No thank-you cards for UPA

But new government will be judged by how it treats minorities.

Written by Tahir Mahmood | Published:May 22, 2014 12:25 am
The fact is that the outgoing regime wasn’t a bed of roses for the minorities and the incoming government isn’t likely to unleash a reign of terror on them either. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia) The fact is that the outgoing regime wasn’t a bed of roses for the minorities and the incoming government isn’t likely to unleash a reign of terror on them either. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

The Constitution of India as adopted in 1950 had envisaged independent India as a federal, socialist and secular democracy based on the doctrines of equality and liberty. The ideals of equality, liberty, socialism and secularism underlay its provisions from the very beginning but the last two of these were made more conspicuous in 1976, when the preamble to the Constitution was amended to formally declare India a socialist and secular country. Our understanding of equality, liberty, socialism and secularism has, however, always been different from how the rest of the world understands these ideals. The Constitution itself made them somewhat special.

Provisions mandating the state to protect the cow for the majority community and the kirpan for the Sikh minority were included in its initial version. For the purposes of protective discrimination and affirmative action to eliminate backwardness, the Constitution specified Scheduled Castes, which, to begin with, were restricted to the majority community. But gradually, the classification was opened up to include two particular minorities, in response to their protests against exclusion. The established traditions of the erstwhile princely states of Travancore and Cochin to maintain temples out of the state exchequer were protected at the time of their assimilation into the Indian Union — a special provision to that effect was inserted in the Constitution.

The Congress party, over about half a century of ruling the country, made our concepts of socialism, secularism, equality and liberty more special thanks to its policies and performance. In 1968, its government convinced the Supreme Court that the Aligarh Muslim University had not been established by Muslims and hence was not entitled to the benefits accorded by the Constitution to minority educational institutions. In 1976, after proclaiming the Emergency to save its government, it succeeded in making the majority of a Supreme Court bench agree that depriving political detenus of their constitutional remedies against arbitrary arrest was fine. In 1991, it enacted a Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act to protect the shrines of all communities from communal vandalism but felt constrained to keep the 500-year-old Ayodhya mosque out of its ambit. In 1993, it set up, under foreign pressure, a National Human Rights Commission but could not care less about its decisions and recommendations.

After remaining out of power for eight years, when the Congress bounced back in 2004, it ruled in the name of an absolutely honest and sincere head of government but he was allegedly constantly excluded from decision-making exercises. During this decade, the Congress extended to the largest minority in the country the olive branch of the Sachar committee, and made minorities dream of reservation in government jobs and educational institutions by appointing the Ranganath Mishra commission. But when these commissions submitted their recommendations, the government shied away from implementing them. Having failed to contain the corruption growing right under its nose or control the unprecedented price rise, the government kept making promises to do better if given another chance.

People’s patience, however, cannot be limitless. At the end of the unduly long elections, the simmering discontent over the sorry state of affairs in society became clear in the astonishing results. What had to happen has happened. Those who have suffered a crushing defeat are now saying janta ka faisla hamein sweekar hai (the people’s decision is acceptable to us) — as if they have any other choice. And those who have won are projecting their landslide victory as the dawn of “good days”. The past policies and performance of the victors are, justifiably, scaring the two largest minority communities of the country. To rid the nation of the long dynastic rule that was brimming with all manner of anti-people activities was the need of the hour. Seen from that angle, the change of guard is a change for the better. But if the new rulers are to let the apprehensions of minorities come true, the nation would have paid a heavy price for achieving this goal.

The fact is that the outgoing regime wasn’t a bed of roses for the minorities and the incoming government isn’t likely to unleash a reign of terror on them either. In these days of globalisation, with the international community watching, no government can afford to play out the proverbial tableau of andher nagri chaupat raja. The Father of the Nation had once said that the parameter by which to gauge the extent to which a country may be called civilised is how it treats its minorities. Let us hope that the new government heeds this advice. Let us hope that the concepts of state secularism and people’s equality and liberty, which have been rather special to us from the very beginning and have been made even more special by the rulers of the past, will not become even more “special” in the hands of our new rulers.

