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The Ayatollahs of secularism

Manas

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Head On : Minhaz Merchant's blog-The Times Of India



On a cool spring day over 60 years ago in California, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a tall, angular man of 22, was in a garrulous mood. He told my father: “Ah, Pakistan. See what we will do with my wonderful new country.”

My father, like young Bhutto, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was unimpressed. “A country founded on theocracy,” he told Bhutto, “will never work.” My mother, among the first Indian women-students on the Berkeley campus, agreed. Bhutto walked away in a huff.

Those were heady days after independence. Bhutto went on to become Pakistan’s youngest Cabinet Minister, at 30, in 1958. My parents returned to India after four years at Berkeley and got married. My father took charge of the family’s petrochemicals business which, thankfully, he was later liberal enough never to coerce me to join.

The difference between Pakistan and India today is the story of how a great religion, Islam, has been distorted by those entrusted to protect its liberal ethos. Pakistan and several countries in the Middle-East have used Islam not to liberate but imprison their people. But it is in “secular” India that the damage has been most insidious.

Jawaharlal Nehru was a secular man. He would have been mortified at what passes off as secularism in modern India. In its purest, most classical sense, secularism requires treating religion as a private matter. It must not enter the public domain. Pray in public or pray in private. But keep your faith at home.

Politicians who have little to offer by way of development – 24-hour electricity, water, housing, sanitation, roads, infrastructure, jobs – will use religion to divert the attention of the common man. According to the latest National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), over 60% of Indians consume less than Rs. 66 a day in cities and less than Rs. 25 a day in villages.

These form the poor whose grandparents were promised Garibi Hatao by Indira Gandhi during her victorious 1971 Lok Sabha election campaign. It should shame the Congress that, 41 years later, the constituency Feroze Gandhi – Indira’s husband – first entered the Lok Sabha from in 1952, Rae Bareli, and from where succeeding generations of Gandhis, including Indira and Sonia, have been elected, is one of the most backward in India. Over 70% of children below the age of 5 in Rae Bareli, for example, are moderately or severely stunted due to malnutrition (The Ayatollahs of secularism – part 1).

But secularism, not development, has been an article of faith for the Gandhis. The poor and the Muslims – the Muslims in particular – have been entrapped into a fear psychosis that warns them: vote for “the other” and you will not be safe.

The riots in Gujarat on February 28, March 1 and March 2, 2002 following the burning of kar sevaks on February 27, 2002, have come especially handy in deepening this paranoia.

Muslims from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, are in effect given this false choice: do you want to be with a “secular” party like the Congress that can guarantee your physical safety but not one square meal a day? Or do you want to be with a party where you must forever live in fear though you will have 24-hour electricity, good housing, roads, jobs and a reasonable standard of living?

Rich electoral dividends have flowed from such fear mongering. In the process, over the decades, regional parties have grasped the fraudulent secular baton from the Congress: the Samajwadi Party (SP) may be the most notorious of these but others like the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have all dealt the duplicitous Muslim card.

Just as they eagerly copied Indira Gandhi’s destructive dynastic politics to enrich their future generations while impoverishing India’s, regional parties have effortlessly morphed into “secular” family firms engaged in exploiting Muslims by cocooning them.

* * *

My daughter, a budding designer, often visits areas in Mumbai to source raw materials for her work and commission artisans. Most of these artisans are Muslims. Most are very poor. Most live in buildings which could collapse any moment. She asked me: “Why doesn’t the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra, which wins elections based on votes from poor Muslims, do anything to improve their lives?”

The answer: because poor Muslims who have no time to think beyond the next meal will not have time to think of governance and development and how both have been sacrificed at the altar of secularism.

But then of course this isn’t secularism. It’s communalism, masquerading as secularism. What really can be more communal than keeping nearly an entire community of 175 million people in poverty for over six decades?

Theocratic countries like Pakistan have more liberal laws for their Muslim citizens than India has for its Muslims. Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia have also reformed medieval Islamic canons.

Why not India? Because the Congress and its regional copycats fear the true liberation of the Muslim mind. That liberation could set off unintended consequences.

