By Shahid Siddiqui
Apr 8, 2014
Jiziyah is the protection tax that non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state have to pay to the Islamic government for their safety and wellbeing. In independent India minorities, especially Muslims, have to pay Jiziyah of a different kind. This Jiziyah is in the form of votes, paid to so-called secular parties, especially to Congress for ensuring protection to them, for not letting India become a Hindu nation and keeping it secular.
Since Independence this game has been played both covertly and overtly. Media and intellectuals have, knowingly or unknowingly, helped these parties in extracting this 'electoral Jiziyah' from insecure minorities. After partition, Muslims who remained in India were told both by Muslim and 'secular' leadership that if they wanted to survive in Hindu India it was their duty to protect secularism, which in real terms meant voting for one party, which in return would keep India secular.
In India's political lexicon, thereafter, 'secularism' became synonymous with 'Muslim vote bank'. The Sangh Parivar parties used it conversely to mean 'appeasement of Muslims'. Indian 'secularism' therefore was neither 'Sarva Dharma Samabhava' (equal respect for all religions) nor the European concept of state above religion. It meant protecting minorities from possible violence and discrimination. In practical terms it meant verbal appeasement of Muslims, especially before elections.
The socio-economic condition of Muslims deteriorated after Independence, riot after riot made them more insecure, their representation in government and private services declined, they became economically more vulnerable. They went into a shell and their sense of victimhood made them withdraw into a social and political ghetto.
Congress, which claimed to be secular, took the service of Maulanas, political Ulema and other conservative elements instead of educated liberals to garner Muslim votes. In other words communal leadership was imposed on Muslims by 'secular' parties.
Liberal Muslim leaders demanded economic and social rights while religious leaders were more concerned with Muslim personal law or protection of madrasas or perceived notions of 'Islam in danger'. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, 'appeasement' of Muslim communal leadership, at a heavy cost to the educational and economic growth of the community, took place.
Other 'secular' parties followed the same path of appeasing the religious/communal leadership to garner the Muslim vote. 'Secular' leaders made a beeline to get political Fatwas from Madanis of Deoband, Ali Mian of Nadwatul Ulema, Shahi Imam Bukhari of Delhi's Jama Masjid to Arshad ul Qadri and Tauseef Raza of Barelvi school, so that Muslims were herded like sheep to vote for saving secularism.
Realising that these 'secular' parties only cared for and promoted narrow religious leaders, even educated liberal and secular Muslim leaders started speaking the same language. Those like Azam Khan, Syed Shahabuddin and the Owaisis replaced others like Dr Faridi, Karim Chhagla, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad or Arif Mohammad Khan.
Muslims have been carrying this cross of secularism on their feeble shoulders for the last 67 years. From my student days when we campaigned for Subhadra Joshi and D R Goyal, great crusaders for secularism, we saw that all meetings for 'secular democracy' were organised only in Muslim localities, as if only Muslims were required to be educated about 'secular India'.
Later we realised that it was not to educate Muslims about secularism but to create the fear of Jan Sangh and Balraj Madhok, making Muslims vote for Congress unquestioningly. The same game has been played over and over again and gullible Muslims as well as their intelligentsia have carried this cross as an honour and privilege since Independence.
As chairman of Congress' Minority Cell in 1996, I was surprised to discover that all its meetings began with recitation of Quran. I stopped this practice as I considered it a religious activity not suitable for a secular party. However, this was held against me by my secular colleagues in the party. Whenever i spoke about socio-economic and educational problems faced by the community, i was told by Congress' highest leadership that Muslims voted out of fear and not for development.
The same attitude prevails in other 'secular' parties like SP or BSP. They believe in taking the Muslim vote for granted. Muslims had no 'option' but to vote for these parties if they wanted India to remain secular.
Any group or community without an option in a democracy is a bonded slave of certain parties and politics. There are regional alternatives like SP, Trinamool Congress, and RJD and so on — but their attitude is the same. They all expect Muslims to pay protection money in the form of their votes, the secular 'Jiziyah' of modern democratic India.
How long and for how many more elections will this continue? When will secularism be the need for a modern state which treats its citizens equally, rather than a burden to be carried by minorities of this great nation? The enemies of secularism are not those who have opposed it but those who have manipulated it for their electoral benefit, looking to get Muslim votes out of fear rather than from conviction.
Shahid Siddiqui is a former MP and editor, Nai Duniya