February 14, 2006Public PolicySecurity

It’s vital to keep religion out of it

There is absolutely no reason to politicise the religious composition of India’s armed forces

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

One of the most dangerously irresponsible acts of the India’s Congress party-led government is the setting up of a high-level committee to prepare a report on the demography and socio-economic situation’ of Muslims in India. The terms of reference are broad on one hand, and go into specific details on the other. Although the government won’t admit it explicitly, the objective of the entire exercise is to pave the way for reservations for Muslims in education and employment. The manner in which the terms of reference have been framed leaves no doubt as to their intended purpose. Here are some examples:

  1. In which States, Regions, Districts and Blocks do Muslims of India mostly live?

    1. What is the proportion of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) from the Muslim community in the total OBC population in various States?
  1. Are the Muslim OBCs listed in the comprehensive list of OBCs prepared by the National and State Backward Classes Commissions and adopted by the Central and State Governments for reservation for various purposes?

  2. What is the share of Muslim OBCs in the total public sector employment for OBCs in the Centre and various States in various years? [GOI]For acquiring data on the socio-economic condition of the minorities, the government of India does not need a high-profile, political committee that gathers quantitative data based on public hearings and roadshows across the nation. It could have used the official census, an apolitical, professional and scientific instrument that can reveal sufficient details about minorities (all of them) to inform government policy. The Acorn has previously argued that Dr Manmohan Singh’s government will be remembered for having entrenched a culture of entitlement that will undermine India’s economy and deepen the divisions of its society without doing anything better for the supposed beneficiaries of the reservation policies. Vote-bank politics, of course, will receive a boost. Not content with having sliced and diced the myriad castes and communities its Hindu population, the Congress party has turned its attention towards India’s Muslims. And lest you ask, all this is by the way of secularism, of which the Congress party is a staunch supporter.

What is absolutely unforgivable is the UPA government’s decision to drag in the armed forces into this web of cynical political calculus. The armed forces are the one place where religious and communal divisions are not institutionalised. As Gen J J Singh, the chief of the Indian army says, it is not the Army’s philosophy to discriminate or maintain such information. We are equal-opportunity employers. We strive to take people on certain standards after which only merit takes them forward. We do not bother about where they are from, their faith or their language”. There is no reason at all to investigate the ethnic and religious composition of the armed forces, let alone to do this with a view to ensure the adequate representation’ one particular religious group. The Indian government has no grounds at all to question how the armed forces select, appoint or place their personnel based on their religious affiliations. As Gen Singh pointed out, collecting and keeping such data is the thin end of the wedge. Putting such data in the hands of a political class hell-bent on creating pockets of entitlement is a recipe for undermining the morale and the espirit de corps without which armies cannot even begin to fight their wars, let alone win them. And then there are those who want to use such data to make the loyalties of Muslim soldiers the subject of innuendo — there can be nothing more unpardonable than this. And lest you ask, all this too is by way of secularism, to which the UPA government is committed.

The UPA government stinks. And that’s putting it very mildly. There can be nothing but contempt for those who are running India to the ground.

Updates: Former soldiers speak out: V R Raghavan on India marches together; and Anil Athale on the dangerous census. The opposition has sought presidential intervention to stop this outrage.

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Best to keep religion out of it
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