Youth Ki Awaaz (YKA) is a website that posts stories on issues that engage, bother and interest the youth. And India is a country where over 60% of the population is young. People often refer to India as ‘Youngistan’. On February 4, YKA highlighted two posts — one by columnist Nissim Mannathukkaren, describing the “systematic removal of Muslims from India’s political fabric”, and the other by activist Harish Mander on the “brutal and very public killing of Afrazul Khan” in Rajasthan. YKA invited people to read the posts and write their thoughts on them.
“Both these powerful stories paint a scary future in India. If minorities in India are being attacked, not just physically but also politically, depriving them of any power or agency, where does it leave our democracy?” YKA asked. But YKA conflated the two, one an out and out crime, the other an allegation arriving at the conclusion that YKA took as gospel but should have called for scrutiny. YKA also laid out certain rules that responders should adhere to, top among them not to spout “hate” against any community.
Afrazul’s killing was a dastardly crime, brutal beyond belief. However, it was not a “very public killing”. The ‘Hindu’ killer lured the ‘Muslim’ victim into a patch of jungle and hacked him to death. The only witness was the killer’s minor nephew who shot the murder on video and recorded his uncle’s Hindutva rant. The Hindu killer had a personal score to settle with the Muslim victim: something to do with a woman who often favoured Afzarul with a smile.
What was Mannathukkaren’s contention? “The 2014 Lok Sabha elections were thus an alarming landmark in Independent India’s history. In a first, a party came to power without a single elected Muslim Member of Parliament. The BJP fielded only 7 Muslims (5 in J&K and Bengal alone) out of 482 candidates. The total Muslim representation in Parliament fell to 4%, the lowest since 1957,” he wrote.
“After all, people might ask, what is democracy other than the enforcement of the will of the majority? The answer is that Hindutva’s electoral majority does not want Muslims to be politically represented. This is what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of majority” as early as the 19th century. The last four years have seen a terrifying demonstration of tyranny in action,” Mannathukkaren wrote. “What has not (garnered outrage like the cow vigilantism did) is the Hindutva project of abolishing Muslim political representation… of the 1416 BJP MLAs, now in the country, there are 4 Muslims. That is 0.28% when the Muslim population is 14.2%.”
So, Mannathukkaren charged the “Hindutva electoral majority” with “tyranny of the majority”. But were those of Hindutva ideology the “majority” among Hindus? Millions of Hindus did not vote BJP. Ergo, a division of “Hindus” does not translate to “tyranny of the majority”. Mannathukkaren should have known that only 31% of the electorate voted BJP, the majority – 61% – did not vote BJP. He should have charged the 61% who did not vote BJP with “tyranny of the majority”.
And who were the 61%, if they were not Hindutva? The liberal-left boast was that they were secular Indians – Hindus and Muslims and Christians – the overwhelming majority. So, why didn’t Mannathukkaren equate this majority with “tyranny of the majority”? And, why doesn’t he charge the 61% majority with attempting to abolish political representation of Muslims? More questions: Why should he expect Hindutva-BJP to give tickets to Muslim candidates? Why did Muslims expect tickets from a party that was avowedly against them? What was the guarantee that Muslims would have voted for a BJP-Muslim candidate? Why should the BJP have taken the risk of nominating a Muslim to contest on a BJP ticket if the Muslim candidate would have certainly lost?
Would it be that Mannathukkaren wanted separate electorates for Muslims? That issue was settled 70 years ago. In his book ‘Sardar Patel and Indian Muslims’, CNN anchor Rafiq Zakaria wrote that at first (in 1947) all minorities – Muslims, Sikhs and Scheduled Castes – wanted separate electorates, and separate electorates had been in place for 40 years. But Partition and its aftermath changed all that and the Muslims, who remained in India, themselves “proposed a joint electorate”.
According to Aakar Patel, executive director Amnesty International India, if there had been proportional representation, Indian Muslims who were about 15% of the population would have had at least 70 seats in the Lok Sabha. He termed the nearly 200 million Muslims as the largest under-represented minority in any democracy in the world. He charged the Hindu majority of India of reneging on a promise made to the Muslims at the time of writing the Constitution to be “fair” to them.
“They (Indian Muslims) trusted Hindus to do all those things (Sardar) Patel, the great Hindutva hero, said Hindus should do. Not a few of them who read the background and history must be wondering (now) if they should instead have just stuck to their guns on the issue of separate electorates,” Aakar Patel wrote in 2016 in the Mint. By saying that, Aakar Patel was trying to be too clever by half. Indian Muslims at the time (1947) were in no position to stick to their guns, not after the formation of Pakistan. In fact, ‘Pakistan’ was the “separate electorate” Jinnah was asking for Muslims of the subcontinent, and what he got.
So, instead of trying to rake up proportional representation for Muslims all over again, Mannathukkaren should set his own house in order. The Muslims of India should strive to assimilate. Muslims with modern secular education who are not mullahs and maulvis should take over the leadership of Muslims. On February 5, Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal, speaking in the Rajya Sabha, made an astounding statement that “Muslims in India live in mixed neghbourhoods”. The man could not have been more wrong. The common Indian Muslim has always preferred to live in ghettos where he felt there was safety in numbers. It must be this sort of mentality that Mannathukkaren should be fighting, not alleging “tyranny of the majority”. And YKA should not try to kick up a storm where none exists.
No political party can be compelled to give representation to any group. Shouldn’t Muslims demand that parties which respect Muslims – Congress, SP, TMC, Left parties – ensure Muslims get representation according to population? And Indian Muslims should get out of the still lingering ‘partition-hangover’. He should join the BJP in large numbers and build up a constituency within the party and demand to be counted. Not just the BJP, every party. Mannathukkaren in his article quoted Edmunde Burke: “In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel (of) oppressions upon the minority.” Burke lived in another century, and no matter in what context he said that, even he would not say that the majority of the Indian Hindu majority are cruel oppressors.