QUEST FOR AN INCLUSIVE INDIA

The game is not over for all those who wish to see India continue as an inclusive and secular state. Majority of Indians support the path of construction not destruction, path of inclusion not exclusion, path of conciliation not confrontation

About two weeks back, I shared a dream that an attempted takeover by fascist forces has been rejected by Indian voters. And I explained, in the dream, how disastrous that would be for the entire country, not just minorities. Sadly, that dream has not entirely come true. The outcome of 2014 elections concerns many of us who view India as a pluralistic society and who look up to the political parties to be inclusive.

But we are not Sisi! Like him, we will not trample democracy. We are cultured. And we are mature. In a true democratic spirit, the voters mandate will be accepted and respected. If fascism is the path a vast number of our compatriots have chosen, it is their democratic right. And it is as much our democratic right to peacefully and continuously oppose the fascist forces. Both pre-election and post-election!

But the question is–now what?

My answer: there is absolutely no need to panic. While there is an inclination towards fascism from a sizable section of the society, BUT all is not lost. The mandate in favor of fascism is not overwhelming. Hundreds of millions of voters from all religious backgrounds have also voted against fascism. That is a hugely comforting factor.

The game is not over for all those who wish to see India continue as an inclusive and secular state. Post-elections, all anti-fascism platforms that worked hard to keep fascism at bay over the last several months must remain active, alert and energetic. Despite many weaknesses in our society, there are millions of responsible Indians who support the path of construction not destruction, path of inclusion not exclusion, path of conciliation not confrontation. The job of such forces in the media, judiciary, bureaucracy, civil society has not ended with the conclusion of elections. In fact, the job has just begun.

There is urgent need to ensure that the “Gujarat model” of death and destruction, exclusion and suppression is not implemented at a national scale. That would be a complete disaster. And like any other disaster that does not cherry-pick its victims, this too will not harm the politically and socially vulnerable sections of the society alone. Any attempt to replicate that model will adversely affect every Indian, at every level. This is why it is our collective obligation to take India away from fascism and back to pluralism.

In the meantime, Muslims need to focus on “what” and “how” we have to contribute to the society and the country. Over the last several decades, we have been reduced to parasites by our “political leadership”. While it is largely true, but our “leaders” have also overplayed the becharay (helpless and victimized) card which has brought us zero benefit.

We must come out of this syndrome. Economically and socially upper-tier of the society must lead this change from the front. Enough sermons have been given for such a change in the last 50-60 years; enough ink and paper have been wasted without well-orchestrated and sustained efforts on the ground. It is time to move beyond crying, cribbing and complaining about external factors responsible for our pathetic state.

Any ambitious and hardworking individual or community will vouch that being pushed to the wall – the way we are – is more a benefit than a hindrance. When you have nothing, to lose, it is then the best performance comes out of human species. Look how Jews, our religious cousins, made remarkable recovery after their drubbing during the World War II. Same with Germans, Japanese and South Koreans.

They all rose from ashes (literally) to dominate the world of education, science & technology and consequently economics & finance. All of them are supremely disciplined and hardworking people who have sacrificed enormously on their path to material glory. They did not go around the world with a begging bowl.

This is why, the time is ripe for us to turn inwards and ask some blunt questions: What is our own responsibility towards our communities? What have we done for our own society? What are we capable of doing for our own society without external support? And how do we prioritize the “to do” list? These questions will provide much-needed answers to our problems.

So far, we have been looking for short-cuts out of our miseries. But this approach has only prolonged and added to our agony. We must change this mindset, and make certain long-term commitments to ourselves. Societies can never be built (or rebuilt) on the back of begging bowls. In my humble view, begging and beseeching for job or educational reservations can never turnaround our situation. Never.

Therefore, on top of the list should be our deep commitment of providing world-class education to our coming generations. Within this priority area, it is advisable to stay focused on high-quality school education (strong base is mandatory for facing profession/personal life challenges) for the next decade or two, rather than stretching meager financial and human resources in setting up higher education institutions.

This will bring dual-benefit: (a) allow us to compete on the basis of merit in professional and civil exams and then stand on our own feet in an increasingly competitive world and (b) snatch shameless “appeasement” propaganda tool from the fascist forces. The “appeasement” tag, which is nothing more than a blatant lie extensively used by fascist forces will disappear, forever. Trust me, it is worth giving away everything in an effort to achieving this goal.

Khidmat-e-khalq (social work towards serving all humans, not just Muslims) is the core of our religious obligation. On the social front, there have been scattered initiatives on the formation of NGOs. But our contribution in this area, like every other constructive field, is abysmally low. And we are probably the worst among all communities on this front as well. Our rich have grown too selfish and greedy; as a result our poor have become too lazy and lethargic. When the affluent among us generously share Allah’s disproportionate bounties on them with those who are deprived, it brings an array of positive changes in the society. Always.

Large scale formation, funding, training and deployment of social workforce for the benefit of our society in areas like sanitation, vocational training, medical and legal services etc will socially and economically strengthen the community and the country. But if there are strings attached to these “services” from financiers, then the desired results will never be achieved. And every sane reader knows exactly what I mean by “strings”! It must be pure social service. Nothing else.

For turning around our economic conditions, some of us have been placing unrealistic hopes on the introduction of Islamic Banking in India. Not surprisingly, these elements know very little about the banking business. It is purely their wishful thinking that the arrival or launch of such institutions will turn cash-strapped society and country into a golden bird that it used to be before Muslims lost the country to Great Britain.

In reality, the overall business, economic and political landscape of the country will not allow Islamic Banking to flourish or even play a meaningful role. Having realistic expectations in every sphere of life is a major responsibility of the leadership. Selling unrealistic dreams is counter-productive.

On this front too, our cash-surplus individuals, families, and business houses need to set up small, local corpuses (preferably at the Municipal ward level) in the form of “participatory micro finance” schemes. Islam never scorns at reasonable profits. It only prohibits exploitation in the form of fixed interest and excessive profits. Even if they are for-profit, such quasi socio-economic institutions will strengthen the base of the society and empower (without religious discrimination) those who are at the bottom of the financial/economic pyramid.

Rebuilding the community is a thorny path. More so when the political environment is super-hostile. But sitting back and wasting more time as becharay is not an option. Act we must. And now!

Finally, “losing hope” is a big sin in Islam. So there is no room for pessimism. Staying optimistic about our future and facing all upcoming challenges with patience and courage is the only way forward. No amount of political and social reverses should bring the feeling of despair. The whole world knows that we did not support fascism in these elections. But no one can dare to pack us off to Pakistan. We have always been Indians. And we will always remain Indians!

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