It’s vital to keep religion out of it

There is absolutely no reason to politicise the religious composition of India’s armed forces

One of the most dangerously irresponsible acts of the India’s Congress party-led government is the setting up of a high-level committee to prepare a report on the demography and ‘socio-economic situation’ of Muslims in India. The terms of reference are broad on one hand, and go into specific details on the other. Although the government won’t admit it explicitly, the objective of the entire exercise is to pave the way for reservations for Muslims in education and employment. The manner in which the terms of reference have been framed leaves no doubt as to their intended purpose. Here are some examples:

1. In which States, Regions, Districts and Blocks do Muslims of India mostly live?

6. (a) What is the proportion of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from the Muslim community in the total OBC population in various States?
(b) Are the Muslim OBCs listed in the comprehensive list of OBCs prepared by the National and State Backward Classes Commissions and adopted by the Central and State Governments for reservation for various purposes?
(c) What is the share of Muslim OBCs in the total public sector employment for OBCs in the Centre and various States in various years? [GOI]

For acquiring data on the socio-economic condition of the minorities, the government of India does not need a high-profile, political committee that gathers quantitative data based on public hearings and roadshows across the nation. It could have used the official census, an apolitical, professional and scientific instrument that can reveal sufficient details about minorities (all of them) to inform government policy. The Acorn has previously argued that Dr Manmohan Singh’s government will be remembered for having entrenched a culture of entitlement that will undermine India’s economy and deepen the divisions of its society without doing anything better for the supposed beneficiaries of the reservation policies. Vote-bank politics, of course, will receive a boost. Not content with having sliced and diced the myriad castes and communities its Hindu population, the Congress party has turned its attention towards India’s Muslims. And lest you ask, all this is by the way of secularism, of which the Congress party is a staunch supporter.

What is absolutely unforgivable is the UPA government’s decision to drag in the armed forces into this web of cynical political calculus. The armed forces are the one place where religious and communal divisions are not institutionalised. As Gen J J Singh, the chief of the Indian army says, “it is not the Army’s philosophy to discriminate or maintain such information. We are equal-opportunity employers. We strive to take people on certain standards after which only merit takes them forward. We do not bother about where they are from, their faith or their language”. There is no reason at all to investigate the ethnic and religious composition of the armed forces, let alone to do this with a view to ensure the ‘adequate representation’ one particular religious group. The Indian government has no grounds at all to question how the armed forces select, appoint or place their personnel based on their religious affiliations. As Gen Singh pointed out, collecting and keeping such data is the thin end of the wedge. Putting such data in the hands of a political class hell-bent on creating pockets of entitlement is a recipe for undermining the morale and the espirit de corps without which armies cannot even begin to fight their wars, let alone win them. And then there are those who want to use such data to make the loyalties of Muslim soldiers the subject of innuendo — there can be nothing more unpardonable than this. And lest you ask, all this too is by way of secularism, to which the UPA government is committed.

The UPA government stinks. And that’s putting it very mildly. There can be nothing but contempt for those who are running India to the ground.

Updates: Former soldiers speak out: V R Raghavan on India marches together; and Anil Athale on the dangerous census. The opposition has sought presidential intervention to stop this outrage.

22 thoughts on “It’s vital to keep religion out of it”

  1. Pingback: Random ramblings
  2. Thats it. I am convinced that India will get back to the Nehruvian rate of growth. And of course, more mandalisation, criminilization and communalisation will follow. Alas, a pathetic ruling coalition and an opposition in an equally pathetic state.

  3. Nitin: The GoI link is a revelation – the part concerning Bangladeshi migrants. Soon Dhaka will be writing its own Monroe Doctrine in India’s north east.

  4. It does stink. But the Indian people have no one but themselves to blame for this. Particularly considering that they kicked out the NDA at a time when the BJP was making a serious effort to recast itself as a modernizing party.

    Public opinion polls have shown that a majority of Indians oppose privatizing state-owned enterprises, and that Sonia Gandhi is one of the most popular politicians in the country. I guess some lessons just need to be learned the hard way.

  5. Couldn’t agree more with your post, especially about UPA stinks. I hope some Muslim leaders will come out against the absolute stupidity of what Mr. Manmahon is doing with respect to IA. It’s like they are living in a time warp – all in the name of secularism. Any why the special treatment towards Muslims – are there no other minorities in India? I know, I know…others are not a big enough voting block. They are carrying the British heritage of divide and rule to a new height.

  6. Adding to previous comments…

    “What is the proportion of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from the Muslim community in the total OBC population in various States?”

    Isn’t it the beauty of West-Asian religions like Islam that they don’t have a class system? Apparently they do know. Now how shall we create a class/caste system amongst Indian Muslims – bring in an Islamic Manu? The whole thing reeks. It’s a slippery slope and these things don’t reverse easily.

  7. Great post, couldn’t agree more. The whole idea of reservations is inimical to me – as a Muslim born and brought up in a middle class household in Bombay I absolutely disagree with the concept of reserving anything for Muslims or for people of any other group of people based on caste/class or sex. There are other ways than arbitrary reservations to undo whatever harm has been historically done by the caste system, all it needs is political will and vision which our elected representatives have often seemed to lack.

  8. Praveen, have to disagree. India will grow even faster _inspite_ of the idiocy of it’s political class. India grows _inspite_ of the government, not because of it. A majority of the population is hopeful, hard-working and ambitious. We’ve handled much worse and survived – from Nehru’s “commanding heights” misadventure to Indira’s “emergency”. I’m betting we’ll thrive.

  9. You know, every time I get a positive feeling about where India’s heading, I receive a wonderful piece of news like this to remind me how glad I am that my family moved here to the US.

  10. Rahul BR: the tide is turning the other way. Personally know several folks contemplating the bicontinental deal, as well as the prodigal return. And why not. India’s going to grow at 7-9% for the next 15 years. The US will be hard-pressed to maintain 3%. Europe is as good as dead – hence not a useful option.

  11. libertarian, while I agree that one has to stay put and work towards change in ones own country instead of looking for safe havens around the globe, 7-9% growth is not an end in itself. One can be rich and still be a bigot. The idea is to have economic prosperity while working towards more equitable society. UPA, unfortunately, fails in both categories – it spend two years with no policies to promote economic prosperity while working hard to create a divided society based on religion after doing the same for decades to caste differences (instead of working towards a caste/religion blind secular society).

  12. Completely agree with your post. The Congress gameplan appears to aim at consolidating the minority votebank. This strategy will certainly weaken the Samajwadi Party in UP and Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar. However, the Congress leadership seems to be oblivious to the massive polarization that this strategy will create within the society. A really worrying development indeed!

  13. absolutely agree with your view on this.

    The more we politicise relegion, the more it becomes a contentious issue. We need to take relegion out of the mainstream Indian politics.

    Its a sad day that armed forces is being tarred with relegious colours.


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