The enviable performance of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) in the recent assembly elections in Bihar has raised many eyebrows. Its victory on 5 out of 19 seats it contested in the Seemanchal region has triggered lively discussions in political circles.
In an interview with Clarion India’s Waquar Hasan, AIMIM’s Bihar unit president Akhtarul Iman talks about party’s performance, politics and his personal political journey.
How do you look at your party’s performance of winning 5 seats in Bihar?
This is a victory against communalism. People are also losing their faith in the so-called secular forces. They are looking for a third alternative. We have been accepted as an alternative.
The biggest issue is that a big region of Bihar has been deprived of its legitimate rights. The region did not see any semblance of development after Independence. That hapless population of the region has been constantly looking for justice and progress. Therefore, this deprived population supported us. We see that people are looking for a third alternative and we are providing that third alternative.
How were you able to win 5 seats? What factors contributed to your good showing?
We were capable of winning more than 5 seats. Some people have shown enmity against us. The biggest issue is that the deprived and oppressed population of this region pays tax in this country but their children are not able to get education. Their villages don’t have roads. Their rivers don’t have bridges. Their sick people are not able to get medicines.
While the hospitals are available for even dogs of the rich people in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities, the region I belong to doesn’t have even medicines for crying patients. Hospitals lack doctors, and schools are full of students but lack teachers. This victory is against these injustices. The region is facing serious issues of poverty and austerity. The highest number of the below-poverty-line people is living in our region. Therefore, people are forced to migrate from this region. These are the issues which forced the people to look to AIMIM with hope. They have hope that the AIMIM can play its role to solve their issues and can fight for their rights.
You have only 5 seats and you are not in the government. Then, how can you play your role in solving these issues?
The primary question is: what the purpose of assembly and parliament? Their first duty is to make laws and second duty is to resolve the issues of people. The lawmaking is also related to the issues of people. However, the developmental plans have a lot to do with the assembly. We will raise all the issues of this region in the assembly. If our voices are not heard in parliament, we will take to the streets.
You were earlier with RJD, then joined JD(U) and then AIMIM. How do you look at your political career?
I see my political career as going towards the better situation. If a man traveling by a bullock-cart gets a bus, he would leave the cart and get onto the bus. And when he gets an aeroplane, he leaves the bus and travels by a plane. But, with any mode of transport, his constant eyes should be on the destination.
I was with JD(U) when it was not with BJP. When it was with BJP, I was not with JD(U). We had tried to force JD(U) to break its alliance with BJP and it had finally broken its alliance with BJP. At that time, I had observed from their activities that they got separated from BJP but they can’t live without BJP. Their hearts continued to be filled with love for BJP. Therefore, within 15 days, I had broken all my associations with JD(U).
These so-called secular parties also definitely talk against the communalism but communalism is not just about breaking mosques. It is also communalism if people are deprived of their legitimate rights.
It’s also communalism if a particular section of society is given education but another section is deprived of education. Some villages are given roads but some are deprived of them. Some are given electricity but some are not. This is also communalism. I found such communalism in those parties and I kept away from them. I was searching for a new path and I got it.
I think when I was with those parties, I would have possibly been in the position of living in five-star hotels but that was a rented house for me. Today, the party in which I’m now has a tiny hut but this is my own house. In this party, I cannot be stopped from raising our issues. In those parties, there are hurdles at every step in raising our issues.
These hurdles are so many that the Congress did not allow well-known Islamic scholar Asrarul Haque Qasmi (late MP from Kishanganj) to speak on the triple talaq issue. This was done because they don’t want that our conscience remains awakened and our religious rights are protected. It is imperative on us to keep away from such people.
Some say your party’s politics may strengthen communal forces. What do you have to say on this?
This is the understanding of some intellectuals and some gullible friends. This is a misunderstanding spread by those people who exploited minorities’ votes. When minorities devised ways to sort out their own issues, these people feel threatened. They spread such misunderstanding.
People should come out from these misconceptions spread by the hypocrite politicians. As far as the understanding of some intellectuals is concerned, there is a big difference between practical politics and drawing-room politics. They should take note of practical politics and then talk on this.
As far as some gullible people who are misled by others are concerned, they should remove the band from their eyes. If the communalism rises due to Muslim politics, then there would have been a rise of communalism in Kerala where the Indian Union Muslim League has been working for decades. If the communalism rises due to Muslim politics, there would have been the rise of communalism in Telangana. But this is not the situation in those states.
The truth is that there are two kinds of politics in this country. One is politics of assimilation and the second is politics of alliances. Wherever Muslims have done politics of assimilation, they faced destruction. Muslims are 35 percent in Assam, 30 percent in West Bengal, 20 percent in UP and 17 percent in Bihar. They have always worked by assimilating themselves with those parties but they did not get their legitimate rights.
But when 24 percent of the population has done its politics separately in Kerala and 12 percent in Telangana, they got their legitimate rights. This is not the case only with Muslims but also with others. Yadavs had no separate political identity before Lalu Yadav. But When Laluji gave a separate political identity to Yadavs, their situation changed within 5 years which had not changed in 40 years. This is the same case with Dalits and Mayawati in UP. When the Dalits had no separate political identity, they were on the margin.
They used to carry chappals of powerful people. But when they created their separate political identity, those whose chappals the Dalits used to carry started carrying Mayawati’s chappals. The issue is that the deprived sections of society have to unite for their interests amid this conflict of caste and creed in this country. This is the only way of existence and getting justice.
Secular Parties have accused your party of cutting their votes. Your party is called ‘vote cutter’.
Vote is not someone’s father’s inherited property. Vote is people’s bailment.
What is the future of your Muslim politics? Can you come to power and change the situation?
Indeed, we can come to power. We shared power in Kerala and in Telangana as well. Look, Badaruddin Ajmal whom the Congress considered as enemy No.1 is being approached by the Congress itself. In this country, power has been worshipped. If you are able to keep yourself alive, then you can exist. There is a couplet: paani paani kar gai mujh ko qalandar ki ye baat, jab jhuka tu ghair ke aage na tan tera na man tera (Shame and shame that hermit’s saying pouted on me—you forfeit body and soul alike if once you cringe to another’s might!).
This is not politics of bending down in front of someone. But it’s a politics of getting our own share. We are not fighting for the chairs of Chief Minister and Prime Minister. We are fighting for our constitutional rights.
What’s your plans?
We want to focus ways to fight for justice for the oppressed, and the legitimate rights of the deprived people. We want to bring the Seemanchal and other similar backward regions on the path of development.