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Hasan Ghias comes from India and has had a long and successful career as a senior business executive in the Gulf. He is a Sloan Fellow of the London Business School and an Advanced Leadership Fellow of Harvard University

The New Untouchables

Indian Muslims

Should Muslims disengage from the political processes that are the lifeblood of democracy? This proposition may have some emotive appeal under the present circumstances, but rationally speaking that cannot be the answer.  We must not surrender the one right that remains constitutionally ours  just because we have been outvoted. What we need is a sensible political strategy, uninfluenced by self-seekers, community brokers, perpetuators of regressive ideas and divisive forces. If we wish India to remain a pluralistic society, our own vision cannot be narrowly constrained. Above all, we need moral and intellectual integrity that has been sorely missing, with a very few notable exceptions of course. Those who profess to be Muslim leaders hardly have a following; those who apparently have a following lead in the wrong direction.

HASAN GHIAS  | Caravan Daily

The stunning victory of the BJP, which fielded not a single Muslim candidate in the UP elections, crowned by the nomination of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister, has confirmed the status of Indian Muslims as the ‘ New Untouchables’. Lies repeated often enough acquire the ring of truth. The BJP has distilled this Goebbelsian precept into a potent and poisonous canard of Muslim appeasement. Controversies raised during the election campaign regarding the allocation of funds to Muslim graveyards and uninterrupted electricity supply during their festivals conveniently glossed over the fact that while Muslims constitute 19% of the  population of UP, their representation in the administration, judiciary, police, provincial constabulary, and the public sector falls woefully short. This propaganda of Muslim appeasement and ‘minorityism’ that flies in the face of facts has yielded the BJP rich political dividends and has converted a pluralistic democracy into sheer majoritarian rule. Disenfranchisement of Muslims has not been just a BJP preserve since other political parties have indulged in it as well, but the BJP has taken this exclusion to new heights.

Should then Muslims disengage from the political processes that are the lifeblood of democracy? This proposition may have some emotive appeal under the present circumstances, but rationally speaking that cannot be the answer.  We must not surrender the one right that remains constitutionally ours  just because we have been outvoted. What we need is a sensible political strategy, uninfluenced by self-seekers, community brokers, perpetuators of regressive ideas and divisive forces. If we wish India to remain a pluralistic society, our own vision cannot be narrowly constrained. Above all, we need moral and intellectual integrity that has been sorely missing, with a very few notable exceptions of course. Those who profess to be Muslim leaders hardly have a following; those who apparently have a following lead in the wrong direction.

Elections are not the only time to engage with the political processes, nor is political engagement the only game in town. Most Muslim elected representatives have been insensitive to the needs of the community for educational development and social upliftment. While we have failed to produce visionary political leadership, we have failed even more in the exercise of educational, economic, social and moral leadership. We may or may not be able to influence the direction of political change in the country, but we certainly can improve our own pathetic condition through better education, improved skills and economic participation, shedding  regressive social attitudes and more than anything else, repairing  our frayed moral fiber.

Social cohesiveness can be the result of strong internal binding forces, or the outcome of externally applied pressure. In the absence of internal cohesion, external pressure may be a blessing in disguise. Despondency provides no escape from reality, nor does it illuminate the path to recovery. The pressing need is for a different kind of leadership, moral, visionary and wise, not one characterized by divisiveness, self-seeking opportunism, obscurantism, lack of honesty and intellectual bankruptcy. The darkest hour is before dawn. Are we to gloomily stare at a bottomless abyss of despair, or should we be looking for rays of hope, no matter how distant in the horizon?

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