By Saeed Naqvi
June 01, 2014
The appointment of a Minister for Minority Affairs has been a huge letdown. During the election campaign, Narendra Modi had stated that he would be the Prime Minister of all 1.25 billion Indians. So demoralised has the Muslim been in recent years that a simple promise of equal rights was music to his ears. What the Congress has done to him in six decades of independence is clear in the Sachar Committee Report of 2006. In it he saw his decomposing visage. So deep was the rot, that anything the Congress did to keep the pretense, was no more than a highly advertised relief camp for administering palliatives — a Ministry for Minority Affairs here, a Minority Commission there and, if elections are nigh, call in the town criers to read out a hundred-point programme for Muslims. And, yes, as a final act of electoral craft, call in the Imam of the grand apparel, always ready with his skates on.
Having been seduced early by Jawaharlal Nehru who wore the Sherwani with a rose in the buttonhole, spoke Urdu, visited Maulana Azad once a week and befriended left leaning Arab leaders the Muslim felt he was being led by one of his very own. Mahatma Gandhi secured the Muslim's right flank: he supported Maulana Mohammad Ali's call to save the "Khalifa" in Turkey.
With such gestures aplenty, the Indian Muslim took little note of the miraculous appearance of Ram Lalla idols in 1949 under the central dome of the Babri Masjid. Nehru was the Prime Minister. Thereafter, it became the "disputed structure", which was eventually pulled down.
Congress leaders not only opened the locks of the temple for daily Puja, but they upped the ante for the BJP. They promised to usher in Ram Rajya, on the eve of the 1989 elections.
And what were the gifts handed to the Muslims? The leadership banned Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, reversed the Supreme Court judgement on Shah Bano, and delayed upgrade of relations with Israel citing Muslim anxieties. In every instance, what profit for the Muslim? These steps, instead, further alienated him from the mainstream consensus. As part of this variety of tokenism, came the Ministry for Minority Affairs, the Minority Commission, and sundry steps which issued from the party's transparently insincere commitment to secularism. There were considerable expectations of the Congress. The cumulative effect of disappointments resulted in an irretrievable Muslim exodus from the party from 1989 to 2014.
The outcome of the 2014 elections has left him in a state of psychological bipolarity. He is actually quite indifferent to the demolition of the Congress. Across the board he has the same lament. The Congress used him as a vote bank. But a satisfaction at Congress collapse has been balanced by the colossal scale of Modi's ascendance. In an outstanding film, Queen, the protagonist is shocked to her foundations by an unexpected turn of events. She resists the temptation to turn back. Instead she bravely proceeds on the path she would have traversed if the traumatic incident had not taken place. It becomes a wholesome journey of discovery.
The Indian Muslim was rapidly preparing himself for the New Deal of equal rights. Hence, acute disappointment at the unimaginative Congress style tokenism of a Ministry for Minority Affairs.
Such a ministry creates an impression of special facilities for minorities without delivering anything of consequence. Let me introduce you to a handful of annoying tokenisms. Visit the Indira Gandhi International Airport and watch the Haj Terminal. It creates an impression of privilege, one which irritates non Muslims, without being of substantial use to Indian Muslims. Haj takes place once a year. Does a terminal round the year make any sense?
Likewise, what possible sense is there for the Ministry of External Affairs to keep one ambassadorship reserved for Muslims? It is an unwritten rule that the ambassador to Saudi Arabia must be a Muslim.
Is there a particular advantage in posting a Muslim ambassador to Riyadh? Ambassadors from Washington, Moscow, Beijing and hundreds of other countries are unlikely to be all Muslims.
The argument that Muslim pilgrims travelling to Mecca and Medina need consular help is only partly valid. For this purpose, the Consul General at Jeddah would suffice. Jeddah is not far from the two holy cities. But must a full-fledged ambassadorial post in Riyadh be out of bounds for non Muslims?