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Legality of raising creamy layer bar questioned in SC October 5, 2009

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Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN 15 October 2008, 04:02am IST

NEW DELHI: Educationist P V Indiresan on Tuesday threw an open challenge in the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the UPA government’s 
recent decision to raise the creamy layer income limit from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 4.5 lakh for OBCs.

But, the government told the apex court that it had done a reasonable job by fixing the creamy layer exclusion income limit at Rs 4.5 lakh at a time when many elected representatives had demanded raising it to Rs 25 lakh.

Appearing for Indiresan, who had challenged the 27% OBC quota in Central educational institutions, senior
advocate K K Venugopal told a 5-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan that it was an election-eve vote bank politics to appease the rich among the OBCs, who could now gobble up the seats meant for the poorest among the backward.

“You file a separate petition if you want to challenge the Centre’s decision,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat, C K Thakker, R V Raveendran and Dalveer Bhandari.

While agreeing to file a separate petition, Venugopal pointed out that on February 23, 2007, the apex court had quashed a Kerala government decision to raise the creamy layer income limit to Rs 3 lakh terming it too high. The court had felt that those having Rs 3 lakh income could not be termed poor or backward, he said.

“Has the inflation rate touched more than 80% for the Central government now to decide the income limit at Rs 4.5 lakh when just a year back the apex court had turned down Rs 3 lakh limit as unreasonable?” Venugopal asked.

This is intended to widen the OBC net and allow the rich and influential among the backward classes to grab the seats meant for the poorest among them, he said. Disgreeing with him, Solicitor General G E Vahanvati said the government had fixed the income limit for exclusion of creamy layer at Rs 4.5 lakh after a lot of deliberations.

Venugopal said during the arguments on the legality of 27% OBC quota, additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam had submitted figures indicating that 97.5% of the OBC population had a daily income of less than Rs 80.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/india/Legality-of-raising-creamy-layer-bar-questioned-in-SC/articleshow/3596819.cms

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No appeal filed so set Q free, says AG, doesn’t mention he scuttled appeal June 7, 2009

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Posted: Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 1105 hrs IST

RITU SARIN & AMITAV RANJAN

NEW DELHI:

To justify withdrawing the Red Corner Notice against Bofors-accused Ottavio Quattrocchi, as first reported in The Indian Express today, both the Law Ministry and the Central Bureau of Investigation said they went by “advice from the highest legal quarters.”

That’s a reference to Attorney General Milon Banerji who, on October 24 last year, sent a four-page opinion pointing out that the CBI did not challenge the February 2004 order of the High Court quashing all charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the Bofors case. And argued: “Since no Special Leave Petition was filed on this ground…the Red Corner Notice is invalid.”

What Banerji did not mention and what’s buried in confidential files accessed by The Indian Express is a telling fact: it was Attorney General Milon Banerji himself who, barely two months after the Congress-led Manmohan Singh Government came to power, overruled CBI investigators and directed the agency not to file the SLP against the High Court order.

This is what Banerji signed on file on July 5, 2004: “I have perused the papers, in particular, the careful summary prepared by Shri R L Meena, Law Secretary. I agree with the view of the Law Secretary that this is not a fit case for filing a Special Leave Petition.”

The Government also cited the views of O P Verma, Deputy Legal Advisor, who also argued against filing of the SLP. File notings show that CBI’s Joint Director and Additional Director both made identical comments: “We perhaps have no option other than to allow the matter to rest.”

Once the Law Ministry (read the Government) had ruled, the then CBI Director U S Misra fell in line. “In view of the opinion of the Law Department,” he said, “there is no merit in the case to file SLP in the Supreme Court against the order of High Court.”

The way in which the 2004 High Court order remained unchallenged is, perhaps, the most brazen instance of the CBI immediately changing its line of investigation in the Bofors case with regime change at the Centre.

Records obtained by The Indian Express show that before the UPA came to power, the CBI’s key investigators in the case (between February-April 2004) had recommended filing the SLP. These included N Natrajan, Chief Public Prosecutor in the case who prepared a 12-page opinion for an appeal; and Deputy Legal Advisor U R Prasad.

