Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What more is needed to stoke reaction?

Arun Shourie: Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Task Force on Border Management, one of the four that were set up in the wake of the Kargil War, reported with alarm about the way madrassas had mushroomed along India’s borders. On the basis of information it received from intelligence agencies, it expressed grave concern at the amount of money these madrassas were receiving from foreign sources. It reported that large numbers were being ‘educated’ in these institutions in subjects that did not equip them at all for jobs — other than to become preachers and teachers producing the same type of incendiary unemployables. It expressed the gravest concern at the way the madrassas were reinforcing separateness in those attending them — through the curriculum, through the medium of instruction, through the entire orientation of learning: the latter, the Task Force pointed out, was entirely turned towards Arabia, towards the ‘golden ages’ of Islamic rule. It pointed to the consequences that were certain to flow from ‘the Talibanisation’ of the madrassas. [In spite of what the Task Forces themselves advised, namely that their reports be made public, the reports have been kept secret. Accordingly, I have summarised the observations of the Task Forces in some detail in Will the Iron Fence Save a Tree Hollowed by Termites? Defence imperatives beyond the military, ASA, Delhi, 2005.]

And what does the Sachar Committee recommend? ‘Recognition of the degrees from madrassas for eligibility in competitive examinations such as the civil services, banks, defence services and other such examinations’! It recommends that government use public funds to encourage formation of Muslim NGOs and their activities. It recommends that government provide financial and other support to occupations and areas in which Muslims predominate. It recommends that Muslims be in selection committees, interview panels and boards for public services.

It recommends that a higher proportion of Muslims be inducted in offices that deal with the public — ‘the teaching community, health workers, police personnel, bank employees and so on.’ It recommends ‘provision of ‘equivalence’ to madrassa certificates/degrees for subsequent admissions into institutions of higher level of education.’ It recommends that banks be required to collect and maintain information about their transactions — deposits, advances — separately for Muslims, and that they be required to submit this to the Reserve Bank of India! It recommends that advances be made to Muslims as part of the obligation imposed on banks to give advances to Priority Sectors. It recommends that government give banks incentives to open branches in Muslim concentration areas. It recommends that, instead of being required to report merely ‘Amount Outstanding’, banks be told to report ‘Sanctions or Disbursements to Minorities’. It recommends that financial institutions be required to set up separate funds for training Muslim entrepreneurs, that they be required to set up special micro-credit schemes for Muslims. It recommends that all districts more than a quarter of whose population is Muslim be brought into the prime minister’s 15-point programme.

‘There should be transparency in information about minorities in all activities,’ the Committee declares. ‘It should be made mandatory to publish/furnish information in a prescribed format once in three months and also to post the same on the website of the departments and state governments...’ It recommends that for each programme of government, data be maintained separately about the extent to which Muslims and other minorities are benefiting from it. But it is not enough to keep data separately. Separate schemes must be instituted. It recommends that special and separate Centrally Sponsored Schemes and Central Plan Schemes be launched for ‘minorities with an equitable provision for Muslims.’ It recommends special measures for the promotion and spread of Urdu. It recommends the adoption of ‘alternate admission criteria’ in universities and autonomous colleges: assessment of merit should not be assigned more than 60 per cent out of the total — the remaining 40 per cent should be assigned in accordance with the income of the household, the backwardness of the district, and the backwardness of the caste and occupation of the family. It recommends that grants by the University Grants Commission be linked to ‘the diversity of the student population.’ It recommends that pre-entry qualification for admission to ITIs be scaled down, that ‘eligibility for such programmes should also be extended to the madrassa educated children.’ It recommends that ‘high quality government schools should be set up in all areas of Muslim concentration.’ It recommends that resources and government land be made available for ‘common public spaces’ for adults of — its euphemism — ‘Socio-Religious Categories’ to ‘interact’.

It recommends that incentives to builders, private sector employers, educational institutions be linked to ‘diversity’ of the populations in their sites and enterprises. For this purpose it wants a ‘diversity index’ to be developed for each such activity.

It recommends changes in the way constituencies are delimited. It recommends that where Muslims are elected or selected in numbers less than adequate, ‘a carefully conceived ‘nomination’ procedure’ be worked out ‘to increase the participation of minorities at the grass roots.’

