Sunday, May 31, 2009

Will India ever have a Muslim Code Bill?

Will India ever have a Muslim Code Bill?
By M J Akbar

As power settles into the comfortable grooves of a five-year plateau, a useful question awaits a response: what does India want to be by 2014? If the answer was simple the query would not have been raised.

To suggest that Indians want a better, more egalitarian economy is both obvious and inadequate. Indians have demanded a high growth rate since 1947. They desired independence because they believed it would offer a better life, free from exploitation by a taxing state and accompanying layers of smug middlemen. The horizon has not remained static for 60 years, even if the poor and the indigent might still wonder if the State cares quite as much for them as it does for middlemen.

What is the skyline like in 2009?

What Indians seek more than anything else is the economic equity and cultural freedoms of a modern nation-state. Poverty is anti-modern. It stinks of a colonised past we would rather forget. But modernity is much more than money. There are countries that have money beyond the definition of avarice, or resources beyond the limits of good fortune. But they are neither modern, nor do they show any sign of trying to become modern.

Modernity is a basket of aspirations interlinked in the subtleties of an expanding mind, from gender equality to bakeries to highways to English medium schools to elections to a thirst for newspapers in unknown small towns. Modernity is not about an immature rejection of habits or tradition. A muffin may sit easily beside a dosa during breakfast in Kottayam or Hubli; and a croissant beside a parantha in Rampur. The bar in Mangalore is not about alcohol. It is about choice and freedom from the grey shadows of a moral police. But this is the easy part.

A modern nation is defined by four non-negotiable rights: equality of citizenship across origin and gender; secularism; liberty of speech; and economic equity. It is obvious that the politics of our country works, which is why every election result is a surprise to politicians.

If Mahatma Gandhi is the Father of the Nation then Jawaharlal Nehru is the Father of the Modern Nation, for the alchemy of India's transformation into modern India can be sourced to the passage of the Hindu Code Bill. This remarkable legislation, pushed through serious internal opposition, released Hindu women from the coils of bias and, by the '80s, had made them productive equals in a nation that would be unrecognisable from a telescope rooted in the '50s. Nehru's modernising vision was deeply etched in the imagination of his grandson Rajiv Gandhi, whose ideology might be called liberation-technology. Every computer in India is a living child of a Rajiv dream.

But Jawaharlal and Rajiv were also guilty of one massive failure. Nehru refused to offer Indian Muslims the gift he had given to Indian Hindus; there was no Muslim Code Bill. It is perfectly true that social legislation in Muslim personal law was much in advance of the rights of Hindu women until Nehru altered the dynamic. But it would be self-delusional to suggest that it is perfection. The accidents that control history offered Rajiv a chance to complete his grandfather's unfinished agenda, and his initial impulse was precisely what a modern mind would suggest. But Rajiv was betrayed by the same vested interests that had stopped his grandfather, a powerful class of Congress Muslims for whom the status quo is both comfort food as well as lucrative sustenance. It is entirely logical that those who used the most vituperative language against Rajiv Gandhi over the Shah Bano case should be considered stalwarts of Congress today, without having changed their views.

The price of compromise is rarely paid by the powerful. It is paid by the girl child who is thrust into the seclusion of purdah and driven into forced marriage before she has learnt to discover her social and economic potential. The visible rise of the veil in Indian Muslim communities requires little elaboration. It is a paradox of secular India that one definition of secularism has become the right of minorities to retreat into conservatism. Politicians accept the consolidation of communal identity as the inevitable antidote to insecurity, but that is a dangerous diagnosis. It implies a helplessness on the part of the State in eliminating threat and seeding educational and economic opportunity.

A sedative is not a cure. Will Rajiv's son Rahul Gandhi seek what might be called a Shah Bano moment, or will the need for votes sabotage the compulsion of reform once again?
The pleasant facade of the moment should not delude us into believing that the turmoil of history is now behind us. Such a moment will come, uninvited if we do not seek it out deliberately.

India does not want to become a Hindu-majority Pakistan, and cannot understand why Pakistan refuses to become a Muslim-majority India. This is not criticism of Pakistani nationalism; every Indian today is either delighted or relieved that Pakistan has gone its own, separate way. Only those who truly mean well seek a neighbour that moves towards the 21st century instead of sinking towards the 19th. However, India cannot afford the option of a curate's egg, and be modern in parts, leaving sections that drift slowly towards the mindset of tribal behaviour. The pace of India's advance will be curtailed by a septic limp if Indian Muslims do not march in step with Indian Hindus and Sikhs and Christians towards the horizons of 2014 and beyond.


