From Mini-Skirts To Burqas: Iran, Turkey Clad As Scientific Powers

By Soroor Ahmed,

Iran took the wind out of the sail of the so-called US-sponsored move to impose sanctions when on May 17 it brokered a historic deal with Turkey and Brazil, the two emerging powers in different parts of the world. Surprisingly, the deal was signed under the patronage of Russia and had the moral backing of another permanent member of the Security Council, China.

As per the agreement Iran would be supplying low-enriched uranium to Turkey and Brazil in return for fuel rods for a medical research reactor. The first batch is due to arrive in Turkey within a month.

The news of signing of the deal came only a few weeks after a study showed that Iran and Turkey have registered fastest growth in the field of science in the world in the recent years.

The scientific output has grown 11 times faster in Iran than the world average, faster than any other country. A survey of the number of scientific publications listed in the Web of Science database shows that the growth in the Middle East––mostly in Iran and Turkey––is nearly four times faster than the world average. Only in February last Iran had sent mouse, turtles and worms into the space.

It is not any Iranian or Turkish agency but Science-Metrix, a data analysis company in Montreal, which has published a detailed report on “geo-political shift in knowledge creation” since 1980. Eric Archambault, the author of the report and president of Science-Metrix is of the view that “Asia is catching up even more rapidly than previously thought, Europe is holding its position more than most would expect. And the Middle East is the region to watch.”

If that study is to be believed the scientific output of North America––the United States is the most important country in this continent––has grown considerably slower than the world as a whole in the last two decades. World scientific output grew steadily from 450,000 papers in 1980 to 1,500,000 in 2009. Asia as a whole surpassed North America last year.

But one just need not be carried away by such studies as may be the scientific growth of the United States has reached a saturating point where growth can not be as fast as that of the new emerging powers.

Still the development of Iran and Turkey need to be viewed in a different context too. They have acquired this distinction when they have elected Islamic governments in power and do not have the secular and western-minded tin-pot dictators thrust on the people.

One may tend to disagree with Iran and Turkey on a number of counts but one will have to accept that these two countries are emerging as a scientific power––may be a long way to go––when they do not have military rulers like Mustafa Kamal Pasha and Raza Shah.

The progress made by these two powers are being recognized by countries like Russia and China, albeit for their own diplomatic and military interest. The United States, Israel and West Europe want to use sanctions to push back their development.

The people of Iran have exploded the western myth woven since the Khomeini-led Islamic Revolution in 1979; that the country of Ayatollahs cannot make any progress.

Now the western scholars are floundering for words to explain as to how “the Iran of Mullahs” and burqa-clad women are on the threshold of the space and nuclear age and has not travelled back to the stone age as they predicted. This notwithstanding all sorts of sanctions in the past and US backed and Saddam Husain-led eight year old war thrust on it (1980-87).

The big question is why these two countries did not progress when the rulers––Mustafaa Kamal Pasha in Turkey and later Raza Shah in Iran––had been banning Fez caps and burqas and imposing and encouraging mini-skirts. Turkey under Pasha and successive secular and military governments till late in the 20th century remained “a sick nation of Europe”. Similarly, Iran till 1979, though an oil-rich country, had no international role to play––it was just a police outpost of the US.

Though the generals of Turkey and royal family of Iran were dubbed as the modernizer and western-minded these two countries stood nowhere in the international arena. Like the so-called Arab Sheikhs of today, who are borrowing money to build their modern-day Taj Mahals in the form of Burj Khalifa––all for the expat population––there were some good roads, buildings and night-clubs in the metros of the then Turkey and Iran. But they were inherently backward countries as are the present day Gulf Sheikhdoms.
So while the West is finding it excruciatingly difficult to take on Iran, it easily destroyed Saddam’s Iraq and hanged him without much murmur. Unlike the present rulers of Iran and Turkey, Saddam had no mandate to rule his country and did not enjoy any ideological support base. Therefore, he lost easily.

May be pre-mature to conclude yet one can dare to pre-judge that Islam has become a motivating factor for the revival of these two countries. The Muslim world, notwithstanding so much contradictions, remained global scientific power till they followed Islam––once again may not be in toto. More the grip on Islam weakened the more did the Muslim ummah became weak.

The social science revolution––in history, sociology, politics, culture, education etc––triggered by Islam paved the way for the scientific revolution later on. And when the former was abandoned Muslims were bound to be pushed back in the field of science too.

A community or nation needs some ideology as a motivating agent. Among the most backward nation of Europe till 1917, Russia emerged to become the Super Power of the world just because the Communist ideology––one may disagree with it––fired a zeal among a large section of the people of that country. And once the faith on that ideology got weakened so did the then Soviet Union which finally dismembered.

The West grew only after Renaissance and the advent of the ideology of liberal democracy and Japan got transformed after the Meiji Restoration of 1867.

Europe, it must be understood, did not progress when it was staunchly Christian. This despite the fact that it made huge sacrifices and all out efforts to defeat the rising Islamic power. Christianity’s approach then was anti-science. So they discarded religion to make progress in all walks of life. In the case of Islam it is just the opposite. Muslim society fell back when they abandoned Islam and not when they adopted it.

There is no dearth of people who are fired up by the scientific approach of Quran, which provokes the humanity and not just the Muslims to delve deep to study the nature’s marvel.

The need of the hour is to use science, knowledge and wisdom more for the betterment of humanity and not just what the West is doing now and many Muslims too have done in the past–to monopolize and enslave the world.

Photo: Peace Posters

Hypocrisy In The Guise Of Freedom Of Expression

By M. Zajam,

There are uproars against social networking site Facebook for carrying the caricatures of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). The creators of the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page, invited users to send in caricatures following an American cartoonist Molly Norris’s satirical suggestion that people draw images of the Prophet to promote free speech. Earlier Norris had drawn picture of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as a show of support for the creators of Comedy Central’s “South Park,” which had featured an episode depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit. “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” page had upward of 109,000 supporters and more than 12,000 photos within 3 days of launching.

The Western society has always claimed to be protector of Freedom of Speech. But is it Islam bashing in the garb of Freedom of Speech? Does the West really practice what it preaches? Before Freedom of Speech, the West used to lecture all Asian/ African countries about human rights. But when its own hypocrisy about human rights was exposed in Iraq and Guantanamo and in cases of illegal detentions, West’s human rights chants have reduced drastically.

Likes of Norris are nowhere to be seen or heard when Holocaust denier is jailed. Each European country has law against denying Holocaust. Did we have a page on Holocaust cartoons on Facebook, the ultimate place of liberty? Bishop Richard Williamson was last person to be fined 12,000 Euro on 27th Oct 2009 in Germany. On 14th Jan 2008, Wolfagang Frohlich was imprisoned for 6.5 years in Austria for voicing his opinion about Holocaust.

