow up of the prime minister’s speech on 1st March 2018 can hopefully be the basis for his garnering support of the Muslim community which is definitely not sold out to any political grouping.
*The author is President, Zakat Foundation of India.