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New government must realise that Muslims don’t need preferential treatment. They want equal chances
Recently, the six-year-old granddaughter of a friend returned from school in tears. Some of her classmates had asked her if she was a Muslim and then commented, “Humme mussalmaan se bahut darr lagta hai.” These innocent, guileless voices most poignantly reflect the pathological distrust and incomprehension that separates the two communities — an antipathy embedded in the tortured history of the subcontinent. Narendra Modi-baiters ceaselessly pillory the prime minister designate for his alleged inaction in 2002, overlooking the more disturbing phenomenon of thousands of people spilling onto the streets of Gujarat following the horrific Godhra train burning and that mass mobilisation was provoked not by love but visceral hate.
So long as the governing class remains inured to this subtext of communal antipathy, our country will continue to be a tinderbox of communal flare-ups and social discord. Curiously, nobody seems alarmed about home ministry data that there has been a 25 per cent increase in communal incidents in 2013 compared to 2012.
It is axiomatic that the communalism of one group feeds on the communalism of the other, but only majority communalism can alter the nature of the Indian polity. All too often we are reminded that in time of communal strife, the instruments of state collude with the majority — Gopalgarh, Dhule and Muzaffarnagar are recent examples. It is also undeniable that the poor on both sides of the communal divide are savaged by riots even as the political class calculates how best to capitalise on each grisly event.
Minorities for their own sake have necessarily to show greater social responsibility than others because in our fractured society, similar actions and behaviour are viewed through different prisms. The rant of a Pravin Togadia is viewed as an aberration in an otherwise liberal Hindu ethos, whereas the hate-mongering of an Imran Masood reinforces the stereotype of the fanatical, intolerant Muslim. Every intemperate statement by a Muslim increases the social estrangement of the community.
Realism demands a radical transformation in the agenda for the Muslim community. The new government must eschew the phoney secularism of the earlier dispensation, which was guilty of allegedly “secular” actions that have only exacerbated the alienation of Muslims. The announcement that the Centre would provide legal assistance to those jailed on “doubtful charges” in terror cases; the communal violence bill, which is perceived as an instrument of discrimination against the majority community; the ill-conceived equal opportunities commission, which envisages protection of only minority interests; the aborted proposal to earmark a 4.5 per cent quota for continued…