Atanu Dey On India's Development

Abhorrent Discrimination

A Letter to Dr Manhoman Singh

If there is one thing that makes me see red, it is senseless discrimination in general and unfair treatment of people. But when it comes to discrimination based on a person’s religion, I abhor it with every fiber of my being. It disgusts me and I feel nothing but contempt for people who discriminate based on religion (or lack of religion, in some cases.) One of the distinguishing features of a civilized society is that it does not treat people differently based on their belief systems. Those societies that do discriminate based on belief systems are retrograde, regressive, backward, ignorant, bigoted, intellectually bankrupt, and generally deserve the derogatory label “third world country.”

Indian polity discriminating among its citizens based on belief places India squarely among a tribe of nations that has no place in a modern civilized world. India, with all its cell phones and back offices, belongs to 7th century Arabia.

It was in the 7th century Arabia that the best and the most enduring example of discrimination based on belief was created. Its founder, Mohammed, declared that the world is divided eternally on the basis of belief: those who believe in his prophet-hood and the one true moon god he called Allah are the good, and those who do not are bad. And it is the holy obligation of the good to make an offer to the bad which simply says, “Believe as we do and you don’t have to pay a tax; if you don’t convert to our belief, and also refuse to pay the tax, you will be killed.”

That 7th century creed was simple and direct. You are either with us in our belief or against us. Convert, or pay the tax, or die. Mind you, there was no compulsion – you are free to choose.

When I first learnt of that principle of Islam, I was disgusted and revolted. Its violent intolerance of any other belief system is insanely inhuman and goes against every humanist and rationalist tradition that has ever been developed by humankind. That intolerant faith has migrated around the world with devastating consequence. Hard to believe, but when you are forced to dump your half-ounce tube of toothpaste into the garbage bin at the security check at the airport, you are suffering the consequence of that insane xenophobia – “hate those who don’t believe in the exact same supernatural being and don’t obey our wishes” – given voice 14 centuries ago.

I don’t find anything even remotely useful in Islamic theology or philosophy. At best it is childish and ignorant. But what I find abhorrent and distasteful is its insistence that based on a person’s non-belief in Islam, the person can be killed. I must stress this point so as to remove all chances of misunderstanding. I don’t want the pseudo-seculars calling for a fatwa on my head. I have no problem with any useless, childish, ignorant ideology; my concern is only that I am against any ideology which actively discriminates against people who do not subscribe to that ideology. So it is not Islam’s moronic theology that bothers me; it is Islam’s discrimination against what they call the “infidels” that I find sickening and revolting.

I have used Islam merely to epitomize what I consider to be a cardinal sin (if you pardon the expression) of discriminating against people based on beliefs. In a civilized society, there is no justification for belief-based policy. Any country that discriminates against people based on their belief is a theocratic dictatorship that its citizens should be ashamed of. India, to my extreme shame and utter disgust, is a third world country that discriminates based on a person’s beliefs.

The prime minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, is calling for discrimination based on a person’s belief system. Basically, the argument goes thus:

(1) Overall, x percentage of people in the nation profess X belief
(2) But in organization A, only y percentage (less than x) of X believers are present
(3) So, to increase y to x, active measures need to be taken

In the above, “A” is every school, college, place of employment (both public and private), army, judiciary, police, and so on.

Seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Or is it? Let’s reason for a bit.

Why, one wonders, is it important that every institution, profession, or organization should have proportionate representation of various faith systems? I can understand it if it were a “parliament of religions” or something. But why is faith important when it comes to say a car factory or an institution of higher education? I know that it is one of the basic principles of pseudo-seculars but we non-pseudo-seculars have a right to know what the reasoning is behind this basic assumption. What bearing does the profession of a particular belief have on the nature and functioning of the institution or the organization that all faiths have to be proportionately represented?

Here is a thought experiment for Dr Manmohan Singh. (I realize that my writings will never reach the good Dr Singh, but perhaps someone in the main stream media would like to bring this point up one of these days.)

Imagine, Dr Singh, that everyone in India magically by the grace of Allah embraces Islam at the stroke of midnight Nov 3rd 2006 (my birthday, as it happens). Nothing else changes: on Nov 4th, all people go to the same job as before, attend the same school, have the same income, live in the same houses as before, etc. Every economic parameter remains the same. Clearly, then Muslims will be 100 percent in every organization and institution (private, public, or otherwise) and no belief-based reservations can be implemented. Note however, that the poor among the population will continue to be poor, those who did not have access to jobs or to education will continue to have no access to jobs or to education.

