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Hindu jagriti, Muslim bedari


Sixty-years of being hoodwinked by all political parties, and with Hindu groups claiming their own awakening, Muslims too have started sporadic but steady attempts to form their own political parties, initially locally and then across the country, steps they''ll have to clearly think through, says TSI''s Sharad Gupta and Malik Faisal
WITH BUREAU INPUTS | Issue Dated: February 15, 2009
Tags : Muslims | India | witch-hunt | Batla House | encounter | Malegaon | blasts | shortchanged | political | class | community | OBC | strongman | Uttar Pradesh | Mulayam Singh Yadav | Maulana | protect | Babri Masjid | demolisher | Kalyan Singh | Congress | commitment | RJD | Lalu Prasad | government | Samajwadi Party | General Secretary | Amar Singh | widow | Delhi | police | inspector | MC Sharma | terrorists | fake | innocent | students | Azamgarh | Amir Rashadi | Ulema Express | Bahujan Samaj Party | Mayawati | MPs | Shafiqur Rehman Barq | Afzal Ansari | Mohd Azam Khan | tickets | pro-chancellor | Mohd Ali Jauhar University | Darul Uloom | Deoband | Dr Azimuddin | president | Movement for Peace and Justice | Mumbai | All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen | Kerala | Mohammad Koya | Badruddin Ajmal | Assam United Democratic Front | Dalits | Maulana Qasmi | AUDF |Maharashtra | unit | Aurangabad | Municipal | Corporation | polls | Indian Muslim Congress Party | Haroon Mojawalla | Khair-e-Ummat Trust |
Hindu jagriti, Muslim bedari For the past 60 years, Muslims have been a confused and disoriented lot. For everyone they trusted betrayed them. But recent events have been quite a learning experience for the Muslims in India. Be it “witch-hunt” launched in the wake of Batla House encounter or the “shoddy” probe of Malegaon blasts, Muslims feel they are being shortchanged by the political class. Even Muslims working in different parties seem to be losing the confidence of their community.

Who had imagined that OBC strongman from Uttar Pradesh Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had earned the sobriquet “Maulana” for his efforts to protect Babri Masjid during his chief ministership in 1989-91, would tie up with the “Babri Masjid demolisher” Kalyan Singh? Or the Congress, always professing its commitment to minority, would turn a blind eye to the farcical probe on Malegaon blast? And the RJD chief Lalu Prasad, supporting the government from outside, would keep mum despite repeated pleas from the community. Even Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh played ping-pong – first honouring the widow of Delhi police inspector MC Sharma, (killed in Batla House encounter) ostensibly for “gunning down the terrorists” and then demanding a probe in the “fake encounter" of innocent students.

These are just a few of the hundreds of small and big incidents which have pushed a section of the Muslim community to shun the mainstream politicians. The community’s anger spilled out on streets of the Capital last week when a train load of Muslims landed here from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, to protest against “branding” the whole community as terrorist or terrorist-sympathiser. A local cleric, Maulana Amir Rashadi, organised the special train, named it the “Ulema Express” and brought thousands to Delhi to demand a thorough probe into the encounter. Almost all the students killed or arrested in the encounter hailed from Azamgarh.

Nothing could be more farcical than what happened recently. When Mulayam Singh shook hands with Kalyan Singh, the Muslims deserted SP and flooded Bahujan Samaj Party, because sensing their anger against her arch rival, BSP chief Mayawati announced that 25 per cent of her party’s election tickets would go to Muslims. Not only sitting MPs of Mulayam’s party, like Shafiqur Rehman Barq and Afzal Ansari, but its Muslim face for the past 20 years – Mohd Azam Khan have criticised Mulayam and sought BSP tickets.

Amar Singh, SP General Secretary, first defended the move, only to re-start an appeasement process. He said initially: “In any case, we had decided to deny them tickets and they knew it. There is nothing ideological about their migration to BSP. Khan is trying to retain the coveted post of pro-chancellor of Mohd Ali Jauhar University for the rest of his life.” But party leaders hope the trend will be soon reversed even as Singh toured Darul Uloom, Deoband in UP – which commands considerable influence in the community. Muslims have learnt to see through such attempts. Now, they analyse the rationale behind every statement issued by leaders like Arjun Singh, Abdul Rehman Antulay and Sharad Pawar. “All the parties have betrayed us. We have been deprived of even our fundamental rights. We have been meted out a step-motherly treatment for the past 60 years,” Dr Azimuddin, president of Movement for Peace and Justice, Mumbai, told TSI.