On April 24, 2004, barely three weeks before the UPA came to power, CBI’s Director of Prosecution S K Sharma stated: “Both these counsel have recommended to go in for SLP against the order of the Delhi High Court. We may act accordingly and send a proposal to the Cabinet Secretariat for instructin g the Central Agency Section to file the SLP in Supreme Court.”

This is the same Sharma who has now argued for withdrawing the Red Corner Notice under the UPA Government.

The 28-page draft SLP, in fact, is with The Indian Express. Questioned on this sudden turnaround after their Government came to power, Law Minister H R Bhardwaj today said if a draft SLP existed, it was not forwarded to the Law Ministry.

“It must have been circulated among junior CBI officers,” he said. Asked what he made of the AG’s opinion then and his opinion now, he said: “There is no conflict of interest.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/no-appeal-filed-so-set-q-free-says-ag-doesnt-mention-he-scuttled-appeal/452446/1

‘Baptized’ south Gujarat tribals re-embrace Hinduism January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Religious Conversions.
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(Kamaal Saiyed; Posted: Dec 19, 2007 )

 

Surat, December 18 Around 2,000 tribal men and women from different villages in South Gujarat, who had converted to Christianity, re-embraced Hinduism on Monday evening at a religious ceremony ( sammelan) at the Shivaji ground in Tapi district.

They took an oath by the fire in the presence of Jagat Guru Acharya Narendra Maharaj and submitted affidavits that they won’t convert to Christianity ever again in the future.

 

The people had started gathering at the venue since Sunday night listening to the Jagat Guru’s teaching before re-converting to Hinduism at the ceremony a day later.

 

Narayan Solanki, a disciple of Narendra Maharaj in Tapi district said, “There are many disciples of the Maharaj working in different villages of Vyara, Dharampur, Songadh, Mandvi, Ahwa-Dang, Vasda and so on. They visit these places and interact with the tribals who have been baptised earlier by various missionaries and convince them to return back to Hinduism.”

 

According to Solanki, the Maharaj also runs an ashram at Naneej village in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. It was after a visit to one such ashram that they became motivated to become his disciples. “We visit different villages and persuade those, who have been baptised, to come back into the Hindu fold,” said Solanki.

 

Giving details about the sammelan (ceremony), another disciple, Mahipal Thakur, said, “We have been working for the sammelan for the past few months and contacted tribals in various villages, who had become fed up with Christianity. These tribals gathered on Sunday night at Tapi district. They were provided with food and accommodation, and later they met the Maharaj during the night. On Monday, they assembled at the Shivaji ground where the Maharaj gave a religious sermon. Many of the tribal men also cut off their hair and took oaths, while all of them gave thumb impressions on the affidavits saying they have willingly returned to the folds of the Hindu religion.”

 

Deputy Collector of Tapi district N S Halbe said, “The organisers had taken prior permission to hold the sammelan. The district officials visited the venue and have submitted their report about it to me.”

 

Ref: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Baptized-south-Gujarat-tribals-reembrace-Hinduism/251936/

Reserving the deserving January 25, 2009

Posted by reader111 in Caste Reservations.
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(Saurav Basu; April 13, 2008)

 

If we go for reservations on communal and caste basis, we swamp the bright and able people and remain second-rate or third-rate…..This way lies not only folly but disaster….How are we going to build the public sector or indeed any sector with second rate people?

  Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Letter to Chief Ministers, 27 June 1961

 

The landmark SC decision on the 10th of April, 2008 is being unanimously viewed as a big boost for reservations, since it has upheld the constitutional validity of the UPA’s government’s decision in 2006 to reserve 27.5% of seats for OBCs (other backward castes) in all centrally funded institutions. However, the judgment has also thrown a spanner in the works of the government by making the exclusion of the ‘creamy layer’ from the OBC reservation pie mandatory. This has already set coalition partners fuming. Chagan Bhujwal of the RPI, D Raja of the CPI, Paswan of the LJP and others have expressed dissent at the SC’s decision and have been more than outspoken in their intention to subvert the SC’s intentions through legislation. Apart from this major rider, the SC has also left the case of reservation in private institutions open for future judgment while suggesting the government to review the OBC reservations every 5-10 years. Some experts  also contend  that the judgment rules out reservations at the post-graduate level. 

