Dear Indian citizen of minority persuasion


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30 Jun 2013

 
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Dear Indian citizen of minority persuasion

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.

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  • Bharati

    “electoral politics cannot bring about lasting reconciliation to the religion-based faultlines”
    Electoral politics only exacerbates those faultlines. And those faultlines are divine creations, according to the defining texts of the exclusivist monotheisms. Therefore, nowhere, but nowhere in the world, where these monotheisms have conquered have they allowed the meaningful and self-sustaining survival of earlier beliefsystems. It is the koranic duty of every momin to work towards converting India into a dar ul islam. Until momins openly disavow that divinely-ordained duty, we kafirs will never be secure in our own homeland.

  • plainspeak

    The BJP should be careful when it creates the vision document. Rather than focusing on special schemes for Muslims, it should focus on verticals where Muslims have a substantial stake. One vertical that I can think of is urban poverty. A vision for upward mobility for urban poor is one way of catching attention of Muslims who reside mainly in urban areas. Some other verticals which will interest Muslims are health,education and self employment for the poor.

    To allay fears of Muslims it is enough if you have some faces in the party and show that they are important stakeholders in the party.

  • Shahnawaz

    That’s an interesting read. However would Mr Shekhar also tell the muslims that the BJP holding hands with elements like VHP isn’t because of Friendship but just aiwey hi? Would he also let the muslims know that if BJP comes to power people like Togadia will be dealt equally like they demand for Owaisi. That there won’t be a demand for raising down Mosques to ground because RSS believes that there used to be a temple. That Mandir construction isn’t one of ur agenda. And one more thing “make BJP leaders like Modi Bharatiya Hriday Samrat instead of Hindu Hriday Samrat”

  • ak

    Nice work, but it would have been ethical to attribute the original source material behind your manifesto:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf

    • Bharati

      You mean the monotheistic defining manifestos from which Mein Kampf was sourced?

  • Sanjay

    Sonia Gandhi is to India what Imelda Marcos was to Philippines, Mugabe to Zimbabwe & Fujimoro was to Peru.

    Sonia Gandhi & Congress will make India the back office of corruption with thugs, politicians and corrupt corporations from around the world outsourcing their corrupt and illegal transactions through India. That is true Globalization as per Congress standards.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000367657203 Omprakash Singh

    A very measured preamble. I strongly adovocate this approach to the Indian Muslims. Dont go after their votes but go after their problems and mitigate these as any government should do for any Indian citizen. The government should not think in terms of religion but in terms of Indians only and take all the possible steps to solve the problems of Indians with any kind of disadvantage.

    At present the Hindus are at all kind of disadvantage and so they should support this approach wholeheartedly.

    Hope the good sense prevails.

  • R Prasad

    This is a MUST READ for Mr.Naqvi and Mr.Hussain. BJP should not treat Muslims like a vote bank like SECULAR parties do. Rather it should make genuine efforts to bring them on par with rest of India with emphasis on economic, social, nation building and participation indicators. Educated Muslims hold the key to persuade the elderly Muslims and clergy to make a wise decision and vote for India’s development. Because Muslims’ development is not possible without India’s development.




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