R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Muslim leadership - Ultimate answer for prosperous India:

Many may jump to say "Let Muslims lead themselves first and then bother about leading the nation". Please cool down and don't get emotional.

Let us keep an open mind and look into the situation. Despite making it's mark in all walks of science and technology, why India could NOT provide better quality of life for 70% of it's population who do NOT have access to toilets and clean water?. Why India has become silent on the regional superpower dream and Dr.Kalam's vision 2020?. Why do we look inferior compared to China?.

The naked truth is staring right on our face. Overpopulation. 1.2+ billion ever growing silent nightmare called overpopulation. It's a bottomless pit. Can we ever get out of it?. Is the ship sinking?.

How Muslim leadership can resolve overpopulation crisis?:

There are 55 OIC Islamic nations whose combined land and mineral resources is 15 times more than India. Out of 1.7 billion Muslim population, around 1.1 billion is living across 10 countries - Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, Malaysia and the rest of SE Asia. Around 600 million, 50% of India's population, is spread across 40 Islamic countries which is very low population density by world standards. Today, the Muslim world is living under the threat of US and Israel. Countries like Iraq and Afghanistan are living examples of US+Israel invasion. The only way to protect their lands and resources is to allow migration and populate with able manpower.

Quran gives unequivocal mandate for Muslims living outside Darul Islam to migrate and live in Darul Islam. Muslim leadership can negotiate with 55 OIC nations and openup opportunity for 250 million Muslims to migrate and rebuild their homes in Darul Islam. Forget the likes of Shahrukh Khans and Amir Khans. More than 80% Muslims have got nothing to loose and they will be very happy to migrate for better hopes.

This will create space for 250 million non Muslims in India. Also it will create millions of jobs for Hindus for another 50 years. Above all, this will bring ultimate peace and prosperity in the subcontinent.

Blueprint to make India, a true world leader. 850 million Hindus should give this mandate for a new Indian Muslim leadership.

Will Muslim leadership compromise Hindu identity?.

A valid fear. Narendra Modi likes to call Muslims "Babur ke aulad - Children of Babur". Let him get his facts right. More than 60% of Indian Muslims are Shudra converts who renounced Hinduism to escape the caste based discrimination and suppression. The rest are from other high castes. Who is Babur ke aulad?. Look at Taj Mahal. Shahjehan is the true Babur ke aulad. Majority Hindus think that Taj Mahal is a Muslim holy shrine. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, this is an unIslamic structure. Shahjehan constructed a Mosque like structure on the cemetry of his wife and worshipped (ibadad) her for the rest of his life, ignoring the duty and welfare for his citizens. This is "shirq" in Islam. A simple Mosque in a Muslim "mohallah" is much more dearer for us than Taj Mahal, which has got nothing to do with our faith Islam.

Ample historic evidence proves that Taj Mahal was originally called as Tejo Mahalaya, a palace temple of Lord Shiva.

To win the trust and confidence of 800 million Hindus, 250 million Muslims should demand for the restoration of original Tejo Mahalaya. It's high time to kick out the ghost of Babur and 1947 partition.

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Babri Masjid demolition...Gujarat Massacre...Why NOT Tejo Mahalaya next?.

The time has come for Indian Muslims to kick out the ghost of 1947, prove their patriotism and disengage Pakistan in one master stroke:

Ample historic evidence proves that Taj Mahal was originally called as Tejo Mahalaya, a palace temple of Lord Shiva.

Narendra Modi likes to call Muslims "Babur ke aulad - Children of Babur". Let him get his facts right. More than 60% of Indian Muslims are Shudra converts who renounced Hinduism to escape the caste based discrimination and suppression. The rest are from other high castes. Who is Babur ke aulad?. Look at Taj Mahal. Shahjehan is the true Babur ke aulad. Majority Hindus think that Taj Mahal is a Muslim holy shrine. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, this is an unIslamic structure. Shahjehan constructed a Mosque like structure on the cemetry of his wife and worshipped (ibadad) her for the rest of his life, ignoring the duty and welfare for his citizens. This is "shirq" in Islam. A simple Mosque in a Muslim "mohallah" is much more dearer for us than Taj Mahal, which has got nothing to do with our faith Islam.

Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat massacre shook the Muslim masses from their sound slumber and today we can see steep growth in educated Muslims who have started making their mark in all walks of life. Thanks. Tejo Mahalaya will push them out of their "Lakshman Rekha" and pave the way for PM/CMs.

