Tuesday October 03, 2023

Societal harmony

June 09, 2018

June 8 is of much significance in the history of the US. Today, active participation of white and black Americans can be witnessed in every field of life. The people of the US even elected a black president.

However, there was a time when societal tussle between the two races was at its peak. The Supreme Court of the US in its historical decision of June 8, 1953, ruled that restaurants located in Washington DC can no more refuse to serve black diners. Prior to this, black Americans were banned from even entering restaurants owned by white people.

The US has a diverse population consisting of white Americans as the racial majority. On the other hand, the black American community is one of the largest racial minority groups, amounting to an estimated 12.7 percent of the total population.

The history of black Americans starts in the 16th century, when people from Africa were forcibly brought to the US as slaves. According to research reports, during the American War of Independence, there were about 9,000 black soldiers associated with militias. They also served as privateers and wagoneers in the forces, and as servants to officers. Moreover, it is estimated that as many as 5,000 African-Americans were in combat troops at that time.

Crispus Attucks, a stevedore of African descent, is considered to be the first American martyr who sacrificed his life in 1770 during the war against the British. His heroic role is widely acknowledged in the freedom literature of the US. Later, Attucks also became a legendary figure of the anti-slavery movements which rose in the US.

Ironically, after the US was founded, African-Americans continued to be enslaved. It was not until Abraham Lincoln convinced all states to prohibit slavery that the practice was abolished. It was he who had the 13th constitution amendment passed to the US’ constitution. The amendment declared that, “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the US, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” It was passed by the Senate on April 1864. Later, the 14th Amendment, adopted in July 1868, granted equal citizenship to black Americans, including those formerly brought as slaves and liberated after the Civil War.

Even after such remarkable constitutional steps, the black people were reportedly treated as second-class citizens who had no civic rights. The widespread hatred and discrimination against black-Americans in society can be understood from the fact that the doors of the restaurants owned by white people were closed for black diners, just 65 years ago. However, to ensure that black people integrated in the American society the US’ Supreme Court took a historic decision.

In Pakistan, when we look at non-Muslim citizens we see that they also made huge contributions to make the Pakistan Movement successful. Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Hindu politician and close companion of Quaid-e-Azam, is among the founding fathers of Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam, on many occasions, announced that Pakistan would be made a model country where every citizen regardless of his racial, ethnic or religious differences will be provided with equal opportunities, and it will be ensured that they spend their life according to his beliefs.

A recent report by the Election Commission of Pakistan disclosed that the number of voters belonging to religious minorities in Pakistan has reached 3.63 million, where Hindu voters continue to maintain their majority among all minorities. The number of Hindu voters now stands at 1.77 million. It seems as if the Pakistani society is still divided into a majority and minority on the basis of religious affiliations. Despite all the sacrifices for Pakistan, the patriotic minorities are not allowed to send their genuine representatives to parliament through direct and dual vote.

There are restrictions on non-Muslims to hold specific offices. Similarly, doors of many state institutions are closed to the highly-educated, most qualified and talented Pakistani citizens just because they belong to minority communities.

Today, if we want to see Pakistan become a ‘Asian Tiger’, we need to follow the Quaid-e-Azam’s vision in letter and spirit by allowing every citizen to serve our beloved country on the basis of merit. Religious harmony must also be an integral part of every political party’s election manifesto.

The writer is a member of the National

Assembly and patron-in-chief of thePakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani