There is shock, horror and outrage in liberal circles over a news report that a Mumbai-based company turned down a Muslim youth for a job because of his religion.
The National Commission for Minorities has ordered an investigation, the Maharashtra Government has promised its own inquiry, and the National Human Rights Commission is being urged to look into the issue. The social media meanwhile, is seething with anger.
"Appalling!" fumed someone on Facebook.
"What has India come to? Another Pakistan?" asked another.
"The company must be reported to the human rights commission," suggested a third.
And a fourth lamented: "They have taken away my pride as a citizen of this country".
Ironically, the only people who are not shocked are Muslims. For they say they had seen such a thing coming. According to historian Saleem Kidwai it is “a logical culmination of the anti-minorities tirade launched during the past one year” .
“The environment in the country has become so poisonous that such things are bound to happen,” he said.
I’m not always on the same page with Kidwai. Far too often he reacts too emotionally to Muslim-related issues. But on this one, he is dead right.
There was a certain inevitability about what happened to Zeeshan Ali Khan, the youth from the “wrong’’ religion. As Kidwai points out something like this was simply waiting to happen thanks to the Sangh Parivar's persistent hate campaign in recent months.
But the campaign alone is not to blame. For, it has been going on for years. What has given it a sudden momentum and legitimacy is the Prime Minister’s curious silence and reluctance to rein in the xenophobes behind the "anti-minorities tirade".
That someone would take this as a cue for a free pass, and do what the Hari Krishna Exports Private Limited did was inevitable.
It saw nothing wrong in saying “no’’ to a Muslim candidate because of his religion. No pussy-footing around the issue, no hedging its bets about the reason why it didn’t want Zeeshan. They just didn't hire Muslims. It was as simple as that. Hang constitutional niceties. And boo to NHRC and the National Commission for Minorities. Who cares for those busybodies? Our Parivar, our prime minister is with us. Isn’t that enough?
Just to recap, this is what happened: On Tuesday, 22-year-old Zeeshan a recent MBA graduate applied for a marketing job along with two of his classmates Mukund Mani and Omkar Bansode. But he was in for a rude shock.
While his two friends were called in for an interview the next day, Zeeshan got an email that read: "Thanks for your application. We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.”
Zeeshan promptly did what people in such situations these days do: he posted the company's reply on Facebook sparking widespread criticism of the company.
"At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting foreign countries and inviting them for investment and pushing ahead the 'Make in India' campaign, the leading export houses are rejecting candidates for their religion," he said.
His father Mohammad Ali told CNN-IBN: "I ensured that my son got a good education. Never thought we'd be discriminated like this, We have approached police to seek justice against this discrimination."
But, come to think of it, is it really so shocking?
After all, covert discrimination against Muslims in jobs and housing is so commonplace that it is now widely accepted as a fact of life. And here I speak from personal experience. I was lucky on the job front. But I lost count of the number of times I was refused a house because of my religion—and often by some very friendly Hindu landlords, who insisted they had nothing against my being a Muslim. But they didn’t want meat-eaters as tenants.
There is a well-known study by a left-wing researcher who sent identical CVs to several companies, but under different assumed names--some Hindu and some Muslim. And he found that most of the applications which were turned down were the ones which had been sent under Muslim names.
So, discrimination is nothing new.
What has changed, and which many find shocking, in the present case is that the company’s action was so in-your-face. The covert has become overt, and people no longer feel any shame in publicly stating that they don’t hire Muslims.
Following the uproar, Hari Krishna Exports blamed the “mess’’ on a trainee in the HR team.
"It was a blunder and personal mess created by one of our trainees who has no decision making power. We have 61 employees in our office here including one Muslim in the HR team," it said.
A 'trainee’ with powers to hire and fire must be a very powerful trainee indeed. And if such a specie really exists, then the company needs a closer look at its HR structure. But what I found really revealing was its claims that, "we have 61 employees in our office here including one Muslim in the HR team".
One Muslim employee out of 61! That says a lot about its recruitment policy. In a more inclusive society, companies are obliged to make sure that their staff composition reflects the cultural mix of the society in which they operate.
But this is India. Modi’s India.
As I write this, a bakery in Northern Ireland has been ordered to pay $135,000 (£89,000) in damages to a lesbian couple for refusing to make them a same-sex wedding cake.
That’s another extreme. But any day, give me this extreme than the Hari Krishna Exports variety.
Meanwhile, according to a link circulating on FB a company called Induslink Services has advertised for several position “only for male (Muslim) candidates’’. This includes an “Urgent opening For Accounts Executive ... We are looking only for male (Muslim) candidates”.