An Iranian paper, in 2006, hosted an International Holocaust Cartoon competition and suggested Western newspapers to publish few of those. Jyllands-Posten Cultural Editor had initially agreed to publish few selected cartoons but later the paper backed out. The Cultural Editor was sent on indefinite leave. The website of Hamshahri newspaper which had organized this competition was hacked and suffered a denial-of-service attack. Jews all over world protested against the competition. Rabbi Marvin Hier termed it as classic formula of Adolf Hitler, which says if there’s a problem, it’s the fault of the Jews.

Muslims in Mumbai protesting against Facebook on May 21, 2010

In April 2003, a Danish cartoonist Christoffer Zieler offered some cartoons of Jesus Christ to Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s largest daily paper and generally seen as right-wing. Zieler received an email back from the paper’s Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: “I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.” But the same paper in 2005, showing blatant double standard published Prophet Mohammed cartoons.

All the countries have fair share of curtailing Freedom of Speech. There are many movies banned by various ‘Freedom of Speech’ flag–bearing countries. Australia has banned Susan and God and UK banned ‘Visions of Ecstasy’ under blasphemy laws. All western countries including USA banned Monty Python’s Life of Brian for showing controversial themes about Christianity. Deepa Mehta’s Fire was released amid protest from right wing Hindu protestors in India. Another film by the same director, Water, caused controversy by showing aspects of Hinduism in a negative light. This film was shot in Sri Lanka instead of India which was earlier planned, due to protest and attack on film sets. In Israel, Hitler: The Last Ten Days was banned in a unanimous decision by the censorship board because Hitler was shown in too humane character.

Lately The Da Vinci Code and The Last Temptation of Christ bore the brunt of protesters. Vatican Archbishop Angelo Amato, specifically called for a boycott of the film version of The Da Vinci Code. The Last Temptation of Christ was under attack from religious communities much before the film had even finished production. This movie was banned in Savannah, Georgia in the United States, due to which its release was delayed for 6 weeks. On October 22, 1988, a French Christian fundamentalist group launched molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel movie theater to protest against the film. This attack injured thirteen people, four of whom were severely burned. Director of movie Dogma, Kevin Smith received over 30,000 pieces of protest/hate mail and several death threats. Catholic groups around the world staged protests against Dogma.

Few recent acts of Western society, which is known for openness and liberty, have shown hollowness of their claim. By banning Burqa and minaret of mosques, the West is turning out to be an intolerant society which is not ready to accept what it does not practice.

Enforcing Burqa in any country is as bad as enforcing not to wear it. It violates women’s rights to be independent in making her choices and to freedom of religion, thought and expression.

France’s claim of keeping state out of religion was exposed when President Sarkozy visited Vatican to meet Pope Benedict in 2007. He happily described the late John Paul II as his “role model” in front of Pope Benedict. Mr. Sarkozy also gave the Pope a copy of his book, The Republic, Religion and Hope, which he co-wrote in 2004 with Father Philippe Verdin and Colin Thibaud, a philosopher. His book also advocates reducing the separation between church and state.

Almost every country places some restrictions on what may be published. Books are banned for a variety of reasons ranging from religious to obscenity. Governments have also sought to ban certain books they perceive contain material that could threaten, embarrass, or criticize them.

There are more than 100 writers banned by various countries for different reasons. I am sure apart from Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasrin, names of others in the list have not been heard by many. There are many books that have been challenged by a variety of groups and agencies to prevent a particular work from being read by the general public. In USA alone there are more than 100 books which fall under this category. In India, apart from Satanic Verses, a few books on Maratha warrior Shivaji like Shivaji by Queens University Prof Jayant Lele, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic Indiaby American scholar James Laine and Laine’s translation of the Sivabharata, entitledThe Epic of Shivaji are banned. Hindu groups have attacked many artists and art galleries for hurting their sentiments.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam have recommended severe punishment for Blasphemy. But only Islamic connection makes it to headline. Even UN General Assembly has passed several resolutions which called upon the world to take action against the “defamation of religions”.

Every community reacts in same way when their religious feelings are hurt. It is rightly so. Artist should take care in not hurting religious sentiment of any one. These acts are regrettable. Artists are supposed to be broadminded, creative, caring and imaginative and should use their skills to create work of art. But of late few of them are disgracing artist community by playing with people’s religious sentiment. They have found short cut to fame. It is duty of artist community, media and people to isolate these elements who like to make mischief to create few fast bucks.

Artist with their creative mind should think of ways to reduce the suffering of people from current problems and crisis. It seems Artists are running out of ideas. Instead of leading the way, they are being led by the society. As per Wikipedia “Art serves as a tool of education, or indoctrination, or enculturation. Art makes us more moral. It uplifts us spiritually.” If we go by this definition, Art is failing us. Now it is up to artist to draw a line and concentrate on constructive work. If this does not happen quickly, only people with wrong intention will be left in this honorable profession. Future generation will only remember works marred by controversies and honest creative work will be forgotten for ever.


Politics Of Fatwa In India

By Navaid Hamid,

Indian Muslims are not aloof from the global Muslim community which is feeling the brunt of a crisis from within. They suffer from an identity crisis in spiritual, social and political spheres. Muslim intellectuals today follow western modules in order to pretend that they are secular and liberal. On the other hand, Muslim clergy fails to give weightage to changed times, conditions and social realities while pronouncing edicts – opinion – fatwas – on issues of social importance while Muslim politicians are not only busy safeguarding their petty interests but also feel shy to actively take up the case of the community to which they belong. Most of the time, the only common thread between all of them is a visionsless approach to deal with a crisis.

The recent fatwa issued by the Islamic seminary of Deoband in India on the issue of working Muslim women says “it is unlawful for Muslim women to do any job in government or private institutions that entails men and women working together and women having to talk to men without the veil.” It created a storm not only in the national media but also within the Muslim community and has given another excuse to the detractors of the Muslim community to attack the fundamentals of Islam.

The fatwa came in response to a querry which said, “Can Muslim women in India do government or private jobs? Shall their salary be halal or haram or prohibited?”

Common Muslims are confused and seem to be lost between Islamic luminaries on one side and ultra secularists and media on the other. The national media flashed the news that an Islamic seminary has decreed that “it is ‘haram’ and illegal according to the Sharia for a family to accept a woman’s earnings”, inspite of the fact that the seminary had responded only to the first part of the query and kept silent about the other part for reasons best known to the mufti.

Almost all national dailies and major news channels carried the news prominently and it received wide attention and condemnation by every Tom, Dick and Harry of the secular tribe without verifying the contents of the fatwa in its totality.

After verifying the contents, I was confused as others too may have been, as nowhere in the fatwa, the clerics have quoted any Hadith or Quranic injunction to substantiate their ruling. Moreover, the fatwa concludes with a rider: “Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) knows best” which relieved me to some extent because, yes, it is the Almighty alone who knows the best and not men who respond to social issues with a religious brush without clear references from Islamic scriptures.

