Do Muslims Have Any Place in Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Mohabbat ki Dukaan’?

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Abu Anam | Clarion India

ELECTION results this month have undoubtedly enhanced the political stature of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. His ‘Nafrat ke bazaar mein mohabbat ki dukaan’ slogan during his maha padyatra across the country seems to have resonated well with the systematically persecuted and deliberately marginalised, demeaned and deprecated segments of our vastly diversified and pluralistic society.

It is no wonder that because of the solid backing of these othered segments Rahul Gandhi’s Congress party was able to almost double its numbers in the Lok Sabha this time around; up from 52 in the 17th Lok Sabha to about 100 this year. The tally was a mere 44 in the 2014 elections.

Despite garnering an overwhelming chunk of minority votes that catapulted Rahul Gandhi to the constitutional position of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Gandhi family’s scion is maintaining a stoic and baffling silence over a surge in the persecution of Muslims – hate crimes, mob lynching, and bulldozing of their homes on fictitious grounds – in the initial days of Narendra Modi’s third tenure as prime minister.

Earlier this week (June 24), Rahul presented what he called a report card of the 15 days of Modi’s 3.0 term.

In a post on social media platform X, Rahul Gandhi listed 10 issues to highlight the failure of the Modi-led government of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The failures highlighted by Rahul in the first 15 days of the NDA government are: Horrific train accident in the eastern state of West Bengal, terrorist attacks in Kashmir, the plight of passengers in trains, NEET scam, NEET-PG cancellation, UGC NET paper leak, increase in prices of milk, pulses, gas, and other essential items, forests blazing with fire, Water shortage, and deaths due to lack of arrangements during the heatwave sweeping across the country.

Rahul Gandhi further said Prime Minister Modi was psychologically on the backfoot, busy saving his government. “The attack on the Constitution by Narendra Modi and his government is not acceptable to us – and we will not allow this to happen under any circumstances.

“INDIA’s strong opposition will continue its pressure, raise the voice of the people, and will not allow the prime minister to escape without accountability”, Rahul Gandhi wrote on X.

For Rahul Gandhi the hate crimes, mob lynching and demolition of homes of Muslims on one pretext or the other, and the security of Indian Muslims are not cases fit to be highlighted in the list of Modi government’s failures. Ostensibly, he fears a majoritarian backlash if he is seen to be championing the cause of the minorities, specially Muslims.

Numerous post-election hateful incidents indicate a part of punitive retribution by Hindutva supporters who have now become more vocal and more aggressive. The message is loud and clear — avenging all those who opposed the ideology of Hindutva.

Four Muslim men were lynched by a Hindutva mob and cow vigilantes in Chhatisgarh and Uttar Pradesh, both the BJP-ruled states immediately after the start of Modi’s third term. Authorities carried out a forced demolition of Muslim homes under questionable legal pretences in saffronised Madhya Pradesh. Dozens of Muslim homes were bulldozed in Mandla, Jaora, Ratlam, Seoni, and Morena districts displacing families and heightening tensions. These demolitions have certainly deepened the sense of insecurity among Muslims.

Also, in the Congress-ruled state of Himachal Pradesh, a mob chanting “Jai Sri Ram” vandalised a garment shop of a Muslim in Nahan after the latter allegedly shared an image of “cattle slaughter” on WhatsApp. Local hardline Hindutva supporters ransacked the shop and looted its contents as policemen stood by. Police investigation later revealed that the animal was not a cow. Even then the Muslim shopkeeper has been arrested by the police.

Also, in yet another hateful incident in Medak of Telangana, Muslims faced targeted attacks by a Hindutva mob on false allegations of cow slaughter leading to widespread fear among the community.

Likewise, hate speeches continue with impunity. A BJP leader in the national capital reportedly threatened to slaughter two lakh Muslims, a statement made, notably, in the presence of a senior police official.

Muslims have undoubtedly made meaningful efforts to protect the country’s Constitution — ultimately their lives, livelihoods, and homes and entrusting their future in Rahul Gandhi’s “Mohabbat ki Dukan”. But Gandhi’s nonchalant attitude towards the overt and covert atrocities on Muslims has left one wondering whether the community has any place in his ‘Mohabbat ki Dukaan.’

Gandhi and other Congress stalwarts, and also all other opposition leaders shied away from even mentioning the word “Muslim” in their election speeches. Despite this, Muslims vehemently voted in favour of secular candidates, including those from the Congress. The Muslim support for Congress and other ‘secularists’ was so overwhelming that it forced several top BJP leaders including Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to proclaim that the ruling coalition in his state was “fighting with four parties not three. Congress, NCP (Pawar), Shiv Sena (UBT), and Muslims.”

Some political sections are openly admitting that the Muslims are being punished by Hindutva supporters and the BJP-ruled states for voting in favour of secular parties. Muslims are being mocked at for casting votes in favour of the Congress and other ‘secular’ parties. “You voted for them but they don’t stand by you!” a social media user wrote on X after the incidents of mob lynching.

But questioning the intentions of Rahul Gandhi and other leaders of his party can also be questioned: Why blame him only or his party only when all other secularists like Akhilesh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Lalu Yadav and Tejaswi, Sharad Pawar and M.K. Stalin et al are also maintaining a deafening silence over all the issues of the Muslim community? Agreed.

But, nobody can deny that Rahul Gandhi acted as a fulcrum around whom the whole opposition election campaign was run. Despite some murmurs of dissent here and there in different states owing to the regional parties’ local compulsions, the Congress, whether somebody likes it or not, always acted like a big brother to all regional satraps. Thus, the onus is now on Rahul Gandhi and his party to act responsibly and see to it that Muslims again won’t ditch his party as they did during the last two general elections.

It won’t augur well for the country if the Congress-led secular brigade does not come to the rescue of the Muslim community and the hapless, hassled and harangued Muslims are left to fend for themselves. The scenario may entail unimaginable repercussions with the potential of disastrously affecting the country’s secular fabric and democratic ethos.

 * The views expressed here are the writer’s own and Clarion India does not necessarily concur with them.

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