Sectarian rule in Delhi and Belfast – by John Patton

A small but vocal and determined group of Scottish/Indians protested outside the Indian Consulate in Rutland Square Edinburgh, today against the BJP /Modi Government proposals for a Citizenship Act. As I mingled with them and listened to their grievances, the parallels with the Six Counties in Ireland were apparent. A major concern expressed was that it would make Muslims second-class citizens in India and afford preferential treatment to non-Muslim immigrants. The protesters, with whom I spoke, feared that it was a plank in the ethno-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to disenfranchise Muslim citizens. There are genuine and realistic grounds for their concerns; BJP has absolute power and uses it to implement draconian change, all of it to the detriment of the Muslim population. For the first time in India’s history, citizenship will be granted on the basis of religion. Two hundred Muslim Indians, one of the largest groupings in any nation,  for all practical, civic purposes would effectively be treated under the Law as personae non grata.

The English Tory Government in 1921 succumbed to the threat of violent insurrection by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). Not altogether surprisingly, since it had ignored Loyalist gun running and Randolph Churchill brazenly used the Orange card for electoral purposes. The resulting state was to be  ‘a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people’ in the words of one early leader, Craigavon.  There was no political role for the substantial minority of Catholic citizens. You may tell me that is history and all has changed, especially so, since the Good Friday Agreement. Certainly, since the people took to the streets to protest in 1968, there has been substantial, legislative change to ensure equality for all citizens. In practice, some nationalist areas still feel that the State is not working for them. It was established Unionist policy to deprive Derry and the North West of economic development since it might possibly provide employment for  people opposed to their rule and population growth would imperil the gerrymander operating with impunity in Derry. Unfortunately, and the denial of expansion of Magee University is a notable case, there are still clear signs that the old, Unionist protocols are intact and embedded in the thinking of those with power.

Today, agreement has been reached for the return of devolved government at Stormont. Some commentators believe that both the DUP and Sinn Fein feared an election, given their falling support in December’s Westminster outcome. A Border Poll and the possibility of a United Ireland are now discussed openly where once such conversations would have been deemed seditious and illegal. The DUP backed the wrong side in the Brexit fiasco and their Westminster leader paid the price in North Belfast. 

‘Aithneann ciaróg ciaróg eile’ (one beetle recognises another) we, cainteóirí Gaeilge, have long believed.  Paradoxically, a deeply untrustworthy DUP failed to recognise that the word of an ambitious Johnson was not even valued within his own political party.

Stormont may be back but for how long?

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