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Saturday, March 5, 2011

(Published in Sify.com on 4 March 2011, retrieved from http://www.sify.com/news/minority-rule-the-india-pakistan-divide-news-columns-ldepEychcfc.html)


(Photo Courtesy: Sify.com. Unauthorised reproduction of this image is not permitted.)

‘What is the difference between India and Pakistan?’ We’ve all pondered over this question, usually at some stage of our school lives. Having grown up under the impression that the two nations were sworn enemies, we discover during our history classes that they were once part of the same country.



It is much later, though, that the difference becomes apparent –India is made up of a majority of minorities; in Pakistan, the majority is a minority and won’t tolerate any other. This is why extremists deemed it right to kill minister Shahbaz Bhatti and governor Salman Taseer for choosing to stand up for a woman sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’.


Cross the Line of Control, and welcome to a country where the minority is always right. Perhaps it began with the inception of Pakistan, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi decided the country deserved Rs. 55 crore from the national treasury. Next, came the battle for Kashmir – in wringing its hands before the UN on the threshold of victory, India turned the state into a gangrenous limb.


Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, when a look at the reservation table will tell you what I mean when I say India is constituted by a majority of minorities. While a piece of the pie is kept aside for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/STs), the lion’s share belongs to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Most Backward Classes (MBCs).


No wonder then that everyone’s scrambling for the lowest spot on the caste-class ladder. I find it rather ironic that people who converted to other religions to shed the burden of labels that the caste-ridden Hindu hierarchy imposed on them, now want to be known as ‘Dalit Christians’ and ‘Dalit Muslims’.


Sadly enough, the phrase ‘appeasing the minorities’ has slipped into common political parlance, and has become an acceptable pre-poll tactic. The majority stands to gain from it, and those of us who don’t qualify for any of the right labels sigh.


People point eagerly to the Women’s Reservation Bill as proof that India’s minority-consciousness is headed in the right direction. But do we really need another mechanism to allow the wives and daughters of politicians into the control room, when India is essentially ruled by a woman who is about as Indian as Queen Victoria was German?


The real minority in India, though, comprises decision-makers. In that, perhaps, we have something in common with the Pakistan. In Pakistan, the shots are literally called by bearded men supposedly living in caves (and yet owning posh residences in expensive localities). In India, resolutions that will affect the entire nation are focused around the petty interests of the people who sign on the dotted lines.


The most recent example of this was Mamata Banerjee’s Rail Budget, which left most of the country confused about whether it was indeed the Union Rail Budget, or an election-manifesto-of-sorts for West Bengal. ‘Didi’ went on to bewilder the nation a few days later, by deciding to cover up what looked like the start of her campaign, with a hint that she may not contest polls in her home state. Yeah, right.


Further down south, the DMK is wondering how to react to allegations that one of its leaders is involved in the fishy business off the Lankan coast.


Meanwhile, the parents of a murdered child are being accused of conspiring to kill her – when they were the ones who fought against the CBI’s plea to close the Aarushi Talwar case – even as a man who has looted the treasury continued to head the Telecom Ministry well into his media trial. Weeks after the official inquiry began, A Raja’s actions were defended by minister Kapil Sibal.


And where are these leaders when an actual emergency crops up? While Muammar Gaddafi’s tanks and aircraft target the residents of Tripoli, India is patting itself on the back for getting a third of the Indian migrant population out of Libya.


As Pakistan propels itself towards becoming a failed state, we should start thinking about what label we as a country can bid for – banana republic? If our agricultural sector was doing well enough to qualify us for that term, our statistics on farmer suicides wouldn’t read the way they do. Perhaps we could call ourselves a Minority Raj. Only concerns that will affect a minority of the nation matter – well, as long as it’s the right minority.

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