To win the trust and confidence of 800 million Hindus, 250 million Muslims should demand for the restoration of original Tejo Mahalaya. It's high time to kick out the ghost of Babur and 1947 partition.

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Muslim Guardians, please GET OUT and GET LOST:

I read this article titled "Indian Muslims put their faith in Congress" in this link and lost my cool. .........(By Rushda Majeed)

It's a shame on this author to say that Indian Muslims put their faith in Congress. Let me say it clearly. We put our faith in Allah the Almighty, first and last.

We do not want you to dangle any more carrots like Sachar committees, Haj subsidies, reservation and appeasement . Keep it with yourself. We are ready to lead the nation and rewrite our own destiny. We will join hands as one nation, one people and create millions of jobs together.

I hate to call myself a Muslim, when i see two kinds of beggers. Beggers who wear Muslim identity and Muslim political beggers. Beggary is forbidden in Islam. Rather, it's mandatory for every capable Muslim to give away 2.5% of his wealth as zakat, every year, to the have-nots. Wealth distribution eradicates begging.

Election is a democratic process of choosing the leadership and every individual decides his vote for the leader who can fulfill certain basic aspirations. Today India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, aspires for peace and better quality of life. Indian Muslims have chosen lesser of the two evils, Congress, towards this aspiration only and nothing else. They have shown the door to all those so called guardians of Muslims by defeating almost all the Muslim candidates fielded by SP, BSP and other parties nationwide.

We do NOT want any kind words from any veteran journalists. They do a good job of Muslim bashing and keep doing it. Give us a chance to show the mirror on your face. Keep bashing and we will become equals very soon.

Muslim guardians, please GET OUT and GET LOST.

Piyush said...

MJ, how right you are:-)) The country has let down a large section of its citizens outside social reforms.

But we have to understand that no majority Hindu government will ever venture into this highly sensitive matter without the demand like yours coming from Muslims across the country. Even BJP, long aspiring to have a "uniform civil code" has never picked up courage.

Why don't enlightened Muslims like you promote a groundswell of demand from the Muslim communities formally separating civil society regulatory framework from the religion and demanding uniform civil code as desired in the constitution, or by some other means to modernise Muslim personnel laws ?

Piyush Desai

amitdh said...

MJ why raise this issue after elections? Doesn't this article lend credibility to the idea of uniform civil code that can be distilled to produce an all encompassing identity for an Indian and such a code will be less of an hostage to interference from religious groups (Not Hindu or Muslim code bill).

The other thing I noticed is that you have very cleverly projected Rahul Gandhi as the successor to Dr Singh in this article for 2014. May be it is part of the media campaign for 2014.

Finally you seem to suggest that Congress has stayed out of REAL development agenda for Muslim population on grounds of political gains, to which I agree. The problem is that if BJP raises a similar issue, this same media terms them communal, while congress continue to enjoy the tag of being a secular party.

Why not write these articles before elections? I think it serves your agenda and that of media bosses that are under congress influence.

I seriously think this is a great time to start a people's media using the internet that a lot of the educated Indian's would welcome. This is just waiting to happen. Watch out!

drj8666 said...

The Muslim Personal law is a farce. Why should the Civil Law be based on Sharia and not the Criminal Law? Why the Indian Muslim male should have the prerogative of Talaq and not stoned to death for Adultery? It is imperative to have a uniform civil code in India.

Analyst said...