Electoral defeat haunts the Congress and its allies more than issues of governance and development – or even justice. That is why it has moved glacially to deliver justice to the victims of the 1984 Sikh pogrom in which over 3,000 Sikhs were killed by Congress-led hooligan-politicians.

At the same time, po-faced, it uses the 750-plus Muslims killed in Gujarat in 2002 in a riot (not a one-sided pogrom), where over 250 of the dead were Hindus, to extract cynical political advantage with the help of its NGO cottage industry.

Muslim leaders have been willing accomplices in this tragedy. Mullahs issue regressive fatwas against Muslim women and edicts against sensible civil laws. Instead of condemning such fatwas, the government maintains a studied silence, tacitly encouraging extremism and keeping ordinary Muslims stuck in a time warp.

The two real enemies of the Muslim – communal politicians masquerading as secular politicians to win votes and Mullahs deliberately misinterpreting the holy book to retain power over their flock – form a natural alliance. Together they have enriched themselves but impoverished India’s Muslims, materially and intellectually, in the name of secularism. These are the Ayatollahs of secularism.

* * *

That brings us to the third angle in this infamous triangle: the liberal, secular Hindu. Where does he stand in all this? He is naturally secular in the truest sense of the word: religion is a private matter, he rightly believes. It has no place in politics.

But he is also swayed by the plight of his fellow-Indians who happen to be Muslims: impoverished, illiterate, ghettoized, discriminated against. For every Azim Premji and Aamir Khan there are millions of weavers in UP and spot boys in Mumbai who have no place in corporate India’s organized labour force.

Liberal, well-meaning Hindus ask why. And the answer they come up with is: communal discrimination. Yet the liberal Hindu doesn’t dig deeper. The more politicians sequester Muslims into vote silos, the more the middle-class Hindu (not the liberal, well-meaning, Stephanian Hindu) resents them. Discrimination, petty or large, mounts.

The real culprits – communal politicians dressed up as secular politicians – get away scot-free in this narrative. The liberal, secular Hindu’s anger against anti-Muslim communalism is therefore misdirected – far away from these real culprits.

The liberal, secular Hindu meanwhile points to “Hindutva” as the real fount of communalism. Is he right? This is how the Supreme Court defined Hindutva when specifically asked to do so in December 1995:

Considering the terms Hinduism or Hindutva per se as depicting hostility, enmity or intolerance towards other religious faiths or professing communalism, proceeds from an improper appreciation and perception of the true meaning of these expressions. These terms (Hinduism or Hindutva) are indicative more of a way of life of the Indian people and are not confined merely to describe persons practicing the Hindu religion as a faith.”

* * *

Today it costs a candidate between Rs. 10 crore and Rs. 50 crore to fight a Lok Sabha election. Over the next 18 months, political parties will need to raise over Rs. 20,000 crore to contest 543 Lok Sabha seats. The potential from future scams has shrunk. Corporate cash donations have been hit – ironically – by the government’s own economic paralysis. Team Anna's decision to fight elections has introduced a new political calculus.

For "secular" parties, 2014 is an election in which they will now have to rely more than ever on raising a fear psychosis against leaders like Narendra Modi who threaten their hold on power – and the financial pipeline that accompanies it but never finds its way into developmental projects, especially for Muslims. After all, they matter only once every five years.

* * *

Influential sections of especially the electronic media, suffused with hearts bleeding from the wrong ventricle, are part of this great fraud played on India’s poor Muslims: communalism dressed up as secularism. The token Muslim is lionized – from business to literature – but the common Muslim languishes in his 65-year-old ghetto. It is from such ghettos that raw recruits to SIMI and IM are most easily found.

Sixty years ago on that Berkeley campus my father told Zulfikar Ali Bhutto why Pakistan would fail as a state. Today, my daughter, as she visits Muslim-dominated ghettos for sourcing her raw materials, sees how Muslim India too has failed. The single biggest cause: communalism – but in quite the opposite way the Congress, SP and other “secular” parties define it.

Follow @minhazmerchant on twitter
 

Horus

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Pakistan has been a failed state from 14 Aug 1947 but only in the eyes of Indians. Indian muslims however are more firm in their belief of a failed Pakistan than their own epic failure in a 'secular India' they chose to be part of.

