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Can Muslims have a deal with Prime Minister Modi?
Wednesday September 3, 2014 12:23 PM, Dr. Mansoor Durrani

I do not have a TV at home for more than 15 years. This is why I miss watching many big events. But I read that during his Independence Day speech on 15th August 2014 Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a “moratorium” or pause on communal violence for the next ten years. If true, then Muslim organizations must take a serious note and try to officially and promptly respond to this call.

Although his party believes that Muslims have been fed with golden spoons by “secular” governments over the last 65 years in India, Modi and his party know as much as anyone else that Muslims are physically the most vulnerable, educationally the most backward and economically the weakest religious group in the country. No comparison with Hindus. On all these counts, we are far below our Christian, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist compatriots.

This is correct that if successive governments had provided adequate safety, security and opportunities to Muslims, we might have been better off. But I am one of those few Muslims who do not place the entire burden of our pathetic state on external factors, including governments and anti-Muslim organizations. In my earlier essays, I have blamed internal factors more, including selfish and directionless Muslim “leadership”.

If the offer of “moratorium” was tossed at a low key event by a lower-rung leader of BJP, then we could have ignored it. Our indifference would not be because we are allergic to peace. It would be based, in essence, on our bitter experience that whenever BJP and its allies offer “peaceful co-existence” to Muslims, they expect us to unconditionally surrender to their unrealistic demands. That has never happened. And that will never happen. Although Muslims suffer most during communal riots, both physically and economically, India as a whole is the ultimate loser.

The offer was made during the Independence Day speech and by none other than the Prime Minister himself. Having said what he has said, Modi must now elaborate if he is serious about his suggested moratorium; and if he has internal “buy-in” from his own supporters across the Hindutva spectrum.

If yes, then Muslims will need to know whether his offer is unconditional or some strings attached i.e list of masjids that we need to hand over to them so that they can demolish and build temples etc?

His response will also provide us an evidence if he truly meant various other things that he covered in his “historic speech” from the Red Fort or he was just taking the nation on a ride. That will determine whether his speeches are backed by some serious plans and substance or they are empty words. Nothing more.

Based on socio-economic condition, no religious group is more desirous of peaceful co-existence with all other Indians than Muslims. Only if we are free from state persecution, constant threat of detentions on false and fabricated charges, nonstop media onslaught and widening mistrust between “us” and “them” shall we be able to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives; concentrate on giving education to our coming generations; participate in (and benefit from) the economic development of the country. We are more than interested in becoming assets rather than remaining liabilities for the nation.

India is larger than the US in population, and it is far more democratic than China. With this combination, taking over both of them economically is a distinct possibility if there is genuine peace across the country for a prolonged period of time. So it should not matter if Modi is interested in a peaceful India just for attaining his economic goals and not out of his sincere love for peace. For commoners like us, peace will be peace. And that would be a unique example of reconciliation in an otherwise rapidly blazing world.

However, the key for making India peaceful has always been and will always be in the hands of our rulers. No one is better placed to ensure violence-free and bias-free India than a strong Prime Minister, that Modi is. So if rulers are prepared to treat us as equal citizens, which our constitution guarantees; if they are prepared to put thousands of Muslims youths - languishing in prisons on trump-up charges - through fast-track trials and give them exemplary punishment if they are guilty (and the same process should be followed for the culprits of fake encounters even if the they happen to be the leaders of Modi’s own party).

And all those found innocent through a quick and fair process of law must be instantly released and compensated for their illegal detentions; if strict orders are issued to security agencies and media outlets to treat all Muslims as Indian citizens rather than Pakistani agents, then the Prime Minister will probably be surprised to note that Muslims may not just be interested in a 10-year moratorium but a 30-year moratorium.

Why 30 years? Because if a full generation is raised seeing an India which is not polarized, not communalized and not terrorized only then they will know the value of communal harmony and peaceful co-existence. This is why we should be prepared to sign up for 30 years and not just 10 years moratorium.

Is the Prime Minister strong and sincere enough to have a deal and then implement it? Or he was just talking the talk?

[Dr. Mansoor Durrani is a an economist, senior vice president of NCB,Jeddah. He was awarded last year as one of the 20 top most Islamic bankers in the world.]

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