Selectivity is a tool used by the establishment to define the difference. An age-old syndrome in power politics, it is usually a sop for the undeserving, or an appeal for compromise. Two cases of privilege abuse rose to the surface last week—recently-retired vice-president Hamid Ansari’s comment that the minorities in India are feeling insecure, and Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s insistence that the BJP-PDP alliance can continue in Srinagar only if Article 370 status quo remains in place.
Though both are chalk and cheese, the common factor is the Indian Muslim; that hapless citizen in whose name, cynical, bloody politics has been played for years with fatal results. Ansari’s plea was on behalf of the Muslim as a minority. Mehbooba’s appeal was for the Muslim as a majority. The minority identity has been a significant aspect of electoral calculations for 70 years. Appeasement as state policy polarised India by generating the conviction among Indian Muslims that they are different from fellow Indians, while Article 370 assures Kashmiris of a special place in India, which somehow makes them privileged children of the state. Ansari’s census of the insecure is a wide net—the list includes Dalits and Christians, though one wonders why Sikhs, another minority were excluded—just an aside.
The backdoor is most important item of political furniture. In India, it has helped minority reservation elude the Constitution, by using the federal route. There is no Central reservation for minorities at the national level. However, the states do. Secular parties are adept at social re-engineering. Reservation for the backward classes was extended to the minorities by classifying many Muslim sub-communities as backward. In education—an empowerment tool however flawed—minority reservation is rampant. Including Muslims in OBC list in many states has reduced reservation benefits for normal OBCs, therefore defeating the original purpose.
Meanwhile, in Muslim-majority Kashmir, the minorities are the Hindus who have been systematically eliminated or driven out. Until the Modi government came along, governments turned a blind eye to separatists feeding off both India and Pakistan. In his last speech as vice-president, Ansari called cultural nationalism an “illiberal form of nationalism”, which “promotes intolerance and an arrogant patriotism” and that “citizenship does imply national obligations… it necessitates adherence to and affection for the nation in all its rich diversity.”
Isn’t it strange that while India foots the bill for Kashmir, “arrogant patriotism” is exhibited by secessionists towards Pakistan? Has the Congress party, of which Ansari is a favorite club member, succeeded in getting anti-nationals among Kashmiris to discharge their national obligation to adhere to the nation and its diversity with affection?
The Uttar Pradesh poll formula made minority politics redundant. By partnering a coalition government in Kashmir, the BJP has made a symbolic point. To dither on Article 370 and dragging its feet on outlawing triple talaq will be a betrayal of the party’s core values. After all, who can be a better protector of ‘insecure’ minorities than a government that believes in the idea of India?