M.J. You got it wrong. NO politician in India except Indira Gandhi ever wanted Indian Muslims to march in step with the rest of the nation. To the rest of the politicians Pakistan was and is a cesspool into which India's "Islamic abscess" can hopefully be drained so that India can regain her "Hindu" glory. The 1971 Indo-Pak conflict and seven years of severed diplomatic relations with Pakistan stopped the "drain" and resulted in a new class of young Muslims who had no desire to go to Pakistan. All credit to this goes to Indira Gandhi who said that the best argument against Pakistan was "a secure contented educated and prosperous Indian Muslim". Indira also made a famous comment that if she were really the enemy of Muslims she would accept all the demands of the so-called leaders from the Muslim community. What Indira Gandhi meant was that she would never agree to let Muslims revert to their Madarsas while the rest of India gets a modern education...and so it was during the Indira Gandhi era, when Muslim educationists like Rafiq Zakaria found a powerful ally, while Imam Bukhari cooled his heels in jail along with the RSS. However the 1977 elections changed all that as the extreme right-wing and opportunists shamefully exploited both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism. Post 1977 the scene changed dramatically. As young Indian Muslims began to voice their aspirations often by a drift towards the left-wing political groups (a process dramatically portrayed in the movie Garam Hawa) their voice needed to be effectively silenced. If Indian Muslims could not be driven to Pakistan they could be isolated using a process of self-isolation by nurturing and fostering the religious obscurantists from amongst their own community and hounding out and persecuting the progressive voices. Except for the left-wing parties the process of humiliating, and neutralizing the progressive Indian Muslims transcended all parties. So when left wing history professor Irfan Habib was beaten up by bigots in Aligarh both the Congress and Janata Party backed student unions applauded. Of course if the "secular" politicians would not step up to do the job then the saffron right wingers would do it anyway. The process has continued till this day as is shown by the treatment meted out India's lone Muslim women sportsperson Sania Mirza. She has been hounded relentlessly; both by the fundamentalists from within her community as well as the right wing Indian media. Instead of becoming a symbol of progressive Indian Muslim women she has become a symbol of hatred by the saffron 'parivar' who howl for her blood because of "disrespect to the nation". The internet and cyber-media abounds with lewd and abusive language to this young tennis star. Most Indians do not want Sania Mirza's or Rafique Zakaria's. Most Indians want to see Indian Muslims revert to the Burka and the retreat into their Madarsas or be driven across the border to Pakistan. Narendra Modi would prefer the latter no doubt. To this day there stands a directive in the Ministry of Defence that Muslims will not be considered for recruitment as soldiers in the armed forces. Not even Indira Gandhi could remove this directive. George Fernandez in his stint as Defence Minister too tried and failed. For the record China has an equal percentage (11 %) of Hui ( Mandarin speaking ) Muslims as India. Chinese Muslims are encouraged to join their nation's armed forces and often standards are waived to make their participation such that the armed forces are representative of the nations population composition. India will NEVER see this day.

Piyush said...

I am afraid the "Analyst" is way off the facts and blames the whole world for the problems faced by minority Muslim community in India. It is absurd to suggest that the Indian armed forces do not recurit Muslims. I have personally known many, many Muslim officers in the Indian Armed Forces. Indeed, Air Chief Marshal Latif had a distinguised career as the Chief of Indian Air Force; and many brave Muslim soldiers have given their lives defending Kargil during Pakistan attack.

Communalist fringe in India apart, majority of Hindus in india have lived harmoniously with Muslims for centuries. The ordeal of Sania Mirza caused by extremist bigots in Hindu society do not represent commmon Indian citizens; the same set of bigots also molested young Hindu women in Mangalore.

The Muslim community MUST work hard to promote enlightened leaders in their community who face their problems like Balraj Sahni did in Garam Hawa or Martin Luther King did in USA. Indian Muslims, likem Hindus, are Indian first and last, and MUST participate in the struggle to liberate themselves from the obscurantist religious leaders and assert their rightful place in the Indian community.

Where was the Muslim leadership which should have stopped Rajiv Gandhi from doing what he did on Shahbano case? Why is not the Muslim Personal Law officials moving ahead and agitating for a change in their personal laws which discriminate against Muslim women ?

In the final analysis, no one but the Muslim community will have to work to liberate itself from real and imaginary fetters the community has bound itself.

Piyush Desai

ArbitThinker said...

I feel it is unfair to put the onus social change on the Government alone. No change can be forced from outside. It is noteworthy that many social movements preceeded the Hindu Code Bill. It was only when a sizeable portion of Hindus believed in the emancipation of women and when the women themselves started taking active role in national movement that Hindu Code Bill could be thought of by the Government.

Unfortunately there have not been many social movements in the Muslim community and to rub salt to the wounds, the Muslims which are able to free themselves of orthodoxy feel intimidated to challenge the social order lest they may be pulled back and bigots and fundamentalists may stop overlooking such exceptions in their medivial order.

Unless there is a urge from within no one can change the social order by force.

R.Alamsha Karnan said...

Brahmins are responsible for the partition and creation of Pakistan:

Undivided India today - Hard facts?

Total population = 1.55 billion.
Muslims = 600 million
Shudras (low caste Hindus) = 600 million
Christians, Sikhs and Others = 150 million
High caste Hindus = 200 million

Can you see?. Who will be the kingmaker?.

Divide and rule:

Brahmins practiced Manu Smriti and Varnashram Dharma. They divided society in to four castes - Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaisya as high castes and Shudra as low castes who are supposed to serve the 3 high castes. This forced Shudras to renounce Hinduism and embrace Islam. This inturn lead to Hindu-Muslim hatred which eventually culminated into the creation of Pakistan.

