03 April, 2020


Some Hindu friends objected to my apprehension expressed in my earlier piece under clause 6- A: "..the perception of Muslims as irresponsible, disobedient to law, placing faith over law and reason is further entrenched." They did not share my concern on perception. 

I fail to see their difficulty in accepting that an average Hindu perceives Muslims in bad light. Umpteen pieces of evidence pervade. 
SPRAT [the NGO I work with] did a #Hindu-Muslim perception study twice, once with the help of JNU scholars and then again across our several centres in Gujarat, separated by a decade. You know what? The perception has further deteriorated. My observations and studies tell me that now India has largely become Gujarat, with larger numbers now perceiving Muslims in bad light: prone to crime, anti-national, pro-Pak, violent, cow-flesh-consuming, polygamists divorcing their wives casually, producing multiple children blah blah 
And the rise – and worse, respectability – of Hindutva bears evidence of this growing distortion. Today even otherwise educated and rational Hindus can easily believe stories against Muslims without verification. The perception deceives their logic. That is how important it is to manage perception, lest it becomes a functional reality. 
Please do not confuse the reality and facts with the perception thereof. I have personally seen the huge damage perception makes, even sans reality. I am NOT holding #Muslims guilty of the accusations levied upon them. I am stressing the importance of managing perception. ‘It is not sufficient’ as a senior judge once advised his juniors, ‘to be honest. Also appear to be honest.’ 
The most ‘painful reality’ is that if a perception – even if false – is attached by a sufficient number of people for long enough time, the accused himself/herself comes to believe it, thus converting perception to reality. 
The classic example is of women genuinely believing that they are inferior to men, that menstruation is bad, that their salvation lies in serving their men etc. Surely you don’t need me to cite examples for any of these. 
In our pre-recruitment tests we give candidates – none below graduation – options to choose from that they regard valid: Several confidently choose these: 
- At least 25% Muslims have terrorist tendencies 
- Most of India is vegetarian 
- India is far ahead of China 
- Ancient India was already as advanced scientifically as today’s America 
They have been cultured and brain-washed into believing so. For them this perception is the reality. This is not harmless. It works even more seriously against vulnerable groups including minorities, Dalits and women. 
Undoubtedly, I see the source of my friend’s agitation and alarm. And I do not fault them. But I beseech them to factor in the importance of perception in realpolitik.

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