Sunday, June 13, 2010

Indian Muslims whether in India or Saudi: Treated Fairly?--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara


This Doha Debate, which originally took place on February 15, 2010 at prestigious St Stephen’s College of Delhi University in Delhi, India, focuses on the treatment of Indian Muslims in India. I felt that it would be highly relevant here, both because of this blog's  Indian and Pakistani readership, whether based in Saudi, in their home countries, or elsewhere, and because of similar though different issues facing South Asians, most of whom are Muslim, in Saudi Arabia.

A St Stephen's College student reading on campus

A number of previous posts here have contributed to this theme of South Asians in Saudi, most notably:  Desis, Multiculturalism, Saudization and Marriage:  Part I--From Birth to Career, and  Part II--From Career to Courtship; (Auto-) Biography of a Saudi Fraud: "Non-Original" Saudis and Cultural Identity-- Part I  Surviving and Part II Thriving;  From the International Ummah to Married in Saudi: Colour, Conversion, and Complications--Part I Abu Abdullah, Part II Umm Abdullah and Part III Baby A is Here!; and,  Oil, Cheap Labour, and People: Opportunity vs Human Rights in the Gulf--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara. In addition, one of the primary critiques of  the MTV program "Resist the Power! Saudi Arabia" was that Fatima is a "non-original"/ part Indian Saudi who should "go back home" to where her ancestors came from. That program was discussed in the post 10 Lessons for Saudis Appearing on Foreign Television Programs: ABC, LBC, MTV,  Other. The comments on all those posts are also enlightening.

Students from Qatar and those of the St. Stephen’s College debating society on campus.

For more information on The Doha Debates generally, which follow Oxford Union debating rules, see the website of  The Doha Debates, for more information on The Doha Debates and The Doha Debates Chez Chiara see the introductory post, and the blog Category Doha Debates (DohaDebates) on the sidebar. The following includes excerpts from the panelists' biographies, the debate transcript, and the final result. A summary statement precedes each of the dialogues with a particular audience member whose photo, where available, is included. Full information for this debate is here. The full transcript may be read here. The full debate may be viewed here, and the podcast link is available on the main site for this debate. A number of photo galleries accompany this debate: Delhi: student photo gallery; Delhi: the Director's view; and, Delhi: building the stage.

The ten students who travelled to Doha were ( from left to right standing) Atheel El Malik ( Sudan), Rose Al Qassab ( Iraq), Mohamid Fared ( Egypt), Abdulla Al-Falasi (UAE), Florent D’Souza ( India), Adel Adem ( Eritrea), Amal Jaffer Altooq ( Bahrain), ( from left to right kneeling) Hissa Al-Misnad (Qatar), Nabil Mohamed (Egypt) and Suhaim Saoud Al-Thani (Qatar).


In addition, there is a page devoted to From Doha to Delhi: The Doha Debates student trip to the Indian capital with links to the written impressions of 6 of the 10 Qatar-based students--Adel Adem, Qatar University, Florent D’Souza, Northwestern University, Amal Jaffer Altooq, Qatar University, Abdulla Al-Falasi, Ahmed bin Hanbal School, Mohamid Fared, Northwestern University, and Suhaim Saoud Al-Thani, Qatar University--about their experience.


The Motion

This House believes Muslims aren't getting a fair deal in India


TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you and welcome to this special edition of The Doha Debates, coming to you from the Indian capital New Delhi, and sponsored by The Qatar Foundation. Tonight we're guests of St. Stephen's College, one of the oldest campuses of Delhi University, and one of the top educational institutions in this vast country. It counts many of India's most influential figures among its alumni, not least six serving cabinet ministers, one of whom is on our panel, and twenty members of the current parliament. We're delighted to be in such a distinguished setting. As India's importance grows on the international stage so does the intensity of that international spotlight on its democracy, its human rights and its ability to manage the many different communities and religions within its borders. High on the list of contentious issues has been the condition of more than 130 million Indian Muslims, the second largest Muslim population in the world, and the largest of the minority groups in this country. Do they get equal access to education, to jobs and justice? Are they, to some extent, the architects of their own perceived misfortunes, or do they face systemic discrimination? Our motion tonight is, as always, controversial: ‘This House believes that Muslims are not getting a fair deal in India'. It's an issue on which our panel is sharply divided.

Speaking for the motion


Seema Mustafa is a political analyst. Previously, she was the editor of Covert magazine and was the Resident Editor of The Asian Age newspaper. She has co-written a number of books on Indian politics and authored a political biography of former Prime Minister of India VP Singh. In 1999 she received the prestigious Prem Bhatia Award for Excellence in Political Reporting and Analysis for her coverage of the Kargil war.

SEEMA MUSTAFA
Thank you. I firmly believe, and I think, and I'm sure, that you will also by the end of the debate, that Muslims are not getting a fair deal in this country, and I quote: "Muslims carry a double burden of being labelled anti-national and being appeased at the same time". It was an observation by the Justice Rajindar Sachar Report, a systematic study, or the first study, of its kind in India. The responsibility for this state of affairs really rests on the government, on political parties, and the Muslim leadership itself. Governments have, over and over again, abdicated their responsibility for bringing perpetrators of the worst kind of communal carnage to task, to justice, and to give justice to the victims of the same communal strife. A lot of commissions have been appointed, a lot of committees have been appointed, but their recommendations are rarely implemented. Governments have also done very little to uplift, economically uplift, educationally uplift, the Muslims. There was Indira Ghandi's 15 point programme, and today there's Manmohan Singh's 15 point programme and Sachar continues to maintain that this educational status of Muslims, the employment percentage of Muslims, is now at par with the Scheduled Caste and Tribes. Governments have also been targeting Muslims after 9/11, particularly in a nationwide - you could say in a sense, a campaign - across the country. Innocents have been arrested and victimised and this has further lead to ghettoisation, to resentment and anger, where Muslims are not even able to get accommodation in places like Delhi. The next is, of course, political parties, which have also been specifically spreading prejudice against the Muslims by creating stereotypes by consolidating vote banks and by launching hate campaigns across the country. They have also played to the regressive sides of both the communities, and they also prefer to propagate and to take up issues which are non-issues, like Hajj or declaring certain days religious holidays, instead of focusing on issues of security and issues of livelihood.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can I ask you to wrap up shortly.
SEEMA MUSTAFA
Yes, and the last is, of course, the Muslims themselves who are not giving themselves... have not been giving themselves a fair deal. The Muslim leadership, the elite and the Maulanas have been working against the Muslims and strengthening perceptions of communalism. Thank you.


Teesta Setalvad is the co-founder of Sabrang Communications, an organisation aimed at protecting and promoting human rights in India. She has been at the forefront of the campaign for justice for the victims of the Gujarat riots and in 2003 she won the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award. In 2007 she was awarded the prestigious civilian honour, the Padma Shri by the Indian Government for her work in public affairs.

TEESTA SETALVAD
In 1953 India's first Prime Minister writes a letter to all chief ministers saying that he's very upset, and disturbed at the fact, [of the] declining presence of Muslims in the army. It was 32 percent at partition, it's 2 percent now. Home Ministry, police, IES, IPS, PSU's: all key positions of governance - Muslims are disempowered. Combine this with mass violence against a community - just like Dalits are targeted very often because of upper-caste bias. Highlight this along with the fact that discrimination in investigating agencies will look at only one kind of terror and top it all with the label of not just being anti-national, but now a traitor and a terrorist. I think what we're talking about today, it has recognition at the highest policy levels from 1953, the 1985 Gopal Singh report, then again Rajiv Ghandi's 15 point programme. Now again Dr. Manmohan Singh's programme. It means that something is seriously wrong. What is the cause - we can come to next. It's a bundle of contradictions, India's a bundle of contradiction, there never is only one cause. The cause is definitely an elite political and economic leadership that did not want to empower this section of the population as much as they wanted to empower others. The Muslim leadership included, who did not want to empower 76 percent of its own, were OBC and Dalit Muslims. They tried to suppress Muslim women with a 9 percent literacy rate which is half that of our Hindu sister. The fact that she's oppressed, not just by caste, class but also by her community and is subject to brute rape and violence when there's mass crimes against the community. The fact that the Muslim today lives in segregated classrooms and also in ghettoised cities - I think we're dealing with a very dangerous situation. Contrast this with Irfan Pathan, one of our fast paced bowlers bowling from Baroda, Gujarat and being clapped by all of us on the TV screen. That's the ordinary Hindu Indian, that makes no difference between Muslim and Hindu - but yes, at the level of elite political, economic, social, there has been a discrimination. And I think, in support of the motion, holding the Muslim elite as much responsible as the Indian state, 40/60 perhaps, we should acknowledge the problem, because once we acknowledge the problem we reach a solution.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could I ask you to come to an end please.
TEESTA SETALVAD
160 million or 130 million of us feeling disenfranchised, feeling discriminated against, functioning under the label of a terror[ist] or anti-national is not healthy for any society. I stand in support of the motion.