It notes that there already are the Human Rights Commission and the Minorities Commission ‘to look into complaints by the minorities with respect to state action.’ But these are not adequate as the Muslims still feel that they are not getting a fair share. The solution? Here is its recommendation, and a typical passage:

‘It is imperative that if the minorities have certain perceptions of being aggrieved,’ notice the touchstone — ‘if the minorities have certain perceptions of being aggrieved’ — ‘all efforts should be made by the state to find a mechanism by which these complaints could be attended to expeditiously. This mechanism should operate in a manner which gives full satisfaction to the minorities’, notice again the touchstone — not any external criterion, but ‘full satisfaction to the minorities’ — ‘that any denial of equal opportunities or bias or discrimination in dealing with them, either by a public functionary or any private individual, will immediately be attended to and redress given. Such a mechanism should be accessible to all individuals and institutions desirous to complain that they have received less favourable treatment from any employer or any person on the basis of his/her SRC [Socio-Religious Category] background and gender.’

The responsibility is entirely that of the other. The other must function to the full satisfaction of the Muslims. As long as the Muslims ‘have certain perceptions of being aggrieved,’ the other is at fault...

So that everyone is put on notice, so that everyone who is the other is forever put to straining himself to satisfy the Muslims, the Committee recommends that a National Data Bank be created and it be mandatory for all departments and agencies to supply information to it to document how their activities are impacting Muslims and other minorities. On top of all this, government should set up an Assessment and Monitoring Authority to evaluate the benefits that are accruing to the minorities from each programme and activity...

This is the programme that every secularist who is in government is demanding that the government implement forthwith. And every secularist outside — the ever-so-secular CPI(M), for instance — is scolding the government for not implementing swiftly enough. What splendid evolution! Not long ago, unless you saw a Muslim as a human being, and not as a Muslim, you were not secular. Now, if you see a Muslim as a human being and not as a Muslim, you are not secular!


The first consequence is as inevitable as it is obvious: such pandering whets the appetite. Seeing that governments and parties are competing to pander to them, Muslims see that they are doing so only because their community is acting cohesively, as a vote bank. So, they act even more as a bank of votes.

For the same reason, a competition is ignited within the community: to prove that he is more devoted to the community than his rival, every would-be leader of the community demands more and more from governments and parties. When the concession he demanded has been made, he declares, ‘It is not being implemented’. And he has a ready diagnosis: because implementation, he declares, is in the hands of non-Muslims. Hence, unless Muslims officers are appointed in the financial institutions meant for Muslims... With demand following demand, with secularist upon secularist straining himself to urge the demands, the leader sets about looking for grievances that he can fan. When he can’t find them, he invents them...

Governments make the fatal mistake, or — as happened in the case of the British when they announced separate electorates for Muslims — they play the master-stroke: they proffer an advantage to the community which that community, Muslims in this case, can secure only by being separate — whether this be separate electorates in the case of Lord Minto or separate financial institutions in the case of Manmohan Singh.

The community in its turn begins to assess every proposal, every measure, howsoever secular it may be, against one touchstone alone: ‘What can we extract from this measure for Muslims as Muslims?’How current the description rings that Cantwell Smith gave in his book, Modern Islam in India, published in the 1940s, of the effect that the British stratagem of instituting separate electorates for Muslims had had on the Muslim mind. The separate electorates led Muslims, as they had been designed to lead them, he observed, ‘to vote communally, think communally, listen only to communal election speeches, judge the delegates communally, look for constitutional and other reforms only in terms of more relative communal power, and express their grievances communally.’ [Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Modern Islam in India, Second Revised Edition, 1946, reprint, Usha Publications, New Delhi, 1979, p. 216]. Exactly the same consequence will follow from implementing the Sachar proposals — and the reason for that is simple: the essential point about the proposals is the same — that is, the Muslims can obtain them by being separate from the rest of the country.

The reaction cannot but set in. ‘As Muslims are being given all this because they have distanced themselves from the rest of us, why should we cling to them?’ the Hindus are bound to ask. ‘On the contrary, we should learn from them. Governments and political parties are pandering to Muslims because the latter have become a bank of votes. We should knit ourselves into a solid bloc also.’

Do you think they need a Pravin Togadia to tell them this? The genuflections of governments and parties write the lesson on the blackboard. And the abuse hurled by secularists drills it in: by the excellent work that Narendra Modi has done for development, he had already made himself the pre-eminent leader of Gujarat; by the abuse they have hurled at him, the secularists, in particular the media, have enlarged his canvas to the country.

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