Why India could NOT progress?:

Today, India is NOT able to provide better quality of life for 70% of it's population, who do NOT have access to toilets and clean water, despite it's spectacular success in science and technology. Instead, Manuvadis who inherited power from the British in 1947 have started blaming everyone around them for their own failures. Not only Pakistan, which remains a threat since 1947, but all our neighbours are perceived as a threat for India. China is 30 years ahead of India and has become the default regional superpower. We have stopped talking about our vision 2020 and superpower crap.

So, Brahmins are responsible for the creation of Pakistan. Otherwise, we would have remained as one nation and would have surpassed China and brought prosperity and better quality of life for all.

Michael said...

Mr. P. Desai,

In response to your e-mail:

The Indian Muslims are not blaming the whole world for their troubles. The blame lies in order:
1. Self styled Muslim Leaders who exploit the fears and ignorance of
their community
2. Self styled "secular" politicians who pander to the above
3. Right wing majority community fascist who organize and conduct savage
pogroms against the Muslims causing the fear which is exploited by No 1 and
No 2 above.

Its quite an unholy alliance. Unless the genunely secular majority coomunity intelligentsia join hands with the secular Muslims the nexus between 1, 2, and 3 cannot be broken.

Your assertion that Muslims are freely inducted into the armed forces is a bald lie.
The directive with the ministry of defence stands. The directive is for preventing induction of Muslims at the soldier,sailor,private level or for NCO 'other ranks'. Though the directive is not applicable to officer recruitment the odd Muslim canndidate working extra hard and making it through UPSC selection examination for the NDA, IMA, or OTS and getting past a particularly even handed interview board is a rare event indeed. There are very few Muslim officers in the Indian Army (about .02% ). There was a time when the numbers were higher, but this group have since retired. Most of the Muslim officers in the Indian army were of the old Viceroy's commission ( pre-independence Indian Army ) stock who for reasons of old-fashioned patriotism or plain affinity to their places of origin decided not to opt for Pakistan after the Indian Army was partitioned. The Punjabi, Baluchi, Pathan, and Sindhi officers simply opted for Pakistan because that is where they belonged. The Indian Muslim officers were stuck with a cruel dilemma to either continue to serve in the Indian Army under suspicion and hostility, or opt for Pakistan and face discrimnation on grounds of ethnic, linguistic, and racial origin;(the Muslim Bengali officers opted for Pakistan too and in two and half decades were fighting their colleagues in Bangladesh). However for better or worse the UP, Hyderabadi, and South Indian Muslim officers threw in their lot with India and served without much distinction (but mercifully without any allegations of treachery towards their motherland because of their religious affinity with the enemy). Air Chief Marshal Latif was from the old Nizam of Hyderabad's Air Force after it merged with the Indian Air Force in 1948. However Latif only served in maintenance and adminstrative capacities and had never flown in combat or was given a combat command during India's post-independence wars. Major General Habbibullah ( 'Bubbles') case was similar when he was
bundled off to Malaysia to train the Malay army because the " secular" Nehru's cabinet would not tolerate a Muslim LT. General commanding a strike corps. There has been instances of change though such as when Lt. Gen Mohammed Ahmed Zaki was given the sensitive Northern Command when the Siachen conflict was at its peak.The fact that he held the line at Siachen inflicting heavy losses on the enemy has never been acknowledged or even mentioned by the media because these days it is politically incorrect to highlight a patriotic Muslim. The profile of the enemy gets somewhat blurred.

Every Indian base or catonement has a temple, gurudwara, and a church for use by the troops. The pre-independence Indian army was one third Muslim which is why most Indian cantonements at one time also had mosques. Post independence the Indian Army found no use for these mosques as there were no Muslim soldiers left in the Indian Army ( the Punjabis, Baluchis, Hyderabadis, and Pathans were long gone ! ). Nor would there ever again be Muslim troops in the Indian Army given the MOD directive. So the army converted the mosques into godowns, offices, and some times quite cynically firing ranges, and latrines.

Visit any Indian army cantonement area and the proof is right there.

vasu said...

This is with regard to the article " the seige within" which deals with the Muslim Code bill. I researched for 6 days before posting this comment. Isn't it true that you were a mouthpiece of the "All India Muslim Personal Law Board" which was formed soon after the shah bano case. The board was formed to press on the sharia law and avoid any kind of encroachment to the prevailing law the muslims were abiding by