Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Muslim Question

In an excellent article in today’s ET (read it in full here), TK Arun analyses succinctly the issue of addressing backwardness among Muslims as well as other groups by highlighting that:

  1. Muslim deprivation is not exactly news. The point really is to devise a credible strategy to change it.
  2. Quotas are a poor solution, which has failed in the case of Dalits and tribal people. We need to think beyond quotas.
  3. Muslim as well as other subaltern emancipation is closely inter-related.

While agreeing with his first suggestion above, my point is that deprivation exists not just among Muslims and SCs or STs. Deprivation does not differentiate people based on their religion, caste or creed. It is there among all people. Only the degree is varying. If a particular group has more deprived people amongst it, it should not necessarily make the deprived among other groups to be less deserving to be targeted by the country’s ameliorative policies.

The degree of gratitude that a group would feel towards the quota provider would depend on the presumed utility of quotas. On this count, the benefit of bestowing a quota on any particular group would be outweighed, by far, by the animosity from others whose opportunities might be restricted by new quotas.

One fourth of India’s 593 districts are today officially classified as Naxalite affected. Such a level of discontent that sustains rebellion across one-fourth of the country’s administrative divisions surely spells state failure towards more than just Muslims.

It is agreed that there are factors specific to the failure of each deprived community to secure its own place in the sun. But, to focus only on these specifities, to the exclusion of the overwhelming commonalities in their collective failure, would be a gross mistake.

Political strategies that focus on the common features of deprivation of large sections of Indian society are next to non-existent.

Impartial enforcement of law and order, starkly absent in Gujarat in 2002 and in the Khairlanji incident in 2006 would do far more emancipation of India’s oppressed groups than quotas can.