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Mandate and Governance

Paper No. 1008                                                 26/05/2004

Guest Column-By Moorthy Muthuswamy 

The general anti-incumbent nature of the recent election results and poor voting levels point to a lack of trust in leadership, and by extension, the democratic system. The majority of voters have yet to witness competent governing – defined by improving living standards and security -- with an India under an increasing onslaught by terrorists of fall hues.

This paper addresses on what it takes to provide leadership and discusses the issues that will give an indication of whether the new coalition taking the reigns of power in New Delhi can provide governance and security.

 Articulation as the leadership attribute

 While leadership abilities of an individual may be defined by several attributes, the ability to articulate a vision and ideas dwarf over everything else.

 The role of a leader is to lead a nation in a certain direction. To do that he/she needs to convince a whole lot of people to follow his/her lead. Without this prerequisite, a nation simply cannot act as a collective to mobilize itself to solve its problems or bring prosperity to its people. The ability to articulate is an indication of a leader who has given substantial thought to these issues.

 India’s ability to bring prosperity and security to its masses rests to some extent on overcoming the escalating Islamic terrorism that is a massive drain on its finances, energy and focus (When are India and Pakistan ready for peace?). It is hardly a surprise that none of the leadership thus far has been able to put down the ongoing Kashmir Muslim insurgency -- as I have yet to come across a single national-level leader who has articulated how he/she is going to tackle this issue (Mandate for Indo-Pak peace settlement). I am also yet to hear how they would institute reforms and create wealth to bring the masses out of the crushing poverty. 

 Even though some progress was achieved under the deposed NDA regime, it still lost the elections due to the inability of its leaders to articulate the inter-linked economy-security vision and wealth creation to all Indians. NDA had played down the security issue -- a fatal mistake -- when over 40% of the Indian population, according to an India Today poll, had indicated terrorism as the issue of most concern to them.

 Initial tests of governance

With a new coalition consisting of Congress with support from the Left parties taking over power at the Center, some important decisions it may take initially may well decide India’s future course and the fate of crores of Indians.

 Given the reliance of bringing economic prosperity to tens of millions of Indians on winning the very costly war on terror imposed by Islamic fundamentalists, the litmus test of the new coalition is how it deals with religious fascism.

Even before taking control of the government there has been an increasing talk among the Congress-led coalition members about increasing the compensation of Muslims affected by Gujarat riots and making across-the-board reservations for them from jobs to education. While enforcing justice and uplifting poor is certainly a welcome idea, in the context of attributes of religious fascism this is a very dangerous proposal. Let me explain. 

Duplicity and injustice

The details of the attributes of religious fascism are discussed in an earlier publication of mine (When are India and Pakistan ready for peace?).

 For the purpose of articulating my argument I will just point out that, in regions where Muslims have power through majority status, religious fundamentalism has successfully worked to totally marginalize non-Muslims. This is found to be true even in India’s only Muslim majority state of Jammu & Kashmir. Religious fascism has in many places repressed Muslims from progressing and continues to feed them with retrogressive and violent ideology -- undercutting India’s secular, democratic and plural outlook

 Even though Muslims are a majority in Kashmir, this religious fascism-controlled region has reserved a lion-share of opportunities for Muslims.   It even managed to drive away most non-Muslims from Kashmir valley -- over 300,000 of them. Most of these refugees have lost their properties, livelihood and are languishing in refugees camps without adequate compensation, while religious terrorism doesn’t allow them to return to their lands. Yet the state is being subsidized at the cost of the rest of India.

 The duplicity and injustice here is that of ignoring the plight of non-Muslim terror victims in India and regions where most poor non-Muslims live while increasingly cave into religious fascism to subsidize, compensate or implement reservations at the expense of others. It is worth reminding here that since 1947 partition the non-Muslim population in Pakistan and Bangladesh has been considerably reduced by a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing (to India) by religious fundamentalists – and the context of India being the only land where non-Muslims can live in safety and dignity.

 Society organizations must act

 What should be realized is that the mullahs, madrassas and the leaders of the community who control most Indian Muslims are solely responsible for their backwardness. Compensation or reservation do not really solve the root cause -- it only emboldens and rewards fascism and takes opportunities and resources away from many deserving to non-deserving. In fact, the appropriate step to help Indian Muslims would be to dismantle power structures that sponsor and sustain fascism. Clearly, there is no mandate for any elected regime in power to undertake such a step of increasing reservations or compensation on religious grounds. This is a critical human rights issue requiring action by community/political organizations.

 Recommendations

*   The Congress-led coalition’s first steps should be directed toward weakening, not strengthening religious fascism. Therein lies the key to stability, economic prosperity and security of all Indians.

*    Communities must prepare to stand up for their interests if such adverse policy decisions are taken (Citizens’ role in India’s war on terror). 

 (The views expressed here are author’s own. The writer is a nuclear physicist based in America. He is also a director of Indian American Intellectuals Forum, a New York-based non-profit organization. His contact address: moorthy@charter.net)

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