Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

‘Indian minorities are fed-up with victimhood – let’s celebrate our incredible diversity’

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun6,2024

Shri Iqbal Singh Lalpura

Shri Iqbal Singh Lalpura (Image: ANDY COMMINS)

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: The chairman of India’s National Commission for Minorities has spoken to Western media for the first time to laud the country’s pluralism model.

India’s minority population is not only surviving but growing and there have been less than 100 official cases of discrimination in the last three years.

That’s according to Shri Iqbal Singh Lalpura, the honourable chairman of India’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM), a constitutional body that was the first of its kind to be established in the world.

Mr Lalpura, who runs the independent NCM as chairman with equivalent Cabinet minister status, spoke to the Daily Express from his Delhi office in his first-ever Western media interview to address negative Western narratives about Indian minorities head-on.

India’s NCM, formed under an eponymous Act in 1978, comprises one chairperson and six members – one from each of the nation’s minorities.

The body has an annual budget of around £100,000 and is responsible for looking after safeguarding all minorities in India and dealing with issues of discrimination with the relevant authorities.

It also has its own court to rule upon cases of discrimination, with complainants able to register concerns directly with the NCM.

Shri Iqbal, himself, comes from the minority Sikh faith (the cultural and religious community makes up less than 2% of India’s 1.4 billion population).

He told the Express: “We are here to celebrate diversity and enjoy it together.”

READ MORE: India’s multi-millionaire ‘new working class’ making more than parents ever will [EXCLUSIVE]

Mr Lalpura spoke to the Express from his Delhi office in his first-ever Western media interview

Mr Lalpura spoke to the Express from his Delhi office in his first-ever Western media interview (Image: ANDY COMMINS)

He also pointed out that under his tenure in the last three years, there had been not one incident of sectarian violence between the Sikh or Hindu community.

He claimed: “In India, we have hardly any official cases of discrimination.”

The Sikh scholar claimed in cases of sectarian violence in India, it was usually criminal elements driving the unrest and not necessarily religious tensions.

India’s minority population was also growing, Mr Lalpura pointed out, with its Hindu population decreasing from roughly 80% to roughly 76%.

He also pointed out that programmes such as the Free Coaching and Allied Scheme launched in 2017-18 were helping minority communities integrate within Indian society.

But it is not necessary to take Shri Iqbal’s word for it.

The Daily Express has spoken to a cross-section of Indian Muslims of all ages and professions to help paint a picture of how they feel about their nationality today.

READ MORE: I went to an ancient town on polling day and saw India at its best [DISPATCH]

The Express sits down with Mr Lalpura and members of the minority Sikh community in Delhi

The Express sits down with Mr Lalpura and members of the minority Sikh community in Delhi (Image: ANDY COMMINS)

“Indians celebrate all religious festivals”

Senior Islamic scholar Dr Hafeezur Rahman argued the narrative of Muslims being oppressed in India was being used as a political tool.

He said: “Communal conflict is not new in India and it happened before we were fighting for independence too.

“It is more related to politics because some people use it as a tool for their political convenience.

“But the Honourable PM Narendra Modi, the defence minister and the national security adviser of India have all condemned mob violence strongly.

“It is not supported by the BJP, Congress or United Front government.”

Dr Rahman explained often the sectarian violence witnessed in India was on a localised level organised by local leaders who were politically aligned with whatever cause was convenient for them.

He said: “But the vast majority are living together in harmony and peace and with respect for each other’s cultures.

“And they are celebrating each other’s religious festivals.”

Indians are given official public holidays for every religious festival – not just Hindu ones as in the UK with Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas.

Dr Rahman said: “We have strong secular traditions – we have more than 500 languages and different cultures here.

“But people use uneducated and unemployed youth for their political gain to stoke violence.

“But it is never supported by the judicial system or the state because we are all bound by the Indian Constitution and over the past few years you have not seen any instances of violence.”

