72 years after independence and 70 years after India became a republic, instead of feeling ecstatic and consolidating our achievements we are forced to ponder the question, was this the India, dreamed of by our freedom fighters, leaders and constitution framers?
At present we are standing at a crossroad, where a vast multitude of Indian citizens are wondering about their legal standing and the future, besides feeling concerned about the secular and inclusive character of the Indian society. The largest majority of the country along with millions of illiterate, landless, backwards and a mass of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been forced to ponder over the question of their legal identity in the country, whose constitution’s preamble read: We, the people of India………Secular, Democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens….
The government of the day has thrown the whole country into such a maze, from which it’ll be very difficult to get away. For everyone to answer the questions related to his very existence, as an Indian citizen, is going to be such an onerous and cumbersome task that for several years, henceforth, a large percentage of the population will be involved in a completely unproductive and uncalled for task. The government buoyed by its brute majority in the parliament has thrust an exercise on people, that it itself is not sure on how to get it accomplished.
The largest minority community in the country has been thrown so many challenges in the last 8 months, that though confused and floundering, it was trying hard to come to terms with the harsh reality of being a part of India, which is being governed by the forces, which have always remained inimical to it.
A large number of people believe this to be the doing of the right-wing government at the centre. But the moot question is, how did it happened and who allowed it to happen? Leading us to a more sensitive and ponderous question, whether India was a truly secular republic at all?
No one can deny the intricate human ties between the Indian citizens. Their sharing and caring for each other in times of need, standing together with each other at times of adversity. Coexisting and surviving for centuries as brethren, before the colonial masters altered the narrative based on two distinct communities.
Though it was presumed that independent India would provide a level playing field to all its citizens, irrespective of their caste and creed, the reality itself is vastly different. Writing in Young India, Gandhi longed for a Swaraj which would be the rule of all based on justice, ‘….. for to me Hind Swaraj is the rule of all people, is the rule of justice.’ –Young India, 16-4-‘31.
Yet, the minority (read Muslims here) always strove to be at the same plinth as the majority of the country, and in spite of many slurs on its nationalism, it continued to toil and deliver, and produced many distinguished sons and daughters who excelled themselves in every field from rocket science to education to health to social service to business. However, that question mark, of being a secular nationalist, always hanged at every Muslim’s neck, like an albatross. In fact, it was always the minority not the majority, which was asked to prove its credentials, as some its followers had asked for and got Pakistan.
Broadly, what is happening now shouldn’t worry any one, as it is happening due to their own complicity. When the so-called secular parties were in power, they never tried to reign-in the hard-line Hindutva elements, in reality they always mollified and pampered them under the veneer of equal rights to every religion. Or within their hearts they too wanted India to be a Hindu Rashtra.
In addition, a large number of highly educated Indians, exercised their franchise in favour of the BJP, in the last two general elections, maybe out of sympathy and giving them also a chance to govern. Though within their heart they knew what they were doing was not due to love of their country but it was to pamper the soft corner within their heart for the Hindutva. And though they too have suffered from demonetisation, GST, rising inflation, yet they are still not ready to accept their wrong decision and still have a soft corner for the party, as they want to watch the full movie, and yes, howsoever they profess to be seen as an educated, secular, forward looking, liberal person, within their heart all are pro-Hindutva and are least concerned about minorities or backward classes of the country, except to have drawing room conversation about their plight.
The secular parties also pampered and kowtowed to the fixated Muslim elements, clerics who claimed to be Muslim leaders or representatives, due to which the Hindutva forces always bemoaned the appeasement of the minorities at the cost of the majority, and in turn reaped benefits for themselves at the hustings.
Indian Muslims have traversed a long road since independence. For the first, 20 years after the partition, the generation, which bore the burnt of it, was busy in consolidating its losses and finding solutions to various challenges faced by it as a community and survival in a new democracy.
Along the way the community lost many of its stalwarts, who represented it during the freedom struggle and thus unfortunately the baton was passed to a mediocre leadership, which itself was not sure of its moorings, and thus unsure of how to lead the community.
The community apart from educational backwardness also faced economic decline. However, it got a shot in the arm with middle-east boom, after the 70s. Though, in the traversing period and even afterwards, its economic spine was tried to be broken by frequent riots in cities where it had proved its mettle as skilful entrepreneurs. And most of these riots happened when the so-called secular parties were in power both at the centre and state level.
From mid-70s onwards, the community consolidated its economic gains and moved forward on the road to educational and social prosperity. From 90s on, economic liberalisation further helped the community in a big manner, as now scores of its young technocrats found meaningful jobs at various MNCs, as there unlike the government sector the playing field was set level for all.
This economic independence also helped it to further consolidate its successes and the current generation is proof of this. A generation, which is not burdened by the baggage of partition and is socially and educationally empowered to take on its foes at an equal footing. A generation which is equally at home wearing jeans and hijab, keeping beard and observing fasts, bringing to reality the adage that education opens doors to emancipation. A generation, which is proud to be part of the secular framework of the country and its own religious identity, and has become adapt at finding a mid-path between the two.
This is what has upset the Hindutva forces. They are afraid of a group, which is not shy of taking any challenge marred by its identity or its religion and is very comfortable in striking a workable balance between the two.
In the current scenario, to remain undithering and work towards consolidating our secular democratic republic, the responsibility lies on the opposition and other parties to question the current government’s each and every policy in the parliament and at various other foras, and in the meanwhile also strive to work towards establishing a society and polity which does not relies on petty gains but wants to the make it stronger based on principles enshrined in its constitution and strove to by its founding fathers.
Asad Mirza is a Sr journalist based in New Delhi