The number of people who are poor and deprived will be no different on Nov 4th from Nov 3rd. Those, who for whatever reasons, were poor and illiterate will still be poor and illiterate. Moreover, not just their present stations, their future prospects will be no different also: if they were unable to secure a job before, they will continue to be unable to secure a job. Do you see that the personal religious belief of a person does not matter and should not be the basis for national policy? If public policy had to be made, it would have to be made based on some criterion other than religion. Do you see, Dr Singh, that then you will have to address the actual problem which has nothing to do with a person’s religion? I will not abuse your intelligence by pointing out that those policy instruments are available to you now — even before 100 percent conversion — and there is no reason that you should not promote those policies now.

Dr Singh, if you are paying attention, you may have figured out that what I am getting at is this: it is not the faith of a person that should concern the government of a nation that puts on airs about being a superpower, but rather about the economic status of a person. And if you are really concerned about improving the economic status of a person, then you should try to give the person an equal opportunity to the person to succeed. I stress equal opportunity because I wish to distinguish it from equal outcome. The government can at most ensure equality of opportunity but cannot — and should not — ensure equality of outcome. You must understand the distinction and I am going to attempt to do precisely that.

Equality of opportunity matters.

Another thought experiment. Suppose group A (group defined under any criterion, religious or otherwise) children have the same opportunity to become pilots as the members of group B, but refuse to do so. So the outcome is that among the airlines, you find that qualified people from group B are pilots and none from group A. The outcome is clearly different although the opportunity is the same. And a follow up question: would you, Dr Manmohan Singh, fly on a plane that is flown by a pilot from group A who was hired for government mandated proportionate representation reasons and who does not know how to fly a plane?

I know, policy makers are exempt from the ill-effects of the policy they make. You, for instance, will only fly in planes flown by qualified pilots, irrespective of how many caste-based reservations you introduce into the nation’s commercial airlines; and you will be treated by the most qualified doctors, without regard to their caste or their religion. But still, it is an interesting question you may wish to contemplate when you have a free moment. Think equal opportunity, not equal outcome.

Dr Singh, it is conceivable that despite equal opportunity, the outcome is different for reasons that range from personal preferences to innate abilities. Enforcing equality of outcome is silly and misguided. My parents cared for their children and provided equal opportunity to us. We ended up at quite different stations in life, however. I see nothing wrong in the outcome as long as I recognize that we all had the same opportunities. I imagine it would have been silly of my parents to insist that all their children should weigh the same, or even end up earning the same income.

Anyway, getting back to what I call your “minority equality” policy: why should the government deny a person an opportunity based on the person’s faith? I do suppose you realize that positively promoting Peter based on his faith is the same as discriminating against Paul for his different faith? Here is a thought experiment: assume that I, an infidel, should get the job but the employer is forced to hire Mohammed Islam because of your government mandated minority hiring policy. Do you note that I am being denied a job based on my religion? Do you see shades of 7th century Arabia policy?

What if I am desperate enough – my aging parents are depending on my getting that job – would I be better off converting to that “minority” religion? So what your policy is doing is in effect taxing me for being a non-Muslim in one sense, and in another sense, is giving an incentive for me to convert to Islam.

Dr Singh, I am sorry but I have to ask you this: why is the government of India in the business of promoting what you call a “minority” religion? I have a great deal of respect and regard for educated people. I expect educated people to be decent and thoughtful. People who have attended the best institutions of learning around the world, like you have, must be intelligent and decent. Unlike most other generally untutored politicians, you have a PhD in economics – a subject I know to be not for the intellectually challenged. So it pains me to see you stoop so low, even more than it pains me to see mullahs calling for the murder of innocents. At least the mullahs are blood-thirsty brainwashed ignoramuses and have not had a decent thought in their heads ever. What is your reason for this abject divorce from reason and fairness?

I am not done. I have attempted to show that your policy is morally repugnant. The next time it will be my unfortunate job to explain why the policy of “equal minority representation” is economically stupid.

