Sultan M Hali
INDIA claims that it is the largest democracy in the world and boasts of its secular credential. Unfortunately, both are bogus claims because its democracy is sham while secularism is a myth. Human rights activists in India and abroad have been exposing the roughshod treatment meted by the upper caste Hindu Brahmins to India’s minorities as well as lower caste Hindus, the Dalit. The Rajinder Sachar Committee was commissioned in 2005 by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prepare a report on Indian social, economic, and educational conditions of the Muslim community of India.
The committee was headed by former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar, prepared a 403 page report and presented it to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, on 30 November 2006, 20 months after obtaining the terms of reference from the Prime Minister’s Office. This report highlighted issues facing the Muslim community and their representation in Indian public life, concluding that while Muslims constitute 14% of the Indian population, they only comprise 2.5% of the Indian bureaucracy. The Sachar Committee concluded that the conditions facing Indian Muslims was even below that of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Unfortunately, after receiving such a meticulously researched report, Indian authorities chose to dump the finding and recommendations of the Sachar Committee in the dustbin.
The advent of Hindu extremist Narendra Modi’s government ushered an era of even more narrow nationalism and suppression of Indian minorities especially the Muslims. Modi’s election manifesto comprised the subjugation of Indian Muslims and cutting them to size while promoting Hindutva. Modi, who is a practicing activist of the extremist Hindu gang Rashtriya Savayamsevak Sangh (RSS), sought the support of RSS in the 2014 elections. After he was voted into power, RSS demanded its pound of flesh and Modi, fulfilling his promise, installed Hindu extremists in positions of importance in his government. No sooner the Hindutva hate mongers assumed the mantle of power; they started displaying their true colours. Indian minorities, especially the Muslims were targeted for heinous attacks and subjugation. Kashmiri Muslims were earmarked for a special dose of tyranny. On July 8, 2016, popular Kashmiri youth leader Burhan Wani was brutally murdered. Since then Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) is in flames. More than 200 Kashmiri boys have been martyred while 3,500 of them have been blinded with the use of pellet guns targeting their eyes.
Regulations have been put in place to ban the slaughter of cows while even on the suspicion of partaking cow meat, innocent Muslims are lynched and butchered. 47 Indian academics, litterateurs and fine arts practitioners returned their national awards, urging the government to stop targeting minorities. 900 international men of letters including the renowned MIT Professor Noam Chomsky signed a petition beseeching Modi to cease the atrocities against Indian Muslims.
Now 65 senior retired officials from different Central Services have raised alarm over the growing intolerance, extremism and State’s high handedness through an open letter to the Government of India. They have urged all public authorities and constitutional bodies to take stock of the situation. They detect a sense of deep disquiet at what has been happening in India, which has prompted them to write the open letter. They perceive that it appears as if there is a growing climate of religious intolerance that is aimed primarily at Muslims. They find that vigilantism has become widespread. Quoting instances of Muslims being lynched and killed, they conclude that Gau-rakshaks function with impunity and seem to be doing so with the tacit complicity or active encouragement of state machinery.
Punitive action against the perpetrators of violence does not take place promptly but cruelly, the victims have FIRs registered against them. Students group and faculty members, who raise troubling questions about equality, social justice and freedom are subjected to attack by the administration with a supportive government to back them.
Disagreement and dissent are considered seditious and anti-national. These former ambassadors, retired federal secretaries and academics are also seeing an ugly trend of trolling, threats and online intimidation of activists, journalists, writers and intellectuals who disagree with the dominant ideology. They observe that there is a growing hyper-nationalism that reduces any critique to a binary. If one is not with the government, he or she is branded as a traitor.These sensitive bureaucrats appeal to all public authorities, public institutions and constitutional bodies to take heed of the disturbing trends and take corrective action. They ask to reclaim and defend the spirit of the constitution of India as envisaged by the founding fathers.
The serious reservations expressed by retired officials (Chief Secretaries, Ambassadors) indicate the extent of intolerance and extremism, supported and encouraged by the incumbent government. While liberal elements of the society have been condemning the suppression of free speech, violence in the name of religion and state oppression, this is first time that very senior retired officers have openly expressed their anguish over the situation in India. The rot that has set in India is going to be its downfall. Serious Indians other than Arundhati Roy, Praful Bidwai and Kuldip Nayar are now questioning the antecedents of the hate mongers, who are holding India hostage to their bigotry. They rightfully opine that unless these followers of Hindutva cease their machinations to bring the minorities including the Muslims to their knees, India will implode from within and will cease to be a state.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.
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Sultan M Hali