Sunday, January 10, 2010

Integration Council members

I read today in the Indian Telegraph about the new "Minority boost to integration council".

Here are the names of people that may be on that council:

The Telegraph has learnt that the proposed names include those of Justice A.M. Ahmadi, Omar Abdullah, Salman Khurshid, Syed Shahabuddin, Asaduddin Owaisi, Shahid Lateef, Shabnam Hashmi, John Dayal, Ramdas M. Pai (president and chancellor, Manipal University), Valsan Thampu (St Stephen’s College principal), Roman Catholic Archbishop Vincent M.C. Concessao, Ratan Tata, Rahul Bajaj, N.R. Narayana Murthy and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw.


Recognise some names in that list?

Shahid Lateef is the wife of 62er Stephanian Sarwar Lateef. John Dayal is a Stephanian, as also present Principal of the College, Rev. Valsan Thampu. Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament, Rahul Bajaj, is both a 58er Stephanian and also a 54er Cathedralite. Ratan Tata was a Cathedralite for a part of his education. I have not had the good fortune to meet him personally, although his younger brother, Jimmy, was a close friend and my hockey mate.

During my recent visit to Delhi I did meet John, Valsan and Rahul.

John broke protocol and came to see me the day I was leaving. He had just got back from Orissa and he came over that morning just to spend a few minutes over breakfast. And I did say a short prayer, holding hands with him, for his devoted work for the people of India. Maybe this is where I show him the meaning for that prayer.

I met Thambu at the St. Stephen's Founder's Day celebration on Monday 7th December, where I took part in the Holy Communion Service in the College Chapel, and then at the proceedings in the College Assembly Hall where former Indian President Abdul Kalam was the Chief Guest.

Sadly I do not see Valsan as a man with much vision at this moment of time. Hopefully God will lead him in the right direction if he gives up his ways of playing politics for power!

And Rahul paid me the greatest tribute by staying on a extra day in Delhi to be present at an event organised by Delhi Cathedrtalite to meet with Annikki and me. Having led an industry to the zenith, he now has a wondeful opportunity to show his fellow men that he has the vision to lead minorities to the centre of Indian society as equals.

Sadly, I did not learn till later that Sarwar and Shahid were in Delhi, as otherwise I would certainly have met up with this very dear couple. Shahid has always been at the forefront of the women's movement as well as a powerful spokesperson for uplifting of Muslim women.

I do hope this Council will stop beating about the bush and get a move on, not on the antiquated model of reservation of seats for the minorities in schools, colleges and jobs, but by uplifting the hearts and minds of these people labelled as minorities, into them thinking that they can compete on equal terms with the best of the world. They are not second class citizens of the world, so let us stop treating them as such.

You treat people as weak and they will be weak. You treat them as human beings and they can outstrip the very best.

Look at the fantastic performance of the black community in sports in the USA and UK (and also Kenya, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Canada, France, etc., etc.). They do not need to be treated as weak and powerless minorities. Given the right role models, they will bring in performances that are better than the best of their more fortunate brothers and sisters.

That itself is the tonic for success, not reservations, which is the sure tonic for failure!

I remember the words of my friend, former Ambassador Niranjan Desai, while we were having lunch together at the International Centre just a few weeks ago. He said that by treating the minorities as we do presently, we will not achieve any improvement in their standards.

I fully agree with his reasoning. This Integration Council should start looking at other ways to uplift the ethnic minorities in India than stupid and unrealistic reservation policies!

Recognise inherent cultural and ethnic talents. Build on successes. Do not force people into streams where they are doomed to fail.

In short, I hope this council will bring forward a new vision to the way we handle the integration of minorities into mainstream society!

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