On the Hajj Subsidy

On the Hajj Subsidy
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The Hajj subsidy has, instead of being phased out, been removed by New Delhi. The subsidy in contention, in theory, helped to alleviate the financial burden on those Muslims who could not afford to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, a mandatory pillar of Islam. In some senses, both the subsidy and its removal constituted a form of populism. In hindsight, it appeared to have been geared to win the Muslim vote in India which, paradoxically and ironically, the far right ultranationalist parties had called appeasement of Muslims. A populist measure or gesture, the Hajj subsidy has now been removed not for any apparent intrinsic reasons but yet again for populism. The far right ultranationalist parties have long held that Indian Muslims have been “mollycoddled”, that is, the majority in India, has through the Congress appeased them. A grave distortion of truth, this assessment, however, resonated with the masses and a general belief of the appeasement took hold. Now, the BJP has, in response to this manufactured belief, removed the subsidy. The question is: should Indian Muslims be worried and alarmed? The answer is both yes and no. In terms of the affirmative aspect, what is alarming and worrisome is that Indian Muslims are made to form the grist and mill of political ambitions and agendas in India. That is, politics, in many senses, is being defined against them. However, the redeeming feature or aspect of the removal of the subsidy is that it releases Muslims from the enervating and debilitating aspects of subsidies. Generally speaking, the condition of Indian Muslims, economic, social and cultural , is not a picture perfect one, so to speak. Subsidies like the one for the Hajj, peanuts in the grand scheme of things, merely created a bad name for them and created space for political forces to focus on this in the name of so called “appeasement”. While a fundamental disconnect defines Indian Muslims from the state, the Hajj subsidy created a false impression that the state in India, bent its backs for Muslims. In reality, it has been pointed out by some that the Hajj subsidy actually obscured its function: while the intent was political (vote bank politics), the real function was to cross subsidize Air India. Anyhow, it was Indian Muslims got a bad name in the process. So, in these senses, the removal of the subsidy is not bad. However, the removal of the subsidy must have a catalytic and galvanizing effect on Indian Muslims: they must turn outward and do their best to improve their condition in all domains of life, regardless of indifference or even hostility.

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