No practicing Muslim would disagree that in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society like India, every Muslim – man as well as woman, must guard his/her modesty. Do the revered clerics doubt the integrity of the Muslim women? Unfortunately, the fatwa is giving that impression which is contrary to the basic tenets of Islam which do not discriminate between man and woman.

It is not the Indian Islamic seminaries alone which issue such contentious religious edicts. In the recent past, a Malaysian Islamic scholar issued a fatwa prohibiting the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims in Malaysia. During a recent visit to Malaysia, I tried to understand the views of a highly respectable politician. I was not impressed by his response that “Malaysia is not in the Arab peninsula. We have a different culture and the argument by those who have given and support the fatwa needs to be understood in the right context.” How can one justify the appropriation of of Allah (God) by Muslims? And if this is correct, there should be one answer for this applicable to the whole Muslim world.

The understanding of Islamic jurisprudence in the contemporary world is a matter of great importance. A good number of scholars have argued for the opening of the avenues of “Ijtehad”. The renowned Islamic scholar and author of Radical Reform : Islamic ethics and Liberation, Tariq Ramadan, recently proposed “radical reform in the way we deal with the scriptures – rethinking the classical way of reading the scriptural resources and also addressing the contemporary challenges of promoting and applying Islamic ethics of our time”. Tariq Ramadan holds the firm view that “Muslims need to go from adaptional reform to transformational reform, which is not to adapt ourselves to the way things are, but to propose applied ethics to change them for the better.”

The so-called “liberals” in the Indian Muslim community always try to hijack issues for gaining publicity and shed crocodile’s tears on the plight of Muslim women whenever there is a semblance of conflict between Islamic scholars and common Muslim masses.

These “liberal” Muslims never speak on the general empowerment of Muslim women. They even vigorously opposed the demand of the educated Muslim women to have their due share in the political empowerment through the Women Reservation Bill.

These liberals have also never voiced their concern on the plight of the Muslim women of West Bengal where they have been marginalized the most during the last 33 years of the Left parties’ rule. I have not read a single statement of these so-called “liberals” when the goons of the CPM raped, attacked and killed hapless Muslim women of Nandigram not long ago.

Most of these liberal, ultra-secular Muslims have made personal gains in the shape of cosy posts and rewards from all political parties. Most of them have always been on the right side of the establishment from Shiv Sena to BJP to Congress. And every ruling party paid them handsome rewards for their dissenting and discordant voice.

Lyricist Javed Akhtar deserves congratulations for getting a “good Muslim” certificate by Balasaheb Thackeray in Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Samna for confronting and denouncing the Deoband fatwa. I admired this renowned lyricist not only because of his famous lyrics but also because of his courage to stand out and share dais with the Shiv Sena around 10 years back when the Sena was in its peak demonizing Muslims of Maharashtra and for his “special love” for Vajpayee when he had recited Vajpayee’s “poems”.

I was also amused to read a reaction of Shabnam Hashmi, a good friend of mine, who indeed is a secularist at heart and a courageous activist. She was correct when she reiterated that she does not recognise Deoband and I do agree with her because time and again she had reiterated that she is a non-believer. What amused me was the second part of her statement in which she said that this fatwa will not impact educated women like “herself” but that “there was a certain section in the society that would have to bear the brunt of such pronouncements.” I can only assure Shabnam that the fatwa on working Muslim women has little importance in the contemporary lives of the Indian Muslims at large.

Most of the electronic channels have an impression that by attacking and highlighting the conflicts in the Muslim society they would gain more funds by improving their TRP. The same is the case with the print media. Every media house is in a blind race to give prominence to views expressed by muftis of Deoband. The invented story that a fatwa said that it is “haram and illegal according to Sharia for a family to use a woman’s earning” found prominence in the media. The irony is that the fatwa is available official website of the Islamic seminary of Deoband. When the seminary denied the fake story published by the media, there were few takers for their denial. The damage was done. From the mufti who pronounced the fatwa to the liberal Muslims to media, everybody played a role in damaging the image of Islam and Muslims and used it to further their politico-economic ambitions.

(The writer is Secretary, South Asian Council for Minorities (SACM) and Member, National Integration Council)

Auditing Aligarh Muslim University Faculty: Lock Over Research In Talagarh?

By Dr. Omar Khalidi,

What does one expect from a university’s faculty dedicated to the educational modernization of Muslims? Of course nothing less than a leadership role in scholarship about the community to which it primarily caters. One can write about the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on a range of issues associated with it, such as the purpose and the performance of the university as a whole since inception. Or it can be subdivided into numerous topics such as its “minority character,” the admission criteria and process; the social and regional composition of students; the careers of its alumni; the performance of the university administration; employment at the university and the functioning of the university court.

Leaving aside these topics for better informed persons, the present paper deals with the intellectual output of one segment of the AMU: its three critical departments of economics, political science and sociology. Given that the three departments are most crucial in social sciences, they make ideal candidates for assessing the contribution its faculty makes for understanding the issues facing Muslims. The paper seeks to assess the intellectual output of the three departments in two ways. One is a quantitative and qualitative analysis of books and journal articles written by its faculty on issues of contemporary Indian Muslims in English and Urdu; and the other way to see the quantity and quality of doctoral dissertations the departments have produced.

A Profile of Aligarh:

Located in a typical UP town reputed for its lock industry, the AMU began as a small college in 1875 graduating into a university in 1920. The purpose of its establishment was of course the educational modernization of Muslims in the aftermath of the failed uprising in 1857. Initially, the rich landlords and the feudal nobility of India funded the university, and most of the money came from outside UP. From around 1930s to 1940s, the AMU was among the major centers of Muslim nationalism in the Subcontinent, earning it from Muhammad Ali Jinnah the dubious compliment of “the intellectual arsenal of Muslim India.” In the 1950s-1960s, leftist intellectuals dominated the AMU, but since the 1970s, the university has seen a diversity of opinion among its community of faculty, staff and students. According to its official website, in 2010 the University has about 28000 students on its rolls, most living in 70 hostels, making it essentially a residential campus spread over an impressive 467.6 hectares of land. It employs about 1400 academics and about 6000 staff its administration. The AMU is one of the 20 central universities funded by the union government. Central universities are better funded than state universities.

