The false narrative of establishment of a Hindu Rashtra being hyped by certain sections of media and others is possibly the prime reason for the increased scepticism that has crept in the Muslim community in recent times. This is not to deny that a few more Hindu voices are heard now than perhaps at any other time since independence. But then one can also argue, rightly too, that Hindu voice was suppressed for too long under the garb of ‘Secularism’ by past governments that believed in vote bank politics and minority appeasement. This resulted in a distorted definition of the word secular taking deep roots in the country. It was only a matter of time before some in the majority woke up to voice their concerns. In doing so it is no brainer that a few less sane voices too have pitched in to seek their two minutes of fame. That is exactly what is happening in our nation today. But to term this as a plan to establish a Hindu Rashtra is rather farfetched and once again a ploy to play the minority card – a ploy that seems to be headed for oblivion to the discomfort of a few vested interests comprising of sections of out of reckoning politicians, social thinkers and parts of media.
Indians by nature tend to delve too much on past deeds and sacrifices of ancestors – be it the family, community or nation. While it is no one’s case to forget such deeds and people, it does tend to bear heavily on one’s present if past is not carried forward in its correct perspective. If Hindu Mahasabha and RSS did not support Mahatma Gandhi or Congress for Quit India movement of 1942, they must have had some reasons that were valid at that point of time. But it cannot be denied that both parties wanted independence – the ultimate common aim. If they differed in their views on a future India centred squarely on Hindu-Muslim unity in 1942, it does not mean either party carries forward the same view even today. Individuals and organisations have to evolve continually to remain relevant. Therefore it will be very naive to assume that BJP does not subscribe to an India where Hindus and Muslims live together in communal harmony. Suffice it to say that it is an axiomatic truth that India cannot progress and develop if its 170 million Muslim population continues to remain uneducated, poor and backward. To assume that the government at the centre does not understand this is nothing but a deliberate ploy to impose the past on the present for the sake of justifying one’s biases. This is exactly what Sagarika Ghose does in her article titled ‘Forego the Hindu Rashtra’ in Times of India dated 16 August 17. Her double standards are obvious when in the same article she charges BJP of invoking past history to hark on Hindu victimhood and Hindu depredations of Muslim invaders and rulers.
Hindu Rashtra implies a nation where Hinduism is not only the official religion but its tenets also bear heavily on all aspects of governance. Theoretically a Hindu Rashtra will brook no opposition to Hindus or Hinduism. Is this what is happening in India? A more pertinent question will be can this ever happen in India given its diversity and federal structure? Only a very naive and deeply anti-Hindu individual, who will obviously be anti BJP also, may believe that this can become a reality in India. There is no cure for such hard line sceptics. In a nation of 1.3 billion people there will always be a place for them. Unfortunately for all proponents of this myth, Indian history has shown for ages that Hinduism’s beliefs in coexistence with other faiths are very deep rooted and time tested. Parsees, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and even atheists will testify to this genuine trait of Hinduism. In fact it may not be wrong to state that most Indian Muslims too subscribed to this view till a few decades ago.
Today Germany, one of the more developed nations in today’s world, has no qualms about calling itself a Christian nation with only 55% Christian population. This in no way means that other faiths are not allowed or suppressed or forced to subjugate themselves to Christianity. India has no such ambitions to call itself a Hindu Rashtra despite over 80% Hindu population and another 6% off shoots from Hindu religion, but the fact that India is predominantly a Hindu country cannot be wished away. Western nations with huge non Christian immigrant population have realised, the hard way, that the onus of amalgamation of minorities is not the sole responsibility of the majority; the same is equally true for India. It has to be a joint effort with some give and take from either side. The problem in India today is that the minorities, based on past appeasement policies of successive governments, have forgotten to ‘give’ and are always on the lookout for ‘take’. Some minorities are on the lookout for freebies and easy options even if the same come at the cost of the majority. This approach is obviously wrong in form and the balloon had to burst at some point of time. With the coming of the BJP government the balloon has definitely lost some of its gas and therefore the difficulty to stay afloat.
