Monday, June 4, 2012

The Warped Minority Debate

Originally posted here.

“All of us sitting here on stage have been outspoken advocates of secularism & the rights of Muslims” said a prime time TV news debate anchor on a panel debate at Jaipur Literary Festival. It is quite an interesting quote. Read it again. Much of the debate on minorities and the state they are in is held in a vacuum. One would understand if juveniles did that. But one hardly expects this of career journalists, scholars, intellectuals and column writers. One cannot help but wonder if this is an innocent phenomenon or something else is at play here.
“Minorities are persecuted”
Is that true? Is this assertion based on facts or is it made for drama, for effect? Is the entire minority community persecuted? The prime time talking heads certainly seem to insinuate as much. Almost any debate on the subject is constructed more on a set of assumptions than incontrovertible facts. One is led to believe that minorities suffer untold misery simply because they belong to minority communities. The actors carrying out such a debate have a myopic focus on convenient cases that help make their point. That large parts of the same minority communities enjoy success in almost every field is ignored. Dig a little deep and you will find that minority community members that rejected the victimhood trap and made efforts to better themselves have enjoyed as much success as anyone else. Those falling for the victimhood trap have stayed behind and this is the lot that helps make the case for minority persecution. Interestingly religious zealots among minorities are considered fringe elements. However those forced into backwardness by these zealots make for a compelling case study for minority persecution. Who has prevented parts of minority communities from bettering themselves is a question that is never asked.
“Justice demands affirmative action”
Having established an assumption for a fact the next logical step follows. Demand for justice. Minority community leaders can be heard in TV studios arguing “justice demands that reservations be made for Muslims”. Lacking a strong case for persecution, apologists resort to rhetoric to further their case. Religious minorities are hardly denied opportunities owing only to their religion. Minority groups remaining backward is largely due to the opposition by community leaders to assimilate, to seek modern benefits. The minority leaders have a vested interest in keeping their community members segregated in bubbles. This allows them to claim leadership of such groups and leverage the same for personal gains.
Reservations, quotas, packages have been handed out to religious minorities for decades now. However desired outcomes still elude us. Whose failure is this? Shouldn’t we stop and re-evaluate this? Could the reason for failure be something else? Is the answer more of the same? The state hasn’t failed minority communities but the community leaders have.
It is always the other’s fault
Those claiming victimhood can be found blaming everyone else but themselves. It is quite evident that they refuse to take any responsibility for their own destiny, for their own plight. Their own dogged refusal to move with the times is blamed on others. There is no cure for this mindset. All the reservations, all the packages in the world are doomed to fail when the minority communities refuse to take any responsibility for their own condition.
Those claiming to speak for the rights of minorities would do well to pause and reflect for moment. Are their arguments helping the minorities or are they pushing them further into darkness? And having witnessed such debates for long we too should stop and question if this is indeed innocent or by design. The same prime time TV news debate anchor quoted in the beginning said that media is guilty of focusing on the fringe and helping perpetuate a negative stereotype of religious minorities. But curiously the same TV news anchor never takes own advice. Religious zealots continue to be her guests representing minorities and she has a history of conducting debates in a convenient vacuum.

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