Perpetuating divides

Appeasement politics

The country is girding itself to face the possibility of extreme reactions in the wake of the Allahabad high court’s ruling on Sept 24 on the title suits pertaining to the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy. Appeals for calm are in order, but must be backed by careful bandobust. Dubious elements and agents provocateur are ready to create mischief to earn 10-paise worth of martyrs’ glory. After Dec 6, 1992, nothing should be left to chance.

The court verdict will not necessarily settle the issue. Either side could go to the supreme court. Even otherwise, matters of faith are not legally determined. But this does not entitle people to take the law into their hands. Unfortunately, all such issues are political fodder for those who brazenly rouse passions to garner votes.

The Babri issue is a squeezed political lemon from which the sangh parivar has extracted every drop of juice. It has become an embarrassment for some of the faithful but they can neither hold not drop this hot potato at this juncture. Meanwhile, there has been no follow up on the much delayed Liberhan Report which itself took 17 years to state the obvious.

In Kashmir, Eid was marred by violence sparked by false reports of alleged desecration of the Koran in the United States where a nondescript, fundamentalist evangelical Christian pastor was persuaded to abandon the crazy idea of burning the Holy Book on Sept 11 to avenge 9/11. The ensuing rioting and arson in Srinagar and elsewhere was used to stoke the separatist cause. Having stirred the pot, the Mir Waiz  piously looked on.

The Union government has caved in to pressure and has agreed to a separate caste census months after the main count, ostensibly more accurately to deliver affirmative action programmes to target communities. This at a financial cost of over Rs 2,200 crore and an incalculable social cost from a body blow to fraternity and inclusiveness. Every political party has elaborate, up-to-date figures of the caste composition of all constituencies throughout the country. It is on this basis that candidates are nominated — to win or woo away caste votes. The NSS could probably do a far better job of targeting SC, ST, OBC and other marginalised groups at less cost and without the political overtones of blatantly cultivating caste consciousness.

If the purpose of targeting underprivileged castes/classes accurately is to overcome income, educational and health deprivation, then why exclude other categories of deprived such as the poor in general. Are historically deprived categories today a superior class vis-a-vis other destitutes who may belong to higher castes or other faiths?

New classes among the poor

This is warped logic and will only create new classes among the poor and deprived. It is for this reason that the Sachar commission pleaded for an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to address the problems of all categories and classes of disadvantaged Indians. This cause has been advocated by the Minorities Commission, which has, however, been told to limit its concerns to minorities alone.

Surely this should be the task of an enlightened and empowered EOC that could deal with the deprivation of all disadvantaged groups while leaving the minorities, SC, ST and women’s commissions to take care of other concerns relating to these categories. An alternative might be to make these other bodies limbs of the proposed EOC.

Flogging caste as a means of economic and social advancement is to put a premium on this evil rather than seek to remove it. Witness the Gujjar and, now, the Jat agitation in Rajasthan and Haryana and similar exclusivist throwback movements elsewhere. The historical process of Sanskritisation and de-tribalisation is being reversed in order to massage political ambitions and egos. This not moving towards but away from an inclusive India.

Take the extraordinarily perverse and anti-secular attitude of all parties across the board in preventing the enactment of a uniform civil code, which is now a dire necessity in a fast modernising and integrating Indian society that has no desire to be bound in chains to the dictates of an obscurantist clergy and ‘social leaders’ of all hues.

The khap panchayats, with their barbaric and bloody ‘honour’ killings, exemplify this tribe. It is amazing that the Haryana chief minister should defend the khap panchayats as innocent ‘social organisations’ which should not be held accountable for ‘honour’ killings.

Now Jats are on the rampage in Hissar and elsewhere, committing arson and damaging public property to demand reservation. Rather than tame them, the state registered cases against police officials who tried to stem the rot, an action against which has evoked strictures from the Punjab and Haryana high court.

Finally, the parivar has taken umbrage at the use of the term ‘saffron terror’ after Narendra Modi, Varun Gandhi and other Hindutvadis for years named Muslims terrorists with unbridled venom. Terror has no religious colour, whether saffron or green, nor any denominational label. And why should the government be once again offering Haj subsidies, a wholly un-Islamic practice that cost the exchequer Rs 680 crore last year and could cost more this year? Balancing this with subsidies for Hindus undertaking the pilgrimage to Kailas-Mansarowar only compounds communal folly.

When will they ever learn?

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