Islamic scholar Dr Hafeezur Rahman spoke to the Express from Delhi via video link

Islamic scholar Dr Hafeezur Rahman spoke to the Express from Delhi via video link (Image: NA)

“Everyone wants to be the saviour for Muslims”

Omer Ghazi, 30, an Indic Muslim musician and political analyst, said his country was much more complicated than most people knew.

Mr Ghazi, Associate Researcher for the think tank Citizens’​ Foundation for Policy Solutions, argued it was time to move away from a “binary” worldview and “understand the nuances” of Indian culture.

Mr Ghazi, who is also a drummer exploring Vedic knowledge and culture through music, said it was “arrogant” of people to assume they understood the complexities of Indian society.

He also said he loves exploring Hindu scriptures and trying to understand them.

He said: “Everyone wants to be the saviour for Muslims but it is quite patronising.

“It is very condescending in its own way. It is very arrogant in a way to say, ‘I have understood this community and its problems’ more than they, themselves, have.”

He went on to say Muslim voices in India were “very diverse” and argued there was a need to counter the “self-victimising” narrative that was currently prevailing in some spheres.

Mr Ghazi pinpointed two reasons why it was crucial to dispel these misconceptions.

He said: “One: it gives a very negative wallowing image of the community, which is not good for its own sake, and as a community, you lose confidence.

“And secondly it gives a very negative image to other international communities and nationalities.”

He argued the “victimhood” narrative pre-dated Modi’s tenure: “It goes beyond Modi and the BJP because the same narrative was being peddled before Modi became a phenomenon.

“And it has gained traction in recent years due to certain reactions from the Hindu community too.

“But this discussion is much larger than that. We need to dismantle it from its very roots.”

Omer is also a musician exploring Vedic knowledge

Omer is also a musician exploring Vedic knowledge (Image: Instagram.com/ghazi.omer2)

Omer loves exploring Hindu scriptures and trying to understand them

Omer loves exploring Hindu scriptures and trying to understand them (Image: https://www.instagram.com/ghazi.omer2)

“Indian Muslims enjoy significant freedom”

Asked why there had not been any cases of sectarian violence recorded in recent years, Mr Ghazi offered three reasons.

He said the recent opening up of communications through social media made it easier for Indians to understand each other, meaning people were less likely to feel compelled to violence as a result.

He said: “Ignorance begets bigotry.”

Secondly, he pointed to economic liberalisation in India, meaning people can climb the social hierarchy more easily now.

And he credited improvements in law and order, with agencies cracking down on dissenting criminal groups.

Trainee lawyer in Delhi Zeba Zoariah, 25, said a narrative has developed since the BJP came to power that there have been many problems facing the Indian-Islamic community.

She said: “We are seeing narrative peddled both inside and outside India that Indian Muslims are somehow invisible in their own country or living in fear.

“But being an Indian Muslim and growing up in this beautiful country I believe Indian Muslims enjoy significant freedom.

“And this narrative of us being discriminated against or persecuted is often exaggerated.”

She suggested this narrative was aimed at “stoking resentment and diverting attention away from violent Islamists” in India.

She said: “And the global echo chamber amplifies this and seeks international support to delegitimise the Modi government.”

She went on to argue that “very prominent people” were supporting the idea of Muslims being “under siege”.

She said: “But this victimhood narrative will not lead us anywhere. There will not be any progress.

“We Indian Muslims are very safe in our own country!”

Zeba Zoariah is a trainee lawyer in Delhi

Zeba Zoariah is a trainee lawyer in Delhi (Image: Zeba Zoariah)

A Mosque stands 500 metres away from the famous Ram Temple in ancient Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh

A Mosque stands 500 metres away from the famous Ram Temple in ancient Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh (Image: ANDY COMMINS)

“We are not one monolithic bloc”

The legal expert added: “Indian Muslims are protected by a very robust legal and constitutional framework.

“And law enforcement agencies do not discriminate against anyone based on their religion, including the judiciary who are tasked with ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of our country.

