The Appeasement Nation: India
In the last 6 years, the word APPEASEMENT has stormed in a big way into India’s social, economic and political lounge room. It’s a rage on social media, TV debates and political rallies. Alas, little do Indians realise that India has long been an appeasing nation.
In the current context, the ruling BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) uses the word to define the last 60 odd years (most of the time after India’s partition) as a time of minority Muslim appeasement. This they say has destroyed India’s democratic systems and ruptured its identity. Appeasement of Muslims has gone so far that Indian Muslims have become a stubborn vote bank against the so called “Hindu Nationalist Right Wing…yada yada” group.
But in fact, Muslims are not the only group who have found appeasement in India. The concept of reservations in educational institutions and jobs is also a form of appeasement. At one point it was touted as an opportunity but now reservation is just an appeasement tool. Similarly, farmers in India, even after 70 years pay no taxes and yet are considered to be no less important than soldiers in the firing line. All types of subsidies have kept them afloat and this too is a form of appeasement. The so called left leaning intelligentsia, Naxals, secessionists and vocal anti-development NGOs have also found appeasement from the Indian state. Otherwise, what explains, the existence of armed militancy in the country whether in central, northern or eastern India. Fine, border areas are porous but how does militancy survive in states where there are no neighbouring countries. Who sends them arms and ammunition? Who’s appeasing them with supplies?
Appeasement is not new to India. Even Lord Ram, the epitome of human perfection can be blamed of appeasement. Otherwise, why would he send his wife, Sita away into the forest as a result of utterances from a washerman? Krishna fared no better and killed Shishupala only after he committed 100 mistakes. Why appease him and wait for 100 mistakes, why not show him that Krishna meant business as soon as he had made his first mistake. A lot of stories abound to explain such behaviour but the flavour of appeasement is missing in none of them. Without the influence of a pan Indian Chanakya, Indian kings were no better. Gandhi, though a huge world figure with impossible achievements too was an appeaser to some extent as he provided space to the concept of partition. Appeasement of the Muslim League resulted in partition. Thus, for 10,000 years or more India has had a tradition of appeasement. Appeasement is in India’s DNA.
From time immemorial, a divided and multiplied India allowed Greeks, Parsis, Jews, Kushans, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Mughals, English, French, Portuguese, Tibetans and many more to come, settle, assimilate and in a couple of cases to rule India for lengthy periods. A long history of being rule by unwanted foreign powers, whether it was the Muslims or the British, injected the gene of appeasement further into the Indian DNA. Surviving a foreign power for centuries required appeasement. Thus, even after freedom and partition, India and Indians continue to appease westerners (a white man from any country was seen as British) and Muslims. By habit, India sucked up to these forces but in practice didn’t get much out of it as even appeasement requires honesty.
After partition, India allowed Muslims to stay back in India. But so huge was the burden of majority Hindu Indians that successive governments started appeasement of Muslims. Muslims were a safe bet. They were seen to vote in a block and all they wanted was security from an unknown hyped up and well politicised fear of marauding Hindus. Periodic Hindu-Muslim riots furbished claims that Muslims were insecure. They were provided haj subsidies, could freely use their own civil laws (like all others) without facing punitive action for suppressing their womenfolk and twisting laws, could use loudspeakers in Mosques and issue illegal fatwas. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh and Myanmar and subsequent arming of such illegals with Indian voter ID cards further complicated the matter.
Irrespective of the level of appeasement carried out, the policy had disastrous outcomes. Riots between Hindus and Muslims have been common in India. The pressure and influence exerted by Muslim politicians and societal spokespersons created appeasing decisions like the Shah Bano case and the banning of Salman Rushdie’s, The Satanic Verses. NGO’s were blatantly used to further divisive politics to weaken the cultural fabric of India. Protests against governments became regular and so did terrorist attacks. It also led to the rise of the Hindu right which found enough proof to show how the Congress governments wanton policy of appeasement was resulting in a fractious India.
Even in International affairs, India has always played an appeasement role. A tiny country like Israel surrounded by so many opposing nations could counter them successfully without using appeasement on a large scale, while a behemoth like India created its own set of problems by appeasing China again, again and again. The unwanted martyrdom of 20 Indian soldiers in eastern Ladakh in 2020 has probably been the final nail in the coffin of China appeasement.
I think the sooner India says goodbye to this culture of appeasement, the better. India needs to stop thinking as Dr. Rajendra Prasad put it “What will people say”?