Speaking against the motion


Sachin Pilot made history in 2004 when voters in Dausa, Rajasthan elected him by a record margin as India's youngest member of parliament. In May last year he won the Ajmer constituency, previously a BJP stronghold. He is the son of the late Rajesh Pilot, a prominent figure in the Congress Party and a former government minister. Sachin Pilot is a graduate of St Stephen's College and holds an MBA from the Wharton Business School in America.

SACHIN PILOT
Thank you very much. I think anybody who understands India and understands the ethos and our cultural heritage, and the way we function as a country, as a society, will completely disagree. Because what we have here in India [is] a constitution that not only provides for, but protects every single minority group whether it's ethnic, religious, linguistic. We have a population of more than a billion people, and I'm so proud to say it, that 140 million Muslims in this country, both Shias and Sunnis, have had the rights to participate in elections, to get elected to important positions. We've had presidents, chief justice, heads of defence services, sports stars, Bollywood - in every aspect of our life there is equal participation, and the opportunity. I think the opportunity is guaranteed in the law, in the constitution and, more importantly, in the hearts of every single Indian. And that's why, I think, when you look at how Muslims are in this country, it's fair to say that some of them, perhaps, are not as financially well-off as some of the other people are. But the fact of the matter is that the political empowerment that Muslims have got in the country has made them feel a part of the mainstream. No other country with the size of a Muslim population as India is democratic, whether it's Asia or Africa - the fact that every single Muslim in India feels that he belongs to the state and every non-Muslim feels that they have as much in common with the Muslims, is a great sense of connectivity and a great sense of empowerment that we give to everybody. The fact that people are getting less opportunity - India is a developing country. I think every state government, every central government, has made efforts to have inclusive growth. People who have been left out in the fringes, whether they belong to Scheduled Caste or Tribals or they're from far-flung areas - we have to make more efforts to get them into the mainstream. But I think the fact that some people have tried to highlight this and make it a political issue, grab media headlines by saying that there's vast discrimination - I'm against any of that, because I believe that we stand for equal opportunity, equal rights, and every single Indian in this country, he or she can be from any religion, any caste, any part of the nation, has as much of a stake in this country's progress and development. And I think that takes hundreds of years of our living together as people of the same country and people who feel something for each other. You cannot create that, the kind of policies that this government has made the kind of fund allocation we've done...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Minister, can I ask you to come to an end please.
SACHIN PILOT
The kind of programmes, policies, the framework that we've established now is an affirmative action of the largest kind in the world. And I think the people are beginning to see the fruits of that.


Mobashar Jawed (M.J.) Akbar is one of India's most distinguished journalists. He's the Editor of the recently launched Sunday Guardian, published simultaneously in Delhi and London. Mr. Akbar has launched a number of prominent publications in India including The Telegraph, The Asian Age and Covert magazine. He served as a member of India's Parliament from 1989-1992, and as an adviser to the ministry of Human Resources. M.J. Akbar is also a prolific author and has written extensively on India's political landscape.

M.J. AKBAR
Thank you Tim. Yes I can see the dangers of tokenism - I once argued that instead of appointing one Muslim as a president, if we'd got 10,000 clerical jobs it would have been a much fairer deal for the community. But, I do, and I oppose this motion out of conviction, not merely to win a debate. There are three incontrovertible facts. Indian Muslims are the only Muslims in the history of the world who have enjoyed six decades of uninterrupted democracy. That by itself, I argue, may not be enough because democracy has to mean something. The second reason I offer actually strengthens my case, I believe: Indian Muslims are among the few Muslim communities in the world, I didn't say only, who have, when they look ahead, the hope of meeting the true challenge before Muslim communities all over the world. And what is that challenge? That challenge is no longer nationalism - that was our grandfathers' challenge in 1918, and our fathers' challenge in 1947. Today's challenge, the challenge before St. Stephen's, is which Muslim community, which community will reach the stage of modernity? Who will become modern and how do you define modernity? There are four definitions: one, adult franchise, political equality, a nation without political equality cannot be modern. Number two, gender equality, extremely important - you cannot be a modern society, nation, without gender equality and I say this particularly before Muslim audiences that if - and this is an internal fact, not an external one so much - that if Indian Muslims do not get gender equality, nobody will invite them to the nineteenth century, forget the twenty-first. Number three: religious equality - we have it. It is visible in your dress, it is visible in the freedoms, we don't have burkha debates in the country, we have the right to wear a turban, we have the right to do what we like, if it's part of our... and we do not insult the other by treating one religion as superior to the other, or inferior to the other. Some Indians do, but India does not. Four: we have economic equity and that is really where our real challenge lies, in creating economic equity for a community. India can grow at eight percent and ten percent, but if 15 percent of Muslims of India do not grow at eight percent then Indian growth is incomplete. Tokenism is...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could you come to a close soon please.
M.J. AKBAR
Certainly, we can take questions from you.


Audience Input


Do the programs which exist on paper translate to real equality for Muslims or not, especially given the cultural representation of Muslims in India as a mafia
AUDIENCE (M)
Hello, my question is directed to the side which has been talking against the motion. So Mr. M J, I've grown up reading a lot of your articles where you consistently talk about how, for example, the mafia in India has largely been pictured as a Muslim mafia and you write about how the mafia is also largely comprised of elements which happen to be Hindu, Christian and Sikh. So both you and Mr. Sachin Pilot, sir, have continuously stressed on the existence of an adult franchise, on the existence of the 15 point programme as enough to show that Muslims in India are getting a fair deal. Whereas the question, which I think even the side for the motion has been trying to ask you, is that: is the existence merely enough, or is a fair amount of it being implemented? So that's what my question to you is, that a lot of these programmes which you've mentioned do exist on paper, but how far do you really think, especially considering Mr. M.J. Akbar's journalism, that these programmes are being implemented?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you very much, M.J. Akbar.
M.J. AKBAR
Change is not going to come because of governments, change is going to come because of the people. Change is going to come because governments are going to be punished for indolence. Therefore you have seen huge shifts in the traditional voting patterns among Dalits, among Muslims - fluctuations, variations taking place and this is the heartening fact. We are not talking about frozen realities, we are talking about evolution and I think... you made a very good point, that why did - and I remember, I think this very clearly - why did, after all, so many Muslims join the underworld? Not because when Muslims are born they suddenly emerge looking like criminals or seeking criminality. If you don't give those jobs in the white economy where will they go? But they are moving out of it, through the film industry.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Seema Mustafa do you want to come in on this?
SEEMA MUSTAFA
So much is being made of the vote, which is, of course, extremely important - but what happens in the five years between one vote and another vote? That is the time when they ghettoisation takes place, that is the time when Gujarat takes place, that is the time when the jobs are not given. That is also the time when commissions, just before the election, commissions are appointed and after they make the recommendations we've had any number of commissions, we've had Gopal Singh in '83, we've had Sacher, you name them, a plethora of commissions and then their recommendations are not implemented. So what is this big thing of democracy if you can't carry it through the five years, Sachin?
SACHIN PILOT
The point that you make I take partially, because committees have been appointed, commissions have been formed to do better things for various communities, various regions, various linguistic minorities, religious minorities. You cannot say that it is only the Muslims that have been targeted.
SEEMA MUSTAFA
How do you explain...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we let him just make his point?
SACHIN PILOT
Our delivery system is not the perfect one, we have to work strongly at it, our last mile delivery is very, very poor throughout the country. But it is wrong to say that it is only because there are Muslim regions and Muslim areas where the delivery is poor. I think you have to make an extra effort to realise, to reach out to all the minorities that exist in this country, whether it is Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists or Muslims, and believe me, there is not a single person in this country who believes when you look at a person, an individual in this country, you think they're neither Hindu or Muslim.
SEEMA MUSTAFA
But after 9/11 the insecurity...
SACHIN PILOT
We're only talking about the government jobs - let's talk about the private sector, let's talk about Bollywood...
SEEMA MUSTAFA
After 9/11 the security...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please let her come back.
TEESTA SETALVAD
IES jobs are at 3 percent, IPS is 5 percent, IF is 2 percent. I mean, PSU is 5 percent - we are talking about 65 years of independence and it's going steadily down the years.
SACHIN PILOT
You are looking at the kinds of jobs that are going down anyway.
TEESTA SETALVAD
These are the high-end jobs, these are the decision-making jobs.
SACHIN PILOT
Look at the people in this country who are private entrepreneurs, people who are making...
TEESTA SETALVAD
These are the decision-making jobs.
SACHIN PILOT
...people who are there in showbusiness, in politics, in Bollywood, in cricket, in sports, in media - and believe me, you talk about the Gujarat Riots, it was a shameful time for our country, we regret it wholeheartedly, but the people who are fighting for the Muslims of Gujarat are the Hindus.
TIM SEBASTIAN
If you're regretting it Minster, why is there no justice?
SACHIN PILOT
There is justice.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why is there no justice?
SACHIN PILOT
Because the law will take its own course Tim, there are courts, there are procedures and not just for the Gujarat Riots, the ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
It's eight years - it is still taking its time?
SACHIN PILOT
There have been crimes committed twenty years ago and our systems have not been able to deliver justice at the right time. But the fact that people are fighting for the cause for the Muslims whether it is the Babri Masjid or the Gujarat, it is the Hindus and the other people also. So it is wrong to say that you are targeting the Muslims.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, please, Seema, you wanted to come back.
SEEMA MUSTAFA
Yes the Liberhan Commission was appointed in 1992 to look into the demolition of the Babri masjid, it's sad, extension after extension, you could blame the BJP, but then the Congress came, more extension. Seventeen years later it has submitted a report, and where are the recommendations? What about Gujarat? What has happened to the relief and the rehabilitation of the people of Gujarat? What has happened to the victims? Narendra Modi has been felicitated by the planning commission of the government of India, as one of the greatest planners and administrators. How do you administrate?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let him answer the questions.
SACHIN PILOT
The deliver of justice cannot be at the whims of fancy of you and me, there is a certain procedure and there are delays in our courts from lower courts up to the Supreme Court and the High Courts. So I accept that problem in our system, as such, there is clogging of the justice system and we have to take steps to move that bock.
TEESTA SETALVAD
Sachin -
SACHIN PILOT
Hang on, but the point, the point is eighteen years later, today, the debate is still on, the media, the politicians, our society is keeping it alive because we believe in justice, we will have delivery, it may be delayed but it cannot be denied. And that's the strength of this country.
TEESTA SETALVAD
33 percent of the underclass in jail in Karnataka are Muslims, 19 percent in Gujarat, Muslims, 25 percent in Mahrashra Muslims - there's a discriminatory position of justice in this country. Look at the bails given to a certain kind of mock terror, those who engage in mock terror get bail in two months, those who engage in mock terror don't get convicted for 17 years.
TIM SEBASTIAN
M.J. Akbar, you wouldn't disagree with those figures would you?
M.J. AKBAR
No because one of the reasons...
TIM SEBASTIAN
And yet you are still on that side.
M.J. AKBAR
Yes, but one of the reasons I did not succeed in politics was because I was not quite a hypocrite enough. One of the real problems, actually, and you know you can't argue with certain facts, all I can ask myself is whether India is changing or not. We know these realities, but let me add to this that one of the greatest problems, when we have talked of positive discrimination for Muslims, I'm sitting in front and watching one of the great leaders of the present setup, has created a bank for Indian Muslims and stolen that bank blind, and there are no protests, the whole system doesn't protest. So obviously there are systemic problems, not just with Muslims. There's systemic problems with Dalits, there's systemic problems, there's poverty among Brahmins, there's poverty among upper-caste Hindus, there are hundreds of problems with our countries. We are talking about India growing and the world's attention coming to us - how much of India is growing? Eight percent of India, that growth that you talk about, 20 percent is growing at 15 percent and 17 percent - 80 percent of India is not growing at all. St. Stephen's is a dream, a fantasy, something in Alice in Wonderland for 80 percent of India.