  • http://pb-intel.blogspot.com/ Nath

    Interesting. I do disapprove of this sort of so-called affirmative action, but I don’t quite agree with some of the things you’ve said.

    First, I’m not entirely sure what you mean by discrimination. As long as you don’t compromise a person’s rights, you are within your own rights to treat the person as you wish. There isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) any law against acting rude or offensive towards someone as long as you don’t make them feel physically threatened.

    Now, it seems to me that as long as you don’t violate a person’s rights, you are free to discriminate against them based on whatever criteria you want. As long as the law treats people the same, individuals can judge each other based on appearance, background, colour, shape, or whatever other criteria they choose.

    A person’s belief system tells you an awful lot about him. Even if we could disregard this information in the interests of ‘equality’, we shouldn’t have to. If a person believes something stupid, I will make certain conclusions about said person and treat him accordingly. (Again: this does not mean I should be allowed to restrict the person’s rights.)

    True, this level of freedom could result in distasteful behaviour. However, I think people should have the right to behave distastefully.

    My second objection is that I think your characterization of Islam oversimplifies things. That will have to wait, however — this comment is far too long already. :)

    Atanu’s response: I don’t know if I can help you out any more about what discrimination is than what I have already written.

    About my characterization of Islam: it is an opinion stated clearly and with much evidence to back up that opinion. Your opinion would differ depending on your evidence. If you believe it is simplistic — or even wrong — please tell us about the non-simplistic view and back it up with evidence. I am quite willing and able to justify my point of view.

    Finally, the point is not whether people should or should not behave distastefully or not. The point is whether a government should discriminate on basis of religion. That is distasteful government behavior and that was my point.

  • http://pb-intel.blogspot.com/ Nath

    Finally, the point is not whether people should or should not behave distastefully or not. The point is whether a government should discriminate on basis of religion. That is distasteful government behavior and that was my point.

    As stated, I agree with this bit.

    As for the Islam issue — it seems to me that jizya not unique to Islam. Similar systems of tribute had been standard practice for centuries all over the world long before Islam came into existence. Like most religious texts, the Quran simply contains the prevailing social norms of its time.

    Note that this does not make the jizya right. It’s just that sometimes people appear to attribute solely to Islam things that were standard practice all over the world until very recently, as if Islam is somehow unusual in its flaws. Many disgusting practices that people consider ‘inhuman’ should more accurately be called ‘uniquely human’. Birds and fish don’t make each other pay jizya (though they do eat each other on occasion).

    I should also probably mention that there is another side to the jizya issue. The lines between governments and religions being as blurred as they were, it helps to think of being Muslim as being a citizen of the loose coalition of political units that made up the Islamic world. As is the case today, citizens of this pseudocountry were different under the law from non-citizens. Non-muslims were given significant rights under certain Islamic regimes. Jizya was (in theory) limited to those who could afford to pay it. Non-muslims living in Islamic territory were also exempt from the zakat tax, and the draft. As medieval tributes go, it wasn’t necessarily that bad.

    Atanu’s reponse: Islamic apologists do employ what logicians call the tu quoque (“you also”) logical fallacy: they try to defend a pratice by pointing out that others have been in the past been guilty as well. It is an utterly amateurish attempt at refutation but is often encountered.

    My point isn’t whether jizya is common or it is universal. My point is — let me state it yet once more — that governments discriminating on the basis of religion is abhorrent and disgusting. There are governments around the world that do that — most Islamic countries do. My point is that the government of India should not do it — irrespective of how many Islamic governments around the world do or did. I don’t care about Islam or jizya or jihad. I want my government not to be run by ignorant mullahs. Is that too much to ask for?

  • http://www.lifeandsomething.blogspot.com Gaurav

    Atanu,

    Insightful.

    However a note of discordance. You could have made the point without the smackdown in the beginning.

    Not for the sensibilities of the concerned religion, but because of noise it is bound to generate shadowing the information

    Regards

    Atanu’s reponse: Gaurav,

    It is a slippery slope and that part in the beginning is where the logical end is. That is why the no-holds-barred statement of the evils of discrimination based on faith.

    No apologies from me, thank you.

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  • Krishnan

    As a child, I had heard the story of an 80 year old man who planted trees so that future generations could benefit.

    In our country, we have 80 year old politicians who plant trees of discord so that they could get near term benefit from votes of the minorities. They care two hoots if future generations burn.