AMU VC Prof. Abdul Azis among the students

The Departments of Economics, Political Science and Sociology:

What is the intellectual output of the three departments as measured by faculty publications? Searches conducted in electronic databases such as Social Science Citation Index, Bibliography of Asian Studies, Index Islamicus, and printed bibliographies such as Guide to Indian Periodical Literature (Social Sciences and Humanities) since 1967, as well as citations in publications on Indian Muslims since 1950 to 2010 reveals that the three AMU faculty combined have contributed little to the burgeoning literature on Indian Muslims. Of the several thousand bibliographic citations in the aforesaid databases and in my three major works, Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India, Muslim Experience of Indian Democracy, and Muslims in Indian Economy, [1] the AMU faculty publications number less than 30, a meager count by any measure! A close scrutiny of the websites of each of the three departments revealed nothing suggesting an active, ongoing research on Indian Muslim issues. An examination of the latest catalog of the Publications Division of AMU reveals a mere handful of titles by the three department’s faculty. Unless the three departments’ academic output is shown elsewhere, information in public domain suggests that the relevant AMU departments’ focus of research is on topics other than Indian Muslims. Given the slim output of published research at AMU, it is unsurprising that the latest work on Aligarh lock industry comes not from the Economics Department, but from scholars elsewhere.[2] Similarly, some of the important works on Aligarh have come from Elizabeth A. Mann, Professors Paul Brass and Asutosh Varshney with no connection to the University. [3] On the University itself, some of the seminal work have been written by academic outsiders such as Violette Graff, Hafeez Malik, David Lelyveld, and Theodore P. Wright, Jr.[4] Unlike the absence of interest in Indian Muslim issues at the three departments, late Prof. Iqbal Ansari (1935-2009) of the AMU’s Department of English wrote several major works on minorities, perhaps compensating for the lack of interest in the subject among his colleagues.[5]

How many doctoral dissertations have been completed at the three departments at AMU? Does the topic of research of the dissertations cover issues of Indian Muslims? An examination of the doctoral dissertations titles in each department reveals an unsatisfactory picture. I examined the titles of 144 dissertations in the Economic Department and found a mere 5 pertinent to Indian Muslim issues; 121 dissertations were submitted in the Department Sociology between 1971 and 2006, none pertained to contemporary Indian Muslims; out of 250 dissertations in Political Science submitted from 1959-2008, only three pertain to contemporary Indian Muslim issues.

Prof. M. Naseem Farooqi, vice chancellor between the years 1990-1994 complained that at Aligarh,”people do not expect a professor of Economics or Sociology to publish any research paper in an international journal. Even nil publications in Indian journals are also becoming acceptable and respectable.”[6] Compared to the research done at AMU, central universities such as Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University have done better as far as issues of modern Muslim India are concerned. Scholars looking for research on Indian Muslims are likely to look for input from academics in universities other than Aligarh. Why is there a lock on research at AMU on Indian Muslim issues? Only the relevant AMU faculty can unlock the puzzle. As things stand, students of Islam in India do not expect leadership role for AMU faculty in light of their current academic output.


1. Omar Khalidi, Khaki and Ethnic Violence in India, (New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2nd edition, 2010; Omar Khalidi, “Muslim Experience of Indian Democracy,” in Islam and Democratization in Asia, edited by Shiping Hua, (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2010); Omar Khalidi, Muslims in Indian Economy, (New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2006)

2. Mridula Sharma, Harsh Sharma, Talmeez F. Naqvi, “Survival of Aligarh Lock Manufacturing Industry,” Economic and Political Weekly (24 September 2005): 4257-4263.

3. E.A. Mann, Boundaries and Identities: Muslims, Work and Status in Aligarh, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1992); Paul Brass, The Production of Hindu Muslim Violence in India, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003); Asutosh Varshney, Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002). An exception to the case is the unpublished work of Naved Masood, Aligarh alum, “Reflections on Aligarh Vice Chancellors, 1920-79.” I am grateful to Masood for sharing the document.

4. Theodore P. Wright, Jr., “Muslim Education in India at the Crossroad: The Case of Aligarh,” Pacific Affairs 39, 1 & 2 (Spring-Summer 1966): 50-63; David Lelyveld, Aligarh’s First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978); Hafeez Malik, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Muslim Modernization in India and Pakistan, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980); Violette Graff, “Aligarh’s Long Quest for ‘Minority,’ Status: AMU (Amendment) Act, 1981,” Economic and Political Weekly (11 August 1990): 1771-1781.

5. Iqbal Ansari, Political Representation of Muslims in India, (New Delhi: Manak, 2006); Readings on Minorities: Perspectives and Documents, 3 vols. (New Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 1996-2002)

6. M.N. Farooqi, My Days at Aligarh, (New Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli, 1998), p. 55.

Dr. Omar Khalidi can be reached at

Phenomenon Of Shah Faesal: Some Lessons

By Balraj Puri,

Shah Faesal is a phenomenon which is unparalleled in recent years in Kashmir. His performance has been hailed from the Governor and the Chief Minister to a layman in Kupwara. Columns after columns have been written on him. His fame has crossed the lofty Pir Panchal. The spontaneous welcome he received at the airport and unending crowd that continued to greet him at his residence for many days without any organisational support would be envy of any popular leader. It has demonstrated the potential of Kashmir youth if given an opportunity.

In a way, he fills, however partially, the vacuum created after the decline in popularity of political parties and their leaders. So much has been written on our new hero that I can hardly add more to it. I would confine my observation to some lessons younger generation may learn from his achievement.

A pertinent point that strikes me is that why Faesal and other of his two colleague from Kashmir and too from Jammu who have been selected in the prestigious Indian Administrative Service happen to be medical graduates. How would medical knowledge help them in their administrative work. Faesal did say that he would be available to any patient in need of medical help. But would not it be at the cost of his primary duty for which he has been selected?

May be medical course helps candidates get more marks than those with social sciences subject. For science paper examiners award marks with mathematical accuracy whereas papers in social sciences are never awarded cent per cent marks. It calls for reform in system of marking. But it is undeniable fact that knowledge of social sciences equips any administrator to do his job better.

I learnt this fact more clearly when I used to visit Academy for training of IAS probationers at Mussoorie for lectures. I always found that my lectures went home more effectively with those with a social science background. I had a similar experience in my lectures to probationers who opted or were allotted to J&K State. I always emphasized the need for knowledge about history of every region and of cultural diversity of the State. Even doctors would do their job better with knowledge of sociological background of their patients.

IAS topper Shah Faesal with Saiyid Hamid

The least that can be done is to introduce a capsule course in social science for science students and similar course in science subjects for social science students. Total ignorance of one field to the other and vice versa keeps both of them somewhat illiterate. Some time back great intellectual CP Snow had warned against the dangerous consequences of dividing the society in what he called “Two Worlds.” His warning was heeded by most of the western world. We must follow his sane advice before it is too late and our educational institutions produce split personalities.

I must take this opportunity to warn against the craze among our younger generation for following the exact footsteps of Faesal. Nor should parents put undue pressure that might make them paranoid. Moreover while faesal is an excellent source of inspiration, no two persons can be exactly alike. The aptitudes differ.

Amir Khan’s famous film 3 diots brings home this lesson in a telling manner. There is no ideal course of subjects or career for everybody. Each should choose them according to his/her aptitude and talent. A student who fails miserably in one subject may excel in another subject.