Aren't all Muslims in India, the Third World and elsewhere discriminated against as Muslims
AUDIENCE (M)
Thank you very much, my name is Adel from Qatar University and I'm Eritrean. I'm a Muslim and my question is to Miss, if I may call you, Seema. Don't you think that other segments of the community are suffering the same problem the Muslims are suffering in India and in the Third World?
SEEMA MUSTAFA
Same problem in India?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yes, same problems in India and the Third World.
AUDIENCE (M)
My question is, don't you think there are other segments of the community are suffering the same problems Indian Muslims are suffering?
SEEMA MUSTAFA
Suffering the same as them? Yeah, I think that the poor, amongst the Muslims, are suffering just like the Dalits are suffering. I would make a difference between the upper-caste and the lower-caste, because there is social discrimination which is sometimes more traumatic and very crippling for who we used to call the untouchables. So that's a very major issue, but the point is here, for the purpose of this debate, when you are talking of the poor and the backward Muslims who are being exploited by the system, which I pointed out includes the government, includes political parties, and includes the Muslim elite and the Maulanas. So when they are being exploited in this manner, the poverty is growing, fear and insecurity is growing, apprehension is growing, and they are being left out, they are being ghettoised and being left out of the development process.


AUDIENCE (M)
The point I wanted [to make clear] - are Muslims discriminated just because they are Muslims? That's the point, do they discriminate us just because they are Muslims - I am a Muslim - I want that to be clear.
TEESTA SETALVAD
For both reasons, because they are poor and also because additionally because they carry the label of being a Muslim.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Sachin Pilot you wanted to come in.
SACHIN PILOT
Seema's made a point, repeatedly, about the fear and insecurity amongst the Muslims and how it's being targeted and they've been branded as a community that promotes terrorism, etc. It makes me so proud to say this to you: the only Muslim community in the entire world that has gotten up, and publicly had a fatwa against terrorism is in India and no other country. The Indian Muslims have gotten up and said they will fight against terrorism and I think that is how the Indian Muslims feel, you can advocate on how they feel discriminated...
TIM SEBASTIAN
I don't think your team mate actually agrees with you on this, he seems so be shaking his head, aren't you?
TEESTA SETALVAD
We are proud we did it, we are proud we did it...
TIM SEBASTIAN
You seem to be shaking your head.
SACHIN PILOT
You don't want to give it... the fatwas against terrorism?
M.J. AKBAR
You know one of the things that I have heard very often is largest... that everything that happens in India has to be the largest, because we are one of the largest countries, you know the largest endowment, the largest... So yes, it's perfectly true, that the largest group of Ulema in the world, which is the Jamiat Ulema did issue a fatwa, which was a very, very brave decision by the way... what is true, I'm sorry to defer with you a little, that in South Asia the Ulema in Turkey the Ulema in many parts of... have in fact been very, very candid and vociferous against terrorism. What is not equally - one of the remarkable stories by the way is Indonesia in the evolution that has taken unto democracy - but one, if you look in the context, you see there is no text without context - look at where Indian Muslims that have been, if you like, if we had not been in India. Look at all around you, today, in...
TEESTA SETALVAD
We are not debating that, we are debating the fact that we're getting a raw deal.
M.J. AKBAR
May I be permitted to frame...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Just for a little longer, just for a little longer.
M.J. AKBAR
Just look at it: in 1947 Indian Muslims voted for partition, I give you a challenge, did ...
TEESTA SETALVAD
That I think is unfair, that is an unfair statement.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can he just have his challenge and then you can come straight in, ok?
M.J. AKBAR
It is very difficult to argue with someone who won't argue.
TEESTA SETALVAD
The Ansaries never voted in...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please just wait one second, you will have your say, please.
M.J. AKBAR
In 1946, which was only 11 percent of the electorate, Indian Muslims voted substantially for the Muslim League and for partition. If you take an election now, Indian Muslims, in my view, will vote to remain in India rather than go anywhere else.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Teesta, your point please.
TEESTA SETALVAD
I think it's erroneous reporting, that's why I cut into him, I'm sorry about that. But what I want to say is that the whole divide between the Ashrafi and the non Ashrafi, Musulman, today is because the Ansari class and the working class feel that they were always against partition, and yet it is the pro-Muslim league elite that has been privileged by India's political elite...
TIM SEBASTIAN
I think we've rather come away from the original question, I'm going to move on now.
TEESTA SETALVAD
It's wrong, it's wrong to say what you did.


How is it possible for Muslims to feel a part of India in places like Kashmir, or when they are a man with a beard and so subject to security checks as if all Muslims were terrorists
AUDIENCE (F)
My name is Tania, my question is for Mr. Pilot sir. You made a statement, and I quote: "Every Muslim feels that he's a part of this country", and if that is so then how do you explain situations like Kashmir where on Republic Day the city square is almost empty and nobody wants to hoist the flag because they don't consider themselves Indians? Or would you say that a Muslim, or even if he's not a Muslim, just a man with a beard, who gets checked at the metro station while the man in front of him does not get frisked, just because he does not look Muslim enough. Do you think people like these consider themselves to be getting a fair deal, whether it's government policy or mental stereotypes that are now spreading throughout the population.
SACHIN PILOT
Any type of discrimination, especially the one you've highlighted, have come to the fore post 9/11, there's been an attempt to create an atmosphere where people use this fear psychosis to target the Muslim community and take them on the wrong path. We as a government, and I'm talking just about the government, there is no change in our stance, we believe that everyone has the equal rights, opportunities, civil rights, liberties, freedom, expression, whatever they can get. If there are any instances - it's been brought to people's notice and we can take action to stop those. But it has to be an action on both sides, it can't just be the government, it has to be the society and the people who live along with the government...
TIM SEBASTIAN
The questioner is shaking her head. What do you want the minister to say? What commitments do you want from him?
AUDIENCE (F)
What I mean is, don't you think your speech and your opinions are more about rhetoric and what you think they have a right to do, and in a sense the Muslim population does not necessarily agree with you on all counts. Because evidently we don't see them considering themselves as part of this country as you very blankly said.
SACHIN PILOT
Well, I'm only giving you my opinion, I'm not doing any rhetorics, I'm saying things that I should be saying, I'm only saying what I believe in and I believe that most Muslims in this country have a much better deal in India than they have in any of our neighbouring countries or anywhere in the world.
AUDIENCE (F)
But that's a comparative analysis sir, when you said in your speech that all Muslims considered themselves a part of...
SACHIN PILOT
The Muslims have a fair deal in India, and I'm saying to you: "Yes, they do have a fair deal because they want to make sure they are on an even better deal".
TEESTA SETALVAD
Not as fair as it could be. It could be much fairer if we lived up to our democracy.
TIM SEBASTIAN
M.J. Akbar you wanted to add to it.
SACHIN PILOT
I take your point, they could be in a much better position, we could be in a much better position vis-à-vis the Muslim situation in our country, but that is not to say there is no attempt or there is no thinking in the government, in society, to make it a better situation.
TEESTA SETALVAD
We're not saying that, we're saying today they are not getting a fair deal, that's the proposition.


