Did the Saharanpur Congress Candidate Imran Masood Vent the Frustration of UP Muslims?
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was Narendra Modi who fired the first shot in bringing up the Hindu-Muslim tension in the current electoral scene. He called Arvind Kejriwal as “AK-49, a Pakistani agent”. Bringing up Hindu-Muslim tension is BJP’s standard strategy in elections. They simply cannot win without spreading ill feeling between the two communities, and then claiming to be the protectors and champions of Hindus.
Without bringing up the Pakistan bogey, reminding Hindus about the 1947 Partition, and maligning the Muslims with the responsibility for it, they cannot polarize the society and without polarizing society along the Hindu-Muslim faultlines, they cannot hope to score electorally.
For many months, the BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful has conducted a huge propaganda based on false and contrived reports of economic development in Gujarat under his rule. The media being in cahoots with BJP, it almost never tried to verify the veracity of those claims. Congress party and other parties also did not make much effort to question Modi’s claim that he had made Gujarat almost like America.
It was Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal who took the bold step of visiting Gujarat and checking Modi’s Vikas (development) claims. And he told the whole country what he saw there. That Modi’s claims were highly exaggerated and many many areas of backwardness, lack of development, corruption, exploitation and poverty remain in Gujarat, just as they are in the other states.
AAP’s bold and open challenge to Modi and laying bare his bluff of all-round development has unnerved Modi so much that he is now starting to use his old trick of creating tensions between Muslims and Hindus, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where there are so many parliamentary seats. However, UP and Bihar are not Gujarat, at least as far as Muslims are concerned.
In the 2002 Gujarat genocide and since then, Gujarat Muslims have suffered without reacting much, because of the basic fact that in Gujarat state Muslims are only about 8% of the population. In the eastern and central Gujarat, Muslim population is around 5%. In western Gujarat in the areas of Junagadh and Bhuj that were once ruled by Muslim nawabs, they constitute up to 14% of the population.
Thus in cities and towns where their population is about 5%, Muslims simply do not have the ability to resist aggression and oppression. In my visit to Ahmedabad in 2003, I asked some Muslim community leaders as to why they did not resist the aggression of the anti-Muslim marauders in 2002. Most answers I received were, “sahab hum log thorey thay, aur hamaarey pass hathiyaar nahin they; hum nihattey thay; hum kya kartey? kaisey lartey?”.
As Modi is trying to put pressure on UP and Bihar by indirectly hinting that he could communalize these states and apply Gujarat like oppression on Muslims, Muslims are trying to let him know that Muslims of UP and Bihar have the strength of numbers, and ability to resist and are not weak like Muslims in Gujarat. That is what came out in the abrupt, over-reaction of Imran Masood, the Congress candidate in Saharanpur where Muslims are about half of the population of the district, when he hinted that Muslims have the ability to fragment Modi’s strength.
I read an interesting report in TCN that suggests that the 17% Muslim population in Bihar could literally block BJP’s strategy of dividing the secular vote and hold BJP’s seats down to about where they are now, that is 12 to 15 seats. We know that the scene in eastern UP has changed with Kejriwal and Mulayam Singh Yadav contesting from Varanasi and Azamgarh respectively, that will counter Modi’s hype of a Modi wave in eastern UP. So in UP too BJP which currently holds 10 seats may not go much higher than 15-20 seats.
So much for the “chamatkar” of Modi and his henchman Amit Shah whom the supreme court has banned from entering Gujarat.