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Muslims, By any Other Name By Farah Naqvi The (word) games we play to avoid dealing with the problems

of some of the poore st Indians. It's strange season again in he 12th Five-Year Plan. This w the (somewhat predictable) some of the poorest Indians, five years later. the corridors of planning and power the run up to t is when myriad Planning Commission committees revie non-implementation of policies intended to benefit and recommend changes, only to repeat the exercise

Forgive my cynicism. It arises from the fact that once again, when it comes to M uslims, we are confronted with word games one hoped had been left behind. We are repeatedly told we cannot plan interventions for Muslims qua Muslims', because i t's not constitutionally appropriate; at best we can plan for Minorities'. Hence, the strange situation of offering small Minority' scholarships to Parsis (with p resumably nearly 100 per cent literacy), and to Christians (with 80.3 per cent l iteracy rate) along with Muslims (59.1 per cent literacy rate in 2001, lowest am ong religious groups). Surely every religious minority has unique problems, and requires different inte rventions? Sikhs have the worst sex ratios (786 in 2001 compared to 950 for Musl ims), and need exclusive, targeted interventions for that. Parsis, among our mos t prosperous communities, are impoverished by a declining population, and need t o improve fertility rates, rather than avail of educational scholarships. Dalit Christians suffer bias and a development deficit. But Plan after Plan, Minorities ' it is. So should we just stop gathering disaggregated data for religious commu nities, since it is unconstitutional' to plan interventions when the data is in? Not Enough of a Fig Leaf But even Minorities' it seems is not enough of a fig leaf. At a recent meeting to discuss 12th Plan proposals for Minorities, a leading sociologist suggested tha t since any intervention for Minorities' is assumed by implementers to primarily target Muslims, there is bias and neglect, both benign and malignant, down the l ine. So why not plan schemes along sectoral lines (such as support to artisans) where Muslims exist in large numbers, and cross our little fingers and toes in t he hope that a bulk of beneficiaries turn out at the end of the day to be Muslim s? It was probably a realistic but sad proposal, suggesting that India, a pluralist ic democracy, should seek to help some of its most desperate citizens by stealth and subterfuge. The fact is that we as a nation cannot hope to solve a problem we refuse to name. Naming and shaming alone was the single most important contri bution of the Sachar Report (which was about Muslims not Minorities'). But regret tably the Sachar respite from historical institutional obfuscation was all too b rief. So who are the Minorities? The Constitution mentions minorities in four places, Articles 29-30 where it refers to both linguistic and religious minorities, and Articles 350A and 350B, which pertain only to linguistic minorities. At the nati onal level, under the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992, the Central g overnment notified five religious minorities (Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Buddhist , and Sikh). In TMA Pai Foundation & Ors vrs State of Karnataka and others (2002 ), the Supreme Court held that for the purpose of Article 30 a minority, linguis tic or religious, should be determined at the level of the State and not at the