  • Ashish Gupta

    Did you at least emailed this to PM? I know nobody would read but just in cast his secretary glances…

  • http://prasannavishy.blogspot.com Prasanna

    Excellent .Remarkably articulated

  • http://ipatrix.com Patrix

    An excellently worded rant!

  • http://pb-intel.blogspot.com/ Nath

    My point is that the government of India should not do it—irrespective of how many Islamic governments around the world do or did.

    As I have stated multiple times, I agree with this point.

    Islamic apologists do employ what logicians call the tu quoque (“you also”) logical fallacy: they try to defend a pratice by pointing out that others have been in the past been guilty as well.

    I have also stated that the fact that tribute collection has been a social norm all over the world does not make it right.

    To clarify: if you had merely stated that the collection of tribute based on beliefs was wrong, I would have agreed and left it at that. My problem is that you seem to have arbitrarily singled out Muslims for a sin that is far from unique to them.

    Let’s see if I can come up with some sort of loose analogy. Let’s say you find a dozen thieves, all with different belief systems. All steal roughly the same amount. Yet you single out the Muslim thief, and blame his beliefs for his actions, even though the Christian thief and the Jewish thief and the Hindu thief and the Zoroastrian thief all did the same thing. I am not saying all these thieves should be excused. I’m saying they should not be treated differently for the same crime.

  • Mohit Mehra

    Very thought-provoking reflection and btw Happy B’day. Although are you sure you are addressing the right person? Shouldn’t you write to Sonia instead? The last I checked, Dr. Singh, who I profusely admire for the 90′s financial reforms, still happens to be an economist under a politician’s clothing. Call it Déjà vu or whatever but this policy resembles the policies under yet another Gandhi, our beloved Indira.

    Atanu’s response: When I address a puppet, I am quite mindful of the fact that it does not matter that the puppet cannot hear as long as the puppeteer can.

  • Nandu

    Atanu,

    I read your open letter with great interest; have been following your blog at deeshaa.org for a while now. Allow me to make a few points. In doing so, I must also clarify, that I am Indian too, technically from the ‘forward castes’ and consequently, have not been the recipient of the so-called benefits of reservations (based on religion OR caste) at any time in the past.

    I do not take issue with your interpretation of Islam or the fundamental beliefs it comprises. To be honest, this is more due to ignorance of the tenets of the religion than anything else. My views on any religion are the same; the presence of faith and a willingness to believe in the existence of a superior power are perfectly acceptable outcomes of religion – they provide some value to individuals and the collective should not question these. However, these positives should be separated from the existence of an organized method of collecting people towards some common goals, the merits of which are of dubious and questionable value.

    Further, I am in complete and total agreement with your primary concern, that the most important requirement within any system is equality of opportunity and NOT equality of outcome. However, let’s take this forward in another direction.

    By an extension of your argument, all else being equal (i.e. all people, irrespective of religious leanings, aspiring to improve their social/economic status, etc) equality of opportunity (where it exists) should result in equality of outcomes. Yes, it may not hold in specific cases, there may be specific professions/occupations, which may not be preferred by individuals from specific strata of society/religions (for example, for personal religious reasons, Jains may not wish to be butchers). However, situations like this would (in my opinion) be the exception, and not the rule. In the vast majority of situations, equality of opportunity SHOULD result in equality of outcomes.

    To go further with this, you state ‘it is conceivable that despite equal opportunity, the outcome is different for reasons that range from personal preferences to innate abilities’. The argument regarding personal preferences, I have answered to my limited ability above. However, I’m not sure about your point regarding ‘innate abilities’. You almost sound like you believe that the presence/absence of a particular religious belief could make one more or less competent to execute a task, and to put it explicitly, I do not agree. It may make one more or less open to the idea of doing it in the first place, but to say that religion/caste/faith has a role to play in determining your talent for something, is an idea I cannot support.

    One point you have not expressed your views on is whether you believe equality of outcomes exists currently in India. My arguments make sense, only if we agree that a) equality of opportunity should typically result in equality of outcomes and b) in such a circumstance, equality of outcomes is a perfectly desirable objective. Besides, unless you are also of the belief that equality of outcomes does not exist currently, I can’t see a point to your open letter.

