By Khalid Kamal Rumi*
The thumping victory of Narendra Modi led NDA in the general elections for the 16th Lok Sabha is “potentially” poised to be the best thing to have happened to the Muslims of India in the last one decade. The emphasis, in bold, is on potential here! Now it is up to the community to invest and reap richly by turning imminent challenges into opportunities. I stick my neck out here taking cue from Winston Churchill who once remarked: “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Many would deem this electoral result to spawn a very precarious situation for Muslims, considering the unanimous projection by most media houses in India that the community had united (banishing all internal and sectarian differences) to vote tactically and en masse to keep a certain person or party away from getting hold of the reins of the state (if it was true, didn’t it serve as a great unifier?). A linear consequence will thus be that a different mandate by the nation is a perilous outcome in terms of the inevitable headwinds ahead now for the group which chose to put its eggs in every basket except one.
Popular presumed bases for this supposedly blind resistance by Muslims carry many hues ranging from naïve to maliciously crooked ones. The community got subtly branded as the one which sided with a corrupt and anti-growth & development camp.
Let me read aloud the assumptions behind such twisted notions: Muslims don’t need jobs, healthcare, roads, electricity and water. Rising prices pose no challenge in running their households. They sail smoothly through the quagmire of corruption in daily life, and are indifferent to scams in high offices, loot of public exchequer and natural resources. National security is their least concern as terrorist-hurled bombs selectively evade Muslims at public places. Bunkum! – did you say?
My assertion here is that, had the UPA reclaimed power buoyed by the assumed unconditional support of the minority community, the Muslims would have gulped a potion of slow poison this time. Let me explain how?
Firstly, the community would have just slipped into complacency for next 5 years before any external threat awakened it from its loathsome slumber again. Indeed, it would have felt relieved with an arguable sense of security for life, but breathing critically on government freebies and grants with a semblance of life support systems. It would have continued begging for rights to be given as favors (chastised by others as appeasements), and pleading for crutches like reservation.
Secondly, this ephemeral sense of false pride in its numbers as the king maker was destined to dent its self confidence in very near future, since in the life of nations it’s the quality that prevails, not quantity. A lioness once reminded a goat when asked about the count of her children: “One, she said defiantly, but he is the king of the jungle!
Thirdly, the community was spared from self-destructive day dreaming. Their fantasy for last six and half decades has been that the favorable government will wave its magic wand and bestow it with panacea that will vanish all its internal and external problems instantly. This wishful thinking has cost the community dearly, and now its condition has reached its nadir (worse than that of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes). The fate and ultimate impact of the likes of Justice Sachar committee Report, Ranganath Mishra Commission Report, and Prime Minister’s 15 point programme are recent memory.
Let me enumerate what Muslims in India have incessantly aspired for: education for their children, employment and livelihood opportunities for their youth (remember demands for reservation are deemed means, not ends in themselves), affordable housing and healthcare, no discrimination in public life, prevention and control of communal riots, safety and security for their cultural and religious insignia, and dignified political participation among others. Some of these are generic challenges faced every day by most citizens of India, but a few are chronic issues pestering the community since independence.
Contrary to the dawning doom and gloom, BJP led NDA in power is destined to usher many unprecedented and unexpected windfall gains for the Muslim community.
The immediate positive upshot would be that the strife-stricken community would bolster its rank and file leading to greater tolerance among themselves over superficial differences of sect (maslak), caste (zaat-beradri), and ideological group (jama’at). The changing socio-political milieu would also facilitate in bridging the stark disconnect between the Muslim haves and have-nots.
This watershed election also exposed a gaping leadership crisis in the community. Not just on the political front, but an acute paucity of spokespersons who are both intellectual and credible community representatives, capable to deliberate and debate on national issues, and not just on their immediate community concerns. This election led to heightened social awareness, instilled political sense, and underlined the need for impressive representation on the national landscape. The leadership pipeline is earnestly asking only to be flooded from now on.
The upcoming government is duly expected to give huge impetus to the development of social and economic infrastructure in the country. This will lead to development of schools, colleges, hospitals, accessible roads, water and electricity supply, and employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. These are simply going to benefit all. If inflation is stemmed and per capita income rises, it will bring prosperity and cheer to every household in the nation. Social unrest brews less with abundance mentality, and more in an environment of scarcity. Maintenance of law & order and peace are an essential corollary to this. In a nutshell, Muslims in day to day life will be better off under the new government in normal circumstances.
There is a genuine concern related to religious and cultural insecurities of minorities owing to saffronization (hindutva) agenda of the ruling party. Muslims being the followers of a proselytizing religion would please their Lord better by proactively engaging with the majority community in a constructive manner. A lot of hatred and confusion ensues when people are ignorant about the scriptures, beliefs and practices of each other. The enlightened ones rarely get agitated, and are more appreciative and tolerant towards the differences among people. Anyway, with Atheism being among the fastest growing religions in the world and with the rising influence of western civilization, the parents here have more to worry about the shifting value system in their homes, than fret about their neighbours of a different faith with whom they have cohabited amicably for over fourteen centuries now.
Another rallying point for a lot of unhappy Muslims in India is the lack of government jobs for them. India’s workforce is estimated to be around 480 million, out of which around 90% are employed in unorganized sector. Now, it is evident that despite all benign intentions of the government, the problem of unemployment among Muslim youth cannot be solved with limited availability of government jobs. The solution lies in acquiring a positive and competitive mindset where the focus is on enhancing employability by acquiring marketable skills, and creating jobs for others through entrepreneurial activities. Khwaja Abdul Hamied (Cipla) and MH Hasham Premji (Wipro) are great examples to emulate for enterprising Indian Muslims who provided means of livelihood to lakhs of people in India.
To conclude, the next 5 years might be a very gainful period for the Muslim community where it learns to stand on its feet, and rebuilds itself like all proud and respectful communities of the world do. It could challenge itself to be self-reliant, and brace for a healthy competition with its compatriots in all secular spheres of life where merit trumps affiliation.
– (Disclaimer: views expressed here are personal)
Khalid Kamal Rumi is a management graduate from IIM Indore. He is working as a Consultant with a global Fortune 500 company. He is based out of Kolkata in India, but is presently in the US on a professional assignment. He has served as the Editor-in-Chief of Management Canvas, the quarterly business magazine of IIM Indore.
Connect with him on LinkedIn: http://in.linkedin.com/pub/khalid-kamal-rumi/22/462/b87