India's government and legislative system mean no one is targetted, everyone has a fair opportunity
AUDIENCE (M)
I think this concept of targeting any particular community and all that, this is not called for because India has one of the most fiercely independent and impartial jury sharing. So nobody dare not target anybody and it does not happen, and our supreme court has been taken even some actions - some of the panellists here are quite aware of it. The Indian legal system today is being headed by the Attorney General for India, who is a Muslim; our Vice President is a Muslim. Culturally and emotionally...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Are you coming to a question, please? I hope we're moving to a question
AUDIENCE (M)
Whenever a person gets married he hears ‘ bismillah' so therefore bismillah' continues to inspire and bind an entire nation in the marriage.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying there's no problem.
AUDIENCE (M)
Therefore we have one of the finest constitutions in the world, and our government... I ask myself myself this question, the Sacher Committee - who appointed the Sacher Committee? It is a government of India which appointed such a committee.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you, I'm going to Teesta Setalvad to reply to your question.
TEESTA SETALVAD
Thank you sir for actually supporting what we are saying. I believe that yes, the strongest point is our democracy, our judiciary and our constitution, even if justice comes a bit late, it does come in the end and therefore the victims of the Gujarat genocide are fighting even today. So we have high faith in our judiciary. Having said that I come to your point about cinema, food, sports - it proves our point sir, that wherever Muslims are given a fair level playing field where there is no institutional discrimination like a government office or a PSU where there is no PSE exam, which is a public service exam, where Muslim students will pass the written test but not the viva - because that's where prejudice comes in - that's where the problem lies, we are not saying Indian people are prejudiced, Indian democracy and Indian people can accept Muslims at any level. But somewhere in the structures of governance, prejudice and bias has crept in, this has been made worse by the Hindu right wing infiltration into our agencies, particularly the intelligence agencies. And I think this is something of concern for all Indians, not just Muslims.
M.J. AKBAR
Thank you Teesta 'cause now you are agreeing with us.
TEESTA SETALVAD
No, not at all.
M.J. AKBAR
This is the point we are making, that India is giving Muslims, perhaps later than others, a fair deal. And one of the good things that is happening in India is that India is moving away from the Indian government. The success of the last 15 years, particularly economic growth, derives largely from the fact that we have actually wrenched control of the economy from the Indian government and Indian government has willingly, or unwillingly, surrendered that control. And more and more as we take India away from the Indian government the more and more will the votes swing to our side.


In domains where there is a level playing field Muslims soar, eg in the arts, culture, sports, so failure is more about socio-economic class creating inequality, than about religion
AUDIENCE (F)
My question is directed toward Teesta. You said that Muslims are not getting a fair deal, particularly in the PSU and administrative sector, otherwise they're represented fairly good in arts, culture, sports, media.
TIM SEBASTIAN
The public service sector you mean?
AUDIENCE (F)
Is that correct, so it's just the PSU's and the administrative sector?...
TEESTA SETALVAD
I was using them as illustrations. What I was saying was that in the fields where the, there's a level playing field, so to speak, where talent can soar, you can see Muslim voices, Muslim musicians, Muslim sportsmen...
AUDIENCE (F)
Which is culture, politics, sports, media, all of these places are represented fairly well?
TEESTA SETALVAD
But wherever there is institutionalised discrimination, which means two things mainly. You can finish.
AUDIENCE (F)
No, that's about it.
TEESTA SETALVAD
Where it means, for instance, getting into government jobs.
SACHIN PILOT
I think what she's saying is it's easier to become a Bollywood superstar but more difficult to be a clerk in the government.
TEESTA SETALVAD
I understand, but I think when it comes... Maybe she's saying that, I don't think she's saying that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Was that, in fact what you were saying?
AUDIENCE (F)
Well, absolutely, that's exactly, because as far as I see it most of the rest of the areas they are being represented fairly well, it's just one particular area that you've been pointing out all throughout the evening that they haven't been, with all your facts and figures and presentations.
TEESTA SETALVAD
I want to tell you that we're not talking about one area, we are talking about police services, army, IES, IEFS, public sector undertakings, and we're talking about, I haven't finished...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could you spell out those initials.
TEESTA SETALVAD
Public sector undertakings, PSU's.
AUDIENCE (F)
In arts, culture, media, politics, sports.
TEESTA SETALVAD
I haven't finished, I still want to say I did not bring in, because it's not a time to bring statistics, but if you look at unemployment figures, if you look at education levels, if you look at poverty levels, particularly in urban areas, you'll find the Muslim condition in the last 25 years has become worse.
AUDIENCE (F)
So it's primarily not the problem of Muslims or a particular religion, it has to do with your financial security, or where you are vis-a-vis the poverty line.
TEESTA SETALVAD
It's got to do with whether the government opens schools in those areas, it's got to do with whether the government opens enough schools...
AUDIENCE (F)
Is it specifically for Muslims?
TEESTA SETALVAD
It's worse for Muslims because Dalits have picked up in twenty years. Dalits have picked up through affirmative actions in 40 years compared to Muslims. So today the Muslim condition is somewhere between the Dalit and the OBCs, at the time of partition it was somewhat better than that. So we have to look at relative indicators here and the point remains that poverty, literacy, literacy, 15 percent of males are behind and almost 35 percent of females, though they are surging ahead, Muslim women, girls are still behind compared to other girls.
SEEMA MUSTAFA
The point is that you don't get representation in government just out of the air, there has to be a support system which starts from the primary level and goes up to higher education. I mean just the Rajinder Sacher Committee stats...
AUDIENCE (F)
You know, I wish I was armed with facts and figures of other religious representations as well, I mean since we're talking just about Muslims right now so you guys...
SEEMA MUSTAFA
There is...
TEESTA SETALVAD
The debate today is about Muslims.
AUDIENCE (F)
That is being pinpointed at this time, my point is that there is marginalisation of people because of money, because of them being below the poverty line.


Hindus have the higher population so it is natural that they have greater representation
AUDIENCE (F)
Good evening, my question is addressing the proposition side. Ladies, what do you mean by Muslims are not being represented fairly? If we're talking numbers, don't you think that it's kind of fair that Hindus being more represented in PR service, services jobs, in the administration itself more than Muslims. What do you think about that?
SEEMA MUSTAFA
The point is also what is the percentage of population? The Muslim population in the country is anywhere between 13 to 16 percent, and we're talking about the government jobs because those are indicators of how the system is looking after them. Here you have, again in the Sacher Committee, only 3 percent are in the Indian administrative service, only 1.8 percent Muslims are in the Indian foreign service, and only 4 percent are in the Indian police service. And there are intelligence agencies in India, which we have written about as journalists, which have a rule, an undeclared rule, that they will not employ Muslims. So there is a prejudice that runs down the line, and it is getting worse. The problem is that after 9/11 and this whole war against terror, the discrimination is growing, and, like Teesta pointed out, you had the Dalits, through affirmative action, improving a bit, and now you have another community, a huge community, your largest minority in India, coming down to come at par with the Dalits.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, you made your point. Minister Sachin Pilot.
SACHIN PILOT
It's a little bit unfair for the Muslims to make this debate only about a few government jobs and what percentage, is it proportional to the population or not. But I think if you have in this country the freedom and the opportunity for the Muslims to become presidents, chief justices, government officers, chief ministers, governors, central ministers, the best artists, India's missile programme is headed by a Muslim. So these are not just tokenisms and symbolisms, the fact is that everybody has an opportunity, to say that there is a...
TIM SEBASTIAN
M.J. Akbar has written that they're tokenisms for a long time haven't you?
SACHIN PILOT
But that was when he was writing a book, not debating. Today I'm saying to you that there is no institutionalisation of discrimination against Muslims and that's the topic of the debate and I'm completely against that.
M.J. AKBAR
The book was in 1984 and since then the siege of India and siege of Indian Muslims has moved a very long way. I only want to end on one thing, [which] is that when you look at the facts, there are no facts which are completely black and completely white, it's absurd, the reality is a mixture of colours and there's some things right with what they've said, and I hope, more things right than said. But if we get a vested interest in the negative, let me tell you that if you get a vested interest with the negative it's very easy to fall in love with the negative. If you get a vested interest in the negative you never find either the truth or the future.


