Indian Muslims’ priorities
Over the last forty years, in the context of a predominantly Hindu sub-continent, the Indian Muslims, second in number only to Indonesian Muslims (over 125 million), have nevertheless failed to benefit from their being the largest minority group.
Although, at the time of partition, they failed to make necessary mental adjustments to the new Indian situation.
They should have tried to gain a position for themselves in the country by becoming a creative minority, but, sad to say, they failed to prove their worth. They may be the largest minority community, but they have become the most deprived of all groups in the country.
In view of their creed, tradition, history and numbers, the Muslims were certainly in a position to make a major contribution to the life of new India; the saying ‘in giving we receive’ could well have come true for them.
But, in order to do so, they needed a period of tranquillity; and this could have been possible only if they had unilaterally withdrawn all their grudges and complaints against the majority and risen above the reactionary psychology of the times.
But, unfortunately, the Muslim leadership failed to give the necessary guidance. As a result, the Muslims were reduced to being group ‘with demands;’ as such they could not become a giver group.
The religion of the Muslims gives them enough moral stature to play a real and effective part in tackling the grave problems that India is facing these days.
But, to be able to play this role, a ‘superior solution’ (a phrase of Toynbee’s) was required. It is thanks to intellectual bankruptcy on the part of the Muslim leadership that no such solution has been found.
A thorough and pertinent analysis of the problem of the Indian Muslims has been made by an American Orientalist, Dr. Theodore Paul Wright, Jr., who has been writing exhaustively on the subject for the last 25 years in the most prestigious journals of the world. Dr Wright’s advice to the Indian Muslims is ‘to be as inconspicuous as possible so as not to draw Hindu backlash.’
He concedes, though, that ‘this is a very hard advice to follow for a proud people living in the midst of their monuments of glory.’
He divides the Indian Muslims into two broad categories — the ‘coastal’ Muslims and the ‘inland’ Muslims. The latter he calls ‘monument-conscious, living in the midst of their Taj Mahals and Red Fort and Char Minars’ — those who have not forgotten that they once constituted the ruling elite minority.
It is significant, he feels, that the ‘Hindus pay little or no attention to coastal Muslim trading communities,’ whereas ‘the price they (the inland Muslims) pay is very heavy in terms of the riots that occur.’
If the Muslims fail to relate to their present situation, it is in large measure due to their emotional development having atrophied in memories of their glorious past: they had, after all, been rulers of South Asia for almost a millennium.
This, indeed, is the principal underlying factor in the lack of realism which marks a great deal of their own planning for the future.
Adverse circumstances having led them to the point where the only feasible course is to take ‘a back seat,’ they are still unwilling to face up to the reality of the situation.
Worse, they are misled by their leaders, who keep harking back to the heyday of the Mughal reign and who insist on dwelling upon slights (imagined or otherwise) to the Islamic psyche.
In the present context, the paths along which the Muslims are directed by popular leaders can only lead to destruction.
The realisation has not yet come to them that from the position of the ‘back seat’ they are free to devote their time and energy to exploiting their own considerable potential.
By putting aside notions of privilege and precedence, they can better educate and develop themselves in consonance with the modern and fast changing setting in which they now find themselves. It is simply a question of their getting their priorities straight.