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Saturday, February 7, 2009

How secular is India?

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I read an interesting article in Outlook magazine,questioning the very fact whether India is a secular country of not. IndianMuslims blog also had a post on the same topic.These article raise many questions. Not all of them are correct. But still, they are worth reading. It is advisable that the readers first go through the original article, before reading this post. I would like to raise some counter points:

  1. These articles compare India with the West. What about comparing India with other Islamic states none of whom have any credible record of protecting their minorities.
  2. India does have well functioning media and Judiciary, which are largely impartial. These provide ample opportunities to Muslims to raise their grievances. The same cannot be said about the police force though.
  3. Conversion to Christianity by Tribals in India: During the British rule, there was an aggressive proselytizing by Christian missionaries. This is a natural cause of resentment who feel that their cultures were being attacked. This was one of the several causes of the revolt of 1857. In many cases, it has been alleged that the tribal have been offered emoluments for their conversion. The efforts of Christian Missionaries to build hospitals and schools is laudable, but they could do this without indulging in conversion drives. Just to fair, let me also add that another major reason for conversion is avoid discrimination in the rigid Hindu caste system. BR Ambedkar is a classic example who himself converted to Buddhisim after he was frustrated with the caste system. A large number of Dalits have similarly converted to Christianity. Never the less, this should not always be seen as non- secular behavior.
  4. Muslims atleast partly are to be blamed for their present conditions. A large section of Muslims still send their kids to Madarassas for eduction, thus denying them of modern education. This is one of the major reasons why they are so under-represented in Govt. service and police force. For ex: In Jammu & Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits occupy most of the positions in the State Govt. service despite being a muslim-dominated state. Hindus are the more properous community of the state. It is extremely important for the Muslim to do an introspection and find out the reasons as to why the community is lagging. Other minorities like the Christians have been doing much better than the Hindu-majority.
  5. Several individuals like Azim Premji, APJ Abdul Kalam, Irfan Pathan, the Khans of Bollywood have won several accolades in their fields.
  6. Arjun Singh, the man who brought reservations in higher education has recently brought Madrassa education at par with CBSE thus enabling Muslims of Govt service. The rationality of this step is still a question because Madarassa education is based on Islamic teachings and is devoid of modern rational sciences. The curriculum of madarassas need to be revised to make a real impact.
  7. The Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrasa Education (UPBME) has recently banned co-education. This is a step in the backward direction. Though only about 2000 of the total of 16000 madarassas in Up are attached to UPBME, it does not sends the right signals. It is up to the liberal muslims to raise this issue and to make sure that the 150 million strong Muslim community catches up with the rest of the population.
  8. Secularism in its presence sense is a much more recent phenomenon and should be looked in relative terms. For example: US President Obama who has Hussain as his middle name and whose father practices Islam, himself is a Christian. Similarly, Bobby Jindal (Indian American origin) converted to Christianity. He was elected as the Governor of Louisiana, the first Indian American to do so.
Nevertheless, its disappointing to hear such voices from the Indian Muslims. If even after 60 years, we haven't been able to fully meet the aspirations of all our people, surely we have gone wrong somewhere. Something ought to be done to check this disillusionment among the Indian Muslims. Incidents like Babri-Masjid and Godhra riots continue to remain a blot on our democracy. But hardly anything substantial has been done to make sure that such incidents are not repeated.

Muslims have been a part of the Indian society for centuries and their contribution to the society will always remain invaluable. Can you imagine an India without the Taj Mahal?
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