Segregation of ‘minority’ handicrafts at IITF
The crude attempt made at the ongoing International Trade Fair (IITF) – a brainwave of the National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation incidentally set up for the ‘welfare of minorities’! – to segregate a selection of our handicrafts into ‘minority’ is the most recent and crude expression of a politics that sees people in sectarian and antithetical terms. Not only is the location of this section at the least attractive spot for visitors and therefore a not-so-subtle attempt to limit the sale of ‘minority’ crafts, it is part of a far more wide-reaching strategy to pigeonhole and then target – through systematic economic and social boycott – a section on the basis of religious identity alone.
Public life and spaces in India, be it our film world, our business, our residential localities, our towns, kasbas or villages – have all been the locales for sowing seeds of the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ rhetoric. Small and
large businesses in Gujarat, and similar minority-owned outfits in Rajasthan, Orissa and Maharashtra have been targeted by brigands of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, ably supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamesvak Sangh (RSS).
The incident becomes all the more appalling in view of the fact that the area that sees the rich composite interlocking of different traditions is the area of culture – food, music, art, crafts, literature and poetry – in our country and the subcontinent.
Such attempts to segregate (and also target) are therefore not superficial or temporary; they are aimed at redefining the vast area of culture in a crude and sectarian manner. Condemnation from lovers of art, crafts, music and food is in order, in the strongest possible terms.