There should be provision in every school for aptitude test or vocational guidance by experts and training facilities for completing for various careers. Everybody need not go, nor can afford to go to Delhi as Faesal did for joining coaching institute is certainly a very prestigious career. But many new vistas have also been opened for aspiring educated youth suitable to their aptitude.

His own aptitude does not seen to suit for medical course, if his activities before appearing for IAS tests are any guide. His columns in Greater Kashmir did not require knowledge of medicine. His campaign for Right to Information Act, along with another dedicated worker for the cause Mazaffar Bhat, merely shows his belief that right to information is essential pre-requisite for a democracy. Obviously he did not learn this lesson in the medical college. There is no reason to believe that without medical degree he could not be selected for IAS or do justice to his engagement before this selection. There are many courses, more remunerative and prestigious than IAS. Prospectus and full information about them should be available in every educational institute. Even less remunerative career gives better satisfaction if it suits your aptitude. Lastly I must repeat that I am no less proud than any body else of the signal achievement of Faesal . I believe that he is capable of scaling further height for which I offer my best wishes whatever be their worth. But true lesson from his example for young generation would be to try to excel him and that can best be done by knowing your aptitude and available options.

Unconstitutionally Yours

By Md. Aziz Haider,

Do you know that the mammoth exercise of Census 2011 being carried out by the Government has no column for your religion, linguistic background and whether you are an OBC but demands to know if you are SC/SC, with an explicit remark that SC/SC can only be a Hindu, a Sikh or a Buddhist.

The entire exercise thus becomes a mockery and a serious rebuke to the demand of the Muslims and right-thinking secular individuals from all religions to include SC/STs who have converted to Islam under the privileged category just as SCs/STs who have converted to Sikhism or Budhism are enjoying the benefits of reservation. Muslims have been demanding that it is unconstitutional and unjustified that a Muslim dhobi is kept out of the SC/ST purview but a Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh dhobi is given the benefits of being a SC/ST. Likewise with other professions! It is clear that the Muslim SC/STs are being kept out of the reservation only because of their religion and it is time and again being told to Muslims that the Constitution of India has no provisions for granting reservations on the basis of religion. We agree that our great Constitution has no provisions for granting reservation on the basis of religion, but nobody has cared to tell whether it has a clause for exclusion, on the basis of religion.

It appears therefore that the Government is not serious at all of giving Muslim SC/STs their due share and the removal of the ‘religion’ column is also aimed at ensuring that no true count of Muslims will henceforth be available, leave alone the count of SCs/STs among them. Among the Hindus, while there is a separate column for SCs/STs, ‘OBCs and others’ have been clubbed together, thus ensuring that the count of OBCs too cannot be known through this census. Government employees carrying the survey are either ticking in the SC/ST column (in case the family is a SC/ST adhering to Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism) or are ticking in the ‘OBC or others’ column’ thereby raising a question as to why the column of ‘OBC’ has been clubbed together with ‘others’; as if the Government is not concerned about knowing their number.

Life Watch has been giving reports from certain states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, wherein Mayawati government has more or less finalized the decision to give separate reservation for Muslim OBCs in Government jobs. Congress’s decision not to count the OBCs is certainly aimed at denying this privilege to the Muslims.

The Census 2011 is unique on many accounts. The sheer magnitude of the survey itself makes it a unique exercise. Secondly, from the outset, it appears that a very detailed survey is being undertaken wherein information regarding whether you live in your own accommodation or rented one, number of rooms, whether there is a separate kitchen, sever connection, whether possessing cycle, scooter, car, TV, radio, mobile, etc. is sought in detail besides detailed information regarding number of people in family, their age, place of birth, parentage, etc. is demanded.

But eyebrows are bound to raise when such a mammoth exercise with such a detailed survey form does not bother to know the religion you adhere to, the language that your mother speaks and also attempts to count the SCs/STs but leaves OBCs outside the purview of the survey.

The True Count

For years since Independence, the true count of Muslims in India has always been kept under veil. While the Government kept on insisting for a long time that the Muslims were between 10 and 12 per cent, self-assessment done by Muslims and several social organizations was of the opinion that their population was anywhere between 15 and 20%. This was also reflected in the large-scale upheavals that the Muslims were able to bring about whenever they voted en mass.

Succeeding Governments had an inkling that the Muslim population was far more than they were certifying it to be. As the Muslims came out of the trauma of partition and started becoming aware, it was not possible to keep away a chunk of the population from the Census. That is why the subject of Muslims producing large number of children was raised time and again. This was despite the fact that several independent surveys have revealed that number of children in Muslim families are same if not less than the number of children in Hindu families; the only difference is the difference in their social and economic status. The number of children in similar social and economic conditions is same for Hindus and Muslims. But since greater percentage of Muslims is illiterate and live in slum-like conditions, the average percentage rise of Muslims is more even if their Hindu brethren living in same slums and subscribing to same mode of life are producing equal number of children.

Solution therefore is education and social upliftment of Muslims, which successive governments have continued to ignore, and not religion. Sacchar Committee and Rajinder Mishra Commission, who attempted to reach at the root of the problem, too have concluded that the only solution is to bring back the Muslims in social mainstream through education and economic upliftment.

If such a grand exercise was being carried out, the Government must have ensured that the survey form was so designed that all the essential information gets available through the Census. Even if Muslims are really producing more children, as claimed by few, the Census would have revealed the percentage of their rise since the last census so that proactive measures can be undertaken to know the reason and find solutions to keep their population under check.

It is time the Government gives a clarification to all the Muslims, the OBCs and all right-thinking secular people of the country regarding the reasons for these gross omissions.

Md. Aziz Haider, Editor-in-Chief of Life Watch newspaper. This article was published in May 1-15 issue of Life Watch.

Badshah Khan’s Hundred-year-old Message Of Peace

“There is nothing surprising in a Muslim or a Pathan like me subscribing to the creed of nonviolence. It is not a new creed. It was followed 1,400 years ago by the Prophet all the time when he was in Mecca.” – Badshah Khan

A hundred years ago, a young Pathan of just 20 years of age, established a modern school to bring education to his people. Concerned about poverty, ignorance, and violence around him Abdul Ghaffar Khan started his first school in Utmanzai in Frontier Province in 1910 educating boys and girls. It was a successful venture that led to the establishment of several other schools. Pathans loved it and the British Raj did everything they could to stop it. Quite a contrast to what is happening today in the region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, home to millions of Pathans. Today in the same region Talibans burn the schools and American Greg Mortenson is busy building schools.

Pathans are proud people, they have been farmers, traders, and artists for generations but due to their geographic location their history is also one of violence. They love their guns now as they have loved their swords hundreds of years ago. Always ready to kill or die for honor, dignity, and promise they have always been fiercely independent. Therefore, it is quite remarkable that in a short time Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was able to raise a disciplined non-violent army consisting of thousands of Pathans who were ready to die for the cause of freedom.