 

Pro reservation groups [and that includes all political parties of India] have unanimously attempted to appropriate the judgment as being cent percent in their favor. For instance, Indira Jaising, a lawyer representing the pro reservationists declares “the judgment gives a clear signal that the future lies in inclusive growth, inclusion of SC/ST and backward classes in the halls of higher learning.” She cautiously adds; “It is true that the judgment calls upon the government to exclude the ‘creamy layer.’ This seems to be in line with the Mandal judgment, which also mandated the exclusion of the creamy layer in employment. It was argued for the Union of India, that in order to avail of the benefits of higher education, one needs to be in a stable economic position to arrive at the level or competing for those exams. To exclude them, would be to deny the class as a whole, the benefit of those who could become leaders and peer group motivators .However, that was not to be!”

 

If she had been aware of past SC judgments, then she would have appreciated the fact that exclusion of the creamy layer was unequivocally directed by the SC in the Indira Sawhney Vs Union of India, 2000 case where it observed “The non exclusion of the creamy layer or the inclusion of forward castes in the list of backward castes will be totally illegal. Such an illegality offending the root of the Constitution cannot be allowed to be perpetuated even by constitutional amendment.”

 

At this point; we may revisit three of the core anti-reservation arguments. The crux amongst them was constituted by the appalling state of primary and secondary education where functional literacy rates could be as low as 37%. In India Development Report 2002, Kirit S. Parikh had pointed out, “With a literacy rate of 65, we have 296 million illiterates, age seven years and above, as per the 2001 census. The number of illiterates today exceeds the population of the country of around 270 million at Independence, age seven and above.”

 

The largest segment of the world’s illiterates is in India. The problem was even more acute with SC/ST and some other backward castes. More than half of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households in the country in 1981 were totally illiterate; i.e., no member of the household could read and write.

 

In rural India, where 80% of SC/ST and backward castes reside the literacy rate [2001] is a mere 59.4 in contrast to 80% in urban India where the majority of the population comprises of the so called upper castes. 

 

When the court questioned the government’s commitment to the cause of basic education, the government counsel was all at sea – fingers pointing at the much publicized Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which had according to CAG’s report, placed in Parliament conceded that the much-vaunted program on free and universal education has been a colossal failure, a disaster that stems from an almost calculated negligence despite a budget of over Rs. 10,000 crores. The record has been uniformly disgraceful and the Centre owes an explanation for its dismal performance in implementing one of the basics of governance.

 

Another alarming observation is the steep dropout rate; such that only 10% of the students in Rural India enrolled for primary education eventually go on to complete their basic education. [NSSO Report No. 473 – Literacy and Levels of Education in India, 1999-2000]

 

The fundamental failure has to be maximally attributed to the Congress Party since it has dominated the corridors of power for over 5 decades now. Is it not a simple piece of logic that children deprived of basic education can never avail the fruits of higher education? Hence, there is absolutely no question of restricting students of the backward caste to the level of basic education. On the contrary, basic education was the most important means to bridge the socio-eco disparities which unfortunately will remain the norm for millions of Indians especially in the rural areas. Their voices will not be heard! And yet pro quota lobbyists allege this move to be means of perpetuating upper caste hegemony over disadvantaged sections of society when the ‘Youth For Equality’ was calling for a crusade against illiteracy and ignorance. 

 

On the contrary, these sanctimonious pro-quota groups share such a deep degree of bonding with their backward brothers that the former are not ready to relinquish their reservation benefits in favor of the latter despite being the sole beneficiaries of the reservation policy for over 60 years. 

