This Article is written by Shubham Awasthi (law student from Lloyd Law College)
The fact that Muslims of India, feel delinked from the political system because they feel that the current government belongs to the Hindus and they will create a Hindu Rashtra, and other political parties are also now not so vocal in raising concerns of Muslims because they are scared of being termed as pro-Muslim parties. You see, the word “secular” has almost disappeared from the political discourse and has been replaced by “democracy” as a more secular concept as the word secular was being seen as equivalent to Muslim vote bank!
Now before I go ahead, a clarification is in order. Wherever I say Muslims of India or Hindus of India, it does not mean each and every single person from that community, what I mean is the majority of them or the common belief amongst that community, there is nothing that every single individual of a community believes in. That kind of argument seem valid in the West where “individual” is the building block of society and population is comparatively less and society is more or less homogeneous. In a country like India, with such a huge population, with not just cultural, the geographical diversity of which we are proud of but also socio-economic inequity which we should be ashamed of, we cannot look at each and every individual to form an understanding, rather we have to look at things which are common in a group of people and hence when I say Muslims of India or Hindus of India, I am talking about what majority among them feel or believe or how they behave.
Having said that, it must be noted that Muslims in India are in a pathetic socio-economic and even cultural state. Studies suggest that while most Muslims living in India (85% of them) are backward. Meanwhile, mobility schemes like reservations have helped other historically marginalized groups, say SCs, STs and OBCs are showing results in terms of political representation, enrolment in higher education and high official posts, things have not materialized for the Muslims. Why is it so and who is to blame for this? We will have to take a walk down history lane!
When the British started their rule in India in the 1750s, their argument was that India is a decaying society with dismal social norms, lack of modern education and they tried to uphold a moral authority over Indians. They were not wrong. India was in a pathetic state. But look how the Indians responded to it.
British introduced elements of modernity like the Printing Press and media. However, the Indians exploited it, to first challenge our own evil practices before they could challenge the British! As a result, Raja Ram Mohan Roy established Brahmo Samaj, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar got involved in legislation for widow remarriage. Ramakrishna Mission and Arya Samaj began a revivalist and reformist movement, Rabindranath Tagore and ultimately Gandhiji used a fabric of modern western ideas to stitch a political program fit for Indians and in the process created the modern Indian ideology which clearly had a humongous impact on our Constitution.
Two things about this socio-cultural reformist and revivalist movements can be noted. One, they are all Hindu reform movements, Sati was Hindu malpractice, caste is a Hindu social disease. But reformists did not hesitate in condemning these practices. They were highly critical of these malpractices.
The revivalists used the religion itself to show that such malpractices have no basis in the scriptures.
It is not like; the orthodox sections of the Hindus did not oppose reform. They did! But, since the most intellectual of Hindus and most religious Hindus whose credentials could not be questioned did not hesitate to speak against these problems. For example, Vivekananda’s work was used by orthodox sections to generate pride among Hindus as he was seen by many as an incarnation of Lord Shiva himself, but since Vivekananda also spoke against malpractices of caste and sati, the opposition to reform collapsed and orthodox sections collapsed. The caste system still exists especially in rural India, but at least no one in the Hindu society publicly promotes it, they all condemn it and slowly it is collapsing.
But where is the social reform movement among Muslims? The likes of Iqbal and Syed Ahmad Khan tried to create reform movements but failed to gain popularity among the masses, instead, the orthodox sections continued to have substantial control over the people. The orthodoxy protects the religion at the cost of their people’s life.
The matter of fact is, that when we talk of Muslim issues, we do not talk of lack of education among them. It is a fact that a substantial number of Muslim children do not get the right to education because the RTE Act does not apply to religious institutions managed by minorities. This seems to have a clear connection with their low representation in higher education. But have you not noticed, the issues which are raised as “Muslim’s concerns” are not these.
So, what is being now being alienated is not Muslims, it is the orthodox Muslim identity that has been alienated because it is backward-looking, it is regressive and outright pathetic! As far as the real concerns of Muslims are concerned, unfortunately, they have been overlooked by all parties for a very long time.
The solution is simple. True concerns of Muslims should be publicised. Education and empowerment of Muslim women should also be among issues on which Muslim voters vote. The orthodoxy can become a supporter of this cause if they really care about the Muslims of India. It is a reform movement that has been overdue for a couple of centuries. It is high time for India and its Muslims that it arrives now.