I heard the same stories ZAB heard at UCLA from Indian muslims , some even blamed Pakistan for gujrat riots :rolleyes:

So Indian muslims have successfuly been contained by the pretend secular hindus regardless of their numbers but for how long ? They should know that tomorrow it will backfire , as Islam's followers have historically done. All those enjoying it today must fear when it starts to happens.
 

ajtr

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Pakistan has been a failed state from 14 Aug 1947 but only in the eyes of Indians. Indian muslims however are more firm in their belief of a failed Pakistan than their own epic failure in a 'secular India' they chose to be part of.

I heard the same stories ZAB heard at UCLA from Indian muslims , some even blamed Pakistan for gujrat riots :rolleyes:

So Indian muslims have successfuly been contained by the pretend secular hindus regardless of their numbers but for how long ? They should know that tomorrow it will backfire , as Islam's followers have historically done. All those enjoying it today must fear when it starts to happens.
Ah!! Elites always listen to stories over some coffee in some third country in the west instead of looking just over the fence.
 

FaujHistorian

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Nice essay on Indian politics.

Not sure if one can ever avoid "vote banking", that is securing election time votes from certain communities.

I am not expert of Indian politics. But I suspect that Congress with its leftist platform attracts votes not from poor Muslims, but from other poor communities.

Lefties promise of wealth distribution is powerful and hits at the bottom of the hearts of many and especially poor folks.

peace
 

jha

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Nice essay on Indian politics.

Not sure if one can ever avoid "vote banking", that is securing election time votes from certain communities.

I am not expert of Indian politics. But I suspect that Congress with its leftist platform attracts votes not from poor Muslims, but from other poor communities.

Lefties promise of wealth distribution is powerful and hits at the bottom of the hearts of many and especially poor folks.

peace
Correct... The disturbing fact for Congress is the recent voting of Poor Muslims for Non- Congress parties and even BJP.
 

FaujHistorian

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........

So Indian muslims have successfuly been contained by the pretend secular hindus regardless of their numbers but for how long ? They should know that tomorrow it will backfire , as Islam's followers have historically done. .
Not sure if we can say that Indian Muslims are trapped in poverty by the Congress.

Nah


Indian Muslims from BIMARU states of India have been trapped in poverty for centuries just like their non-Muslim cousins.

Do not go with the stories you hear in Karachi that somehow Bihari and UP Muslims were super rich in India thanks all to "Podinay kay bagh" (gardens of mint).

My family reunions in Karachi always gets one or two of these old people telling lies as to how rich we were in India before independence. It is all hoax as I discovered later during my visits to the cousins across the border. Our relatives were all dirt poor. Thanks to Pakistan and Liaqat Ali Khan's khota quota system, our parents and grandparents became successful middle class Urdu speakers in Pakistan. Freedom in Pakistan has allowed us to form the worst fascist party like MQM. This party now milks every government in Pakistan and every business in Karachi via Bhata khori (mafia tax). And we still vote for it. We are the vote bank in Pakistan just like our cousins are the vote banks for Congress.

Will Muslims in India form a party like MQM? Nah. Indian Muslims will never have a revolution if that's what you are implying. They will remain dirt poor for centuries to come, just like they have been for centuries in the past.

Not only that, most of the lower class Hindus will remain stuck in poverty as well and for the foreseeable future.

Indian society is too stratified along class and ethnic lines, and too numerous to see a major change in their economic situation.

I would end in positive note. Recent reforms of Indian economy and positive+ pro-West attitude of Indian educated elite provides a hope that one day this ancient, romantic and mysterious land will become prosperous and so too its downtrodden, poverty stricken lower classes be they Hindus or Muslims.


peace.,


p.s. This thread is about India so let's continue focusing on Indian lower classes. Thank you.
 

Soumitra

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The solution is education - mainstream education not religious variety. The Muslims must stop becoming a vote bank and stop believing in the bogeyman of BJP. Then they can rise to their potential.
 

livingdead

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Most muslims have now understood that govt cannot change their fate, they themselves can. Surely low class hindus and muslims should get social justice and equal opportunity, but rest of it depends on them.