 

Justice A.P. Sen had explicitly observed in the famous K.C. Vasanth Kumar Vs State of Karnataka (AIR, 1985)  case that “only the privileged groups within the backward classes reap all the benefits of reservation with the result that the lowest of the low who are stricken with poverty and are therefore socially and educationally backward remain deprived through these constitutional provisions…”

 

This elite class or creamy layer amongst the backwards, who usurp all the reservation benefits wants to maintain the current disparity of standards to emerge as the sole leaders cum supposedly emancipated representatives of their communities, by indoctrinating their ignorant brethren against their common enemy in demonical upper caste constructs. The politicians are the chief architects in this diabolical plan who have deployed a standard technique “look for a grievance…show by some measure that the target group has been left behind…Stroke the sense of being discriminated against…Frighten the group into believing that others are out to take away even more of what is its right and present yourself as the only savior” [Falling over backwards, Page xiii, Arun Shourie]

 

That such unholy nexuses exist and that a real and identifiable creamy layer amongst the OBCs who outstrip even the affluent amongst the general classes is no figment of our imagination is proven by the fact that the annual per capita consumption expenditure (APCCE) for OBCs is Rs 15,436, which compares reasonably well with Rs 16,923 for the general category.

 

The second argument was of course merit. The striking students were often flayed as merit mongers by the pro quota hate mongers. Merit was waved aside as a purely Aryan invention. Praful Bidwai, the communist leader, claimed merit to be some bogus intangible identity. The preposterous nature of these arguments is self evident, and cannot remotely discount the fact that in any modern competitive society, Merit is the primary means to determine minimum competency levels while excluding incompetence. That merit is genuine is observed by the fact that no coaching institute in the country can claim success rates greater than 5% in any professional examination. Merely enrolling in coaching institutes does not guarantee success, a natural aptitude for the subject might.

 

The idée fixe of these Dalit historians that how can upper caste minorities represent the professional academic majority considering intelligence to be socially determined is answered precisely by the fact, that the number of eligible candidates (i.e. qualified for appearing in professional entrance examinations) produced by the overwhelming majority of the backward castes (including SC/STs) who constitute the bulk of the population is  miniscule compared to the dominant numbers produced by minority upper castes due to lack of basic education in  the former. Naturally, the staggering number of eligible candidates of the general category enhances the probability of producing more intelligent and competent students in their ranks. By depriving millions of basic education, we deprive them of equality of opportunities. What we instead gain through reservation is equality of outcomes for the creamy layer.

 

The absence of merit destroys excellence and ushers a wave of mediocrity rendering people incapable of competence forever which has been the bane of free India. This can be substantiated by the fact that despite a grueling 5.5 years of the MBBS course, SC/STs students lag way behind general students as reflected in the results of the All India Post Graduate Medical Entrance exam 2008 where a SC candidate with Rank 100 had an overall rank of 4500, whereas a ST student with rank 100 had an overall rank of 12,000! In contrast, a General category student with Rank 100, had an overall rank of 101. That means that amongst the top ranking 100 students, only 1 was from the SC/ST category!  Suffice to say, the reserved category students are afraid of open competition from general category students and for good reason.

 

But even this performance is far more creditable than the dismal figures we have for cut-offs in IIT JEE undergraduate entrance exams which were as low as 1, 4 and 3 for Math, Physics and Chemistry respectively. The inherent ineptitude of these students for a course as tough and challenging as engineering at IIT-JEE makes them susceptible to grave depression and even suicide.

 

This is the reason that anti-reservationists decry any more reservations, them being no solution since even after 60 years the SC/ST list has not witnessed a single deletion of any caste proving that not one of them has sufficiently progressed to be set aside from the gambit of reservation, but is instead burgeoning, testifying to the growing backwardness of India. For India is the only nation of the world where people take great pride in calling themselves backward. When demands for claiming backwardness are not met, they culminate in social tensions, in large scale violence and destruction as in case of Gurjars Vs the Rajasthan Government.

 

And what about South India, dubbed as India’s better half and repeatedly showcased as the proof for successful implementation of reservations. The NSSO survey reveals the astounding truth that in the land of reservations, in rural TN only 4/1000 ST, 3/1000 SC and 13/1000 OBC female graduates exist.  In total, only sixteen out of every thousand people are graduates, i.e. 1.6% graduates in rural TN. Enough to exemplify the failures of reservation.