The Result

The vote is 37.9% for, 62.1% against.
The motion has been resoundingly defeated.
`

What is your impression of this debate?
What questions would you have asked?
How would you have voted?
How relevant, or not, is this debate for South Asians in Saudi? Elsewhere?
Are there regional differences in how Muslims are treated in India?
Is religion or caste more important, or are they interconnected?
Does being equal on paper translate to equality of opportunity?
What is the role of political parties in India in how Indian Muslims are treated?
What has been the influence of extremist Hindu sects on how Indian Muslims live in India?
Could/ Should Indian Muslims be doing more to provide leadership, and to use the size of their population to effect change?
Does discrimination in India contribute to why Indian Muslims want to work in Saudi despite discrimination there too (assuming there is in both places), ie beyond the economics?
How are Indian/ Pakistani/ South Asian Muslims treated where you live?
Unusually, for the Doha Debates, the panellists here are of the same gender on each different side of the motion. Is this any reflection of the culture of gender in India, Islam, South Asia? Is there a different explanation?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

Guest and host student at India Gate, a war memorial "designed by Sir Edward Lutyens to commemorate the 90,000 soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Raj in World War I and the Afghan Wars [the 1st (1839-1842), 2nd (1878-1880), and 3rd (1919) Anglo-Afghan Wars].

At Humayun’s Tomb (built 1570); as the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent, it became the inspiration for others including the Taj Mahal.

To the Jami Masjid (or Friday Mosque, built 1650-1656 commissioned by Emperor Shah Jehan), the largest mosque in India, holding up to 25,000 for prayer, before returning to Qatar.

St Stephen's College at nightfall

*Blurkers, especially those from India and Pakistan, but all, now is your chance to comment! :)

28 comments:

Usman said...

Have you read that Sachar Committee Report prepared by Justice Rajinder Sachar, presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh? That 400 page report (easily available on net) tells the fact that Muslims in India have become Untouchable in every aspect of their life?

Have you looked up those reports and facts which describe the Muslim Genocide in Indian province of Gujarat. And that the Chief Minister of Gujarat is now being denied visa by several EU and NA nations?

Have you read the former Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaswant Singh's recently published famous book Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence which describes how Muslims in India are constantly paying the price of the 1947 partition?

or if nothing else....

Have you watched those videos where eminent Indian actresses and filmmaker Shabana Azmi complains that she can't get an apartment in Bombay because she is a Muslim?
Or here Narendra Modi's Interview by Karan Thapar where Chief Minister runs away from Interview on air?

The agony of Muslims in India goes a long way down in the History of Subcontinent.

Chiara said...

Usman--thank you for your comment and the excellent resources. This is exactly what the Doha Debates Chez Chiara are meant to do: provide a starting point for further discussion and sharing.

I hope others follow on with their impressions, facts, experiences and thoughts.

Thanks again for your comment and sharing your resources! (Or at least some of them!) :)

THE HOLY SINNER said...

After this deft comment by Usman, no room is left for any other argument to be made in or against the subject. I must commend Usman on the detailed reply.

Shafiq said...

Usman & The Holy Sinner,

May I ask if either of you are Indian/of Indian origin?

Shafiq said...

I think Usman's comment is one-sided. The reality is much more nuanced.

The very fact that the Sachar Committee Report exists shows that the issue of Muslims is being addressed. They haven't become untouchable throughout India though. In some areas, Muslims are treated well and in other cases, appallingly. It's not just Muslims though, Christians get an awful deal, especially Hindu converts to Christianity.

The Gujarat riots in 2003, was not genocide. It was a pogrom, which isn't much better, but to say it was a genocide would be misleading. The aim was to punish all Muslims for the fire on the train of pilgrims, not to rid the whole area of Muslims.

The case of Shabana Azmi is not unique unfortunately. Another Muslim actor/singer was also 'advised' by his estate agent to buy a house he liked under his Hindu wife's name (if he wanted a chance of actually owning it). 'No Blacks/No Muslims' is commonly seen on rental ads in Mumbai.

BJP, the party of Narendra Modi, was thrashed during the last elections, because it did too little to shed its anti-Muslim image. There is widespread sympathy for the plight of Muslims across India and the right-wing anti-Muslim minority, don't just hate Muslims, they also hate everyone who isn't from the same state as them.

The whole idea of proportional representation in different industries is also misleading. Muslims are over-represented in entertainment, does that mean that Hindus are discriminated against? That Muslims are under-represented in government jobs is as much to do with socio-economic status as religion. When the British changed the language of government from Urdu to English, Muslims went from a literacy of 98% to 2% - something which they never really recovered from. Not knowing English continues to be a barrier to entry to government jobs (where knowledge of English is required), with many lower class Indians not being able to access adequate English language tuition.

Susanne said...

I don't know much about this subject, but I enjoyed the post and the comments. Thanks, all!

THE HOLY SINNER said...

Origin does not matter, as long as facts are mentioned and faced. I hail from VY Canis Majoris! Try searching it on the net if you already are not aware of it.

Now coming to the Sachar Report. What matters most is not that you have a report and that means the problem is being addressed (or recognised, if that is what you are saying). One, it took India so long to understand that this is a problem! Two, what are the actions taken after the report? To not call the gujrat riots genocide is misleading. How else or why else does a neighbour kill a neighbour? Were they both not Indians first? I remember a story in TIME magazine, in which an old hindu man confessed having brought up a daughter of a Muslim neighbour, to an extent that the Muslim neighbour let the hindu guy name his daughter! And then this very girl was not just raped when she was in her 9th month, in front of the family which was tied up and already stabbed in the stomach, so that the last scene they see if of their pregnant and about-to-become-a-mother, daughter is killed, but her agony was amplified by making her watch her parents and two brothers die in front of her own eyes. But that was not to be. They slit her throat first, as her fetus dropped from her stomach which was cut to let it happen. Now this is not a part of the script from a horror movie. I seriously cannot imagine a human inflicting this much pain on a human! (Religion be kept aside for a while). This is the part I remember so vividly from what TIME reported.

Modi lost? No! BJP lost and not because they carried out and could not then persecute Modi for the riots, but because BJP had managed to make enemies across the board. Modi is still there. And attracting the bulk of domestic investment. You want me to tell you why? Perhaps you are an indian and know it. Let me know if you dont.

Now to come to the Babri mosque issue. Or forget it, too old for current times perhaps, but a mosque nonetheless. Amitabh Bachan did not invite a single Muslim from the industry on the wedding of his son to a cartridge fired many times over already. You call her Ash or whatever. Please share the nonsensical behaviour mentioned in the press on this? Oops, perhaps too old. Kashmir, perhaps? Denying the fair share of water to Bangladesh? Any Muslim prime ministers ever? Any Muslim top jobs ever?

Infact, the Doha debate was wrong in the sense of mentioning just the Muslims. It should have mentioned the overall hindu mentality in dealing with the minorities. So much for having a secular state...which started off by usurping the Muslim majority areas, denying the right of self-determination, conspiring with the british against Muslims, not allowing any jobs in the civil services, not allowing any Muslim head of the military...

Shafiq said...

Origin matters absolutely. I've lost count of the number of Pakistanis who use the plight of Indian Muslims to engage in some not so subtle India and Hindu bashing. I wanted to know whether I could add one more to the tally.

The Sachar Report is one of many. It's been something Indian leaders have spoken out against ever since the establishment of India. Yes, the issue hasn't been addressed adequately, but neither has the shocking lack of social mobility in general.

The Gujarat riots were not Genocide in the sense that it wasn't pre-meditated. Pogrom - A riot aimed at persecution of a particular group, usually on the basis of their religion or ethnic origin - is a much more accurate description of what happened and much less politically charged. This is coming from someone whose family lives in the heart of Guajarat, in the thick of where the violence occurred. Luckily, no-one in my family was hurt (just some property destroyed), but it could have been very different.

I said the BJP lost (not Modi), because it didn't shake off it's anti-Muslim image - this is widely recognised. It lost seats across the board including in the state of Gujarat (which is arguably the most Muslim-phobic of the states). Modi won his election as Chief Minister because he is popular amongst Hindus in Gujarat and his economic policies, which have made Gujarat one of the richest states in India and the most industrialised. His popularity is why the BJP haven't got rid of him, though this has led to the party losing support of its allies and lots of voters.

The people responsible Babri mosque (the RSS) were the same people responsible for the Gujarat riots and the assassination of Ghandi. The RSS is a militant right-wing organisation that does things militant right-wing organisations do.

As for the whole issue surrounding Abishek Bachan's wedding - they can invite whomever they like. The refusal to invite the Khans was mainly as a result of a spat between Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bhachan. The whole if Bollywood split as a result of the spat and those who backed SRK, were obviously not invited to the wedding. They made up eventually and Bhachan has reportedly apologised for not inviting the Khans to his son's wedding.

Kashmir, I'm going to leave - the whole issue is too toxic and very little to do with religion (it has more to do with attempted land grabs). The same with the water issue (water disputes between countries are common all over the world including between democracies).

No Muslim Prime Ministers, but up until 2 years ago, there hadn't been an African-American president either, even though African-Americans had been free for over 150 years (African Americans make up 15% of the US population, the same as Muslims in India) - that's life. There have been a number of Muslim Presidents however.

Your last paragraph reeks of anti-Hindu bigotry. It's more of a case of the establishment doing little to aid normal Indians, not a Hindu v Minority thing. India is a secular state, which is why governments have strongly resisted attempts to make it a Hindu state and why minorities have many rights protected by the constitution.

As for the partition, Muslims were as culpable for the splitting of the sub-continent, as Hindus were. Do you think there would have ever been a Pakistan if so many Muslims didn't want one?

