Is Democratic India An Outlier in its Treatment of Minorities?


Omer Asad Bajabar | Caravan Daily

TODAY, a vast majority of Muslims live in countries where they are in minority. But since many of these countries have democratically elected governments, Muslims, even being a minority, enjoy the same rights and privileges as other citizens of that country.

Post World War II, most of Western Europe and the US adopted democracy as their governance model. Though democracy has its own set of problems, comparatively democratic countries have been more successful in safeguarding their rights to live with dignity and equality as compared to countries governed by any other form such as autocracy, totalitarianism or monarchy.

True to its character democracy is rightly defined as “a government of the People, by the people and for the People.” Hence, in a democracy, each individual is an equal partner in governance.

What makes democracy sets apart is that unlike the traditional forms of governance, rights and duties of citizens are well defined in a democracy and are enshrined in the constitutions of these countries.

It is good to see Muslims, as also other minorities, be it religious, linguistic, ethnic or cultural minorities, live and enjoy their democratic rights as equal citizens of these countries. However, they should be prepared for any eventuality in the future.

The rainbow nationalism (representative of multiracial or multicultural societies) that the countries boast of may or may not be a permanent feature of governance.

As we all know the history of democracy as a model of governance is too short to be taken for granted. Hence, the assumption that all the citizens will continue to be treated as equals with the same privileges and protections for eternity could prove too farfetched.

The greatest disadvantage of democracy is that it is essentially a government of the majority. Hence, under democracy the rights and privileges of minorities are mere gifts extended to them by the majority.

However, with the passage of time, the majority might feel threatened by the minorities. The reason could be large-scale migration, overpopulation, etc. This could lead the majority to exercise their power of the vote and bring drastic changes in the very constitution of a country that guarantees equal rights to every citizen to trample upon the rights of their fellow citizens.

Abrogation of article 370 in Kashmir in India by the federal government with a single stroke by a brute majority in both houses of parliament is a valid example of things in store. It will be foolish to believe that India is a one-off case and nothing of the sort will ever happen in Europe and the US.

Every democratic country has a strong rightwing nationalist party and its members are excluded from the majority community/race. The very first step of the rightwing extremists is to create a ‘fear psychosis’ in the majority community that minority is going to take control of their country either through population growth (or their financial strength as it happened with the Jews in Germany). This need not be true on the ground, but fear and hate don’t need facts and can grow and sustain in an environment of mistrust and bigotry.

We must not take the rights we enjoy and the freedoms we live in for granted rather make every effort to strengthen the democratic process to build and sustain a strong relationship between various communities. In order to attain this goal, we Muslims should take an active part in the welfare of all the communities. This is a God-sent opportunity to call the people towards the truth. No matter what, the success of Muslims depends upon their commitment to the cause of their Deen faith. They should live up to the high standards of morality, justice and benevolence set by their religion.

If Muslims don’t realise their position as a middle nation, who are raised for the welfare of the mankind, they might well be for a shock and when time runs out for them, they will be subjected to some very severe trials and tribulations as their forefathers were subjected to.

Let us utilise this time, a period of peace, tranquility, equality, freedom, health, and abundance before it will eventually be taken away. Please remember, India is not a one-off case and we must prepare ourselves and must strive to benefit from the current offerings of freedom and equality and must work towards the establishment of a just social order based on the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in our Deen.



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