 

This is where we get back to the judgment which despite upholding the validity of reservations has tremendous possibilities for it challenges the notion of caste as the sole criterion for determine legitimacy for reservation and in essence considers reserving only the deserving who have been robbed of their privileges by a dominant minority or the creamy layer constituted by crooked politicians and their cronies in the pseudo-intellectual crowd. It is indeed unfortunate that this move for segregating the creamy layer has not been extended to SC/ST reservations.

 

Such progressive intellectuals and leaders who have their own doctrinal axes to grind will fail to realize why the Youth for Equality movement was dissatisfied by the offer for compensation of seats for that was not its goal. It was not for personal promotion but eclipsing an inglorious tradition. Their was a sincere attempt on their part to highlight the moral bankruptcy of all political parties of India who while denying bread and education to its masses, championed retrograde quota policies in order to foster their own vested interest of securing the prosperity of this creamy layer and lead further to a caste based balkanization of India by accentuating hatred and hostility amongst the feuding masses.

 

Pseudo arguments about caste oppression in India in their talk abound despite the fact that all Hindus irrespective of caste could occupy no senior position in the administration of foreign Muslim and British governments and thereby suffered varying degrees of persecution for the last 1000 years.

 

A century ago, there was a young man with a dynamic vision who believed that education was the manifestation of the perfection already in man. He wanted that education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet. Can these wonderful precepts of Swami Vivekananda be actualized amidst these backward looking reservation policies? This is the question that every concerned citizen of India must ask himself.

 

Ref: http://www.boloji.com/analysis2/0333.htm

India’s Dangerous Divide January 24, 2009

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India‘s Muslims are prominent in Bollywood but still struggle with their identity. In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, tensions have mounted and loyalties have been tested. Ramachandra Guha on the path forward for India and its Muslim minority.

An Indian Muslim woman at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi on Dec. 3, in memory of the victims of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

In October 1947, a bare six weeks after India and Pakistan achieved their independence from British rule, the Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, wrote a remarkable letter to the Chief Ministers of the different provinces. Here Nehru pointed out that despite the creation of Pakistan as a Muslim homeland, there remained, within India, “a Muslim minority who are so large in numbers that they cannot, even if they want, go anywhere else. That is a basic fact about which there can be no argument. Whatever the provocation from Pakistan and whatever the indignities and horrors inflicted on non-Muslims there, we have got to deal with this minority in a civilized manner. We must give them security and the rights of citizens in a democratic State.”

In the wake of the recent incidents in Mumbai, these words make salutary reading. It seems quite certain that the terrorists who attacked the financial capital were trained in Pakistan. The outrages have sparked a wave of indignation among the middle class. Demonstrations have been held in the major cities, calling for revenge, in particular for strikes against training camps in Pakistan. The models held up here are Israel and the United States; if they can “take out” individual terrorists and invade whole countries, ask some Indians, why not we?

A bullet hole in the window of a restaurant at Victoria Terminus station in Mumbai, one of several locations targeted in the terrorist attacks.
Other commentators have called for a more measured response. They note that the civilian government in Islamabad is not in control of the army, the army not in control of the notorious Inter Services Intelligence agency, the ISI not in control of the extremists it has funded. They point out that Pakistan has itself been a victim of massive terror attacks. India, they say, should make its disapproval manifest in other ways, such as canceling sporting tours and recalling diplomats. At the same time, the United States should be asked to demand of Pakistan, its erratically reliable ally, that it act more decisively against the terrorists who operate from its soil.

One short-term consequence of the terror in Mumbai is a sharpening of hostility between India and Pakistan. And, as is always the case when relations between these two countries deteriorate, right-wing Hindus have begun to scapegoat those Muslims who live in India. They have begun to speculate as to whether the attackers were aided by their Indian co-religionists, and to demand oaths of loyalty from Muslim clerics and political leaders.

