Friday, May 23, 2014

Opinion: Indian Muslim Minority, like majority

By Abusaleh Shariff
Muslim deprivation is embedded in broader developmental challenges

It is important to note that Indian Muslims are as diverse as the country's dominant community, if not more so. Electoral polarisation has given them a pan-Indian identity, but in effect they do not have one.
Muslim deprivation is embedded in broader developmental challenges .
Whenever the Indian electorate has been told that the country is doing well economically, it has displayed disbelief. This voter scepticism has not spared even the largest of national parties. The relatively successful economic performance of the last decade could not be projected effectively by the UPA. BJP/ NDA strategists were quick to take advantage of this and claim that the economic success was, in fact, failure.
At the same time, the notion of growth associated with Gujarat - fast, large, corruption-free and inclusive - also dealt a blow to the UPA and drew people. The impact of higher income growth has been the craving for much higher income growth. This is the new kind of "income growth trap" that the consumer is falling into. Compare this with the classic "poverty trap" that India is so familiar with. But the hard times for the poor have not been left behind. They lie ahead as the higher income trap gives the rich a natural advantage.
This is also the time to reflect on a virtuous strategy to engage with the new government, especially in the context of the Muslim community in India. This election polarised the two major parties to such an extent that the BJP cast itself as the party of Hindutva, while the Congress was made the party of Muslims. Such religious polarisation is detrimental not only to democracy but to development. The political leadership should have no role in promoting or even supporting a religious identity. It is a fact that all citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation, are part of India's culture and ethos, and there can be no discrimination between them.
 The Indian Muslim mindset, however, is still rooted in victimhood, prioritising physical safety, security of life and property (rightly so) and the protection of a social identity. Their vision that India is a democracy, to which they contribute much with their presence and participation, is not yet fully articulated and understood.


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