Both low caste hindus and muslims tried to use politics (tried to capture power) as tool to change their fate. That gave them social justice, but not prosperity.

Hopefully if no major riot happens, low caste hindus and muslims can use education to come out of poverty. Many lower middle class hindus like me did exactly that.
 

KingMamba

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Head On : Minhaz Merchant's blog-The Times Of India



On a cool spring day over 60 years ago in California, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a tall, angular man of 22, was in a garrulous mood. He told my father: “Ah, Pakistan. See what we will do with my wonderful new country.”

My father, like young Bhutto, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, was unimpressed. “A country founded on theocracy,” he told Bhutto, “will never work.” My mother, among the first Indian women-students on the Berkeley campus, agreed. Bhutto walked away in a huff.

Those were heady days after independence. Bhutto went on to become Pakistan’s youngest Cabinet Minister, at 30, in 1958. My parents returned to India after four years at Berkeley and got married. My father took charge of the family’s petrochemicals business which, thankfully, he was later liberal enough never to coerce me to join.

The difference between Pakistan and India today is the story of how a great religion, Islam, has been distorted by those entrusted to protect its liberal ethos. Pakistan and several countries in the Middle-East have used Islam not to liberate but imprison their people. But it is in “secular” India that the damage has been most insidious.

Jawaharlal Nehru was a secular man. He would have been mortified at what passes off as secularism in modern India. In its purest, most classical sense, secularism requires treating religion as a private matter. It must not enter the public domain. Pray in public or pray in private. But keep your faith at home.

Politicians who have little to offer by way of development – 24-hour electricity, water, housing, sanitation, roads, infrastructure, jobs – will use religion to divert the attention of the common man. According to the latest National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), over 60% of Indians consume less than Rs. 66 a day in cities and less than Rs. 25 a day in villages.

These form the poor whose grandparents were promised Garibi Hatao by Indira Gandhi during her victorious 1971 Lok Sabha election campaign. It should shame the Congress that, 41 years later, the constituency Feroze Gandhi – Indira’s husband – first entered the Lok Sabha from in 1952, Rae Bareli, and from where succeeding generations of Gandhis, including Indira and Sonia, have been elected, is one of the most backward in India. Over 70% of children below the age of 5 in Rae Bareli, for example, are moderately or severely stunted due to malnutrition (The Ayatollahs of secularism – part 1).

But secularism, not development, has been an article of faith for the Gandhis. The poor and the Muslims – the Muslims in particular – have been entrapped into a fear psychosis that warns them: vote for “the other” and you will not be safe.

The riots in Gujarat on February 28, March 1 and March 2, 2002 following the burning of kar sevaks on February 27, 2002, have come especially handy in deepening this paranoia.

Muslims from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, are in effect given this false choice: do you want to be with a “secular” party like the Congress that can guarantee your physical safety but not one square meal a day? Or do you want to be with a party where you must forever live in fear though you will have 24-hour electricity, good housing, roads, jobs and a reasonable standard of living?

Rich electoral dividends have flowed from such fear mongering. In the process, over the decades, regional parties have grasped the fraudulent secular baton from the Congress: the Samajwadi Party (SP) may be the most notorious of these but others like the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have all dealt the duplicitous Muslim card.

Just as they eagerly copied Indira Gandhi’s destructive dynastic politics to enrich their future generations while impoverishing India’s, regional parties have effortlessly morphed into “secular” family firms engaged in exploiting Muslims by cocooning them.

* * *

My daughter, a budding designer, often visits areas in Mumbai to source raw materials for her work and commission artisans. Most of these artisans are Muslims. Most are very poor. Most live in buildings which could collapse any moment. She asked me: “Why doesn’t the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra, which wins elections based on votes from poor Muslims, do anything to improve their lives?”

The answer: because poor Muslims who have no time to think beyond the next meal will not have time to think of governance and development and how both have been sacrificed at the altar of secularism.

But then of course this isn’t secularism. It’s communalism, masquerading as secularism. What really can be more communal than keeping nearly an entire community of 175 million people in poverty for over six decades?