There are 150 million Muslims in India. They have gained particular prominence in one area: Bollywood. Several top directors and composers are Muslim, as well as some of India’s biggest movie stars. One, Aamir Khan, was a star and producer in “Lagaan,” a song-and-dance epic about a game of cricket that was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002. But Muslims are massively underrepresented in the professions — few of India’s top lawyers, judges, doctors and professors are Muslim. Many Indian Muslims are poor, and a few are angry.

Pakistan was carved out of the eastern and western portions of British India. To this new nation flocked Muslims from the Indian heartland. Leading the migration were the lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs who hoped that in a state reserved for people of their faith, they would be free of competition from the more populous (and better educated) Hindus.

Pakistan was created to give a sense of security to the Muslims of the sub-continent. In fact, it only made them more insecure. Nehru’s letter of October 1947 was written in response to a surge of Hindu militancy, which called for retribution against the millions of Muslims who stayed behind in India. Three months later, Mahatma Gandhi, who was both Father of the Indian Nation as well as Nehru’s mentor, was shot dead by a Hindu fanatic. That act shamed the religious right, who retreated into the shadows. There they stayed until the 1970s, when, through a combination of factors elaborated upon below, they came to occupy center-stage in Indian politics.

If the first tragedy of the Indian Muslim was Partition, the second has been the patronage by India’s most influential political party, the Congress, of Muslims who are religious and reactionary rather than liberal and secular. Nehru himself was careful to keep his distance from sectarian leaders whether Hindu or Muslim. However, under the leadership of his daughter, Indira Gandhi, the Congress party came to favor the conservative sections of the Muslim community. Before elections, Congress bosses asked heads of mosques to issue fatwas to their flock to vote for the party; after elections, the party increased government grants to religious schools and colleges. In a defining case in 1985, the Supreme Court called for the enactment of a common civil code, which would abolish polygamy and give all women equal rights regardless of faith — the right to their husband’s or father’s property, for example, or the right to proper alimony once divorced. The prime minister at the time was Rajiv Gandhi. Acting on the advice of the Muslim clergy, he used his party’s majority in Parliament to nullify the court’s verdict. After Rajiv’s widow, Sonia Gandhi, became Congress president in 1998, the party has continued to fund Muslim religious institutions rather than encourage them to engage with the modern world.

Partition and Congress patronage between them dealt a body blow to Muslim liberalism. The first deprived the community of a professional vanguard; the second consolidated the claims to leadership of priests and theologians. In an essay published in the late 1960s, the Marathi writer Hamid Dalwai (a resident of Mumbai) wrote of his community that “the Muslims today are culturally backward.” To be brought “on a level with the Hindus,” argued Dalwai, the Muslims needed an “avant garde liberal elite to lead them.” Otherwise, the consequences were dire for both communities. For “unless a Muslim liberal intellectual class emerges, Indian Muslims will continue to cling to obscurantist medievalism, communalism, and will eventually perish both socially and culturally. A worse possibility is that of Hindu revivalism destroying even Hindu liberalism, for the latter can succeed only with the support of Muslim liberals who would modernize Muslims and try to impress upon these secular democratic ideals.”

The possibility that Dalwai feared has come to pass. From the 1980s, the dominance of the Congress party has been challenged by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP seeks to make India a “Hindu” nation, by basing the nation’s political culture on the religious traditions (and prejudices) of the dominant community. Charging the Congress with “minority appeasement,” with corruption and with dynastic rule, the BJP came to power in many states, and eventually in New Delhi. However, its commitment to the secular ideals of the Indian Constitution is somewhat uncertain. For the party’s members and fellow travelers, only Indians of the Hindu faith are to be considered full or first-class citizens. Of the others, the Parsis are to be tolerated, the Christians distrusted, and the Muslims detested. One form this detestation takes is verbal — the circulation of innuendos based on lies and half-truths (as in the claim that Muslims outbreed Hindus and will soon outnumber them). Another form is physical — thus, the hand of the BJP lies behind some of the worst communal riots in independent India, for example Bhagalpur in 1989, Mumbai in 1992, and Gujarat in 2002; in all cases, an overwhelming majority of the victims were Muslims.

