Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Hindu-Muslim question

I have made the following response to someone's comments (it is for you to guess who) on my open letter to the prime minister to redeem India's honour after the Commonwealth Games disgrace :

Yes, we are on one platform of looking for solutions to India’s biggest problem, of corruption in every sphere of the country’s public life. But if you want to discuss the Hindu-Muslim divide in India, I won’t shirk from this.

The first point I would like to make is that considering the Hindus weak and irresolute is not going to help the Hindu cause and is also against the facts. There must have been tremendous strength and resilience in the Hindu religion and society which ensured that despite hundreds of years of the Muslim rule and about two hundred of the British, the pre-partition India was still about two thirds Hindu.

Secondly, while we must learn lessons from history we should not try to avenge the wrongs suffered in the hoary past. Medieval practices and prejudices have no place in modern times and the community that gets stuck in the times past is left behind. I want the Hindus and Muslims both to understand that India is far greater than either of them, if India prospers so do they both and India can prosper only when there is peace, at least internally.

Thirdly, by 1945 when the Congress leaders were released after three years in the prison, the atmosphere of the country was so charged with the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan that it was only a matter of time before the country was divided. The situation was definitely made worse by the League’s “direct action” in August 1946 which saw thousands of Hindus massacred in Calcutta in just three days. The retaliation which soon took place in Bihar was almost as bad. The Congress leaders, including the indomitable Sardar Patel, did not want the cycle of violence and counter-violence to go on. When Jinnah asked them to choose between civil war and partition, they chose the lesser evil and perhaps rightly so. The Congress had a far bigger stake in India than the League and could never consent to the country going up in flame.

Fourthly, the decadal rate of increase in the Muslim population in India was more than the Hindus’, in the period 1991-2001 it was 30% to Hindus’ 20%. But it was not merely because of the Muslims’ higher birth rate, one also has to take into account the illegal immigration of a large number of Bangladeshi Muslims (which in itself is not a happy situation and the central and concerned state governments ought to make concerted efforts to put a stop to this).

Finally, I do not subscribe to the view that the Hindus in India are in any danger of being overwhelmed by the Muslims. However, there can never be any justification for appeasing any community in the hope of cornering its support at the hustings. And the way out is making voting compulsory in all our elections, even if the average voting percentage goes up to 80 from the present 50-55, the so-called vote banks would become irrelevant.

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