“And I believe they are doing an incredible job.

“And when you have very strong leaders – I believe the Prime Minister has raised his voice and addressed anomalies within the Muslim community.”

Ms Zoariah also referred to government schemes referred by NCM chair Shri Iqbal to ensure no Indian was being discriminated against.

She also pointed to the major development India has seen in recent years: “I do not think people will go out onto the streets and create chaos or communal riots because of this.”

Ms Zoariah also highlighted the abolishing of the Islamic use of “triple talaq”, which is the unilateral repudiation of the wife by the husband in a brutal act of divorce, as the practice is now criminalised in India.

She said: “Working towards the national interest is much more progressive than contemplating when the next communal riots will happen.”

Meanwhile, political analyst and columnist Amana Begam Ansari argued there was a “huge gap when it comes to Western media understanding of India or Indian Muslims”.

She said: “We are not one monolithic bloc.”

Ms Ansari took no issue with the Muslim community’s grievances being highlighted – but it was the exaggeration of them that concerned her.

political analyst and columnist Amana Begam Ansari

Political analyst and columnist Amana Begam Ansari (Image: x.com/Amana_Ansari)

“I understand the lived reality of my community”

She pointed out that Pasmanda Muslims – the lower caste of Indian Muslims – made up the vast majority of the nation’s Islamic population.

But the “elite” Ashraf Muslims, who make up the minority, have more political and international influence.

She said: “The elite Ashraf Muslims are speaking on behalf of all Muslims.”

Pasmanda leaders claim out of the 400 Muslims elected in the first 14 Indian general elections, only 60 were from the Pasmanda background – despite Pasmanda castes making up some 90% of the total Islamic population in India.

The higher Ashraf caste can be considered the political “elite” and they were the ones peddling the victimhood and anti-Modi narratives, Ms Ansari suggested.

She said: “I am from the Pasmanda caste and I understand the lived reality of my community.

“Elite Muslims’ issues are very different to the rest of Indian Muslims. They want to have a share in political power.

“And when they cannot secure that they try to paint this narrative that Indian Muslims are getting oppressed and we are on the brink of genocide.

“The reality is Pasmanda Muslims, from my experience, are more concerned about education, job security and those basic struggles.”

Ms Ansari went on to say she had been asked if Hindus were trying to covert her when she was taking part in a university panel discussion in London.

She said: “I was so surprised. That is not the reality.

“I was really baffled by these conversations.

“Hinduism does not even have the concept of conversion, unlike Abrahamic faiths.”

The Golden Temple in Punjab

The Sikh Golden Temple in Punjab (Image: ANDY COMMINS)

The famous Ram Temple in ancient Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh

The famous Hindu Ram Temple in ancient Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh (Image: ANDY COMMINS)

The Lord Ram idol

The Lord Ram idol (Image: ANDY COMMINS)

Indeed, the Hindu tradition does not involve any form of evangelism because followers of Vedic teachings are in general syncretistic, which means they believe that all religions lead to God, implying there is no need to change from one religion to another.

The Indians we spoke to tended to feel Indian first, with their religion being an important part of their identity – but not its defining force.

Instead, they are unified under the saffron, green and white tricolour, which appears all over the nation in a similar way to the ubiquitous stars and stripes in the USA.

Nationalism is not a dirty word here; Indians are proud to share a rich cultural heritage.

And they celebrate it together, loudly…

There is, perhaps, a misunderstanding in the West about this convergence of cultures and traditions.

Being a pluralist Indian involves harbouring an overriding set of shared cultural practices and values, unlike many other nations in the world.

It is what makes this vibrant and special place so unique.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

Related Post

One thought on “‘Indian minorities are fed-up with victimhood – let’s celebrate our incredible diversity’”
  1. As a minority myself, I completely agree with Shri Iqbal Singh Lalpura’s positive outlook on India’s pluralism model. It’s time to shift away from the victimhood narrative and embrace the incredible diversity that makes our country unique.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *