Bhanu Pratap Mehta in conversation with Sheela Bhatt for rediff.com. HereWhich is the deeper faultline in India? The caste divide or the Hindu-Muslim divide?
The big promise of the Constitution is about what rights people have and what opportunities people have. Should we be independent of what identity we have?
The baseline is that your rights and opportunities that you have should not be decided by your identity. Both caste politics and communal politics take us away further and further away from those ideals of the Constitution.
Caste politics was legitimate to an extent that the leaders were trying to bring injustices to the State's attention. The fact is that your opportunities are still structured on the basis of caste you belong to. Unfortunately, the system (reservations) that we created was such that opportunities that you got were more dependent on the caste you belong to.
The Hindu-Muslim divide is not a theological divide. It is a divide created on the basis of ideology where political parties want to use certain kind of nationalism for popular recognition.
Common to both divides is that they exercise compulsory identities. These politicians want to see that each Indian can only be the caste that they belong to or be the community that they belong to. They are not emancipating us.
In political terms, the Hindu-Muslim divide is deeper and takes away a lot from us. I am not saying that the caste divide is not polarising, but there are so many castes and sub-castes.
The caste divide challenges us, polarises us and poses a question: Are our Constitutional aspirations possible to achieve or not?
The communal divide has, historically, manifested in much more virulent forms of violence. The big silver line is that after the Gujarat riots there has not been any major riot. But the worrying factor is the news of the so-called 'Hindu terror.'
Even if it is a slight percentage, it is worrying because it can produce a chain reaction that could reduce the State to impotency.
I also think that the social distance between Hindus and Muslims have grown in the last two decades. Particularly, in housing and jobs. Muslims are more into self-employment. They are not participating in new institutions.
This is happening because the State is not seen as a fair and credible player. If you unjustly lock out some Muslims youth they will have a grudge. The State has to be a fair player.