Such gross disenchantment is leading them to consider having their own leadership. “There is no doubt that Muslims are now losing confidence in secular parties. Fascist forces have become a reality in some states and they are posing a grave threat to Muslims. Our strategy is to oust them from power and embark upon an experiment,” says Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the most respected policy making body of the community.

There already have been a few attempts, some successful, some not so successful, at launching a Muslim political leadership. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in Andhra Pradesh and the Muslim League of Kerala have been active for quite sometime, but while both have only one MP each in Lok Sabha, only the Muslim League has had a fair rate of success in Kerala – being part of both UDF and LDF governments and its leader Mohammad Koya even gracing the chief minister’s chair once.

A perfume merchant, Badruddin Ajmal, tried to alter the scenario during Assembly elections in Assam two years ago by forming a political party – Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) with the professed agenda for development of Muslims. It tasted some success by bagging 10 seats (two of its MLAs are Hindus) and performing well in over two dozen others, thereby nearly upsetting the Congress applecart in the state. Now, Ajmal wants to take his party to the national level and plans to field candidates in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, sounding a warning bell for parties like Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and Nationalist Congress Party. Ajmal is clear about his agenda: “My party will take up the cause of downtrodden classes too, as much as it will take up Muslim-related issues,” he told TSI.

Muslim scholars feel that mainstream secular parties have been misleading them by raising the bogey of the BJP. “We could not form a party so far because of a spectre of a polarisation on communal lines, which would obviously benefit the BJP. But, when Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan can work for the welfare of Dalits, Mulayam Singh and Lalu Yadav can work for their clansmen without fear, why can’t we do the same for our community,” asks Maulana Qasmi, president of AUDF’s Maharashtra unit. Isolated attempts to form an exclusive Muslim party have already taken shape in some parts of the country. The Muslim Ittehad United Front, formed last year, bagged four seats in Aurangabad Municipal Corporation polls. More significantly, Indian Muslim Congress Party (IMCP) won 27 out of 71 seats in Malegaon Municipal Corporation elections held nine months after the blasts that claimed 30 lives in 2006. The IMCP, formed by a cleric Mufti Ismail – who had played a significant role in maintaining peace after the September 2006 blasts – fought the elections on a development-oriented agenda.

But, other similar attempts have not had much success. Respected Shia leader Kalbe Jawaad’s attempt to forge a political outfit in the wake of Ajmal’s success in Assam came a cropper, though it was backed by the Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Maulana Ahmad Bukhari. But Bukhari himself lost his clout by issuing an appeal in favour of the BJP during the 2004 Parliamentary elections. “Some people ignore the welfare of the community at large and instead are swayed by their own vested interests. We know the reasons for such acts and want the community to be aware of such gimmicks,” says Haroon Mojawalla, the head of Khair-e-Ummat Trust of Maharashtra.

Why this sudden awakening? Muslim leaders claim that there was a need for a party of their own, ever since Babri Masjid’s demolition in 1992, but the Batla House episode morphed thoughts into action. But why is there no cohesive approach for a single national party? “We first want to get politically strengthened and empowered in pockets of our influence. Once that is achieved, then we will think of a national alternative for Muslims,” Dr Ayub Ansari, President, Peace Party of India told TSI.

Are Muslims really having the so-titled ‘clear thinking’ now? Do they really believe that they have it within them to bag seats themselves? Be that as it may, will this not lead to ego conflicts and clashes of interests within the community leaders and further inter and intra-communal polarisation? Clearly, unless such attempts by Muslims to form their own political will is supported by an evident intent and exercise to improve the wherewithal of the community as a whole in terms of education, health and employment – in other words, to improve their lifestyle – such discrete moves will surely fall prey to the Orwellian Big Brother nightmare where these parties might become more intent on controlling community moves than making them more independent – socially, economically and of course, politically.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017