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Secular Double-Standard

Updated: November 16, 2013 12:05 pm

I pity Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. He has been given a notice by the Election Commission (EC) for his recent speeches in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh that the Pakistani ISI was in touch with Muzaffarnagar riot victims and that the BJP was indulging in (communal) politics of hatred. I fail to understand why the EC is not applying the same yardstick against the leaders of 14 regional and Left parties who met in Delhi (also going to polls along with Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) on October 30. In this meet they took on Gujarat Chief Minister (also the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate) Narendra Modi for his “Fascist” and “communal” politics. If Rahul Gandhi vitiated the atmosphere of communal harmony, did not these “secular” leaders do likewise?

In fact, if you ask these leaders to define secularism, I bet that they will never say that secularism means “equal respect for all religions” and that in a secular country there cannot be different laws for different communities. Their secularism means that minorities, particularly Muslims, must be given preferential treatments; they are not bothered that by doing so they are literally polarising the polity and society. For them what matter most are the minority votes, with which they want to win elections under the prevailing first-past-the-post system (by getting even 5 per cent popular votes one candidate can win as long as he or she gets one more vote than his or her nearest rival).

Let us be very clear that in India when politicians talk of anti-communalism, they precisely indulge in communalism; because they talk of the concerns of one community and not all. In other words, communal politics in India is vote-bank politics. And what is worse is that their concerns for minorities, Muslims in particular, are only skin-deep. After getting the votes of the Muslims, these secular politicians just forget about the improvement of the material conditions of the Muslims. No wonder why the conditions of Muslims are most pathetic in the states that are particularly run by the “secular politicians”.

If one goes by the October 30 conclave, the newest champion of secularism in Indian politics is Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar. Until recently, an ally of the BJP [in fact, his JD (U) was the oldest ally of the BJP and the saffron party had gifted him the post of Chief Minister when his party had much lesser number than the BJP in Bihar state Assembly] Nitish Kumar now is its most virulent critic. He has a terrible fixation with Narendra Modi. So blind is he for Muslim votes that he has never condemned or criticised the Indian Mujahideen (IM). He has been trying to put the blame of Bodh-Gaya blasts on BJP and not on the Muslim terror outfits active in Bihar. He was not willing to arrest the IM terrorist Yaseen Bhatkal in Bihar. He has called Ishrat Jahan, a dreaded terrorist, and accepted as such by her Pakistani mentors, daughter of Bihar but ignored the martyrs from Bihar. He did not want Maharashtra Police to arrest the Bangladeshi Muslim who vandalized the Amar Jawan Jyoti in Mumbai last year. And now he is again trying to run away from the responsibly of Patna blasts (to disrupt the Modi rally, the theme of our cover story in this issue) and is putting the blame on the BJP for it. “If this is Nitish Kumar’s secular politics, then in reality he is nothing but a communal reptile”, a senior IB officer was quoted to have said the other day, points out a Facebook friend of mine.

But then such is Nitish Kumar’s clout that he is now being quoted in positive light by the New York Times, arguably one of the most high-profile newspapers of the world. The paper’s “editorial board” wrote last fortnight that “Mr. Modi has shown no ability to work with opposition parties or tolerate dissent. And he has already alienated political partners; this summer, an important regional party (Nitish Kumar’s party) broke off its 17-year alliance with the B.J.P. because it found Mr. Modi unacceptable”. And why is Modi not acceptable? The paper wrote: “His economic record in Gujarat is not entirely admirable, either. Muslims in Gujarat, for instance, were much more likely to be poor than Muslims in India as a whole in 2009 and 2010, according to a government report, though new data has shown a big improvement in the last two years. India is a country with multiple religions, more than a dozen major languages and numerous ethnic groups and tribes. Mr. Modi cannot hope to lead it effectively if he inspires fear and antipathy among many of its people.”

Predictably, the New York Times editorial was extensively quoted in the “secular enclave” led by Nitish Kumar, though on other occasions most of its participants, particularly the Communists, will leave no stone unturned to blast America and all its values, including the media. Of course, the “venerable” New York Times has, of late, turned a partisan forum, evident from the fact that the paper is always justifying the systematic attempts by the US Administration to promote the growth of Islamic fundamentalism all over the world these days. A recent report by the Canada-based Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) says that the chief financiers of extremist militant groups all over the world for the past three decades, including Al Qaeda, are in fact Saudi Arabia and Qatar, close allies of the United States. Recently, the UAE and Kuwait have also turned donors. All round the world, they provide money for a nearly inexhaustible supply of militants, who, in turn, are trained by the Western intelligence agencies across Europe and in America to fuel domestic fear-mongering and the resulting security state that allows “Western governments to more closely control their populations as they pursue reckless, unpopular policies at home and abroad. Since Saudi-Qatari geopolitical interests are entwined with Anglo-American interests, both the ‘investment’ and ‘return on this investment’ are clearly part of a joint venture”.

The report further says: “In terms of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, as well as the infamous Lashkar-e-Taiba that carried out the 2008 Mumbai, India, attack, killing over 160, both are affiliates of Al Qaeda, and both have been linked financially, directly to Saudi Arabia. Astonishingly, despite these admission, the US works politically, financially, economically, and even militarily in tandem with these very same state-sponsors of rampant, global terrorism. In Libya and Syria, the US has even assisted in the funding and arming of Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups, and had conspired with Saudi Arabia since at least 2007 to overthrow both Syria and Iran with these terrorist groups. But publications like the New York Times are blind to all this.

The editorial board of the New York Times should be abreast of some hard facts about Gujarat today. If one goes by the “zakat” (that is paid by A Muslim as part of his wealth for the needy and poor Muslims) factor, 50 per cent of the total in India comes from Gujarat. If Modi had destroyed Muslims, their share of zakat should have fallen. But in the last 10 years, the wealth of Muslims in Gujarat has grown manifold. It is well known that in Gujarat most Muslim businessmen are concentrated in small, medium and micro enterprises (SMEs). While their share in the overall population is 9 per cent, their share in SMEs is proportionately far larger at about 22 per cent. And that is because, today Muslims in Gujarat don’t face any hassles or discrimination in getting government clearances when they want to set up enterprises in Gujarat. Otherwise, Muslims could not have prospered as they have.

It is also a fact that more and more Muslims have been voting for Modi in recent elections. In the 2012 Gujarat Assembly elections, 31 per cent of Gujarati Muslims voted for Modi-led BJP despite media and NGOs launching a high voltage campaign against Modi for being a “divisive” force in Indian politics. In the last Municipal elections in February, Muslims contributed towards Modi’s victory in 47 out 76 places, including the Muslim-majority Salaya in Jamnagar, where the BJP won all the 24 seats it contested, fielding Muslim candidates.

The fact remains that Gujarat has always been prone to communal riots, overwhelming majority of which took place under Congress regimes in the state. In that sense, it is in fact a record that after 2002, the state has not witnessed any riot; and the credit for that should go to Modi. He has been systematically wooing Muslims. Modi has employed more Muslims in Police forces (about 11 per cent of the total police strength when the Muslim population as a whole is 9 per cent of the state’s population) than Nitish (not to speak of other “secular” leaders) and there are lesser Muslims undertrials in Gujarat jails than in the jails of Bihar (not to speak of, again, other states under “secular” leaders).

But then such is the clouts of the “secularists” in India today that they manage to get good media coverage in not only India but also abroad. Modi has a Herculean challenge to change this.

By Prakash Nanda

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