Starting with his school in 1910, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan toured all districts of the Frontier Province to raise awareness about education. His tireless effort won him a place in the hearts of the Pathan and he came to be called Badshah Khan (King of Khans). His education mission soon turned into a social reform movement that included men and women, and under the influence of Mahatma Gandhi his organization Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants for God’s creations) turned into a formidable army of non-violent soldiers.

Badshah Khan spent a large part of his life either in prison or in exile and until his last continue to struggle for justice and peace, never giving up the creed of non-violence. A deeply spiritual man, he found his strength for non-violence from Islam. To the non-violent soldiers of his army he gave the “weapon of the Prophet”- patience and righteousness. “No power on earth can stand against it,” he declared.

On April 23, 1930 his soldiers were tested of their patience and courage. More than 200 of them were brutally killed in Peshawar by British forces but one after another the brave soldiers of non-violence took the place of their fallen comrades to face the British bullets courageously. Eighty years after this incident, we need to learn more about Badshah Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgars to find out how these men and women were able to rise to the highest level of bravery and die for a higher cause rather than killing anyone.

Badshah Khan starting with a small school in his village was able to transform revenge-seeking tribals to an army whose biggest weapon was love and drew its strength from Islam. Just few lines of Khudai Khidmatgar’s anthem is enough to show what they stood for:

“We are the army of God,
By death or wealth unmoved,
We march, our leader and we,
Ready to die.

We serve and we love
Our people and our cause.
Freedom is our goal,
Our lives the price we pay.”

A message needed more today in the age of suicide bombings and terrorism. But unfortunately, Badshah Khan and his message is largely forgotten by Pathans, Muslims, and India. India did recognize his contribution towards her freedom by awarding highest civilian award in India Bharat Ratna in 1987.

With the partition of India at the time of Independence, Badshah Khan had no option but to accept Pakistan. Just a year after independence he was arrested and remained under house arrest since 1954. Prison and exile continued to be his fate in Independent Pakistan till his death on January 20, 1988. As per his wishes, he was buried in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The two warring parties in the thick of Soviet Afghanistan declared temporary ceasefire to allow his burial.

Badshan Khan’s message of peace, love, and non-violence is even more relevant and needed today than ever before, and not only to the Pathans but to the whole Muslim Ummah.


Muslim-Hindu Relations In Jammu Province — Part 2

In the course of my stay in Jammu and nearby towns I visited a number of Sufi shrines and met with shrine custodians and ‘ulama who are associated with the Barelvi school of thought, which advocates a reformed Sufism. Despite the fact that they are not engaged in any organised inter-community dialogue work, all the shrine custodians and Barelvi scholars I met insisted on the need for harmonious relations between the different communities, and bitterly critiqued the violation of human rights in India, including Kashmir, by Muslim and Hindu militants as well as the armed forces.

They unanimously insisted that the killing of innocent people, irrespective of religion, was a grave sin in Islam, and argued for the need for a peaceful resolution to the Kashmir issue. To kill a single innocent person, no matter what his or her religion, they pointed out, is condemned in the Qur’an as tantamount to the slaughter of all humankind. Hence, they stressed, those who loot, rape and kill innocent people cannot be said to be mujahids engaged in a legitimate jihad. Some of them claimed that numerous militants were engaged in such activities. Rather than being Islamically legitimate, they argued that such actions were fitna—strife, chaos or illegitimate rebellion—the very opposite of true jihad. A declaration of jihad can, they pointed out, be made only if Muslims are denied the freedom to practice their faith. Since there is no restriction on the practice of Islam in the state, they said, the conflict cannot be said to be a jihad. One of them, however, claimed that it could be considered a jihad for those militants whose families had been forced to flee Jammu for Pakistan in the Partition violence. To seek to regain lost Muslim land through force, he argued, might also be recognised as a legitimate jihad. This, however, appeared not to be a widely expressed or shared opinion. Some also pointed out that a declaration of jihad cannot be made by just about any Muslim. Rather, a fatwa to this effect must be declared by the accepted imam or leader of the entire community. They argued that since the different militant groups have shown no effort at building unity among themselves they do not have a single imam, who alone could, in theory, might be qualified to issue such a fatwa. Even if they agree on a single imam, his fatwa would not be binding on other Muslims who did not accept him as their imam. On the whole, then, most of the Barelvi scholars and shrine custodians I met felt that the root of the conflict in Kashmir was political, rather than religious. Hence, they argued, it needed a political solution, and they bitterly critiqued the radical Islamists’s claim that it was a war between Islam and ‘infidelity’ that would carry on till the latter had been uprooted.

The shrine custodians and Barelvi scholars I met also stressed the urgent need for better and peaceful relations between different communities, arguing that this was precisely what Islam insisted on, and for which the Sufis had devoted their lives. Some of them claimed that no major Barelvi scholar had characterised the ongoing militant movement in Kashmir as a jihad, and most of them blamed what they called ‘Wahhabis’ (by which they meant a range of such different groups as the Jama‘at-i Islami, the Ahl-i Hadith, the Lashkar-i Tayyeba and the Deobandis, all of whom they regard as having strayed from ‘true’ Islam) for the violence. At the same time they also denounced human rights violations by the Indian Army in Kashmir and the massacre of Muslims by Hindu terrorist groups in other parts of India.

They seemed divided on their own political views, however. All but one opposed Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. Some of them thought that the only realistic solution was an independent Kashmir. Among these some also expressed the fear that an independent Jammu and Kashmir might result in the imposition of Kashmiri hegemony on the rest of the people of the state. They also opined that, given the fact that radical Islamist groups (whom they do not consider as representing ‘true’ Islam) wield the power of the gun, in an independent Jammu and Kashmir bloody civil war might break out between different groups of Muslims, each of which claims to represent normative Islam. Several others, however, insisted that since Muslims enjoyed religious freedom in India, and since Pakistan had allegedly been turned into a ‘Wahhabi’ bastion, it was best for the Kashmiris to remain with India rather than join Pakistan or be independent. At the same time, they admitted that they could not say this in public, for fear of being targeted or even physically eliminated by the militants. Yet, they added that by their appeals for peace, tolerance and love, they were, in their own ways, seeking to counter the appeal of the militant groups. While bitterly critical of the militants in Kashmir, they were equally adamant that for peace in Kashmir it was imperative that Hindu fascist groups in India also be countered, arguing that the oppression of Muslims in India by Hindu terror groups provided a powerful propaganda tool to Islamist groups in Kashmir.

