The BJP, we are told, is working on a ‘vision document’ on ‘minority empowerment’. The exercise, according to media reports, is being led by the party’s vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi with the support of another Muslim stalwart of the Party, Shahnawaz Hussain. Predictably, an exercise of this nature will predominantly focus on the Muslim community given its complicated history with the broader political movement that the BJP represents. Media reports cite Naqvi saying:
“We do not wish to lose the support of the minorities because of the false propaganda about BJP by our political opponents. We want to go beyond talking about stereotypes like Wakf, Urdu and Haj for the minorities. These are important but there is more to be done.”
If indeed the BJP is prepared to go beyond such a stereotypical approach, it would indeed be a refreshing start. The prospects of that however don’t appear to be very inspiring going once again by media reports on a similar exercise attempted by the BJP on a smaller scale with a focus on the Delhi Assembly Election.
Nevertheless I thought it might be useful for the BJP if perhaps I were to write down a possible Preamble to this ‘vision document’.
So here goes …..
A Preamble to the vision document on minority empowerment
Dear Indian citizen of a minority religious persuasion
Please do not vote for the BJP.
To be clear and unambiguous, we would like to emphasise that you not voting for the BJP is perfectly alright with us. We welcome and respect that decision of yours.
Even as you don’t vote for the BJP, it is our earnest appeal to you that please don’t vote against us out of fear.
For far too long you have been conditioned, compelled and manipulated into voting in a certain way out of fear. For far too long you have allowed collective paranoia to force you to vote with an ‘under siege’ mindset. For far too long you have allowed cynical opportunists to benefit from your vote by default.
It is okay if you don’t vote for us but please don’t vote against your interests out of fear.
Every time you let your individual vote become hostage to community-wide fear mongering you end up making a choice that is not about ‘you’ as an individual or ‘you’ as a family. You are forced to make choices that are about the ‘least common denominator’ which come at the expense of you, your interests and your family’s interests.
How much longer will you allow fear mongering and victimhood to dictate your electoral choices?
If you have to not vote for us, let it at least be a vote for your interests rather than a vote against the BJP. Let it at least be a vote where you put your socio-economic interests above everything else. Let it at least be a vote where identity-based paranoia and victimhood has no role to play.
While you may not be planning on voting for us we nevertheless went ahead and put this vision document thinking it may be of interest to you. We fully understand you may have plans to vote for some other party. Hence this document is not a manifesto, it is not a bundle of promises that we will deliver if you vote for us. This is a charter of commitment that we will abide by even if you don’t vote for us.
For we believe that even if you don’t vote for us it is important that you trust us enough to govern.
Hence this document is not a manifesto focused narrowly on ‘minority empowerment’. It is instead a charter of commitment focused broadly on governance for all Indians. Irrespective of whether you vote for us or against us, these are commitments we will abide by with a firm belief in ‘justice for all, discrimination against none’.
End of preamble
A personal note on Hindu-Muslim polemics
As yet another controversy erupts over Muslim Personal Laws and the role of the Indian state, this time from Kerala, I have come to the firm conclusion that electoral politics cannot bring about lasting reconciliation to the religion-based faultlines we suffer in India today.
This conclusion comes after spending significant time trying to understand how these fault lines developed over the centuries. During this effort, my reading list included digital versions of english translations of Al-Beruni, Abu-Fazl, Mirza Haider’s Tarikh-i-Rashidi, Al-Badauni’s Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh, Baburnama, the Turk-e-Jahangiri and that exhaustive compilation of conquest chronicles from Tarikh-i-Yamini to the Zafarnama. Also on that reading list was a compilation of the Earliest British Records from India by James Talboys Wheeler which gives a very accurate picture of the deep gulf between the two communities four centuries back. This column by me in The Pioneer tracing the Islamisation of Kashmir between Al-Beruni’s India and Mirza Haider’s Tarikh-i-Rashidi gives a good sense of the process by which this gulf came to be.
I have also reconciled myself to the reality that this gulf will not be bridged in my lifetime. Bridging it will take epochal efforts like this 100 year project that transcends generations. Until such a time, the best thing politicians and political parties can do is to focus firmly on the kind of governance that works for all Indians all the time while inspiring ‘Trust’.
Please leave Hindu-Muslim polemics to civil society to sort out based on local conditions and adjustments away from the world of electoral politics.