Are Muslims insecure in India today? At the outset one can safely say that most of the insecurities are more a matter of perception than reality. A host of external and internal reasons have fuelled such perceptions that have gathered steam over last two to three decades and not just three years of current BJP rule. External reasons include the spread of extremist (Wahabi) Islam, influence of ISIS, the rise of Muslim brother hood worldwide, deep rooted perception of victimisation of Muslims worldwide, role of rich Arab nations in funding Islamic movements across the globe including India and so on. The internal reasons include the problem in Jammu & Kashmir which is now seen as a fight of Muslims against Hindu India, lack of education and development among Muslims, herding of Muslims as vote banks by politicians in connivance with their religious and community leadership, a planned move by their community and religious leaders to keep their flock poor and uneducated, deliberate misinterpretation of Islam to spread hatred for Hindus in particular, giving religious sanctity to acts of violence by eulogising those who perpetuate such acts against non believers, instilling fear of Islam in young minds to ensure blind acceptance. In nutshell most of the problems faced by Muslims in India are of their own making and primarily due to absence of liberal and enlightened leadership within their ranks. A community that once boasted of leaders like Abdul Kalam Azad, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Ashfaqulla Khan, Saifuddin Kichlu, Abdil Hafiz Ahmed Barakatullah, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, and Sayed Hasan Imam in pre-partition days today cannot even boast of one leader of national stature. This void has given rise to scores of two penny worth leaders across the country who keep their flock confused and insecure so as to exploit them at will. Many have become brokers who deliver localised vote banks to highest political bidder for selfish gains. Lack of education, blind belief in religion and the ghetto mentality does the rest.
A study of the above reasons clearly brings out one point. Past or present history of BJP or RSS has little or no bearing on the state of Muslim society today – Sagarika Ghose’s insinuations notwithstanding. The reasons for their insecurities and fears stem from within their own society and what prevents them from moving ahead with rest of the nation is their inability to deal with the same. This is what has created a crevice between them and rest of Indian society – a crevice that is becoming a more formidable obstacle by the day since various bridges available to cross the same are being destroyed by their own to detriment of the whole community. Solutions on how to secure these bridges or build new ones have to come from within the community. It is time they realise that state and central governments are for the whole nation and expecting them to focus on needs of any one community would be a folly. Government creates facilities and infrastructure that has no caste or creed or faith embossed on it. It is there for all Indians to use and exploit to seek a better future for themselves. But if the community wants to cocoon itself in Madrassas instead of regular schools, not allow its females the opportunity to study and shun higher education then its future generation too will be left behind as rest of the nation’s youth moves forward in life. The community and its leaders can keep blaming the system for lack of representation of Muslims in government jobs, defence forces or corporates but that is unlikely to solve the problem. It is time Muslims realise that as a community they have a lot of catching up to do with rest of the nation. Waiting for the hand of God or the government to take them forward is only wishful thinking. While God only helps those who help themselves, governments only facilitate and pave the road towards progress, how to tread on that road is the prerogative of its citizens.
Sagarika Ghose should understand that neither anyone has a lien on past history nor is anyone obliged to revere it for times to come. India of today is not obliged to follow either Gandhian Nationalism or MS Gowalkar’s nationalist vision. A nation and its leadership must evolve and follow what is right for the present. If we do right today, chances are tomorrow we will not suffer. Every nation has a few unique national emblems and symbols that bind it together irrespective of its religious, cultural or other diversities and India is no exception. National Flag and National Anthem are two most common ones and the least any citizen can do is to respect and adopt the same without any controversy. Today there is an objection to the singing and words of the national song and national anthem, if the issue is not nipped in the bud here, who knows tomorrow there may be an objection to the saffron colour in the flag or the National Emblem of Ashoka Chakra with three lions that can be traced back to Ashoka the Great- a Hindu Emperor. The emblems, derived from Indian heritage, have been in existence for nearly seven decades now, but objections have been raised only in last few years. It does not need a Sherlock Homes to outline the reasons for the same. Is Sagarika making a case that the nation must succumb to minority demands even if they are illogical or damaging to national prestige and honour? Is she implying that national emblems and symbols passed by parliament can be junked or made optional for minorities if they so desire?
Finally Sagarika Ghose talks of Hindu Dharma and its soft power that has given us mystic Sufi, mangalsutra clad and sari wearing Goan Catholic. She is right but forgets that neither BJP nor Congress (or any other political party) had any hand in shaping the Sufi or the Goan Catholic. Both had the courage and wisdom (aided by that soft power of Hindu Dharma) of not forgetting their roots or heritage even if they felt the need to change their faiths. One can proudly add Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists to this list where Indian heritage is still part of their lives. The Indian Muslims too should fall in the same category since nearly all of them changed their faith only in last few centuries. But Indian Muslim community’s problem is that they wish to ignore and forget their Indian heritage – a heritage that is over 7000 years old. The sad part is that this is being done by design over the last three to four decades. That is where the problem lies and the start point of their alienation from rest of Indian society. The day they respect and acknowledge their heritage and roots, the chasm between communities will shrink and many new bridges will be built from both sides. Blaming BJP and RSS for creating the divide or instilling insecurities in Muslim minds is only a ploy of BJP haters to kill two birds with one stone – appease Muslims and discredit BJP and RSS.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.