Sometimes i wonder what it would be like to be a member of an oppressed Indian minority. I am neither a Muslim nor a dalit. I am not a woman. I don’t even belong to the northeast; people from there are often discriminated against in various parts of India. The closest i felt like a minority was when i worked in a bank abroad, and felt the occasional tinge of discrimination against Indians. Still, that was minor.
In a sense, i can never fully understand the feelings a minority person goes through. Hence, any attempt to give advice to the minorities of India is audacious. None of us majority members are completely qualified to comment on your situation.
However, a better India would require better leaders, something we have to work together for. We have to learn to vote better. We haven’t been doing so, and that is why we often find some of the most dishonest people in society right at the top. Perhaps we have a bad system, or we don’t know how to vote. Most likely, the candidates managed to fool us.
One way some politicians fool us is by playing vote-bank politics. They understand the emotion of oppression felt by the minority, claim to be their saviors and ask for their vote in return. The minority votes for the candidate or party in the hope that they will come to power and protect them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. What happens is that the wrong guy is chosen for the job, someone who is neither competent nor honest. He is chosen because he is a symbol of hope for the minority.
However, decades pass and the minority remains as oppressed as ever. Of all the minorities lured into such deceptive vote-bank schemes, our Muslim citizens are wooed the most because their community is one of the largest in terms of actual numbers. They are often believed to vote en-bloc. Also, as a community, they face significant oppression. Appeal to that injustice, and one can bring them all together, and hopefully, get a nice block vote for a politician.
However, my dear Muslim brothers and sisters, you have been had. Yes, you have been fooled time and again by these politicians who promised you the world, but kept you as oppressed as ever. They may have given you an odd freebie, but they kept the whole nation poor due to bad governance. They never built proper infrastructure, irrigation facilities, enough schools, colleges or healthcare to make sure citizens enjoy a respectable life. And yes, they have fooled the whole nation. They kept us busy with the Hindu vs Muslim debate, while they hid the fact that the entire country suffered due to their misgovernance. For when an Indian student doesn’t get a good college after school, it doesn’t matter if he is Muslim or Hindu, it still hurts the same. When government hospitals treat Indians worse than animals, the religion of the patient doesn’t matter. When 90% of Indians cannot afford fresh fruit because of inflation, it isn’t the Hindus or Muslims who feel the pinch. We all do, and it is time to we ask our leaders to fix the problems rather than create new, artificial ones.
I want to urge the Muslims of India to keep the heat on politicians. Do not commit your vote or loyalty to any political party forever. Time has shown, they will only take you for granted. One should keep their vote floating, and in the end vote for the better (or less worse) party. Your vote has much more power if it can change over time.
The above, however, still doesn’t take away the fact that minorities face oppression. Laws should be in place to prevent discrimination, and culturally, Indians will have to become open-minded if they have any dream of seeing their country as a developed nation. We as majority members have to be extra cautious to not hurt feelings of minorities. Of course, there have been situations where even the majority community has suffered because they were a local minority — Kashmiri Pandits, for instance. In such cases, the Muslim community should be sensitive to the feelings of Hindus too.
We are at a unique point in India’s history. A significant part of the population is craving for change. Vote-bank politics and hating each other’s religion should be chastised and branded un-Indian. After all, our religions have stood the test of time and are great. It is our nation, yours and mine, that has to be made great now. Are you on board?