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The Choice Is Narrowing The Circle or Widening It


An editorial comment recently opined ‘India is witnessing the progressive normalization of minority baiting’. Recent happenings within the country and their reactions in lands far and near tend to pose the problem.


GS-I: Social Empowerment, Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism.

Dimensions of the Article

  • Neighbourhood Impact
  • An emerging disquiet
  • Furtherance of hate
  • Indic versus non-Indic
  • Way Forward

Neighbourhood impact

  • Gulf Cooperation Council and Persian Gulf countries has extensive and diverse political and commercial relations. These also provide gainful employment to many million Indian nationals whose remittances are an important source of foreign exchange remittances.
  • In strategic terms, the region is India’s extended neighbourhood; so is the case with Malaysia and Indonesia and Brunei in Southeast Asia.
  • It is evident that the malaise (while being domestic in its origin) has global dimensions.
  • Its external manifestations are aggravated by modern means of communication.
  • By the same logic, the correctives have to emanate in the context of domestic perceptions and practices.

An emerging disquiet

  • Muslims are our largest religious minority, constituting 14.3% of the total population and numbering over 200 million.
  • They are spread all over the country and are well integrated, but of late, signs of disquiet have been evident in all segments of the community.
  • The reason for this are the remarks uttered in media debates by two spokespersons  on the personality of the Prophet
  • Actions  that have been taken against the persons are viewed as inadequate by the community.
  • The silence of institutional bodies, government and  the apparent reticence of the judiciary is difficult to digest.
  • On the contrary, the use of Strongarm tactics and bulldozers to counter public demonstrations seeking firmer action against alleged culprits is suggestive of bias.
  • Some observers have even opined that the bulldozer is an instrument to silence the minorities since its use in similar cases involving non-minority public is wanting.

Furtherance of hate

  • The operative constitutional principle in social behaviour should be the promotion of equality and fraternity.
  • In actual practice it is the contrary; this resultsthe  in furtherance of hate by denigration.
  • The alternative was to denigrate faiths or socioreligious practices in competitive one upmanship.
  • An easy target in this was the numerous but socially and economically weaker segments that could even be mocked in terms of assumed backwardness.
  • Since most of our fellow citizens have reverence for traditional beliefs, ‘experts’ were soon discovered for these target areas.
  • The public’s addiction to popular television and its concocted levels of debate (premised on a preference for the brash and the articulate) invariably produces the desired results sought in some sections.

Indic versus non-Indic

  • A categorising segment of recent origin is the differentiation between Indic and nonIndic.
  • This, put together with the existential diversity of faiths, seeks to divide fellow citizens between those who pursue Indic faiths assumed to be of Indian origin and those who subscribe to Christianity and Islam allegedly of external import.
  • The argument is premised on a certain reading of Indian history and the sociological issue is sought to be premised on what constitutes Indianness, ignoring that our society is ‘a mosaic in which primordial cleavages both intersect and intermix with contemporary socioeconomic segments’. One consequence of this branding the Indianness would be to categorise Ghazni, Khilji, Lodi, etc. not as foreign invaders but as domestic brigands.
  • Nor can the landmass of Bharat be described in terms of faith alone since there was a period of several centuries when Buddhism was the dominant religion.
  • Furthermore, in the centuries when the rulers were Muslims, no effort seems to have been made to carry out mass conversions
  • The Indian reality of migrating groups seeking greener pastures since times immemorial qualifies our nomenclature of a ‘civilisational state’ and is better depicted in Raghupati Rai Firaq’s couplet: Sar zaminehind par aqwamealam ke Firaq/Qafile baste gae hindostan banta gaya (Caravans from nations of the world kept coming and contributed to the formation of Hindostan).
  • Linguistically, India has also been called ‘a land of linguistic minorities’. The Linguistic Survey of India and the research of Ganesh Devy bring forth the regional diversity of living languages.
  • This lends credence to outbursts against linguistic homogeneity that is attempted periodically in the guise of national unity.

Way Forward

In multiple senses, our national choice thus lies in an ever widening circle and in resisting all attempts, however well meaning, in abridging it.  India is and must remain diverse and inclusive, and continue to build itself on the principles inscribed in the Preamble.

Source – The Hindu

December 2023