    Any system of affirmative action will obviously have its merits and demerits. A critical decision that any government and any society need to take is regarding their stand on affirmative action per se, i.e. do they collectively agree that equality of opportunities/outcomes does not currently exist, do they believe that this should be rectified in the first place, and if so, what should be the optimal method of ensuring equality of opportunity (which will in a utopian world, result in equality of outcome). Assuming all 3 of us (you, me and the government of India!) are in agreement with the first 2 points, the next question to be addressed is whether the government, when it decides to reserve seats/jobs for minority religions/castes is attempting to address the outcome issue or the opportunity issue. You could argue that when it comes to jobs, if one is discriminated against based on religion, that is an outcome, which disadvantages me, and hence is inappropriate. An alternate argument could also be that giving an economically disadvantaged person the job is creating an opportunity for that person to rise above his current circumstances. The same arguments sit on both sides of the fence even with respect to the reservation of seats in educational institutions.

    What India today is basing its decisions on is the relative correlation between being from a particular caste/religion and your relative economic status in society. To put it more crudely, the odds are if you are Muslim in India or an SC/ST/OBC Hindu in India, the odds are that you are poorer than your peers from forward caste Hindu communities. This is definitely not applicable to the typical reader of this blog (who is probably educated, aware and in a position to fend for himself/herself or has access to funds for this purpose), but it does apply to the vast majority of people falling into those categories. Look at the numbers even within the Government of India itself. 70%+ of the GoI’s current workforce are ‘forward-caste Hindus (FCH)’. Yet, by most census/NSSO-type estimates, FCHs do not constitute more than 35-40% of our populace. There clearly is some problem with the opportunity structure if it results in these outcomes. Your typical FCH in India (specifically if he is based in rural India) is economically better off than your typical Muslim/SC/ST/OBC in India, these are realities and we need to accept/deal with them.

    The whole debate boils down to

    a) whether we should (as a government and as a society) seek to rectify economic disadvantages and provide all (including those from lower economic strata) equal opportunity

    b) whether, where such equal opportunity is provided on the basis of religion/caste, it mirrors the economic conditions and problems we are seeking to rectify in the first place.

    The argument could be approached completely differently; we could suggest that economic criteria be the sole determining factors in affirmative action decisions (setting aside religion/caste considerations). But that would require further analysis of who within the country really needs help on that basis. Should I get a job if I am actually from a Below Poverty Line family? What if I am just above the poverty line? I would then be incentivised to become more poor in the short term! The fact is any given selection system has its flaws. We cannot be in a position to evaluate the relative success of any system without examining the outcomes it has delivered or will deliver. The supposed success stories of the South Indian states solely due to caste-based reservation over the last few decades (as claimed by P Chidambaram in that hysterical interview with Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN) need to be examined more closely; maybe that could give us a better idea of what will work and what will not.

    The problem lies not in the recommendations of the Mandal Commission or similar fora. The problem lies in half-baked solutions. To quote S.S.Gill (the secretary of the commission), in an article from the Hindu ‘Of the dozen or so recommendations, only one pertaining to reservation was picked up, as it had the highest visibility and attracted immediate attention. More far-reaching recommendations regarding structural changes in the land-tenurial system, and institutional reforms for the educational and economic uplift of the OBCs were not even noticed. The attention thus got focussed on the fruits rather than the roots and branches of the tree of affirmative action.’

    Moral of the story:maybe we should not be running affirmative action programs based on religion/caste. But then, what alternatives do we have?

    This has been quite a ramble, well worthy of being its own blog post… However, I do not blog currently, and hence will have to settle for leaving this as a comment on yours. …:) I would be glad to hear back on your views regarding my comments.

  • http://gudem.blogspot.com Chandra

    Equal opportunity, not equal outcome Рstop the social engineering going on for the past 60 years. Touch̩. Touch̩.

  • http://chrestomathic.blogspot.com Jyoti I

    Great article Atanu!

    It is disturbing that affirmative action in India takes on so many subtle forms, and specially tries to benefit those who have volantarily painted themselves in a corner or isolation, so to speak. True secularism would be religion or caste blind and ensure equal opportunity, like you said. It is disheartening to see this come from an economist like Dr Singh who has to give in to these narrow populist concerns.

    Happy Birthday!!

