When Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the Minister for Minority Affairs, announced on Jan 16 the withdrawal of Haj subsidy some Muslim organizations welcomed the decision of the central government. All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s Kamal Farooqui welcomed the move, saying that a wrong impression was being created that Muslims were gaining from the government aid. “Instead, it was national carrier Air India that was the biggest beneficiary of this government scheme,” he said. If some Muslims welcomed the decision of the government the reason is that the BJP-RSS combine has been using Haj subsidy to accuse the Muslims as the beneficiaries of appeasement by the so called secular parties. In fact, the Haj subsidy is only a pittance compared to the huge subsidy given to the Hindu pilgrims by different statement governments and large amount of money spent by the state governments for organizing mega religious events like Kumbh Mela and financial assistance to temples and Hindu ashrams. But the Hindutva organizations and leaders misguide the public by magnifying Haj subsidy to the Muslims and hiding the enormous financial support to the Hindus and Hindu religious institutions.
The Union Minister said that the government would save Rs. 700 crore by stopping the subsidy and would use the amount for education of minorities, particularly the girls. Instead of spending money for promoting religiosity, supporting education and skill development of the poor people is a wise decision. But the BJP governments are spending lavishly tax payers’ money for various religious activities of Hindus while millions of Hindus live in abject poverty and deprivation. For example the Madhya Pradesh government organized Ekatma Yatra from October 21, 2017 to January 22, 2018 with an aim to collect metal pieces to install a 108 feet tall statue of Adi Shankaracharya at Omkareshwar in Khandwa district. The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister was present on both occasions of the inauguration of the Yatra and the conclusion of it when the foundation of the statue was laid. “The contribution of Adi Shankaracharya will be made memorable by installing his statue at Omkareshwar”, the Chief Minister said.
The whole programme of Ekatma Yatra was a totally government managed show at the expense of the tax payers’ money. It was reported that the government school teachers from Khandwa and the neighbouring districts were instructed by their authorities to participate in the programme on January 22, forgoing classes. This is an excellent example to show that India has already become a Hindu Rashtra in reality. The word “secular” remains only in the Constitution of India and the Sangh Parivar wants to delete it from the constitution. In November 2017 the BJP government in Haryana issued an order asking teachers in the state to enrol for a priest training programme, so that they could perform poojas at temples in Bilaspur town during the six-day Kapal Mochan Mela that started on October 30 in Yamunanagar district.
The Centre had in May 2017 formed a six-member committee to look into the Haj subsidy issue in the light of a 2012 Supreme Court order on gradually reducing and abolishing subsidy given to pilgrims by 2022. The Supreme Court had in 2012 directed the Union government to gradually reduce and abolish Haj subsidy by 2022. It had asked the government to invest the subsidy amount of approximately Rs 650 crore a year on the educational and social development of the community. The direction of the Supreme Court was a gradual reduction in the subsidy and winding it up by 2022; but the BJP government at the centre was quick to implement the direction of the Supreme Court. The BJP governments are selective in implementing the decisions of the Supreme Court. The SC had told the four state governments of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh to ensure the release of the Movie, Padmaavat; but large scale violence was unleashed by the fringe Rajput groups, including Karni Sena and as a result the movie could not be shown in the theatres in four states.
While announcing the decision of the government the Minority Affairs Minister said, “It is part of Government’s decision to empower the minorities with dignity and without appeasement”. Using the same logic the ordinary citizens of India can ask the government, “If the end of government subsidies for individual pilgrims travelling to Mecca brings dignity to Muslims, why not bring back dignity to Hindus? Why give subsidies to Hindu pilgrims? If it is appeasement to subsidize pilgrimages to Mecca, is it empowerment to subsidize pilgrimages to Mansarovar, Ayodhya and other such places considered holy by Hindus?” The BJP government at the centre and in the states are indulging in rampant discriminations based on religion. Examples are in abundance.
Within a week of taking over as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath announced a big hike in the subsidy for the pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar to up to one lakh rupees per yatri . The Rajasthan Government also provides a similar subsidy. The Madhya Pradesh Government provides a range of subsidies, including for senior citizens, to Ayodhya and Mathura and to those travelling to temple destinations in Sri Lanka, Kampuchea and Pakistan. Other state governments which give such subsidies to individual Hindu pilgrims in organized yatras to identified religious destinations are Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Haryana, and Tamil Nadu. These subsidies range from 25,000 rupees to one lakh rupees given to individual pilgrims. This is apart from the other general arrangements.
The BJP that is never tired of blaming the Congress of minority appeasement indulge in the same trick in order to win elections. Last week Christian leaders rejected an offer from India's tourism ministry of a US$10 million grant for the facelift and maintenance of churches in the Christian-majority state of Meghalaya that goes to polls next month. According to a report in UCAN, Bishop Victor Lyngdoh of Jowai Diocese said, “The church leadership cannot take financial help now because it will give the wrong message to our people during this election time. It can create confusion."
The accusation of appeasing Muslims is a lie propagated by the vested interests. The Sachar committee that studied the social, economic, educational and political situation of the Muslims in India has brought to light that the situation of Muslims is worse than that of dalits. Some of the findings of the committee are startling.
· Only 13% of the entire Muslim population has salaried jobs in the private and public sector together (in public enterprises barely 5%). 25 per cent of Muslim children in the 6-14 year age group have either never attended school or have dropped out. Expansion of educational opportunities since Independence has not led to a convergence of attainment levels between Muslims and all others. Dropout rates among Muslims are higher at the level of primary, middle and higher secondary.
· In premier colleges only one out of 25 under-graduate students and one out of 50 post-graduate students is a Muslim.
· Unemployment rate among Muslim graduates is the highest among all socio-religious communities.
· The presence of Muslims has been found to be only 3% in the IAS, 1.8% in the IFS and 4% in the IPS. The share of Muslims in employment in various departments is abysmally low at all levels. Muslim community has a representation of only 4.5% in Indian Railways while 98.7% of them are positioned at lower levels.
· Representation of Muslims is very low in the Universities and in Banks. In no state does the representation of Muslims in the government departments match their population share. Their share in police constables is only 6%, in health 4.4%, in transport 6.5%.
Some of the policies and decisions of the Congress government to please the religious leaders of the Muslims like the ban on the book, Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, the legislation to undo the verdict of the Supreme Court in Shah Bano case etc. created a perception in the Hindus that the Congress was following a policy of appeasement of the Muslims. The BJP exploited the Hindu sentiments to create division between Muslims and Hindus and create Hindu vote bank. Neither the Congress nor the other so called secular parties have made any substantial effort to improve the economic and educational status of the Muslims in India. Their efforts often remained symbolic and peripheral. The BJP on the other hand is pursuing a policy of appeasing and blatantly favouring the Hindus.
Article 27 of the Indian Constitution of India unambiguously states, “No person shall be compelled to pay any taxes, the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination”. The BJP government may claim that it has taken the decision to stop Haj subsidy to the Muslims in tune with article 27 of the constitution. But in providing huge sum of subsidy to Hindu pilgrims and Hindu Religious institutions and festivals it is violating the constitution of India.
(email@example.com)(Published on 05th February 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 06)