People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 23, 2007
As we go to press, the National Development Council (NDC) is meeting to finalise the Eleventh Five Year Plan. Amongst others, this meeting will also consider the implementation of the Prime Minister’s new fifteen point programme for the welfare of minorities. The union cabinet had approved this programme on June 22, 2006. The NDC will consider how this must now be implemented.
To set the record straight, it must be recalled that way back in May 1983, the then prime minister, Smt Indira Gandhi, had addressed a letter to all the chief ministers containing fifteen points relating to the development of the minorities. These were reiterated in August 1985 by the then prime minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi in a letter addressed to all chief ministers.
The Justice Rajinder Sachar Committee report has thoroughly exposed how none of these earlier directions resulted in any appreciable improvement in the welfare of the minorities. On the contrary, their situation worsened. Responding to the growing demands for the implementation of the Sachar Committee recommendations and coming under pressure for the delay of nearly one and a half years after the Cabinet decision, the UPA government has finally outlined this new fifteen point programme. While the points relating to prevention of communal riots and provision of relief to the victims of such riots find an important place, the focus is on issues intimately connected with the social, educational and economic uplift of the minorities. Only time will tell us how efficiently these programmes will be carried out.
The CPI(M) had been demanding from the UPA government that it announce and implement a sub-plan for the minorities, on the lines of the already existing sub-plan for the tribals. Though the word `sub-plan’ is not used, this new fifteen point programme ends with the following:
“Care shall be taken to ensure that wherever applicable, there is separate earmarking of the physical and financial targets for the minority communities under each of the programmes/schemes, preferably in the ratio of the all-India population of each minority community. Thereafter, these targets shall be further split state-wise for each minority community in the ratio of the population of the minority community in each state. This will ensure that the benefit necessarily reaches the target group in the proportion of the population of the group in each state.”
Reiterating the CPI(M)’s stand, the West Bengal chief minister declared that the state government had decided to implement a sub-plan for the welfare of the minorities and called upon the centre to do likewise.
On the eve of this NDC meeting, the BJP president had directed all its chief ministers to oppose this programme for minority welfare dubbing it as “communal budgeting”. Accordingly, this attack was led by Narendra Modi in the NDC meeting. Vehemently opposing this plan, he said that such a programme is not “in the interests of maintaining the social fabric of the nation”. He further said that such a programme will not help in taking the people of India, “on the path of development”.
The BJP is essentially articulating its communal ideology by talking of India’s “social fabric” exclusively in terms of the majority Hindu community, completely in line with the RSS vision of converting the secular democratic republic of India into a rabidly intolerant fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’.
India’s social fabric is distinguished by its vast plurality and rich diversity. The interests of our country can be protected and strengthened only when this fact is not merely recognised but accepted. It is precisely this that the BJP refuses to accept. Further, the strength of any country, especially under a parliamentary democracy, lies in how well and competently are the interests of the minorities protected. The measure of the success of democracy is the rising index of the welfare of the minorities. Only when these concerns of welfare are addressed in right earnest, can India move ahead on “the path of development” that is both inclusive and comprehensive.
The Sachar Committee findings have comprehensively nailed the lie of the BJP’s vicious campaign of “minority appeasement”. Thus, despite one of their important planks of communal polarisation being exposed, the BJP is now opposing any measure to improve the welfare of the minorities by advancing, once again, the very logic of minority appeasement. Clearly, the BJP is seeking to rouse communal passions by such an opposition.
This must be seen as a part of the larger strategy being employed currently by the RSS/BJP and its affiliates, i.e., the return to the basics. The anointment of L K Advani as their future prime minister (presuming that they are ever able to win a general election), is central to this strategy. The effort is to recall the memory of the infamous `rath yatra’ led by Advani in the early 90s preceding the demolition of the Babri Masjid, with the hope that this will help consolidate the Hindu vote bank. The BJP’s hardcore Hindutva campaign in the recent elections in Gujarat led by Narendra Modi and the venomous speeches of their leaders, highlighting the three core issues of Hindutva agenda – construction of the temple at Ayodhya; uniform civil code; and the abolition of Article 370 – in the Himachal Pradesh election campaign only confirms this.
As the next general elections draw closer, such aggressive communal polarisation will be on the rise. The façade of `coalition dharma’, frequently articulated under the Vajpayee government, will increasingly take the back seat. Apart from the fact that the BJP’s allies in the NDA would be thrown into a state of high discomfort, this aggressive return to the basics by the RSS/BJP does not auger well for the future of India’s secular democratic republican foundations. India and the Indian people need to unitedly rise to face this challenge to safeguard our social fabric and to move forward on the path of inclusive growth.