The rise of the BJP owes something to the failures of the Congress, and something also to the example of Pakistan. As that society has come increasingly under the influence of Islamic fundamentalists, there is a more ready audience, within India, for the rants and raves of Hindu extremists. Likewise, the expulsion, by jihadis trained in Pakistan, of some 200,000 Hindus from the valley of Kashmir in a single year — 1989-1990 — has been used to justify attacks on Muslims in other parts of India. But to explain is not to excuse — for the BJP has stoked feelings and passions that should have no place in a civilized society.

In its activities BJP is helped by a series of allied groups. Known also by their abbreviations — RSS, VHP, etc. — these were in the forefront of the religious violence of the 1980s and beyond. Roaming the streets of small- (and big-) town India, they addressed their Muslim prey with the slogan “Pakistan or Kabristan!” (Flee to Pakistan, or we will send you straight to your graves). Meanwhile, their ideologues in the press — some with degrees from the best British universities — make the argument that Muslims are inherently violent, or unpatriotic, or both.

In fact, the ordinary Muslim is much like any other ordinary Indian — honest, hard-working and just about scraping a living. A day after I heard a BJP leader denounce the Congress for making the Muslims into a “pampered and privileged minority,” I found myself making a turn into the busiest road in my home town, Bangalore. Just ahead of me was a Muslim gentleman, who was attempting to do likewise. Except that he was making the turn not behind the wheel of a powerful Korean-made car but with a hand-cart on which were piled some bananas.

That the fruit seller was Muslim was made clear by his headgear, a white cap with perforations. He was an elderly man, about 60, short and slightly-built. The turn was made hard by his age and infirmity, and harder by the fact that the road sloped steeply downward, and by the further fact that making the turn with him were very many motor vehicles. Had he gone too slow he would have been bunched in against the cars; had he gone too fast he might have lost control altogether. Placed right behind the fruit seller, I saw him visibly relax his shoulders as the turn was successfully made, with cart and bananas both intact.

One should not read too much into a single image, but it does seem to be that that perilous turn was symptomatic of an entire life — a life lived at the edge of subsistence, a life taken one day at a time and from one turn to the next. In this respect the fruit seller was quite representative of Indian Muslims in general. Far from being pampered or privileged, most Muslims are poor farmers, laborers, artisans and traders.

The failure to punish the perpetrators of successive pogroms has thrown some young men into the arms of fundamentalist groups. But the number is not, as yet, very large. And it is counterbalanced by other trends, for instance, the growing hunger for modern education among the youth. The desire to learn English is ubiquitous, as is the fascination for computers. Even in the disgruntled valley of Kashmir, a press survey found that the iconic founder of India’s most respected software company, Infosys Technologies, a Hindu named N. R. Narayana Murthy, was a greater hero among Muslim students than the founder of Al Qaeda.

Since the reasons for the poverty (and the anger) are so complex, a successful compact between Indian Muslims and modernity will require patient and many-sided work. It would help if the Pakistan center was to reassert itself against the extremism it has itself, in past times, encouraged. It would help some more, if, pace Hamid Dalwai, there was a more forthright assertion of Muslim liberalism within India. But perhaps the greatest burden falls on India’s major political parties. The Congress must actively promote the modernization of Muslim society. And the BJP must recognize, in word and in deed, that the 150 million Muslims in India have to be dealt with in a civilized manner, and given the security and the rights due them as equal citizens in a democratic and non-denominational State.

Writing in 1957, the historian Wilfred Cantwell Smith pointed out that Indian Muslims were unique in that they shared their citizenship “with an immense number of people. They constitute the only sizable body of Muslims in the world of which this is, or ever has been true.” True no longer, for in many countries of Western Europe and even in the United States, the Muslims are now a sizeable but not dominant component of the national population. This makes this particular case even more special. For if, notwithstanding the poisonous residues of history and the competitive chauvinisms of politicians, Indians of different faiths were to live in peace, dignity and (even a moderate) prosperity, they might set an example for the world.

Ramachandra Guha is the author of ‘India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy.’ He lives in Bangalore.

Ref: http ://sec.online.wsj.com/article/SB122852093316784075.html