Usman said...

Origin matters? Then my dear, why maintaining an anti Israel page?
Gujarat riots are one of many examples of "pogrom" or whatever word you would like to put. It is just the most reported one.
Hindutva, Akhand Bharat and Muslim bashing are popular tools to win elections in India. Check out Rahul Gandhi's Sleaziest language and Muslim mocking during the election.
Muslims are not overrepresented in Bollywood. Make a list of actresses, directors, producers and other filmmakers.
Where are you going to put 90000 death toll in Kashmir?. Why are Kashmiri political parties and Huryat conference are interested and demand independence if it is just a "water issue" between Indo-Pak? What cookies the 700000 Indian army frying in Kashmir valley?
Language of Government and the Education shifted in 19th century. Over a hundred years have been passed now.

Instead of throwing credential, you better decided if you are interested in discussion or merely defending your homeland against foreigners?

Chiara said...

Shafiq--thank you for your comment, and providing another perspective, as well as further information.

The issue of origin can be useful I find for contextualizing a response, even if not everyone from the same origin holds the exact same view, nor should that be the only factor in evaluating a commentator's contribution (I know you weren't recommending either). Origin need not be limiting though, since as I stated in my commenting policy I think all have the right to weigh in on a topic of interest.

Much of what I have read, or learned about India from Indians and others is about the overwhelming role of caste, which continues to prevail.

I found your literacy statistics very telling. It is easy to forget that literacy is for a specific language or languages, and especially where there is a change in script one's literacy rate can change precipitously. A change in official language can disenfranchise or enfranchise a people dramatically, as has happened in Quebec with language laws, for example: a switch to French only meant many unilingual anglophone Quebeckers left the province, sometimes after generations of residence. Bilingual Quebeckers, most of whom were French Canadian (for a francophone to be upwardly mobile in English dominated Quebec required bilingualism), thrived more, and a generation of unilingual educated francophones grew to the point where now English is recommended for further advancement beyond provincial boundaries.

Thanks for contributing your insights into Indian politics and society!

Chiara said...

Susanne-thank you for your appreciation of the post and the comments. It is always nice when one takes the time to mention their appreciation, and for both! Thanks again!

THE HOLY SINNER, Usman, and Shafiq--thank you for contributing so much to the discussion here, and for doing so in such a civil manner.

I hope you will continue, and that others will share their perspectives as well, no matter where they are from or based, and whatever their perspective or own religious background.

I also hope people will contribute to the discussion in terms of the treatment of South Asians in Saudi and the GCC, as I see the treatment of Indian Muslims in India as connected to this. At the very least it might help to explain why Indian Muslims specifically among South Asians may prefer whatever discrimination exists in the Gulf but at higher wages, than whatever they are experiencing at home.

Shafiq said...

I do think origin matters, in the sense that people from different areas have different perceptions. I don't wish to dismiss your comments, but I do feel they are exaggerated. I don't maintain an anti-Israel page and it's not my wish to maintain an anti-Israel page (I don't know what it's got to do with origin, but whatever). The two posts I recently wrote about Israel were critical of Israel but they were in response to specific abuses by Israelis (in the case of settlers) and the IDF PR machine (in the second post).

As you've said, the Gujarat riots were one of many, for example, the riots after the destruction of the Babri Mosque. The Gujarat riots were the most recent, hence the reason why it's brought up commonly. There are also many terrorist attacks in India, in which as many Muslims have died as in the pogroms.

I think you mean Varun Gandhi (of the BJP) rather than Rahul Gandhi (his cousin and of Congress). Gandhi was arrested and charged for his comments during the election campaign. The anti-Muslim rhetoric we hear plays in fears of terrorism and is not too different from the Arab and Muslim bashing we find in some American and European election campaigns. However, the last election result showed that the rhetoric is getting old and people are seeing through it.

Muslims are over-represented in Bollywood. They make up 15% of the population but much more in Bollywood - just look at how many actors have Muslim names and look at the credits after any Bollywood movie.

The language of government changed in the 19th century, but its repercussions continue up until today, with Muslims having never really recovered. Same with Pakistan - English is the language of government, yet so many Pakistanis don't know English. It's a huge barrier to social mobility.

Instead of throwing credential, you better decided if you are interested in discussion or merely defending your homeland against foreigners?

I wasn't merely throwing my credentials, I was using my background to show I wasn't being dispassionate when I claimed the riots weren't genocide. I do wish to discuss, hence the reason why I've addressed the comments you've made. Just to add though, my homeland is Britain.

Shafiq said...

Regarding South Asians living in Saudi and the Gulf, I'd just like to relate to you a couple of stories of people I know / have met over the past couple of years:

1) A Bangladeshi person at my Uni - I say Bangladeshi but he was actually born and lives in Abu Dhabi. The strict citizenship laws of the Emirates mean that despite being born there, he was denied citizenship and always made to feel like an outsider. He told me once that the Emiratis looked at him as if he was scum. I was shocked that a, he was denied citizenship (makes me feel lucky to not be in that situation) and b, he was clearly the victim of racism (the guy comes from a pretty wealthy family, so socio-economic status can be discounted here as a factor).

I have a Qatari friend also, who doesn't get along with the Bangladeshi at all. The Bangladeshi sees the Qatari as no different from the Arabs he lives with at home and the Qatari feels he's being blamed for the wrongs of others.

2) The same day, I met a Pakistani man who told me a similar story (an odd coincidence), but this time in Dubai. He was born there and was a jeweller but again denied citizenship. When he started having a family, he realised that after retirement, he would not get any social security and would be on his own. It was then that he decided to move to the UK, but he had to sacrifice his business in order to do so.

cont.

Shafiq said...

3) A family friend (Pakistani). He lives in Medina, having gone for pilgrimage there and then getting married to a Saudi woman at the request of her father. He's now got a family there (all of whom are Saudi citizens) and he says he would never even think about leaving. He has also said that neither he nor his family has ever experienced prejudice of any kind (though he knows others who have).

4) A friend of mine who lived in Riyadh for a bit - She's Pakistani and her Mum's a diplomat so she was educated at an international school and didn't experience any prejudice.

NidalM said...

Pakistan and India have both encountered serious difficulties with the switching of their administrative systems to English. As a result there is a major gap between the 'elite' english speaking minority and the majority of locals that couldnt speak their way through a legal proceeding. But to see this gap limited to the muslim minority in India is especially worrying.

To me, it does seem like a cyclical chain of events for muslims in India. With their literacy levels lower than the rest of the country (60%, as compared to the 'rest of india' average of 75%), it is difficult for them to enter into administrative fields. This results in the extremely low participation numbers by muslims in the public sector.

Without adequate representation, the government is less likely to act towards ameliorating their situation. Literacy will drop further.

There can be little doubt that there is race bias in the Indian government. Officials are elected by the masses, and if events like the Gujrat riots have shown us anything its that there is a lot of racism present in the Hindu public. There have been numerous politicians capitalizing on these through extremely bigoted campaigns.

India is a highly polarized society. And without appropriate checks and measures to protect the interests of minorities, I'm afraid the situation will only get much worse.

I consider it laughable when people use Bollywood to showcase Muslim participation in India. Using an industry that comprises only 0.1% of the country's GDP. And handpicking a few high profile muslim figures only takes away from the plight the muslim population faces in India.

A 15% spread in literacy levels of a minority, and one that has persisted for years, indicates a serious lack in government oversight, whether intended or not. The first step is to admit there is a problem. And thats exactly what the Sachar report has done.

Now, since some would like to color ideas with origins, I'd like to point out that while this may help to place people into boxes in our minds for the convenience of discounting their ideas, remember that a box is too small to hold a person. Theres always more to it.

oby said...

This is a very interesting topic and I thank you for raising it.

I will have to listen to the debate again as many very good and important points were raised but I am not sure that I actually heard substantive answers meaning, why this alleged discrimination is happening and what can be done.(I say alleged as the motion did not pass. Not being Indian I have no first hand knowledge of it)

As I was listening with pen in hand I jotted down a few notes, but again I need to hear it again to confirm.

there were several things I heard that I wondered about. The first being education. It was my understanding that India has a vast and generally good education system offered to all children free of charge. I am wondering why education is not available or why Muslims are not taking advantage of what is available. Again, I am not sure if it is actually available or they are not taking advantage of it. How is such a thing decided? Here in the USA, it is decided partially by the census and paid for by taxes on homes/business, plus government spending.

The other thing I heard one of the women saying is that no disenfranchised poor Muslims were in the government. Are there poor Indians in the government? I think governments world wide are often run by folks at higher socio economic levels no matter their religion.

This I might have missed but I thought she said that 30% of Muslims in India are poor. what is the other 70% made up of? Or maybe she said 30% of the poor in India are Muslim. Still that means 70% of the poor are not Muslim...what would they be and how does that work with the demographics of India?

I found it interesting that the textbook change was requested...It seems to me that textbooks can be a bugaboo worldwide. For example, I wonder how India and Pakistan would write about Partition and the events that happened. Obviously each side sees it from their perspective be it a Muslim one or a Hindu one. In the USA, the evangelists have succeeded in watering down some textbooks to include Creationism and teach more of the things that they favor over what I would consider facts. And of course, Saudi are famous for their less than lovely textbooks.

