Sunday, November 19, 2006

Who are we?

Who is an underprivileged? Who is a minority?

Historically, statistics has always been the most abused discipline. Academicians, analysts, policy makers and journalists have blatantly and frequently (ab)used it as a tool to suit their convenience and justify their preconceived notions. A case in point are the recent findings of Justice Sachar Committee report on how Muslims have been the most disproportionately underprivileged community (with respect to their proportionate population). The report states that Muslims have been severely under-represented in Government sector employment; and that Muslims are not just worse off than SCs with respect to education, but they also trail behind OBCs when it comes to education, employment, poverty levels and land holdings. Also that in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Karnataka, the percentage of Muslim inmates is proportionally higher than their share in population.

The print media, in particular, has gone completely gung-ho about the findings, with a few media houses even trying to ‘sensationally’ poke already oversensitive religious sentiments. But I completely fail to understand the reasons to conduct such an illogical study. I strongly assert so because if Muslims, on one hand, are ‘underprivileged’ in this country, then on the other, communities like Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains, Buddhists and many more, when compared under the same parameters, are ‘minorities’ and ‘underprivileged’ in the truest sense of the words. Why was the study restricted to Muslims alone? The political undercurrents in this Committee being constituted are too obvious.

Our unlettered politicians conveniently forget that democracy never meant ‘proportional representation’ for all communities. Democracy, in reality, means the ‘non-proportional betterment’ of the bottom 80% underprivileged in India; a country with 38% (400 million) people living below the poverty line, and a majority of these being Hindus. How about a special ‘Justice Sachar Committee Report’ on this ‘majority’ community? And even for politicians to claim that Muslims have failed in contributing to India is nothing short of inane; perhaps our politicians forget that Muslims have contributed phenomenally not only to India’s development and growth, but also to its culture and fine arts. How can one forget that this is the same country, which has an iconic Muslim President, world class entrepreneurs like Azim Premji, Y. K. Hamid, Habib Khorakiwala, star actors like Shah Rukh, Aamir, class cricketers like Irfan, Zaheer...?

The beauty of India is that every community has productively engaged itself in various vocations, mostly based on their legacies. If Sikhs, Parsis and Jains have historically dominated the business and trading domains, then Muslims have ruled domains like films, music and fine arts. Why is it that we invariably forget that in a Sovereign Secular Democratic Republic there are no Hindus, no Muslims, no Christians and no Sikhs; rather, simply Indians! And all that our politicians need to provide them, is literacy, health, employment, a better lifestyle... and not moribund Justice Sachar Committee reports!


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