By M Rafiqul Awal, New Age Islam
20 August 2015
It's time we replace the mediocre "leaders" who have been projecting Muslims of India as "Minority" and subjecting them to begging for a few crumbs in a system of democracy, based on a powerful foundation of Secularism.
Powerful, because the Constitution of Secular India does NOT provide any avenue for progress on the basis of Religion, as is warranted by the very definition of Secularism. If Religion had been the qualification for Rights to Progress, then India would be reduced to a Failed State, like Pakistan has turned into one.
Yet India set course on a path of political stability, economic prosperity and technological leadership - all made possible because of the Powerful Nation Building Engine that Secularism is, shall remain so, for Secularism frees Man's mind from suffering haemorrhage due to conflicting engagements among the peoples, irrespective of whether the society is pluralistic or composed of a single religion.
Even if a single religion? Certainly, and you do not need to go further for incontrovertible proof thereof. From Pakistan to the countries in the Middle East, then all the way to the edge of Atlantic Ocean, Islam is the single religion. But where are they, in regards to general peace, Human Rights, political correctness and stability, socio-economic development, contribution and leadership in science and technology?
To compare apple to apple, let us turn back our attention to Pakistan.
India and Pakistan started at the same time, from the same shared destiny after gaining Independence from two centuries of British Rule.
Actually India had much more disadvantages than Pakistan, for Pakistan had several powerful leads over India on 15 August 1947. Let us make a list of extraordinary advantages that Pakistan started with.
(1) Duration of Slavery:
Pakistan was under slavery for only about two centuries. Indian was under Slavery since 1096 when Afghanistan's Mahmud Ghazani started ravaging and looting India, for a record 18 times, leaving northern India plundered and reduced to ashes. Then came Mohammad Ghauri, this time settle in India, and after him the subjugation continued, under various Sultanates, than the Moguls, and ultimately the British.
(2) Size of Educated Middle Class (EMC), the Driver of Social Engineering:
Pakistan received the best and almost all Muslim EMC that emigrated to Pakistan almost overnight, en masse. Before this cross-border transfer, Pakistan (we are talking about West Pakistan here) had its own fair share of EMC, mainly from the Punjab and Sindh. The power of that EMC is understandable when we factor in the influence of MA Jinnah (Sindhi) and Liaquat Ali Khan (Punjabi) in determining the Destiny of India during Independence; their collective EMC Power took away one-third of India's land. Do not dilute the argument saying that the British "did it!" as per its "conspiracy" to keep Independent India bleeding and thus dependent upon "Aids" from the Commonwealth in return for the economic status quo that was set in favour of Great Britain during the two hundred year long British Raj. This lame excuse does not hold water anymore, because our past ignorance is now replaced by the knowledge of historical data that are increasingly flowing to us all, owing to the Information Technology.
(3) Support of the Muslim World, and the United States of America:
I will just end with this third point, which is self explanatory and should suffice to any person of rationale thinking that Pakistan had overwhelming advantage when it set out to shape its Destiny.
As we can see now, Pakistan in fact ruined its Destiny, "screwed itself up" if I may borrow a contemporary American expression.
And India had none to stand by it. It was surrounded by seas on three sides, and world's poorest and only "Hindu" country in the world - Nepal, which still remains the poorest country in the world.
Thus the sad story of Pakistan in one hand and Nepal on the other testifies that Religion as the "model" for mechanism to rise and develop can't but fetch ruin at the end of the day. Do we need to see what went wrong with the other countries west of Pakistan?
Back to India
India, despite the disadvantaged position that she started with, tackled poverty by the horns: investing in a massive program of education, where citizens of All religions could participate harmoniously and collectively because the foundation was on a powerful base of Secularism.
I keep on referring to Secularism with the qualifier "powerful" because Secularism fosters in Man freedom from any notion of hatred and repulsion that emanates from sense of one's religion. By limiting religion within one's personal space only, which serves as the source of morality in as much as bone marrow is the blood's source of oxygen-bearing red particles, India's version of Secularism put the best of brains from all religions work together.
Thus we had Pundit Nehru, Mawlana Azad, Sardar Patel, and BR Ambedkar - all from different religions, sit together at the helms of government, producing one miracle after another: first, the brilliant Constitution of India, then the Reorganization of the States of India, then the Abolition of oppressive Zamindary system of Land Management, Women's empowerment through education and employment, to name a few.
In the forefront of science, technology and medicine, we see one genius after another from various religious backgrounds: Homi Jahangir Bhava (Parsi), Bikram Sarabhai (Hindu), APJ Abdul Kalam (Muslim) to name a few.