How is it that the literacy rate is less among Muslims? why are they not learning at the same rate as others? I am assuming that this goes back to the education issue.

I wish the deb ates could go into greater depth...such as I said explaining why these disparities exist and what is a plan of action to close the gap.

As an aside, my husband thinks that there was much more discrimination against Muslims years ago but that the gap is lessening and he actually brought up some of the points raised in the debate.

oby said...

Part 2:

Does being equal on paper translate to equality of opportunity?

Of course not. What it does do however, give one the right to the same options that someone else has. Whether or not they can bring that to fruition depends on a multitude of things. Education, ability to self advocate, income, even transportation and the ability to be mobile to take advantage of a job. But I also like to think it comes from somewhere within…My FIL grew up on a poor farm in India. Both parents were farmers, but he wanted more for himself. He helped on the farm and in the evenings he would walk a mile to the nearest cross road where there was one electric street light; The only one in the poor village. There he would sit and read for hours studying his schoolbooks night after night after night. Then he would walk home. He did this on a daily basis. Over time he did quite well in the poor village school, and advanced further and further. His parents had no money for special schools so he did what he could with what he had. Eventually he went to college and became an aeronautical engineer. He was then accepted at Cambridge University in England on scholarship to further his studies. He worked slowly but surely from the bottom up and eventually became DGCA of India…similar to the head of the FAA in the USA. He wasn’t a genius, he didn’t have any special help to get him there, no special handouts or connections, he came from a poor farming family, but he had an internal desire to do better for him and his future family. I think or at least hope anyone who chooses can get ahead. that they could legally take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the law and not allow others to stop them if possible.

What is the role of political parties in India in how Indian Muslims are treated?

Don’t know enough to say.

What has been the influence of extremist Hindu sects on how Indian Muslims live in India?

Again, don’t know sorry.

Could/ Should Indian Muslims be doing more to provide leadership, and to use the size of their population to effect change?

Absolutely! People the world over use their sheer number to effect change. Often, though it isn’t fair, if you don’t squeak the loudest, you are not given any attention. they should also make sure that what Muslim advocacy groups there are are actually doing the right thing for the Muslim community. They need to make sure they hold them to a high standard because those groups will be the voice of the people and MUST have the people's best interests at heart.

How are Indian/ Pakistani/ South Asian Muslims treated where you live?

In the USA it is my experience on an individual level education and effort make all the difference. By that I mean, if a man is educated in his field, is a hard worker and a good knowledgeable worker he will be generally respected by his colleagues. People in the USA I think overall have a good idea of Indians due to the fact that many who come here are well educated. I can almost guarantee you that an American will not ask someone’s religion and it is against the law for an employer to ask. Instant lawsuit! We consider someone’s religion a private matter. Unless someone is outright prostylityzing about Islam most people won’t even ask…if they do prostylitize they most likely will get flak. In general I think they are treated well and pretty equally.

Unusually, for the Doha Debates, the panellists here are of the same gender on each different side of the motion. Is this any reflection of the culture of gender in India, Islam, South Asia?

I had not thought of that at all…just figured it was the luck of the draw. I have seen debates where no women were present…

oby said...

Part 1:


For me it didn’t go into enough detail to draw a conclusive judgment. I would have referred facts, and statistics to understand how both sides are backing up their claims.

What questions would you have asked?

I would have liked to know specifically what sectors are fine and what ones need improvement. Interestingly, it seems that the areas that need improvement are areas of potential power. On the other hand a lot of that I think goes back to the education a person receives. Which evidently is a problem in the Muslim community. also what steps is the government taking specifically to address the disparity.

How would you have voted?

I can’t say. I still feel like I don’t have enough facts. I can’t vote based on emotion. Even then I am not sure I have a feeling about it as to have an emotion about it one has to have some basic knowledge. If I were asked if Muslims are on absolute par with Hindus it would be mixed…in some areas yes and others no it seems. Trying to be a glass half full type of person I would have to say in terms of legalities they have full rights…it is a matter of getting that to be implemented. Looking at it like that, it is less troublesome than if they did not have the basic rights to begin with.

How relevant, or not, is this debate for South Asians in Saudi? Elsewhere?

Here I am not so sure. If they were getting basic jobs in India would they migrate to Saudi for work? Is there condition better there than in India? From what I have read it seems in the ME they are treated poorly as well even though they are Muslims. Perhaps that is offset by a higher wage.



Are there regional differences in how Muslims are treated in India?

No Clue…I would imagine in cities they are treated better than rural unless it was a heavily Muslim area. Cities often are more open about differing people and cultures.

Is religion or caste more important, or are they interconnected?

Religion (or perhaps culture) is important only if it influences choices that could be made for upward mobility. For example, if girls are not considered worth educating because religiously speaking they are expected to stay home and not earn a living then that could be a problem. They educate the next generation. The two might be interconnected if the lower castes are consistently muslim.

Susanne said...

Oby, your FIL's "rag-to-riches" story is inspiring! I always love to hear about people who study/work hard and succeed due to their determination! What a great example! :)

oby said...

Thanks Susanne...

I really found it inspirational too, especially when you consider his parents were not very supportive. NOT that they were trying to prevent him from it or forbidding him but they used to think he should follow them on the farm and to make all this effort when they thought he was going to be a farmer didn't make sense to them. His mom used to want him to get more sleep and my FIL just kept plugging away.His son, my husband is very similar to him in that when he gets an idea in his head if I can't dissuade him BEFORE he finally decides...forget it...nothing will deter him. That can be good and bad.

When I was writing the story I was thinking "This is the Indian version of American parents telling their kids "when I was your age I walked 5 miles to school all the way up hill in a snow storm" sort of thing. But unlike the snowstorm stories, I promise it is true! LOL!

Majed said...

1/2

Very intersting debate yet, too short for the subject addressed , but i wonder why did the motion fail the way it did, and what are the backgrounds of those who voted for or against it.
I am an indian muslim, though my father is an arab , and like all indian muslims no matter what anybody says that will not change the fact that india is our home , we are as indians as anybody else if not more and we are capable of proofing that when needed, even brothers from one father and one mother differ and fight but they all love their mother.
Yes, I think there is prejudice against muslims somehow but it is not only peculiar to india only. Arab muslims if did not find anything uncommon to practise prejudice against each other they will simply chose to practise regional or tribal prejudice and the americans too practice it state wise and region wise etc.
Yes it is true that we can best judge how healthy is any comunity in any country through their representation in government departments which should reflects the demographics of that country ,even if under representation of certain segment of society was due to lack of education , that only affirms neglection on the part of the goverment to take care of this segment of society.
you know muslim are almost the only significant indian group that does not have regiment of their own in the indian army and that their figure is not more than 30000 out of approximately 1.5 million standing army, I think it is clear what that means .

Majed said...

2/2

but i think the problem stems from indian bureaucracy being under the hangover of British Raj from whom they inherited the legacy of administration ,which is based on minimizing the muslims presence in goverment departments and army and police it is well known that muslims gave the british forces their best fights and were the last granite blocks removed enroute to occupation of the subcontinent and kept rising up in rebellions against their presence and so were black listed , unlike the Sikhs, Gurkhas, Marathas who always were loyal to the Queen and helped subdue the rebellions and were honored as brave and warrior races sometimes even in mythical and unbelievable ways such as in the story of Saragrahi battle.
but I do not overlook other accomplices to our problems within ourself not the least of all ,our political and religious leaders who are selfish and corrupt and do not care about the welfare of their community , their only interest is to fill their bank accounts within and abroad and who show attention and heedfulness by building cheap religious schools and encourage others to build such schools that only teach Islam but they send their children to modern school and even abroad to study and get enlightened to come back and lead the herds of ignorants, and many muslim parents also responsible for not giving much attention to girls education out of sexual worries, in which way they neutralize half of our strength, and the long practised prejudice against us has grown into us the feeling of hopelessness and despair that hardly anyone contemplate applying for government vacancies, and those who are already under government employment feel repulsed like antigens and discourage many other from applying.
one thing more , we are not alone in this, the people in south suffer more than north, people in east suffer more than west, and lower caste people still suffer, farmers regardless of their religions of almost all over the country who constitute more than 65% of our population hardly eke out mere sustenance from farming to feed the entire nation and millions of girls who are being murdered before even they could see the light also suffer and all are prejudiced against. so most muslims take it in a way ,that we should not make a big deal of it if we can live with it. but it is also true that only crying babies get milk so any one feels he is down trodden or prejudiced should cry and cry loud. but some Hindu Political Parties are spreading bad blood between Hindu and muslims in a way that could detonate this huge reservoir of volatile mixtures the consequences of which will be far worse than former Yugoslavia if the goverment and first of all common indians did not keep the monster of hatred and intolerance well-leashed and all of us should make One great India our foremost prioties and concerns all other things can in the process of time be sloved. Indian has already lost two great limbs that we all miss and can not forget and we should see our diversity as our strenth not our weekness.

Majed said...

