Remain cynical or overcome cynicism, choice is ours
Muslims face an urgent choice they must not sit over. They must decide between remaining cynical or overcoming cynicism. It is a critical choice and will determine how we see the world and would be seen by the rest of it.Should history see us as being hysterical or harmonious? Progressive or regressive? People are not noted for what they fail to achieve, but for what they do.
On Sunday, I attended a conference, where one of the speakers was a cleric leader from Bihar, Maulana Wali Rahmani. I have no doubts Rahmani has great knowledge about Islam. I also know that he is a patriot. But left to him, we are doomed.
Rahmani thinks the Right to Education Act will kill madrassas, since it will outlaw children from attending them. He is wrong. He has not read the new Act.
Therefore, aside from the fact that every child must get modern education, Rahmani does not know that there is nothing in the new law that forbids Muslim kids from getting a religious education. In case you thought Rahmani was just another cleric, you should know that he is the general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and a former deputy speaker of Bihar Assembly.
I have always said that one of the problems with India’s Muslim political leadership is that it largely overlaps with the religious leadership.
Clerics like Rahmani would do better to stick to their area of expertise. They should be given due respect for the services rendered by them, like teaching us how to say our prayers and how to bury our dead. When they try to sound more knowledgeable then they are, they should be simply ignored, not engaged.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a story, which appeared on the front page, about a perceptible increase in minority employment.
Several Muslims called me up to enquire if this was indeed true. I told them two things: I am not a fiction writer and Muslims need to step back and look at how far they have come.
News reports, especially ones that reveal a statistical trend, must always be backed by hard data. In an infographic alongside my story, we put out numbers to show how much minority employment had gone up by, both in absolute numbers and in percentage terms.
Considering our population and backwardness, even a 15% rise would look very small. True. But employment is a function of education and skill. There will never be anything like mass enrollment. You can’t just troop in like that.
According to the Sachar Committee’s findings in 2006, Muslims held fewer than 5% of government posts and made up only 4% of undergraduates, though they make up 13.4% of all Indians.
The share of minorities, including Muslims, in government employment is rising steadily on the back of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s directive in 2007 to focus on their employment, latest government data reveal.
The directive had come after the Sachar Committee, which probed disadvantages faced by Muslims, the country’s largest minority, found the community lagging abysmally on various socio-economic parameters.
So after much effort, minorities constituted 9.24% of total government recruitment last year and in fact had risen from 6.9% in 2007 to 8.3% in 2008.
We have become so cynical that even a news story, evidenced from hard data, looks too good to be true.
Between 2008 and 2009, the share of minorities on government rolls jumped 24%, the data reviewed by HT show.
In absolute numbers, 15,172 people from various minority groups were hired in 2009, up from 12,195 in 2008 and 12,182 in 2007.
Disaggregated employment data for Muslims is not available, since the PM’s directive was to focus on minority employment on the whole, even though it came in the context of Sachar’s findings.
“Some way or the other, Muslim employment would have gone up since they make up 90% of all minorities,” minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid said.
“This indicates inclusive development, which necessarily cannot happen without minorities,” retired chief justice Rajinder Sachar, who headed the Sachar panel, told me.
Khurshid said the UPA government was now pushing the private sector to improve workplace diversity voluntarily, without instruments like reservation. “The PM is engaging the private sector directly on this,” he said.
With a helping hand we can improve our lot. This has been proven. This is not to suggest that we sit back on our laurels.
There is enormous sluggishness in way government schemes are implemented. This sluggishness affects us more, because we are more backward.
We have to push ahead, complain and raise a stink when things don’t work. In fact, all citizens should. But skepticism hinders success. Don’t let it take root.