By Shafi Ahmad
I had cultivated an idea before 2014 elections that BJP in power is a better option than out of power. It was based on the perception that BJP in the long run wants to grab power and it creates an anti Muslim rhetoric to win majority community votes .And when power is achieved they don’t need the anti minority path. But soon Modi took over I was proved wrong . Pune Techie was bludgeoned to death followed by a circulated SMS ‘ first wicket has fallen’. Then events like Ikhlaq and others took place. In Ikhlaq case the government machinery concentrated more on whether meat in the fridge was actually beef , mutton or cow than a human being , a lesser mortal, been done to death. This and what followed was a clear signal that Muslims have to change their course of action. With almost all lynching cases being anti Muslim, the issue remains burning. Delhi riot was a bigger scale pogrom and role of various government agencies remains suspect. Even political reaction from the recently elected AAP government was pathetic. Subsequently , the failure of the government to control Corona virus ,was smeared on the assembly of Tablighi members proved even more shameful. The idea has recently been ridiculed by the Hon’ble High Court.
In such a scenario when almost all political parties feel that they must concentrate on majority community votes will the Muslim minority be sidelined as far political power is concerned. Some of the happenings need consideration. Rahul Gandhi tried to show his Hindu card during campaign in assembly elections in Gujarat, MP, Karnataka, Rajasthan etc when he did not miss the opportunity to visit a temple before treading on election Yatras. G.N.Azad is on record to have been requested by his colleagues not to venture out in their constituency as it would harm them politically. Yogindra yadav ,during a discussion, said that these so called liberal parties think the Muslim vote will come to them , may it come after spitting or even abusing, because they have no other option.
Some people have been floating the idea of launching a Muslim political party to counter such an anti Muslim behavior of Right Wing or the “where else will they go?” attitude of so called secular parties. This implies Muslim support for Right Wing is not needed and for others it will come without any bargain.
In 2019 a total of 27 Muslim MPs belonging to various political parties were elected. With the ruling dispensation having a brute majority and other parties struggling with meager presence small number of Muslim MPs don’t have any say. These MPs are so much scattered among various parties that they can’t forge a common agenda and have to stick to their own party agenda first. In such a situation Muslims are relegated to back burner suffering on one or the other pretext.
In this scenario how will the Muslim political party perform and what can be expected . The bigger question is outcome of election results when the battle lines are drawn between Muslim party and other parties . Will Muslim vote in various election trends have an effect where winning streak is drawn? The Right Wing parties which are trying to garner votes on anti Muslim jargon will play the game belligerently and pitch the Muslim non Muslim (Hindu) card directly. In presence of Muslim party these Right Wing parties and their associates will definitely reap a better benefit. Muslim candidates returned victorious have been getting combined votes of a political party and sizable Muslim votes effecting a win for them. But as a Muslim party candidate apprehensions are only Muslim votes will go in their favour thereby reducing the winner number or at the most retaining the same number. As such this number will in no case empower Muslims politically.
J&K is the only state where a Muslim can return as Chief Minister and Kashmiri apprehension is gaining ground that delimitation may see gerrymandering in such a way that Hindu belt constituencies may be increased under a machination. And J&K being reduced to a UT, Chief Minister will hardly enjoy powers which can be termed as political empowerment .
Already on a sticky wicket fears are rising that Muslims will be not only politically disempowered further but various steps by Modi-Shah will dent their effectiveness. In a recent survey conducted by Center for the study of Developing Societies (CSDS) it was revealed that while 74% Muslims accept Hindus as friends around 33 % Hindu population do see Muslims as a favourable entity. The Sachar Committee report submitted in 2006 had stressed the need to bring more Muslims into governance, because at the time, just 3 per cent of IAS officers, 1.8 per cent of IFS officers and 4 per cent of IPS officers were Muslim, while their population according to the 2001 Census was 13.4 per cent.
Sudarshan TV is a recent example of bigotry and response by Muslim groups is praiseworthy. The Channel representative was at his hoarse crying and blaming Muslims for their success in elite service. The association of the elite class did come out in support of their minority colleagues in particular and the Muslims in general. What followed was that TV channel was made to bite the dust through a High Court Order. Similar issue was decided by The Maharashtra High Court in the case of Tablighi Jamat and the Hon’ble court passed strictures about a whole scenario played up by Right Wing and ignited by lapdog media from March 2020 onwards.
A serving IPS officer Najmol Huda has put forth an extreme view by almost blaming Indian Muslims for all their woes. In a recent article he writes ,
“Since Indian Muslims, as Muslims, never had much power, it would be wrong to say that they lost any. The ruling class had a preponderance of foreigners. They were Turks, Persians, Afghans and Arabs whose religion was Islam. In the transition from medieval to modern, and from feudalism to capitalism, most of them fell by the wayside. Still, in the new order, they could have had a proportionate share. But they went for the easier option of dividing the country. The remaining Muslims, in the remaining part of India, sheltered by a democratic and secular Constitution, did have an opportunity to make their own mark. If they haven’t, some introspection is in order.”
However, a former DGP of Kerala N. C Asthana puts his response as under;
“In a recent article with the headline, ‘Indian Muslims must rewrite their victim mindset to be indispensable in India’s rise’, Najmul Hoda, a serving Indian Police Service officer, blames the Muslim community itself for all its travails. This is both wrong and unfair because, in the first place, it absolves every other constituent of society of any responsibility whatsoever and second, indirectly supports a narrative which attributes the Muslims’ current plight to their ‘self-marginalization”
What then can be the way forward. Muslim groups/associations maintained a meaningful silence in TV channel case not giving them a chance to ignite passions. But same has not been followed when elections, in particular, are round the corner. Some non entities prop up to issue Fatwas about whether Vanday Matram, Bharat Mata and the like are allowed in Islam. While majority of Muslims are not interested in such Fatwas but Right Wing beats the drum vociferously and are able to divide the society for political gains. It has been alleged time and again that such Fatwa issuing persons are actually encouraged to take the line.
Political empowerment as a community is not possible in present circumstances unless Muslims politicians shun their personal interests and forge alliances with like minded people . Secondly, there is a vast world beyond construction of huge mosques and running religious schools teaching religious books only. Muslim intellectuals and influential people shall have to sit together ,scratch their heads and find way out. Enhancement in educational potential can be effected. Since Muslims have a lower percentage of educated youth this area can and should be tapped to uplift the community both economically and socially and with this the overall empowerment can be achieved.
Shafi Ahmad is a Kashmir based columnist and author of the novel “The Half Widow”.He can be mailed at email@example.com