Numerous custodians of Sufi shrines and Barelvi scholars whom I met in Jammu disagree with the Islamist political agenda of groups like the Jama‘at-i Islami and the Ahl-i Hadith-inspired Lashkar-i Tayyeba that insist on the centrality of an Islamic state. Although, in theory, the Barelvis and many shrine custodians do not deny the normative value of a state ruled in accordance with the shari‘ah, their focus, as in the case of most Sufis, is on individual moral reform, arguing that it is only when Muslims become ‘true’ Muslims in their own daily lives that an Islamic state could become a reality. That, however, is postponed into the indefinite future, since Muslims, like others, are seen as constantly faced with the temptation of the snares of the world. This explains the overwhelming concern on the part of the shrine custodians and Barelvi scholars with the ‘cleansing of the self’, through ritual observance, to the almost complete neglect of political affairs. As many of them see it, political power, in order to establish an Islamic state, is not to be actively sought. Rather, it is a gift that God gives to whomsoever He wills. In the absence of an Islamic state, Muslims are believed to be capable of leading fully Islamic lives, conducting their own personal and social affairs in accordance with Islamic injunctions. This is, of course, in marked contrast to the position of groups like the Jama‘at-i Islami and the Lashkar-i Tayyeba.

The opposition of numerous shrine custodians and Barelvi scholars to the ‘Islamic state’ agenda of groups like the Jama‘at-i Islami and the Lashkar-i Tayyeba is also inextricably related to their bitter critique of what they describe as ‘Wahhabism’. The term derives from the movement launched by the eighteenth century Arab puritan, Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, who bitterly critiqued what he saw as the ‘corrupt’ and ‘un-Islamic’ practices and beliefs characteristic of much of popular Islam in his own times. He denied the need to strictly follow one of the four established schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence. He also denounced Sufism and popular Sufi practices as ‘un-Islamic’. He also opposed the popular Sufi notion of Muhammad being almost superhuman. Muhammad, he insisted, was a mere mortal, although he was a prophet of God. In contrast to the Sufis, he believed that the Prophet was no longer alive, and that his body had turned to dust in his grave. Likewise, he was vehemently opposed to the notion that the Sufis were alive in their graves and that they could intercede with God to have people’s requests met. He castigated such beliefs as akin to shirk, or associating partners with God, a heinous, unforgivable crime in Islam. He suggested that Muslims who held such beliefs were no different from ‘polytheists’ (mushrikun), and, hence, were actually not Muslim at all. Because of this, the ‘Wahhabis’ are routinely condemned by the Sufis as ‘traducers of the Prophet’ (gustakh-i rasul) and ‘enemies of Islam’ (dushmanan-i din).

The Jama‘at-i Islami, the Ahl-i Hadith, with which the Lashkar-i Tayyeba is associated, and the Deobandis, are, typically, seen in Barelvi discourse as different fronts of the ‘Wahhabis’, who are described as ‘anti-Islamic’ and as created by a range of ‘anti-Islamic’ enemies to destroy Islam from within. Commonly, the ‘Wahhabis’ are described as American- or Zionist-agents. It is thus hardly surprising that numerous Barelvi scholars and shrine custodians I met in Jammu were bitterly critical of the militant groups associated with one of the above mentioned Islamic organisations or movements. While they did not directly deny the importance of an Islamic state, they appeared unanimous that, given what they described as the ‘anti-Islamic’ ideology of the different ‘Wahhabi’ groups, the sort of ‘Islamic state’ that the militant groups were seeking to establish would result in bloodshed on a hitherto unprecedented scale, and would hardly deserve to be called ‘Islamic’ at all. Some of them expressed the fear that if Kahmir joined Pakistan or became independent civil war might break out between the different Muslim sectarian groups, given the ‘Wahhabi’ opposition to the deeply rooted Sufi tradition in Kashmir. Hence, several of them argued, for the Kashmiri Muslims it was better to remain in India, under a secular and democratic state, than to live under a ‘Wahhabi’ state, even in an independent Kashmir or as part of Pakistan. They claimed that if Hindu right-wing forces were effectively countered in India and if the oppression of Muslims in India were to cease, Kashmiri Muslims might themselves prefer to live in India, they claimed. When asked how it was that the militants continued to enjoy considerable support from local Kashmiris, even from those who would not identify themselves with one or the other of what they called ‘Wahhabi’ groups, they replied that this was because the ‘Wahhabis’ had deliberately kept their true beliefs concealed behind the rhetoric of jihad. If at all they came to power, they said, they would ‘reveal their true colours’, and begin to attack the Sufis and their adherents. Hence, they suggested, it was imperative that before this could happen ordinary Kashmiris should be made aware of the actual beliefs of the ‘Wahhabis’.

Linked to these complex political arguments is a bitter critique articulated by several shrine custodians and Barelvi scholars whom I met who insisted that since, by definition, the ‘Wahhabis’ were ‘anti-Islamic’, the so-called jihad that they had launched showed clear signs of being ‘anti-Islamic’ as well. They recounted numerous incidents of militants raping, looting and killing innocent people, and of militant leaders making a lucrative livelihood from donations from abroad in the name of jihad. They also cited instances of militants violently opposing popular Sufi-related practices and even of killing moderate leaders, some of them known for their Sufi piety. All this suggested, as one Barelvi scholar told me, that ‘The Islam that they follow is a fake one’. Because of this, they claimed, many Kashmiri Muslims were now increasingly tired of the ongoing violence and were disillusioned with the jihadist organisations. ‘They yearn for peace and normalcy’, I was told, ‘but they cannot speak out against the oppression of both the armed forces and the militants for fear of being killed’.

Identity, Indian Politics And Caste Census

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured the parliament that caste will be included in the current census. This was after Yadav leaders and OBC members of Parliament raised the issue and there was heated debate. The question arises why is it or is not necessary to include caste in counting people of India. Apart from caste even religion has not been included which also raises doubts in the minds of minorities. Maulana Madani, a Muslim leader and Rajya Sabha member has threatened to launch an agitation if column of religion is not included in the census form.

These are controversial issues. Some people feel why one should include these caste and religion columns at all while counting people of India. These are divisive categories and people should be counted only as Indians. However, since there is reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes only these two columns should be included. The last caste census had taken place in 1931 during the British period.

In independent India the Constitution abolished caste and hence caste as a category was not included in subsequent censuses. The question of caste again became important when the recommendations of Mandal Commission were implemented in 1990 by V.P.Singh Government. The exact number of OBC was disputed. The Mandal Commission arrived at 52 per cent figure for OBC through interpolation of 1931 data and the Supreme Court also, in one of its judgments, had expressed its doubts about Mandal Commission’s figure of 52% in the absence of counting.

First let us throw some light on the need for counting or not counting on the basis of caste. It is true caste is an anathema in a secular democracy and must be abolished and our constitution rightly abolished it. But what is reality? India is highly stratified, multi-layered, multi-cultural and multi-religious society. This stark reality faces us all in the society. The stratification has not diminished even a wee bit. On the contrary it has been intensified several folds.

Inter-caste marriages lead to brutal murder, of all the people by parents themselves or other members of the family. Even today, many dalits cannot fetch water from village well; a low caste person cannot contest post of Sarpanch and is murdered, if he does. For upper caste, caste is not only an identity, it is a great prestige. This sense of prestige increases if economic disparities increase, low caste people continuously going down the scale.