For one last time, allow me to bring back Pakistan on the dissection table.
Pakistan was declared an "Islamic" country, and with over 95% of her population being Muslims, the very focus on religion turned people's minds working on intra-religious denominational differences, with the inescapable drive for supremacy. That probably happened faster than usual because the Founding Fathers of Pakistan already raised the minds of their peoples on a staple diet of communalism, albeit against the Hindus, for well over a decade since 1935 when the British Govt started the first step to let Indians participate in governance. Thus the outcome after Independence was horrendous for Pakistan.
First the Hall of Governance became the venue of the notorious "Palace Conspiracy" for power mongering, instead of becoming the factory to forge a Constitution (as in India), assassination of its first Prime Minister, followed by military martial law administration, continuation of the centuries old usurping Zamindari system, and a host of national problems that are bound to crop when democracy gives way to military autocracy.... Pakistanis fleeing the country for a better place to live often crack a joke that goes like this:
"The proof that Allah exists lies in the fact Pakistan is still hanging on as one country* in spite of its thousand problems!"
(*Well, I heard the joke in a Pakistani party in USA in late 1980s when East Pakistan was lost, whew!)
Back to Indian Muslims as "Minority": No Sir, Minority is NOT our Identity, Period!
Once more, the Power of Secularism in the air that we breathe in India produced a miracle, when the Founding Fathers of India sat together again, this time to devise an instrument that would change the Mind of India, from one of a Slave - slave to the British, to one of a Master - master of its own Destiny.
So they picked up three best enlightened and most educated mind for the Herculean Task. Please read about them at:
-- Sir Sayyid Fazal Ali (Urdu-speaking Muslim from Bihar),
-- Kallavam Panikkar (Christian school educated Hindu from Kerala), and
-- H.N. Kunzru (Brahmin Pandit from Kashmir).
With the power of a Commission vested in them in 1953, they worked arduously for three years and presented with a formula that would set Indian a path of progress that would bring from being the 2nd poorest country in 1947 to the 3rd strongest economy in 2013 - after the USA and Japan!
And that formula was based on the Power of Mother Language.
That the recognition of Linguistic Majority to reconstruct states of India would transform the Mind of the People from that of a Slave to one of a Master.
While Secularism kept the Right to Religion within personal space, to serve as the beacon of moral power within us in the wisdom of our respective religions, it kept religions from fighting with one another to mutual attrition! Thus Secularism in India kept on giving handsome dividends for collective development and prosperity from Day One. (One only hopes that the Departure of Nehruvian Wisdom and the advent of crass Militant Hindutva in India's Body-politic will not turn the wheel of progress in reverse!!)
In contrast to West Pakistan where religion as a driver for the country's Identity ruined the country to become a Failed State, the People of East Pakistan took their Mother Language as the Identity for progress. West Pakistan's Religion-based government did not hesitate to slaughter 3 million innocent citizens of East Pakistan, who professed the SAME Faith, to crush the latter's indomitable spirit to Master its Destiny on the alter of Mother Language based Identity. It was then that Secular India came to rescue East Pakistan on the latter's progression to its Bangla Mother Language based Nation State, Bangladesh, while the rest of the "civilized" world kept looking at the genocide!
Today, after rising from ashes since her birth in 1971, Bangladesh has developed fast enough to surpass many states of India, including Assam, in terms of Human Development Index (HDI).
It is surprising that after 15 August 1947, Muslims of India didn't project their Language Identity (Urdu, Bangla) to benefit from the spirit of the famous recommendation by the 1953 Commission headed by Sir Sayyid Fazal Ali, which was dressed as an Act of the Parliament of India for immediate application: The "Reorganization of States of India Act 1956" (RSA 1956).
The majority people in Lower and Central Assam has remained behind, at the same level when they started in 1947. Why did they miss the Bus - RSA 1956 that most Linguistic Majority area used?
Simply because these majority people were labelled as "MINORITY", on the basis of, yes, you have sensed it, Religion!
Hence the Clarion Call. Refuse to wear the cloak of Religious Minority and don a new one Linguistic Majority, or at least feel just that you CAN do better by calling you Equal in Shaping the Destiny of India.
Let them hear it in Assam.
Let them hear it in Bihar, UP...and wherever there is a backward region with a Linguistic Majority under a Wrong Label of Religious Minority.
M Rafiqul Awal, Ph.D. is an Ex Kerr-McGee Professor of Petroleum Engineering, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, USA.