Year-end Musings by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (DECEMBER 24, 2009)

Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam tries to look for some reason for cheer at the end of 2009.

At the end of the year, in this grand season of celebrations, let us celebrate for a while something that is generally taken for granted: relative absence of anti-minorities violence. But, why celebrate something which should be a norm in any case, and the foremost duty of the state? Is the Indian state not constitutionally bound to protect its citizens, including the minorities?

On the face of it, absence of mass violence against the minorities should have been nothing to rejoice over as a mundane, day-to-day reality is not celebrated. However, the fact remains that anti-minorities violence has always been there in independent India as a permanent element in the country’s political life. Also, the state has invariably looked the other way as people have been murdered on the streets, women raped and homes set on fire by goondas working for a political party.

So, let us rejoice. We have not seen too many of those ghastly spectacles this year. The fact that there have not been too many anti-Muslim or anti-Christian riots does not mean that there have been none. We are talking only in relative terms: We did not have a 1984 or 2002 in 2009. People who have nothing are usually happy to get something. Alternately, anti-Muslim and anti-Christian riots have marked BJP rule in Karnataka. The open season on Christians in Orissa is stilly fresh in public mind. Sporadic anti-minorities violence in Madhya Pradesh, stray incidents in Jharkhand, and even Uttrakhand.

But, let us rejoice: after all, fewer Muslims and Christians were killed this year. Thank God, no 1984 has revisited our Sikh brethren. Is it not enough for us to be happy? Don’t ask for too much, don’t expect even the minimum by way of state protection as mandated by the Constitution of India. The government, which draws its authority from the Constitution, is not true to it when it comes to protecting the minorities. The noble exceptions have been regional parties in Kerala, West Bengal, UP and Bihar. (It must be added here that these parties did not help Muslims in getting their due in education or employment as if as a perverse “compensation” for having met their constitutional obligation to protect the weak.)

Many Sikhs, Christians and Muslims look at Congress and BJP as identical twins. The subtle difference between the two is not recognised by so many of us. Such people cannot be blamed for being indiscriminate. A very senior journalist of the country (and a dear friend of mine) has a theory: BJP does in broad daylight what Congress does at midnight. The results of their actions are similar, if not the same. In both cases the weak end up getting the worst deal.

Then, let us give ourselves another reason to cheer up: the UPA, under whose rule we are living, is not actively evil like the NDA. It is not taking out murderous yatras ; it is only “allowing” minority killings looking passively at the murder like the proverbial absent-minded professor. In these final days of the year (and decade) let us try to have some moral clarity. Which is the lesser sin, the sin of omission, or sin of commission? In other terms: who is the bigger offender of December 6, Kalyan Singh-Advani and Co. or Narasimha Rao-Chavan Inc.? In yet other terms: whom do we trust, Congress-led UPA, or BJP-led NDA?

This is a thought for the year-end. Mull over it. Let me know your opinion early next year. In the meanwhile, let us persuade ourselves to believe that we do have a choice, even if it is between the devil and the deep sea.

Or, let us look at all this in a different way: we will begin to reap from next year what we have sown this year. For instance, we have been declaring our friendship with Iran while consistently voting against it as a “friend” of the United States; the latest vote was only a couple of weeks earlier. We have always told ourselves that the Indo-US nuclear deal has no strings attached. We have not told our people that one of the unstated strings is voting against Iran. Never mind. Don’t spoil the celebratory mood.

Jairam Ramesh will tell you that our sovereignty was not compromised when the government agreed to “consultations” by America and the other big boys. Only after the Americans declared that consultation meant their right to enforce compliance on us regarding the “commitments” we made at Copenhagen did we know what we had signed on in that cold place. Sovereignty? What sovereignty? Whose sovereignty?

And what else did we get this year? Of course, we got the Liberhan Commission Report. It should not worry us too much that by the time it came along many of the criminals had passed away. Also, don’t hope for any action against the rest of them in our  lifetime. Or, in their  lifetime, for that matter.

Let us also spare a thought for our adivasi  brothers and sisters, who have been forced to starve to death because their lands have been taken away by the state and its minions. Adivasi men are routinely killed by the police, and their women raped. Now, the same state is out to kill them en masse for their “Naxalism”.

So, what do you say now? Do we still have some reason left to celebrate? Like celebrating ever higher prices? Or, rising unemployment, for instance? At the end of it, I am no longer sure whether I should join the celebrations. I will appreciate it if you let me know your opinion a little early for the celebrations.

 

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