Also, all our elections are fought on the basis of caste and communal identities and castes and sub-castes come into play for political aspirants. Tickets are given not on merit but on the basis of these identities. Even those who were not aware of their sub-castes are demanding their share on that basis. The case of Gujjars in Rajasthan is a case in point. The Gujjars launched a prolonged agitation for reservation in government jobs in which more than 40 persons lost their lives and there was violence between Minas and Gujjars as Minas with their tribal status were getting more jobs.

We are going to live with increasing stratification for a long time to come. We can hide our head like ostrich in the sand of unrealistic ideas or ideals we violate on every step. Our very culture is caste culture and it is being reinforced by our ethos, our status symbols and above all our politics. Despite our constitution having abolished caste, in last sixty years no government can boast of a single concrete step to mitigate, let alone abolish caste. And implementation of Mandal Commission, tough a right step in the given political condition, further enhanced the importance of caste in Indian politics.

In view of all this not to count caste would indeed be defying our socio-political reality. It would also help to find out exact number of OBCs though by no means it is an easy task. The Census Commission Report, reproduced by Indian Express in its Mumbai edition of May 9, 2010 shows, was quite a messy affair. Besides other factors, the status of castes vary from region to region. But nevertheless counting has to be done.

If it is indeed 52% or more, as being claimed, the 50% moratorium on reservation in government jobs, presently imposed by the Supreme Court, may have to be revised upward as in some of the southern states where reservation for various caste categories has reached 69 per cent. Not counting caste would be not only unrealistic but would result in ever mounting problems.

The political culture of our society is leading to more and more social contradictions. On one hand, we aspire to become egalitarian society and the caste cultured negates this very aspiration. And what is ironical we cannot become egalitarian without the help of this very caste culture, at least in economic sense. In order to pull the backward castes up we must know their numbers thereby reinforcing caste identity.

Thus we are in this bind: we must do away with caste system to create egalitarian society and our caste ethos and caste culture requires that we count caste to do justice to them in terms of government jobs thereby reducing economic gaps and fulfilling aspirations of backward castes. There is hardly a way out. Thus caste will continue to play contradictory role in our society for quite some time to come. Our caste culture is so deep rooted that even an egalitarian society cannot be created without its help although caste leads to in-egalitarian social structure.

Counting Religion

Similarly there is another sensitive question of introducing column for religion for which religious minorities, especially Muslims, are demanding. Today of course there is no religion-based reservations at all and the Constitution does not provide religion-based reservations either. Constitution has given this concession only to Sikhs and Neo-Buddhists who are supposed to be offshoots of Hinduism.

However, Justice Rangnath Commission Report which was submitted subsequent to Justice Sachar Committee Report has recommended 10 per cent reservation for religious minorities especially for Muslims and some political leaders are demanding implementation of Justice Rangnath Commission Report. Of course this is highly sensitive matter and the Congress Government is highly hesitant to implement the Rangnath Commission Report. Not only that it is even hesitant to table it in Parliament.

Thus today since there are no religion-based reservations one does not feel need to introduce religion column in the census but if it is also introduced it will be much better. With greater democratization and increased awareness minorities will agitate for conceding religious based reservations and then there will be need for knowing exact numbers of religious minorities as we need to know today exact number of OBCs.

In a multi-religious and multi-cultural societies number of contradictions are emerging including in western countries which are also becoming increasingly multi-religious and multi-cultural. Western democracy is essentially based on individual rights and this can work very well, if the society is homogenous or monolithic, but it creates serious contradictions if it is multi-cultural society.

In India we always had highly diverse and highly stratified society and so paid heavy price through partition as the two communities could not come to agreed arrangement for power distribution and now in post-independence period new contradictions are emerging which were suppressed (except in case of dalits which was solved through reservation) as religion became principal contradiction at the time of partition.

In western society as it is becoming multi-cultural due to immigration from various former colonies new political as well as social problems are emerging and political tensions contradictions causing grave problems. In western concept of democracy voting right is strictly individual but in multi-cultural society it becomes both individual as well as communitarian.

An individual remains conscious of the religious or caste community one belongs to and his/her voting is affected by considerations of his/her community, justices or injustices done to it and this bring pressure on the system. Also, since democracy supposedly is imbued with egalitarian ethos and communitarian inequalities militate against this egalitarian ethos, these contradictions often becomes explosive.

In a way, one must accept the fact that India, with its bewildering diversity has been able to manage these contradictions more smoothly than many other countries and many countries take India as a model in this respect. However, this is not to say that there are no serious problems of governance. There are and thus challenges of caste and communal identities are to be taken more seriously.

These identities will continue to play contradictory roles both regressive as well as progressive and would not fit into any neat logic as many of us expect. Contradictions would remain very much with us for long time to come. The socio-cultural complex that we have inherited is very much part of our psyche and would continue to influence our political behaviour along with our socio-cultural behaviour.

Let us Bring Back Civility in Politics

There is no need to emphasize the importance of politics on our lives.

It is now very common to dismiss all politicians as selfish people who have absolutely no principles. Interestingly, politicians of different parties try to make the best of the mood, and cannibalize their opponents.

It is a great mistake.

Civility makes it possible to have a meaningful dialogue. Without it, politics becomes a game of throwing dirts. Whoever ends up with less dirt wins.

Although I can’t say this about many politicians, I know that there are some that enter into politics because of their sincere convictions. In spite of that, they are dismissed by the prevailing cynicism- “oh, so it was winning elections he was after. That’s why all the hoopla before.” Such attitude hurts the politician because after all, all of us are humans, and we seek approval from our fellow beings. Some people care more, some care less. More importantly, however, it deprives the society of the leadership of somebody who is capable and wise. It’s a loss for all of us. Not only his.

Many of the good people we see around enjoy the love they get from people around them. The fear of losing that love, and being seen as an enemy of the society keep them out of the political arena. There are some who are so deep in their conviction that they risk even that, but they are few. And the prevailing attitude makes it even harder for them.

Perception often precedes and even creates reality. If we continue to believe that politics is a dirty game and only dirty people enter it, then only those who are not afraid of playing dirty will enter politics, and they will play dirty.

Dismissiveness is not healthy. It chokes critical thought because the verdict is out even before the facts are in.

On the other hand, if it is clear that if somebody enters into politics for doing something they believe in, the society will accept, love and assist them.

There is room for caution here. If the society begins to revere the politicians, then the politicians will begin to expect reverence. That again is a loss as it closes the door for self-correction.

We should neither revere politicians nor detest them. They are an important part of the society who play a role for the society. Some of them are wise, some of them are less so. Some of them are just, some of them are not. We need to carefully consider the choices and decide. If there is a lack of choices, it’s time to get down to work and fill the void. That will be very difficult for us if all our life we have been saying that all politicians are theives. We will expect ourselves to become theives once we enter politics. That’s very self-defeating.