I take it for granted that Mr. Akbar is one of India's most distinguished journalists he is , I also take his word that he is not there to just win a debate yet he started so against tokenism and the way he was speaking pointed that tokenism does exist.yet by the end of the debate he ceded this point to favor Mr. Pilot and to win the debate (though Abdul Kalam the example he gave for tokenism presided from 2002 to 2007 i mean to say very recently not 1984 when wrote his book about tokenism ) and also he said that :
(look at where Indian Muslims that have been, if you like, if we had not been in India. Look at all around you, today, in...) I really don`t know where he supposes that we should be and why should we, Partition was dire and critical moment of peoples life Hindus or Muslis it was a situation during which people had to take fatal decisions on the spur of the moment, each one chose his path to the best of his thinking and each got what he was destined to get and no one has the right to gloat over others misfortunes neither we can boast that we live in a paradise of democracy, we best know our democracy , if we are not hearing any outside criticism and decries that would detract from the beautiful image of our democracy , that should not mean that it is perfect and that there is nothing wrong with it.who know better than us that 50% of our MPs are with criminal records ranging from money laundering, theft,rape, extortion ,and murder and the remaining 50% are not so clean too, and the percentage of criminals among MLAs is much higher and that votes are sold in our democracy just like Tomatoes and Diamond, the price ranges from 100 Rupees for commoners votes to tens of millions of rupees in case MPs votes
specially when trust votes are needed, market value depends on demand, and taking into consideration the loads of money that is usually seized by police during polling one easily can guess how many folds of it might have gone through.

I think when Indians will stop choosing people of such categories for their law makers only then all of them will prosper and move forward

Regarding Muslim film stars, muslim ambassadors and muslim high ranking officers one should ask them how much of their true skin they had to slough off and what kind of stuffs they had to do to ingretiate themself to their superiors to achieve something and to get somewhere in life most of them chose to marry a hindu girl, personally i have nothing against that only that my religion does not allow me to do (marriage is the easiest card they can play) and some over fake broad-mindedness to go to temples as well as to Mosques to worship ( not that i mind that someone comes and see mosques and go to see temples ) but and relinquish fundamental beliefs ,principles and respect in return for posts,fame, recognition and even for the fortunes of the world is really something we can do without and it is too less a price to sell our self-esteem for.

Chiara said...

Thank you all for your new and ongoing contributions to the discussion here. They really enhance the appreciation of this debate, and give it a broader context and more nuance.

Shafiq--thank you for your civility, and adding further clarification as well as personal examples that show the diversity of experiences. Bangladesh and Bangladeshis,for example, seem to get short shrift in these discussions, eg in the Doha Debate itself.

NidalM--thank you for sharing your perspective and enriching this discussion with a look at the role the government is playing in certain sectors like education, representation, and sadly "institutionalized racism". No doubt all are affected by using English in the civil service but those who are disenfranchised in other ways more so.

I do wonder if the proportion Muslim actors in Bollywood reflects the lack of other employment opportunities, at the same time as Muslims in Bollywood are careful about sharing their allegiances. Certainly Indian cinema overall does not portray Muslims favorably. Also this sounds much like Hollywood where minorities would find work as long as they accepted stereotypic roles (Blacks) or could pass (Jews). Perhaps it will be an evolution towards something better as the current actors get more production and directorial clout (one of the ways women also made a break through in Hollywood).

I fully agree that no one should be kept in a box made up of their origins, but I do think it helps to situate a discussion to an extent to understand where someone is "coming from" in that sense as well as intellectually. Sometimes one realizes that some ideas are more culture bound and inherited than one realized, even if one disagrees with them. This has happened to me. The other aspect is that origins may be different than ethnicity or where one was raised. eg. I know a lot of Moroccans who attended French schools as that forms part of their identifications and identity sometimes in ways in which they are unaware. Still, in some debates or discussions origins can be used to dismiss and argument or as an ad hominem attack but I trust Shafiq in no way meant that. It is a good topic in itself! :)

Chiara said...

Oby--thank you for the care you took over this topic and for sharing your thoughts and experiences,and those of your husband and inlaws.

My guess about the education issue in India is that there may be a "separate but equal" phenomenon going on, or as occurs generally a distinction in the quality of the public school education depending on the location of the school ie in what socio-economic area. The lower income areas tend to have a poorer quality of education even if following the same curriculum. Also, people in the lower socio-economic strata have a harder time keeping their children in school and the children have a harder time staying in school. This affects probably most greatly the child with only average abilities, or learning challenges, the one who cannot and whose parents cannot make up for the school's deficiencies.

Your FIL's story is inspiring. He is one of the talented, determined and disciplined ones who succeed in using their talents to their fullest despite a rocky path. I do wonder though about those who would need extra pedagogical help.

About the detail and content of the debate, I think that maybe because most of us are less familiar with the specifics of this situation we would have liked more information and background as well as proposed solutions from the panellists.

One of the downsides of extremism seems to me to be that it shifts everyone along with it. They don't believe it but they are forced to answer its charges, provide counterarguments, set an agenda in part based of it. This extremism among certain groups eventually colours the perception of all the others too.

Thank you again for your very thoughtful comment and for sharing some persoanl family examples.

single4now said...

I haven't gone through the entire debate but I read through most of it. I felt some of the points being made were rather silly. The Hindu-Muslim issue started long before 9/11. I haven't lived in India but superficially, I haven't seen discrimination against Muslims but I have heard of things such as actors complaining they cannot own homes in certain affluent sections of Mumbai and students not receiving an official holiday on Eid. When the students had a strike the dean said they had permission to take off but it was still a working day for the rest of the student body. That is wrong to me because the students will be missing classes which shouldn't be the case. But there is definitely discrimination. It's easier to get arrested in India as a Muslim. Most often the matter is subtle and perhaps bearable. Occasionally things get much more violent. The government is very responsible for initiating and inciting disharmony because the Indian public is an extremely emotional one. There are several movies which have covered these topics as well and to some extent how political agendas cause problems and more often than not, it's the poor people of any religion that suffers.

I also agree with NidalM. I think it's stupid to say Muslims in Bollywood means Muslims have equal rights. The Muslims in Bollywood seem to be struggling with representing themselves as Indians by constantly portraying roles of Hindus. Any comment in support of Muslims in other parts of the world seems to create a backlash amongst the public. Indians can be just as racist as any other group of people.
I specifically hate the Indian government as it never seems to support it's citizens when they are arrested or in trouble otherwise in other countries whereas US and Britain usually comes to the rescue of their citizens. Perhaps when the Indian government actually starts to care about their people, we can actually fix problems in the society.

Chiara said...

Majed--thank you very much for all of you comments and for contributing so much to this debate. You make a number of excellent points.

I agree that discrimination is not unique to one place or culture, but rather part of human activity, fortunately counterbalanced by the capacity for acceptance. One form of acceptance is indeed reflected in the composition of a government, and who has real power within that. Your comment about Indian Muslims lacking their own standing regiment in the army is striking. Yes indeed that speaks volumes.

It is also true that corruption and political inefficiency are part of the Indian governmental fabric, and not restricted to one group only. Similar problems are endemic to politics its seems, but some countries rank higher in corruption than others, including in the political sector.

I agree with your emphases on socio-economic status, the caste system and the rural-urban divide, as well as the history of the Raj: both the trauma of Partition, the violence leading up to it, and certain legacies in the current symptoms. Even minimal exposure to Indian culture makes one aware of the regional differences, and a north-south split that is cultural, linguistic, and religious. As you point out East/West is another divide that is often forgotten, and partly because the borders cut through ethnic groups, who are forgotten by the outside world except for clashes.

You also make an excellent point about the "compromises" Muslims make to succeed in a dominant Hindu society and culture. And to return to one of your first points, yes it would be interesting to know the composition of the audience voting, as everywhere those in the dominant culture perceive less prejudice than those in the minority culture--yet another divide.

Thank you again for sharing so much and contributing to the debate in such a substantive way.

Chiara said...

Single4Now--Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree that a major flaw of this debate was a failure to address the historical roots of the Hindu-Muslim issues in India. Too volatile still, perhaps.

The government role in provoking situations and in maintaining inequalities is an important one to investigate further. I have posts coming up on Indian cinema, so I hope that theme will surface, as you state. If you have particular films in mind I would be happy to know which ones.

I think the issue of Indian Muslims in Bollywood was raised more as a statistical comparison, but I take your point and that of NidalM. I also believe, as I stated above, that turning to the arts and sports often represents a choice for a minority group which is blocked from other professions. At the same time it is a way of effecting change in perceptions if used appropriately. Even someone who seemed to "Uncle Tom" as much as Louis Armstrong did in the States, was ultimately a major force in civil rights, and because he was beloved by whites had a greater voice, while still retaining clout with enough blacks to be a force there too.

Ah, tell me about a government that doesn't act for its people abroad--at least not the brown ones. Stephen Harper has turned it into a fine are: he appoints brown people to do it to themselves or each other (Arab envoy to African country for example; who let a woman be imprisoned because she though the size of her lips on her old passport photo was different than in real life). His crowning "achievement" is Omar Khadr, about whom I intend to post, if I can manage not to rant (justifiably, but still... LOL :) ).

Thanks again for your attention to this post and for sharing your insights and experiences.

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