level of the country. State Minorities Commission Acts empower the State governm ents to notify such minorities, and under this provision, Jains have been notifi ed a State religious minority in several states. Yet, scanning recently through a draft report on religious minorities in the Nor th East, I came across this brain twisting oxymoron, when the minority is a majori ty, then recognition of that minority who is majority, will be as a majority and majority will be considered a minority' Deciphering this tangle meant the follow ing the writer was troubled when confronted with Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya , where Hindus are the religious minority and Christians the religious majority. His familiar mental categories of Majority=Hindu and Minority=Muslim/Christian were unraveling. He meant that Hindus (a religious majority at the national leve l) must be recognised as a minority at the State level. Absolutely. As for linguistic minorities, they exist only at the level of the States and eve ry State has several. The Ranganath Misra Commission report says, first, every co mmunity in India becomes a minority because in one or the other state of the cou ntry it will be a minority linguistic or religious. (p32) Gujaratis in Delhi, Tam ils in Karnataka, Biharis in Mumbai indeed each of us domiciled in any State bar ring our native' state is a linguistic minority. And remember, south of the Vindh yas, linguistic nationalism and linguistic fault lines have far greater historic al and emotional salience than religious ones. As Loaded as an Automatic Gun But in the Indian lexicon, the word minority' is as loaded as an automatic gun. P eople instantly think religious minorities (not linguistic minorities), and only think at the level of the country not in the unit of the State. The even more i nstant word association is minority (bang!) = Muslims. No amount of factual corr ection seems to place a safety catch on that automatic gunfire. Which is why we've had the kind of absurd opposition seen in recent days to the Draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill recommended by the Natio nal Advisory Council. The Bill is based on the reality that in cases of targeted identity-based violence against a non-dominant group at the State level (define d as linguistic or religious minorities, SCs and STs in a State) there is incont rovertible evidence of bias by local State law enforcement and administrative ma chinery. The Bill therefore proposes correctives to restore equality in the work ing of the law for these non-dominant groups everywhere. A U.N. sub-commission report in 1977, defined minority in precisely these terms a s a group numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a State, in a no n-dominant position And the Ranganath Misra report also clearly says that the basic characteristics of minority status are: numerical inferiority; non-dominant stat us and stable features of distinct identity. Yet critics seized upon the word Minority' in the Communal & Targeted Violence Bi ll. They counted on the automatic gun (minority=Muslim) in people's minds, and t ried to sell the impression that the Bill was somehow anti-Hindu. One TV debate had a right-wing Hindutva ideologue waving the Bill screaming, Why is this direct ed against the majority? For starters, the Bill is directed largely at the State machinery. More importantly, what did the nice gentleman mean by majority'? A bul k of linguistic minorities in every State are Hindu, as are SCs and many STs. Hi ndus are also religious minorities in several states. So, what precisely was his problem? Consider the conundrum. When it comes to development, Muslims can only be called Minority'. When it comes to communal & targeted violence Minority' is not accepta ble because it only seems to mean Muslims'.

What it all boils down to is this. Word games will continue. We will trot out an y excuse, simply because anti-Muslim sentiment across the board is supposedly so strong that we cannot bear to acknowledge the extent to which poor Muslims are in trouble in this country on development, on security, on a decent future. And we're even less able to actually say yes' to giving help. We drape our ignoble bi ases in noble Constitutional defense, instead of generously interpreting the Con stitutional promise of equality to all. Why do we refuse to settle on SRC, socio -religious community, as a valid category for development interventions as Sacha r had suggested? So, the poor Muslim gets poorer; and slow disenfranchisement leads to absolute d isinheritance. Even as the national imagination continues its increasingly slippery embrace of t he Muslim' in frozen unreal traps nawabi high culture, Urdu poetry, cauldrons of rich Biryani and platters of kebab on one side; and capped, bearded, beady eyed Islamists on the other. And India will forever be unable to redress a grave inj ustice that we do not have the courage to name. Farah Naqvi is an independent writer and activist and member of the National Adv isory Council. The views expressed here are personal. Source: The Hindu, New Delhi URL: 4

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COMMENTS 8/12/2011 1:57:08 AM shahid iqbal Zuhara wants to provide a platform to Muslim women with the help of a voluntary organisation popularly known as Nisa for fighting gender inequality and malpractic es prevalent in the Muslim community such as polygamy, triple talaq, dowry, dome stic violence, equal property rights and also guardianship rights for the Muslim women. Ever since Nisa was founded Zuhara has been persistently toiling hard to h ighlight all issues being faced by the Muslim women in Kerala. It is believed that Zuhara after having personally experienced the agony of gend er malpractices, is aware of the ground reality and works to provide solace to a ll aggrieved women of the community with the the help of her organisation. The n eed for, and the idea to constitute a forum of progressive-minded Muslims, came into being following a seminar organised in 1997 at Kozhikode by Kerala Womens Co mmission, which was chaired by poet and social activist Sugathakumari. Zuhara was also a victim of such malpractices prevalent in the community. She go t married at the age of 14 and after 4 years she was divorced and by that time s he was the mother of two children. She recalls, I was too young to know why I wa s divorced and at that time I thought that I was under curse from women who had been divorced by elders in my own family. Although it took a long time for her to come out of that trauma and eventually d ecided to give voice to Muslim women. According to Zuhara her campaign has led t o the arrest of an Arab national from a hotel in Kozhikode with the practice of Arabi kalyanam came to an end. shahid 9910775722

8/11/2011 12:58:11 PM Ghulam Mohiyuddin Farah Naqvi s points are reasonable and sensible. We must stop playing word game s.

8/11/2011 12:46:02 PM satwa gunam Community or individual can develop by oneself as one is the friend and the foe. It is a common excuse of Muslims to continuously blame the government where as they have no intention on family planning, woman education and smaller family.