Anti-CAA protests and sloganeering will only lead to isolation of minorities and marginalisation of their community that is being reduced to a vote bank by the opposition.
The minorities must start thinking hard on the repercussions of such protests.
People should learn from their mistakes or be condemned to repeat it. This statement is valid when one considers history which tends to repeat itself and with it, several historical wrongs are often repeated. But two wrongs seldom make a right. Developments over the last few months on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) remind one of similar sentiments that prevailed at a point in India’s history.
The sentiment, expressed then, by the Muslim League resulted in an eventual confirmation of the two-nation theory leading to a partition that led to huge destruction of property and life. It is needless to remind one of the communal violence that occurred back then because of a thought that Muslims will not feel safe in a Hindu-ruled country while Hindus won’t be safe in a Muslim-ruled country.
History is a testament to the fact that the two-nation theory was partly wrong and partly right. It was wrong because Muslims have prospered and grown in a Hindu-dominant India and it was right because Hindus have suffered serious persecution in Pakistan (and later Bangladesh).
To give some stats, the population of minorities in Pakistan has come down from 23 per cent in 1951 to 3.7 in 2011, whereas in Bangladesh it dropped from 22 per cent to 7.8 per cent.
The recent protests and slogans being raised are a testament to the unfinished agenda of Partition. The failing fortunes of the Congress have resulted in a desperation which has resulted in the party supporting a sentiment that was first expressed by the Muslim League.
This sentiment has been based on relentless fear-mongering among the minorities over decades. Despite it becoming apparent that the CAA has nothing to do with citizenship of any Indian, there are frequent protests solely because of the communal tensions that are a direct consequence of a machinery of propaganda to paint the current regime as one that is anti-minority.
This systematic dilution of the national identity based on citizenship to one based on religion is dangerous for the country, and it reminds one of slogans that were heard at the time of Kashmiri Pandit exodus from 1989 onwards.
Minorities, The Current Regime And Opportunistic Opposition
Despite being 14 per cent of total population, 22 per cent of Indians are below the poverty line, for Muslims, the figure goes up to 31 per cent based on the 2011 poverty estimates.
The fact that they have been historically marginalised also means that they have benefited from Narendra Modi government’s flagship programmes that have focused on those who are marginalised.
Be it the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Saubhagya Yojana or even the Ujjwala Yojana, you would find a high percentage of Muslims as beneficiaries across these programmes.
It is also worth noting that 2.37 crore Muslims benefitted from government scholarships during Modi’s first term compared to 2.33 crore under former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure.
Most government programmes that are focusing on improving the quality of life are focused on Indian citizens that are below a bare minimum standard of living.
Historically, Muslims have been discriminated against by vested political interests that have used them as vote banks election after election.
This identity politics resulted in them being further marginalised as they didn’t benefit from India’s development.
It is time that Muslims ask their leaders whether such identity politics has benefited them or led to development of their community? The unprecedented scale of work done by the government in last five years is far more significant than the cumulative developmental impact in many programmes such as sanitation and electrification.
Prime Minister Modi, in 2014 at a rally in Bihar, asked a very important question to both Hindus and Muslims; whether they want to fight against each other or whether they want to fight poverty?
For all the relentless propaganda of Bharatiya Janata Party or Modi being anti-minority, the community must introspect and compare the pace of development under the current regime with those who have exploited them for decades as a vote bank.
It is also important to recognise that slogans like “Jinnah wali azadi” raise security concerns at a lot of these protests.
The average Indian Muslim enjoys far more freedom and rights in India than compared to Pakistan which has nearly non-existent individual rights.
One should even ask those Indians who are raising these slogans over what has Pakistan managed to achieve despite attaining independence given the pathetic quality of life for most citizens in the country.
Therefore, they must think hard about these protests, such slogans and what they plan to achieve with them as they are only leading to their isolation, which will further lead to marginalisation and reduction of their identity to mere votes for the opposition.
This will serve the interest of opposition parties that view polarisation and consolidation as an advantageous proposition for their electoral prospects, but it does not auger well for the development of the community.