- Lord Bikhu Parekh chosen from Britain for award of the Pravasi
Bhartiya Samman patra 2005
Lord Parekh, who has risen to be one of the most respected Peer and
academics, has always taken deep interest in the Asian community and
is an authority on British Asian families and community relations.
He was the first to defend and define the Indian culture in right
perspective when the media here attacked the Indian business practices
and the customs generally during the Peter Mandelson and Hinduja passport
row. Yet he has never hesitated to adopt what is the best in the British
culture or praise its good points and virtues.The perception behind
the word NRI was wrong. Indians, he pointed out, have been travelling
to other countries for ages. Wherever they may live, they are sort
of an extension of India. Come to think of it, there is logic in his
description of the people of Indian origin.
From right: Lord Parekh, Sarah Spencer and Antony Lerman,
members of the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain
Lord Bikhu Parekh spoke on the history of peaceful coexistence in India
between Muslims and Hindus, on their shared culture and traditions and
the enormous contribution Muslims have given to India.
Lord Parekh analysed the rise of Hindu communalism since the 1960s
as a response to the disintegration of the caste system. The demonising
of Muslims was a means for high-caste Hindus to protect their own interests
and deflect the pressures for redistribution of rights and wealth. By
turning on the minority the so-called puritan Hindu parties were using
the innocent lives of Muslims in a cynical bid to keep control of Gujarat
and win votes.
He described his own experiences of anti-Muslim prejudice in Gujarat
both on the street, when he himself had been mistaken as a Muslim and
very nearly beaten up by Karshevaks and in the ivory towers of academia,
where he had witnessed Muslim students suffering from enormous prejudice.
Lord Parekh drew parallels of his experience as a minority in the UK
with the experiences of Muslims as a minority in India and promised
the Dawood his every support in their rightful quest for justice.
He noted that large sums of money were unwittingly going to Gujarat
from Hindus in the UK and the USA to fund the activities of Hindu chauvinists
in Gujarat and appealed for this activity to stop.
Lord Bikhu Parekh
Academic and chair of the commission on the future of multi-ethnic
September 11 was certainly a turning point in the history of international
terrorism. Casualties were higher and more multi-ethnic than ever before,
the manner of inflicting them was spectacular, and the targets were
of great symbolic significance. The evident linkage between the remote
mountains of one of the most backward nations, and the sophisticated
nerve centres of the most advanced nation, dramatically demonstrated
humanity's inescapable interdependence and shared fate. Will September
11 mark a turning point in the history of the world? Only if each side
learns the obvious lessons. America cannot be both an ordinary state
pursuing its national interest and a world leader. The latter requires
it to be even-handed in its approach to international conflicts, treat
all lives as equally sacred, work through international institutions,
respect world opinion, and to use its enormous wealth to help create
a just world order.
It should not treat individuals and nations as mere pawns in an international
game, using and ditching them as its interests dictate, as it has done
in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Those involved feel used and manipulated,
and build up enormous anger and hatred. The U.S.A. must, finally, stop
turning limited political conflicts into a Manichean war between civilisations
or, worse, between civilisation and barbarism. Such an approach demonises
and alienates its opponents, gives it a false sense of moral superiority,
and blinds it to the real causes of conflicts.
For their part, Muslim countries need to learn at least two crucial
lessons. Hardly any of them has been able to ensure a decent and democratic
life for its citizens. They must put their houses in order, however
painful it is, and stop blaming the west for all their ills. They must
also realise that the impact of modern ideas cannot be avoided, and
that they should radically re-examine their traditional beliefs and
practices. Hating the west for nurturing and exporting modernity is
silly and self-defeating. There are some signs that the U.S.A. might
be learning its lessons. Its restraint so far, and its willingness to
reconsider its past policies and work through international institutions
are encouraging. I don't see such signs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other
vitally important Muslim countries.