Growing Insecurity

Bashing Muslims

Irfan Engineer

Three years of Modi sarkar has meant decreased political representation, increased  insecurity, increased stigmatization of the minority community and increased economic  marginalization of Muslims. This is despite the slogan “sabka saath sabka vikas" used during the poll campaign.

The present (16th) Lok Sabha has lowest number of Muslim Members—23 or a little over 4% whereas they constitute 14.2% of India’s population. The ruling party does not have a single elected Lok Sabha member from the Muslim community. There are only 20 Muslim members of Rajya Sabha, 2 of which are from the BJP. There are no Muslim ministers of Cabinet rank and two ministers of state—MJ Akbar in Ministry of External Affairs and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi in Ministry of Minority Affairs. In the recently held elections for UP Assembly, BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate. BJP won in 325 Asserpbly constituencies out of 403. In all, only 24 Muslims were elected to UP Assembly (5.9%) even though they are 19.1% of UP’s population. Muslim representation has fallen in other states too, including Assam.

Lack of adequate representation of Muslims in important institutions of democracy that formulate laws, rules and policies, and shape lives of the people of the country, means that the country is deprived of the perspective, understanding and knowledge that the community has. Common people in India feel reassured taking their day to day problems and issues pertaining to access to infrastructure (e.g. primary health centres, anganwadis, roads, sewerage etc), welfare schemes, necessary documents (e.g. BPL cards), bank loans, govt contracts, licences, admissions in educational institutions, etc for redressal to representatives from their own caste and community. The caste and community network helps one access and avail of various schemes and participate in governance. Less representation in governance limits participation in and availing benefits of governance and result in increased marginalization of the caste or the community. Overwhelming majority of members of the Muslim community is experiencing increased economic marginalization.

Overwhelming sections of the Muslim community are from dalits and OBCs, self employed like hawkers, barbers, dhobis etc; or artisans—weavers, carpet workers, zari workers, embroidery workers, bangle industry, brassware industry, etc. There is a tiny section of business entrepreneurs and a small middle class. While a negligible tiny section of Muslim entrepreneurs may have benefitted from the growth of GDP in the last three years since PM Modi was elected, overwhelmingly large section of Muslim artisans, child labourers, Muslim dalits engaged in scavenging, or other such less paid casual work, hawkers, have been further marginalized. Their ability to access welfare schemes is limited in view of reduced political representation.

Sachar Committee Report had pointed out Muslims in higher education were less than 4%, they were less than 2% in public sector and higher bureaucracy, and their access to welfare schemes was much below their population proportion. This is partly due to lack of sensitivity of bureaucrats and policy implementers to include all sections of society and exercise their discretion impartially and fairly. To arrest this trend, UPA led Government set quotas to include minorities. Expectedly, the quotas for minorities have been done away with. Yogi Adityanath e.g. scrapped the 20% quota in some welfare schemes for Muslims. This will signal bureaucrats to by and large ignore the claims from minorities.

The budgetary allocation for Minorities almost stagnated and with inflation, reduced in real terms. In the 2015-16 budget, there was no significant (Rs 4 crore) increase in allocation for minorities. On the other hand, the government has decreased the allocation in the revised budget by about Rs 569 crore which affected the functioning of schemes like MSDP and scholarship programmes in 2014-15. The Budget Estimate for the year 2015-16 is Rs 3,738 crore. The revised estimate for current year 2014-15 was Rs 3,165 crore as against the budgetary allocation of Rs 3,734 crore. The Minister of Minority Affairs Ms Najma Heptullah was more concerned with spending money on schemes to incentivise increased fertility of the Parsi community than lack of livelihood and education among other socially and educationally backward minorities.

One of the reasons for decreased political representation of Muslims is their stigmatization by the Sangh Parivar profiling them as community of traitors, loyal to Pakistan, terrorists, Islam being “foreign religion”, Islamic identity and Muslim personal law is divisive and beef eaters slaughterers of cow considered holy by the Hindus. They further propagate that Muslims practicing polygamy are multiplying like rabbits and Hindus would soon be minority in “their own country”.

The diffusion of Hindu nationalist consciousness is more rapid and its influence can be seen particularly on the lower middle class urban youth and the rural elite. Ruling party MPs and even ministers are making statements punishable under Sec. 153A of IPC for promoting ill-will, hatred or enmity on the basis of religion. They include Giriraj Singh, Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath, Sadhvi Prachi and others. The statements widely reported, range from calling those not following Lord Ram (Hindus) as illegitimate offsprings, calling Madrasas as dens of terrorism, calling upon Hindu women to produce at least 4 children to beat the Muslims in their demographic designs, and that those who did not vote for Modi (read Muslims), should settle in Pakistan. The discourse demonizing minorities is being normalized and soon it would also be accepted as truth which does not need any verification.

Political objective of BJP, as Subramanian Swamy from BJP once said, is to unite the Hindus and divide the Muslims along sectarian lines—Shia and Sunnis and Sunnis into Sufis and Wahabis, thus isolating the Wahabis. Using the triple talaq issue the BJP is trying to divide the Muslims along gender lines as well in order to unite Hindus politically, divided as they are along caste lines. BJP needs a cause and a symbol. Misusing “nationalism" as a cause and cow as a symbol, BJP exonerates violence on minorities. Violence by Hindu nationalists demonstrates the prowess of those following Hindutva ideology and renders the victims of violence as second class citizens.

Vol. 50, No.1, Jul 9 - 15, 2017