  • http://www.google.com Sudeep

    @@ Nandu,

    >> Yes, it may not hold in specific cases, there may be specific professions/occupations, which may not be preferred by individuals from specific strata of society/religions (for example, for personal religious reasons, Jains may not wish to be butchers). However, situations like this would (in my opinion) be the exception, and not the rule. In the vast majority of situations, equality of opportunity SHOULD result in equality of outcomes.

    From what I have seen so far, an equality of opportunity *does not* result in equality of outcome. To give an example, I went to three schools in the final stages of my education, each class having some 50 kids. Exceptions at both ends of the spectrum apart, everyone’s parents were rich enough to provide for whatever assitance the kids needed. We were more or less in the same strata of society.

    Yet, most doctors children went on to become doctors, most of the kids from military families went on to become soldiers and most kids of business-men went on to take care of their fathers businesses. As for the exceptions, some of them at the lower end of the economic strata (but by no means poor) went on to do really well in life, while many of the rich kids did not do well.

    There are strong cultural factors in the choice of professions that young adults take up. This is more pronounced in India when kids have to make virtually fixed career choices when they are in their 10th-12th standard of education, and are at their most impressionable.

    The conclusion is that one can not look at an organizations communal composition and claim an inequality of opportunity or discrimination.

    Lastly, whats with this obsession with equality in all aspects ? Are you suggesting that a man/woman should not be able to buy the best education for his/her kids that he can afford [thereby creating inequality with another persons kids who can not afford the same level of expenditure] ?

    >> Moral of the story:maybe we should not be running affirmative action programs based on religion/caste. But then, what alternatives do we have?

    There are lots of alternatives for those willing to apply their minds. A govt. intervention making available equal opportunity right from the start of a childs life in the form of health care, education etc. Reservations at the final stage of someones education, or reservations on a lifelong basis are completely absurd.

    Sudeep

  • http://uspeed.blogspot.com Sudeep

    @@ Nandu,

    >> Yes, it may not hold in specific cases, there may be specific professions/occupations, which may not be preferred by individuals from specific strata of society/religions (for example, for personal religious reasons, Jains may not wish to be butchers). However, situations like this would (in my opinion) be the exception, and not the rule. In the vast majority of situations, equality of opportunity SHOULD result in equality of outcomes.

    From what I have seen so far, an equality of opportunity *does not* result in equality of outcome. To give an example, I went to three schools in the final stages of my education, each class having some 50 kids. Exceptions at both ends of the spectrum apart, everyone’s parents were rich enough to provide for whatever assitance the kids needed. We were more or less in the same strata of society.

    Yet, most doctors children went on to become doctors, most of the kids from military families went on to become soldiers and most kids of business-men went on to take care of their fathers businesses. As for the exceptions, some of them at the lower end of the economic strata (but by no means poor) went on to do really well in life, while many of the rich kids did not do well.

    There are strong cultural factors in the choice of professions that young adults take up. This is more pronounced in India when kids have to make virtually fixed career choices when they are in their 10th-12th standard of education, and are at their most impressionable.

    The conclusion is that one can not look at an organizations communal composition and claim an inequality of opportunity or discrimination.

    Lastly, whats with this obsession with equality in all aspects ? Are you suggesting that a man/woman should not be able to buy the best education for his/her kids that he can afford [thereby creating inequality with another persons kids who can not afford the same level of expenditure] ?

    >> Moral of the story:maybe we should not be running affirmative action programs based on religion/caste. But then, what alternatives do we have?

    There are lots of alternatives for those willing to apply their minds. A govt. intervention making available equal opportunity right from the start of a childs life in the form of health care, education etc. Reservations at the final stage of someones education, or reservations on a lifelong basis are completely absurd.

    Sudeep

  • Vivek S

    After reading some of the comments, I have a feeling that some of the readers are getting carried away by reservation and equality.

    The question posed by the author is straight and simple:
    How is somebody more entitled for a given job just because he worships in a certain way?

    Reservations based on caste is a different story. Reservations based on religion is absolutly non-sense.

  • http://constructal.blogspot.com Sameer

    Very good post Atanu. Also wish you a belated happy birthday.

    Regarding Islam, I find my views to be quite similar. Although, I do feel that all medieval religions carried baggage of customs, practices, beliefs which perpetrated discrimination and violence against the (respective) infidels. My own religion has carried a baggage of discrimination based on caste for ages.

