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05 June 2012

Voters’ affinity matters...

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By Nilofar Suhrawardy


Indian secularism faces a severe test when Indian Muslims are given greater attention than ever before, that too for wrong and highly contradictory reasons.


This trend surfaces strongly during elections and when some terrorism-related incident hits the headlines. During elections, the focus is on so-called Muslim votes in areas where their electoral population is more than 20 per cent and several parties are in the fray.


Isn’t making noise about Muslim-vote, when in essence it doesn’t really exist, equivalent to polarising politics along religious lines giving advantage to extremists keen on communalising this phase? Secularism decides electoral decision of Muslim voters and not religious identity of candidates and/or parties fighting the political battle. This point is proved by there being absence of any national Muslim leader or party with considerable appeal among Muslim voters to turn the electoral tide.


Undeniably, their prevails a trend even among secular parties to display their concern for Muslims by giving substantial importance to clerics during their campaign and giving tickets to Muslims for contesting elections. But this is reflective of political strategy exercised by non-Muslim, secular parties and not the electoral decision taken by voters. There has been no instance of Muslims of any constituency having voted en-bloc to ensure victory of a particular Muslim candidate. In fact, unnecessary hype has been deliberately raised about the so-called Muslim-vote to try and polarise vote banks along communal lines.


Sadly, Muslim secularism continues to be virtually ignored to this day. What else is suggested by ease with which Muslims are held as suspect terrorists even when there isn’t substantial evidence against them?


It is, indeed, intriguing that amidst the wake of concern voiced by centre and state governments on countering terrorism, little attention has been paid to rectifying lapses in existing policies, because of which Indian Muslims continue to be the worst sufferers. While referring to security agencies’ failure to take timely action, Home Minister P. Chidambaram pointed out that most of these cases concerned so-called “jihadi terrorists and cadres of CPI (Maoist).” It is amazing that central government has not displayed similar concern regarding terrorist-incidents for which members associated with saffron brigade have been held as responsible. Should this be viewed as a biased approach held by the central government towards linking Muslims with terrorism and sparing non-Muslims, even when there is ample evidence against the latter being responsible for several terrorist incidents?


It is ironical that while Prime Minister and Home Minister strongly referred to measures that need to be undertaken to counter terrorism at various levels, including cyber-terrorism, they ignored shortcomings in the present policy, which need to be corrected. This refers to numerous cases of fake encounters, in which usually the innocent have been targeted. There are also numerous incidents of innocents being held as suspect terrorists — primarily because of their religious identity. Besides, there has been no report on day-long meeting referring to compensating Muslims and/or their families who have been killed in fake encounters and/or have been wrongly held as suspected terrorists.


Electorally, despite Indian Muslims having strongly asserted their secular identity, it is indeed a tragedy that politically there prevails a communal bias against them. What is worse than ignoring Muslims’ secular credentials is holding them as targets of communal frenzy, in the name of countering terrorism!


(Courtesy: Khaleej Times)

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