Minorities have a right to live without fear in secular India

The only hurdle standing in the way of the implementation of the CAA is a likely appeal against it before the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court.

By Rahul Singh

Published: Sun 15 Dec 2019, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 15 Dec 2019, 8:37 PM

India, the second most populated country in the world after China, also has the second most numerous Muslims - 200 million - after Indonesia. This constitutes 14 per cent of the Indian population. Even Bangladesh and Pakistan have fewer Muslims than India does. However, Indian Muslims are beginning to feel that they are getting a raw deal. As an earlier opinion column in Khaleej Times pointed out, the Citizens Amendment Bill (now Citizens Amendment Act, since it has been passed by both houses of the Indian parliament) clearly discriminates against Muslims. This is not just the feeling among most Muslims but many other Indians as well, who do not subscribe to the philosophy of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They are convinced that the CAA militates against the idea of a secular India, as envisioned by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, and India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Even Vallabhbhai Patel, first deputy prime minister of India and an icon for the BJP, would have been appalled.
The only hurdle standing in the way of the implementation of the CAA is a likely appeal against it before the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court. The trouble is that even the Supreme Court has given some major rulings lately favouring the BJP. The most important of them was the judgment on the long-pending dispute over the destruction of the Babri mosque - named after the first Mughal dynasty ruler of India, Babur - in the city of Ayodhya and ownership of the land on which it stood. In effect, going by the findings of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which said that it had found evidence of a Hindu temple under the mosque, it ruled that a Hindu temple had indeed once existed on that piece of land. As for it being where the revered Hindu god, Ram, was born, it had no opinion, except to say that this was a matter of faith. Review pleas against the judgment were rejected by the Supreme Court last Thursday, December 12.
Hence, the way is now clear for building a Hindu temple on the site. To appear to be even-handed, the Supreme Court had given the Muslim parties to the dispute a larger piece of land to build another mosque. It had also strongly castigated the destroyers of the mosque, calling it an illegal act, and ruled that those responsible should be prosecuted. But as several senior leaders of the BJP, such as former ministers L.K. Advani and Uma Bharati, had virtually presided over the destruction of the mosque, you can be sure that little or no action will be taken against them.
Apart from the Babri mosque, there is the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which gave a special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only state where Muslims are in a majority. Recall that when the partition of the sub-continent took place in 1947, and India and Pakistan came into being, states with a Muslim majority went to Pakistan and those with a Hindu majority came to India. Kashmir was the only exception because Kashmir's popular leader, Sheikh Abdullah, was close to Nehru and did not want Kashmir to be a part of Pakistan. However, Abdullah was party to the state's accession to India only on the conditions contained in Article 370, the most important of which was that outsiders could not purchase land in Kashmir. The purpose was to preserve the ethos and demographic character of the state. With the abolition of Article 370 and downgrading the status of the state, a demographic change is bound to take place, much like what happened to Tibet, after the forcible Chinese takeover of that country. Kashmiri Muslims are deeply disturbed over such a likelihood, and the valley of Kashmir remains on tenterhooks, much after the removal of Article 370.
Can you therefore blame Indian Muslims if they are beginning to lose faith in not just the judiciary but in the fairness of governance in India. Though 14 per cent of the Indian population is Muslim, they are heavily underrepresented in the positions that count, such as the government, particularly the all-powerful civil service, and the police. This is reflected in gross miscarriages of justice. The case of Pehlu Khan, a Muslim dairy farmer, still reverberates. He was returning, with relatives, from the city of Jaipur, with cows that he had purchased for his business. He was stopped by a gang of men shouting anti-Muslim slogans, and despite showing the bill of purchase of the cows, beaten up so badly that he died soon afterwards in a hospital. Nine of his killers were positively identified. They belonged to a radical outfit of the BJP. They were all acquitted. There have been 300 such religiously inspired 'hate crimes', or lynchings, in India since Modi came to power. None of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. Or take what the The Hindu, a highly respected national newspaper revealed just the other day.
A Bangladeshi Muslim cricketer, Saif Hassan, overstayed the limit of his Indian visa by a day, and had to pay a penalty of Rs 21,000 ($300). If he had been a Hindu Bangladeshi, his penalty would have been only Rs 100, two hundred times less, simply because he belonged to a 'minority' group in Bangladesh! Quite ridiculous, isn't it? And communally discriminatory. But that is the logic of the new Indian Citizens Amendment Act, which focuses only on 'minorities' from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. How about 'minorities' from Sri Lanka (Hindu Tamils) and Myanmar (Rohinga Muslims). Why have they been excluded? The Indian government has no credible answers.
Rahul Singh is a former editor of Khaleej Times

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