    It seems to me that most religions have shed that baggage (or atleast trying to do so) and are thus transforming their respective faiths. Muslims (or the rulers of Islamic countries and muslim religious leaders to be more apt) , on the face of it, don’t seem to be so willing to do so. It may be that a majority of Muslims do indeed welcome such a transformation. But as long as the rulers and so called religious leaders find these medieval views to their advantage, change would not come about.

    Of course the support of such rulers and leaders by the west for the sake of oil is not helping.

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  • http://apusworld.wordpress.com apu

    Very interesting write-up. I am in favor of affirmative actions as ‘one’(not the only) means to repair centuries of discrimination, but certainly making religion a basis for the same is only a case of vote-bank politics.

  • http://valluvar.blogspot.com shiv

    The trevails of our salad bowl society which believes in endogamous lineage are clear to see. All mono-theistic religeons have been shriven by caste. (Islam too, ask a labbe muslim to marry into a urdu speaking family and see) The bottom line is that this society needs some exogamous revival, else these arguments will continue well into 2200 AD.

  • amar

    Happy B’Day Atanu, Great post.

    Regards,

  • http://onepass.blogspot.com/2005/08/no-sarcasm-or-hypocrisy-please.html Jawahar Mundlapati

    Historically caste, religion, faith, belief, patriotism are a form of divide and rule.

  • Hituvalli

    Atanu Dey,
    Great writeup, very crisp, and hitting the nail on the Head. I think Dr Singh is playing it to the Gallery to be one up on that Lame Duck Arjun Singh.
    Belated Happy Birthday.

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    Nath,
    You are absolutely wrong about the muslim thief issue,
    Incidentaly mohaammed was a thief before and after his revelation, Amongst his other accomplishments murder,incitement to murder, mutilation, pedophilia.
    He created a philosophy where all these actions are justified. And muslims do beleive that mohammeds life is an example to look upto.
    Islam separated the world into dar-ul-islam and dar-ul-harb, ie house of islam and house of war.
    Islam is clearly unique perversion in that it actively called for killing of non believers.
    Islams punishment for apostasy is DEATH.

    Mohammed was an epilectic warlord who used any justification he could find in his time and place by plagiarizing stuff from judaism, christianity and preislamic arabia.
    What to me is really funny is that morons actualy bought into his arguements.

  • rc

    To put it more crudely, the odds are if you are Muslim in India or an SC/ST/OBC Hindu in India, the odds are that you are poorer than your peers from forward caste Hindu communities.

    Absolutely wrong. OBCs as an aggregate might have lower income than a forward caste, but the odds for a given OBC beneficiary to be poorer than peers from the forward caste is not proven. Most dominant OBCs are the richest castes in their respective states. In IIM-A, the average annual income of an SC students parents is twice that of the general category.

    First we must understand that our quota system is a “group” quota. The real question is not aggregate statistics but how a caste is selected for inclusion in this group. This central fact is key to understanding our system.

    To further illustrate my point, you can remove 100 castes from the OBC list and not make a dent in the aggregate statistics. Conversely, you can include 100 forward castes in the OBC list and still not make a dent in the aggregates.

    The key issue is data or the lack thereof. If this system is to be legit, detailed caste wise breakdown of data is essential. Based on that data, we can then classify them as OBC / MBC / or Forward.

    These representation games are dangerous because they only talk about underrepresented areas of minorities. They are silent about overrepresentation.

    Can we talk about how Muslims absolutely dominate the gulf employment ? Should that be curbed ?

    Can we talk about Christian dominance in education including elite boarding schools ? Perhaps we should take a couple of elite boarding schools in Doon Valley and Ooty and hand them over to the Hindus – who are underrepresented in this category.

    How about seizing a bunch of lucrative leather units from muslims and handing them over to the hindus ?

    Go to Bangalore, see for yourself the vast expanses of prime real estate owned by churches, should the church lands be seized and given to gurudwaras, temples, and mosques. These operate out of tiny areas in bangalore.

    Does anyone want to live in a society like that ?

  • jala

    Quite informative.
    Thank you.

  • Venkat Ramanan

    Hi Atanu!
    Belated B’Day wishes!!
    And, I couldn’t agree more about MANY points you have made, including Islam’s discrimination, growing appeasement of muslims in India and equality of opportunity and outcome!! Amazing post, yet again!!!