Theocratic countries like Pakistan have more liberal laws for their Muslim citizens than India has for its Muslims. Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia have also reformed medieval Islamic canons.

Why not India? Because the Congress and its regional copycats fear the true liberation of the Muslim mind. That liberation could set off unintended consequences.

Electoral defeat haunts the Congress and its allies more than issues of governance and development – or even justice. That is why it has moved glacially to deliver justice to the victims of the 1984 Sikh pogrom in which over 3,000 Sikhs were killed by Congress-led hooligan-politicians.

At the same time, po-faced, it uses the 750-plus Muslims killed in Gujarat in 2002 in a riot (not a one-sided pogrom), where over 250 of the dead were Hindus, to extract cynical political advantage with the help of its NGO cottage industry.

Muslim leaders have been willing accomplices in this tragedy. Mullahs issue regressive fatwas against Muslim women and edicts against sensible civil laws. Instead of condemning such fatwas, the government maintains a studied silence, tacitly encouraging extremism and keeping ordinary Muslims stuck in a time warp.

The two real enemies of the Muslim – communal politicians masquerading as secular politicians to win votes and Mullahs deliberately misinterpreting the holy book to retain power over their flock – form a natural alliance. Together they have enriched themselves but impoverished India’s Muslims, materially and intellectually, in the name of secularism. These are the Ayatollahs of secularism.

* * *

That brings us to the third angle in this infamous triangle: the liberal, secular Hindu. Where does he stand in all this? He is naturally secular in the truest sense of the word: religion is a private matter, he rightly believes. It has no place in politics.

But he is also swayed by the plight of his fellow-Indians who happen to be Muslims: impoverished, illiterate, ghettoized, discriminated against. For every Azim Premji and Aamir Khan there are millions of weavers in UP and spot boys in Mumbai who have no place in corporate India’s organized labour force.

Liberal, well-meaning Hindus ask why. And the answer they come up with is: communal discrimination. Yet the liberal Hindu doesn’t dig deeper. The more politicians sequester Muslims into vote silos, the more the middle-class Hindu (not the liberal, well-meaning, Stephanian Hindu) resents them. Discrimination, petty or large, mounts.

The real culprits – communal politicians dressed up as secular politicians – get away scot-free in this narrative. The liberal, secular Hindu’s anger against anti-Muslim communalism is therefore misdirected – far away from these real culprits.

The liberal, secular Hindu meanwhile points to “Hindutva” as the real fount of communalism. Is he right? This is how the Supreme Court defined Hindutva when specifically asked to do so in December 1995:

Considering the terms Hinduism or Hindutva per se as depicting hostility, enmity or intolerance towards other religious faiths or professing communalism, proceeds from an improper appreciation and perception of the true meaning of these expressions. These terms (Hinduism or Hindutva) are indicative more of a way of life of the Indian people and are not confined merely to describe persons practicing the Hindu religion as a faith.”

* * *

Today it costs a candidate between Rs. 10 crore and Rs. 50 crore to fight a Lok Sabha election. Over the next 18 months, political parties will need to raise over Rs. 20,000 crore to contest 543 Lok Sabha seats. The potential from future scams has shrunk. Corporate cash donations have been hit – ironically – by the government’s own economic paralysis. Team Anna's decision to fight elections has introduced a new political calculus.

For "secular" parties, 2014 is an election in which they will now have to rely more than ever on raising a fear psychosis against leaders like Narendra Modi who threaten their hold on power – and the financial pipeline that accompanies it but never finds its way into developmental projects, especially for Muslims. After all, they matter only once every five years.

* * *

Influential sections of especially the electronic media, suffused with hearts bleeding from the wrong ventricle, are part of this great fraud played on India’s poor Muslims: communalism dressed up as secularism. The token Muslim is lionized – from business to literature – but the common Muslim languishes in his 65-year-old ghetto. It is from such ghettos that raw recruits to SIMI and IM are most easily found.

