If my memory serves me right, the Muslims' rally organised by the All India Milli Council at the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi is the first one which has been held in the open after more than three decades. I have attended several meetings in conference rooms or at the India International Centre to discuss the grievances of the minorities. But seldom have the Muslims met at a central, open place other than the ground near the Jamia Masjid. The rally, starting from Azamgarh, is a healthy development and indicates that the community has shed fear to voice its grievances in public. This speaks volumes about the community's new approach. More than that it brings credit to our society which provides the environment to the afflicted minority to tell publicly what hurts it. Former Chief Justice of India K M Ahmedi complained justifiably that any support to the Muslims was dubbed either 'appeasement' or 'pseudo-secularism'. In fact, I have found that the denunciation by the Sangh Parivar and the like has told upon the thinking of liberals who would in the past take on Hindu extremists for attacks on Muslims. They have become indifferent. The word 'pluralism' has come to be preferred to secularism. Not that pluralism has lesser message but secularism has a forthright meaning which the BJP and such other organisations dislike. Unfortunately, the anti-Muslim bias which was there in some form or the other since partition became visible after the terrorist attack on Mumbai. On the other hand, some of the Muslims went out of their way to ensure that their revulsion against what had happened was noticed. There was more blood donation by Muslims at Mumbai during the days following the 26/11 than all other communities put together. I know of many Muslims saying that they felt embarrassed when it was told at their face that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai were Muslim. Yet the response of the majority community has been wanting. A substantial part of it has distanced itself still further from Muslims after the Mumbai incident. Some of the writings in the Urdu press are also not helpful. They connect Zionism with the Mumbai attack reflecting a pronounced bias against the Jews. During the Mumbai attack they were first physically tortured and then killed brutally. If Zionism had been at the back of the attack, the Jews at Nariman House at Mumbai would not have been killed as they were. That terrorism has no religion is proved by the disclosure at Malegaon. A serving Hindu officer in the army joined hands with BJP extremist leaders like the saffron-clad woman Sadhvi to carry out bomb blasts near a local mosque. They have a plan to establish the Hindu Rashtra in India, as the secret documents reveal. They want to set up a government-in-exile to get recognition from Nepal and China. I have not been able to understand why the two countries have been singled out when both of them are headed by the Communists, supposed to be against religion. Coming back to the Muslims' rally, a demand for concessions on religious grounds will be suspect and increase the distance between the two communities. Islam does not recognise any caste because it is an egalitarian religion. In fact, thousands of Hindus have embraced Islam to escape the rigours of caste and enjoy the equality. The constitution too confines concessions to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes alone. Even otherwise those who have raised the demand for reservation for scheduled caste Muslims should realise that Islam cannot afford to mutilate its principles for the sake of few benefits. The community needs support, not crutches. Justice Ahmedi gave a sound advice to Muslims: give your children complete education so that they can stand on their own legs. He pointed out that every individual had a constitutional right to get free education from 6 to 14 years. If Muslims do not avail of the opportunity or not send children to school, the community is bound to feel handicapped in competitive exams. Probably, the Milli Council does not realise that during the deliberations on the constitution, a committee, headed by Sardar Patel, was appointed to consider reservations for Muslims. At that time, the Muslim leaders themselves were so much against them that the committee had to be abolished. They argued that they did not want to give any room for suspicion to Hindus or sow the seeds of disharmony in a secular and democratic state of India. It is a pity that some elements in the Muslim community fail to assess the repercussions of the demand for reservations. These elements are playing into the hands of the BJP which want to divide the society on religious grounds. The writer is a former member of the Indian Parliament and senior journalist E-mail: knayar@nation.com.pk