  • dipesh

    Atanu,

    I can’t quite agree with your point that governments should only be concerned with equality of opportunities and not equality of outcome.If even after providing equal opportunities, the outcomes are not equal, what is the governemnt supposed to do ? Sit back and let it be ? Does it not have a social impact ? The increasing prosperity of category A and the lack of it in category B, won’t it destroy social harmony ? From that perspective, I see that it’s the govt’s responsibility to ensure equality of outcome as well. Now this is distinct from the scenario of you and your sibling growing up differently, as the rift that it would cause is quite negligible. Let’s say in the US, the opportunities for African-Americans and other americans are equal, but does not it still lead to disproportionate outcomes ? Should the US govt sit back and do nothing to address the problem ?

    Oh and while we are at it, if you find the concept of ‘infidels’ disgusting (I find it as well), what about the concept of ‘untouchables’ ? That’s disgusting as well.

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  • Ashish Tiwari

    I agree with this article… wholesole.
    It is fault of the religious teachings in madarsas where muslims are brainwashed from childhood.
    They are taught that theirs is a superior religion and by implication, people of other religion are ignorant second rate humans and need to be introduced to the “truth of Islam”.

    If others resist, killing/abusing presents no moral difficulties as in Muslim psyche they are “lower ignorant infiedals” who do not want to understand the truth. This is what is called Jihad.

    What a shame, no one understands how dangerous this for the civilized world? Why everyone wants to find common ground with Islam from US to India when none is possible? It is just a fool’s paradise and the history of past 2000 years provides the evidence. Yes in the past crusades did happen and heresy was punished by burning alive. Hindus had traditions like SATI but Christians and Hindus have come a long way…. but jihad still continues to date where ever Muslims have borders with other religions or reside inside the borders of other religious majorities.

  • nasrin faruqi-das

    To Ashish Tiwari

    Why do you merely point at Islaam, being Jihadis and so on? Do you think fault finding in others would solve any problem? It hasn´t been able to bring any peace so far. We all have faults, just try first to really look into your respective community, beliefs, customs, traditions, religion, etc, and things would look a lot more accommodating. Try to be self-crtical first, and don´t allow others to finger point you first. Check it out how your religious beliefs are a source of “blessing” for this world. I think, then the things would be a lot more easier to judgmental. Your observations are rather one side of the story. This has repeatedly been said, which sounds not only to be just a crtic, but much more baised and disrespectful of others´ religions. Respect would fetch respect.

    Atanu’s response: Ever read the Koran or the Hadiths? I didn’t think so. Because if you had read them, you would not have made the ignorant statements about being “disrespectful of other’s religions.” In no uncertain terms, repeatedly and consistently, the Koran and the Hadiths not only disrespect other religions but calls for the wholesale murder of those who don’t follow Islam. Get a friggin’ life, you ignorant apologist for the Koran.

  • nasrin faruqi-das

    I´m not referring to any religious book here, when I argue on being critical on others only. You bring into Hinduism vs. Islaam. Okay, what would you name the killings of Tamil Nadu? They seem to be handling without any Bahgwatgita or Hindu holy scriptures!? This is getting some unwritten law to kill. Which´s worse of the two?

    PS, I haven´t even read any holy book, believe in humanism, an unwritten law of coexistence. The religious wars are only a reflection of mutual hatred. From nothing originates nothing.

  • nasrin faruqi-das

    Atanu,
    your outragious attitude tells it all!

    Putting words into my mouth (me being a Muslim and so on) When i´m confessing that I beleive in humanism, you know more about me than I do. With your Hindu name I won´t come to a conclusion that you´re a Hindu, but beleive me I can bear a Muslim plus a Hindu name without being one. Does that pacify you? Believe me religions are not everything.

  • Pierre-Jean Jeanniot

    Equal opportunity for all without exception. Equal outcomes cannot be guaranteed and it would be rather foolish to make any sort of mandatory attempt thereon. These simple statements lie at the core of this post, leaving little else to argue. Furthermore, I have yet to hear of any fanatical Sufis.

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  • Ranganath

    Mr. Dey,

    Mediocrisy (or mediocracy) is a truth we hate to accept. You cannot fight it to the end. You cannot banish it. You can only banish yourself from mediocracy.