Friday, January 20, 2012
Congress's no-limit, interest-free, Minority Card
(It's the world's best credit card, issued by Vote Bank of India!)
Nothing could be more telling about the tarnished and tattered state of our secular republic than the Darul Uloom Deoband vice-chancellor, Maulana Abul Qasim, describing Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot petitioning the Union government to stop Salman Rushdie from visiting India as "a victory for democracy".
According to Maulana Qasim, "democracy is alive in India" because Gehlot has painted a grim picture of how mobs will run riot and law and order shall collapse if Rushdie were to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival; hence, he should be barred from entering the country of his origin.
Deoband’s chief maulana wants Rushdie’s entry ‘prohibited forever’ as demanded ‘by so many people.’ That’s balderdash. The ‘so many people’ he refers to are mullahs and those who are prone to running riot over bogus grievances and spurious issues. The vast majority of Indians, irrespective of faith, is not in the least bothered and would, if asked, wholeheartedly support the idea of Rushdie visiting this country whenever he wishes.
Not so the Congress. It can’t resist the temptation of seizing an opportunity to indulge in crass Muslim vote-bank politics when it senses one. In fact, there’s reason to believe that the Congress has a hand in manufacturing this mullah-led demand and the threat of violence to keep Rushdie away from India. It’s of a piece with the party’s electoral strategy in Uttar Pradesh premised on the cynical belief that pandering to the belligerence of mullahs and their ilk will fetch the party a rich harvest of Muslim votes.
First we had senior Congress leader and law minister Salman Khurshid brazenly promising that his party will increase the minority quota, which is euphemism for Muslim reservation, from 4.5% to 9%. That pledge fetched the Election Commission’s ire but the message has not been lost. Then we had Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh seeking to reopen the bogus debate over the Batla House encounter of 2008, blaming the prime minister and the home minister for not ordering a judicial inquiry as demanded by the malcontent of Azamgarh who are either SIMI or IM supporters if not closet activists.
Simultaneously, the mullahs of Deoband suddenly remembered Salman Rushdie — all these years they were not offended by his many visits to India, including his attending the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2007, but have discovered merit in blocking it now as Uttar Pradesh prepares to go to polls. Not surprisingly, the refrain was taken up by fanatics in Rajasthan where the Congress is in power. We haven’t heard a whimper from anywhere else in the country.
For the Congress, the minority card is the most powerful credit card in the world. It has no upper limit; it does not bounce; and it comes interest-free. Little wonder that the party has been using this card for the past six decades, encashing votes by pretending to be the sole protector of Muslim sentiments and sensitivities.
Sadly, there’s little realisation that, in the process, India’s Muslims have been further ghettoised, left to wallow in imagined slight and all-consuming denial. It should be of no comfort to the community that threats of violence generate fear, not respect; nor should it mistake the Congress’s cynical politics of appeasement as the route to social development and economic progress of Muslims.
The reality, tragically, is to the contrary. And so we have mullahs threatening violence and the Congress capitulating to their demands in pursuit of its policy of limitless appeasement. Rajiv Gandhi’s government banned The Satanic Verses even before Ayatollah Khomeini issued his infamous fatwa. The Shah Bano judgment was subverted by abusing the Congress’s parliamentary majority. In more recent times, Denmark’s prime minister was asked to call off his scheduled visit to India lest it upset Muslim sensitivities allegedly inflamed over cartoons nobody had seen in this country. And Shimon Peres was ‘discouraged’ from attending the annual HT Summit lest the presence of Israel’s President on India’s soil upset Muslims.
Salman Rushdie may yet visit India and make an appearance at the Jaipur Literary Festival. But that’s really inconsequential. What is of consequence is the amazing audacity of mullahs who now want to have a say on who gets to visit India and who doesn’t, who should live here and who shouldn’t, and the astounding willingness of the Congress to comply to their outrageously vile demands. That way lies the path to disaster.
This is no longer about Salman Rushdie or his Satanic Verses. It’s about what remains of our secular republic.
[Column in DNA, January 20, 2012.]