Celebration of pluralism in India
In a world where, the onus is always on the minorities to assimilate and unite with the majoritarian forces India celebrates December 18th as the National Minorities Rights day every year. It is seen as a ‘cultural celebration’ to foster respect, open-mindedness towards minority communities. To name them, as per the Ministry of Minority Affairs, religious communities in India include Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains.
On the contrary, a more detailed and living explanation for minority communities, according to Louis Wirth, a renowned Sociologist minority group is: “A group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination.”
We are taught to celebrate our differences - these include common interests, cultures, outlooks, race, ethnic, caste, language, food habits, costumes, way of living, standard of living, political ideologies, and so on - while guaranteeing the rights and freedom by the Constitution.
The question is did we actually learn what we were supposed to learn or were we taught these bookish facts in our academics? Both the answers are no and this ‘no’ comes from a point of view of India - while she celebrates her 75th Independence Day in 2021. Even though we are free from centuries-old colonial rule by the East India Company and the British, are we really free? Minorities are not limited to ‘religion’ and India represents proof of this fact by distinguishing states from each other (by whatever means) and establishing ‘minority states’. Classic examples are the entire section of India’s North Eastern states.
Just when we are celebrating National Minorities Day, the North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), which comprises eight students’ bodies in seven North-Eastern states, are observing ‘black day’ in protest against the infamous Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019. They termed this new citizenship law as draconian, unconstitutional and against indigenous people of North East and want to repeal CAA. But is anyone listening to them while we show off our ‘democracy’ sign high up in the air? Maybe not.
India and it’s self-acclaimed ‘democracy’ has always been a majoritarian. Anything that is smaller than the majority automatically becomes a minority and so do it’s adverse effects! Does this have anything to do with power? Surely, because this difference in strength and thereby power conceive fertile ground for communal violence and riots which makes the minorities vulnerable in all aspects.
For more than two months now, Muslims in Gurugram - a city near India’s national capital - New Delhi - have been ‘banned’ from offering namaz (Islamic prayer) in public spaces. The Gurugram police, who are handling the matter, announces saying, “Permission to offer prayers at eight previously-identified sites has been cancelled. If objections were raised by the residents at other places, permission to offer prayers will be cancelled there as well.” This was after threats from rightwing Hindu (Majority) groups who publiced claimed their intension to ‘disrupt namaz’ and ‘adopt any means, including violence if neessary, to stop Muslims from offering prayers in public places’.
In other words, it seems like both the majority and the minority communities are currently in a battle, only the majority has the support of the nation's ruling government and the power bearers.
Can we, as a citizen of this country, change the narrative and improve the predicament of the minorities? The answer depends on our future course of actions so till then, we educate and learn.
By Aishwarya Iyer