Sixty years ago on that Berkeley campus my father told Zulfikar Ali Bhutto why Pakistan would fail as a state. Today, my daughter, as she visits Muslim-dominated ghettos for sourcing her raw materials, sees how Muslim India too has failed. The single biggest cause: communalism – but in quite the opposite way the Congress, SP and other “secular” parties define it.

Follow @minhazmerchant on twitter
This here goes for all Muslim countries all over the world. :agree:
 

T-Rex

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Not sure if we can say that Indian Muslims are trapped in poverty by the Congress.

Nah


Indian Muslims from BIMARU states of India have been trapped in poverty for centuries just like their non-Muslim cousins.

Do not go with the stories you hear in Karachi that somehow Bihari and UP Muslims were super rich in India thanks all to "Podinay kay bagh" (gardens of mint).

My family reunions in Karachi always gets one or two of these old people telling lies as to how rich we were in India before independence. It is all hoax as I discovered later during my visits to the cousins across the border. Our relatives were all dirt poor. Thanks to Pakistan and Liaqat Ali Khan's khota quota system, our parents and grandparents became successful middle class Urdu speakers in Pakistan. Freedom in Pakistan has allowed us to form the worst fascist party like MQM. This party now milks every government in Pakistan and every business in Karachi via Bhata khori (mafia tax). And we still vote for it. We are the vote bank in Pakistan just like our cousins are the vote banks for Congress.

Will Muslims in India form a party like MQM? Nah. Indian Muslims will never have a revolution if that's what you are implying. They will remain dirt poor for centuries to come, just like they have been for centuries in the past.

Not only that, most of the lower class Hindus will remain stuck in poverty as well and for the foreseeable future.

Indian society is too stratified along class and ethnic lines, and too numerous to see a major change in their economic situation.

I would end in positive note. Recent reforms of Indian economy and positive+ pro-West attitude of Indian educated elite provides a hope that one day this ancient, romantic and mysterious land will become prosperous and so too its downtrodden, poverty stricken lower classes be they Hindus or Muslims.


peace.,


p.s. This thread is about India so let's continue focusing on Indian lower classes. Thank you.

What stops you from using the flag you glorify? You are a regular turn coat!
 

Armstrong

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Good insight and a very informative read though, because I've never been to India, I don't really know whether this insight is truly reflective of the ground realities of India or not.

Having said that I feel compelled to point out something - Iran is a theocratic state and to a certain extent so is KSA but Pakistan is not ! We may believe in the political and economic paradigms of Islam but we are not ruled by a clergy on their self-appointed divine mission. We're just a dysfunctional democracy besought with immense problems of governance trying to find a right mix of Islam and Modernism.
 

livingdead

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I dont quite agree with the article, it seems to be written by a right wing apologist.
There is nothing wrong being a vote bank, muslims got what they demanded mostly.
They got their own regressive personal law which they are fond of and fight for all the time.
The got their education system (madrasas) , some good and some bad.
 

Armstrong

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I dont quite agree with the article, it seems to be written by a right wing apologist.
There is nothing wrong being a vote bank, muslims got what they demanded mostly.
They got their own regressive personal law which they are fond of and fight for all the time.
The got their education system (madrasas) , some good and some bad.
Ja kar liye jo karna hai ! :chilli:
 

Sashan

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Well written article.


And this part is especially true.

"Liberal, well-meaning Hindus ask why. And the answer they come up with is: communal discrimination. Yet the liberal Hindu doesn’t dig deeper. The more politicians sequester Muslims into vote silos, the more the middle-class Hindu (not the liberal, well-meaning, Stephanian Hindu) resents them. Discrimination, petty or large, mounts.

The real culprits – communal politicians dressed up as secular politicians – get away scot-free in this narrative. The liberal, secular Hindu’s anger against anti-Muslim communalism is therefore misdirected – far away from these real culprits."


But the liberal hindus' hands are tied as they do not wield power as these pseudo-secular politicians play the caste cards on poor hindus as well and put together a winning combination consisting of poor hindus belonging to certain castes and muslims. Naturally the liberal hindus are a frustrated lot and it shows up in anger and resentment. But unlike what the author says here that they do not dig deeper, many have done that but they are a frustrated lot understanding how these parties play their cards.
 

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