The writer is former chair of the National Minorities Commission and former member, Law Commission

express@expressindia.com

For all the latest Opinion News, download Indian Express App

  1. A
    Ajay Kumar
    May 22, 2014 at 7:01 am
    When minority community demand special favor/benefit, it stands out as sore thumb. It is no good to play minority card, for it divide society and nation. Join mainstream, one for all, all for one. Jai Hind.
    Reply
    1. A
      Arvind
      May 22, 2014 at 5:41 pm
      Why is it also not your dream? that is the question
      Reply
      1. A
        A S
        May 23, 2014 at 2:52 am
        Tahir Muhammad views interesting. Important to see what is happening in Muslim countries. Unimaginable intolerance not only of their minorities but other sects of fellow Muslims who pray same Allah. Clearly Muslims are insecure EVERY WHERE and Muslim leaders should seriously apply their minds. And they should respect other religions also.
        Reply
        1. G
          Getyourfactsright
          May 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm
          How about joining mainstream potion for a change?Nobody needs your thank you card. The nation needs everyone to be contributing towards growth. Stop being bitter and help your own people through literacy and standard of living improvements.
          Reply
          1. P
            Proud Kafir
            May 22, 2014 at 4:43 pm
            We will nukke Mecca
            Reply
            1. L
              Laxmi
              May 22, 2014 at 7:03 pm
              Let me add more to what the author has written. "Let the minorities not demand special treatment since they are like anyone from the majority community. Let the minorities imilate with the majority. Let the minorities stop irrational paranoia perpetrated by the secularist parties."
              Reply
              1. A
                Ananth
                May 22, 2014 at 4:14 pm
                Is it a dream of the minorities to have dissimilar civil code. Then what will they do if the uniform civil code as is also the dream of the Consution comes true. Point to ponder for them.
                Reply
                1. A
                  Ananth
                  May 22, 2014 at 4:09 pm
                  There is a subtle change in the view point. Pepole are also awaitng a suitable response from the minorities to the new government. It is obvious they voted against their coming in. So they too have a responsibility to show their eagerness accompanied with suitable mind change and actions to be an integral part of the Milieu. There has been no refrendum as to certain additions to consution made in 1976 by India hi's government. It was a political decision. Now the country seems to be at a point to revisit such issues. We will have to wait and watch, but at no time sacrifice the liberty and equality enshrined in the consution.
                  Reply
                  1. D
                    dinesh
                    May 22, 2014 at 3:06 pm
                    So, why ask for equality ??Untill n unless Minority of this country realize that there can't be special treatment for them, they will be used for vote bank politics.Uniform civil code will make every body equal.First u don't want to be equal and then u cry for equality
                    Reply
                    1. K
                      kvl
                      May 22, 2014 at 7:43 am
                      Surprise no minority member praises the majority community India i.e. Bharat all minorities are enjoying freedom of all kinds and there is no hatred.only two cles are there rich and poor in all sects.This disparity should be removed.why always the slogan of secularism, minority ranting?as if to provoke the other community?unless attacked, Hindus never raise their voice or attack. live and let live peacefully is Hindu sanataria dharma. this all should realise in future.fed up with secularism mantra
                      Reply
                      1. K
                        Kaikubad Ali
                        May 22, 2014 at 9:12 pm
                        its easy to comment. What about the economically deprived sections? Your words seem that all are Ambani here in India..
                        Reply
                        1. P
                          Pitambar Gupta
                          May 22, 2014 at 7:15 pm
                          The new government will do a 100 times better job of being fair to the minorities. The Congress exploited minorities for its votes; the BJP will treat them the same as the majority.
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            sahil
                            May 22, 2014 at 6:10 am
                            Shambure Uniform Civil Code is the dream of majority hindus which will remain as it is.
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              Shamb
                              May 22, 2014 at 1:30 am
                              How about uniform civil code? That may eliminate favoritism to any one. Every one becomes Bharatiya first and religion remains at home.
                              Reply
                              1. A
                                Anup
                                May 22, 2014 at 7:44 am
                                Agree totally with Shamb here. The so called minorities can't have it both ways, a uniform civil code that will treat all equally should be agreeeable to all. People do not need nor should expect special treatment in their own home. If you want special status then obviously you will always be treated as outsiders.
                                Reply
                                1. C
                                  common
                                  May 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm
                                  The writer ignores the importance of the vice president who is a muslim and one of the most respected states men. Incidentally, both the PM and Vice President of the government are from minority community. Can the writer name a single country which has allowed the top two positions managed by minority community. Can he quote even one country. There is perpetual shia and sunni factions quarrel in other countries. Please educate minority students, get them jobs and send them abroad to broaden the vision. Prosperity alone can guarantee safety, security and happiness. Definitely happy days are here again. But in democracy, one can not be stopped from mourning always. It is known as depression. It is treated medically.
                                  Reply
                                  1. V
                                    Vidya
                                    May 22, 2014 at 9:21 pm
                                    Disappointing article. Just whining ... no constructive ideas.
                                    Reply
                                    1. Load More Comments