PROF RAM PUNIYANI
As atrocities against Muslim minorities increase and the news comes in that various Muslim leaders and intellectuals are knocking the doors of RSS for a dialogue, what do we make of it? A brief peep into the past may help us understand the current dilemmas of Muslim community.
The partition of India left the Indian Muslims in a precarious position. Pakistan was formed due to complex phenomenon, in which the British policy of ‘divide and rule’ aided by the Muslim and Hindu communalism played the central role. While the demand of Pakistan was from elite sections of Muslims, it attracted some other sections also. Pakistan (East and West) was primarily for the Muslim majority areas, while an equal number of Muslims were scattered all over the country, most of whom had not stood for this retrograde solution, neither they desired to go there nor they went to the ‘land of pure’ (Pakistan). Before we go further the later division of Pakistan into Pakistan and Bangladesh stands as a live critique of the theory that ‘Nations can be based on religion’.
Irrespective of this; the Muslims who continued to live their well deserved citizenship here were and are regularly taunted that Pakistan was meant to be for them so why are they here. After Independence, Muslim Communalism got deflated and changed its form into a small tendency giving due provocations to the Majoritarian politics. Majoritarian politics duly started coming to center stage culminating in it holding political power from 1996 onwards. It is now in the saddle for last close to nine years.
The pressure of rising sectarian politics manifested in the waves of violence directed against this community and in due course the insecurity of the community led to its ghettoization at places. The walls of Hate have been erected all around making the fertile ground for intimidation, violence and glorifying of bulldozer politics. The starting point of the community was a low socio economic status and it got worst compounded by rising marginalization and sense of insecurity.
While party which ruled during earlier period cannot be totally exonerated from the failure to undertake affirmative action for this deprived section, its’ little intent of affirmative action was mocked as ‘appeasement politics’. This was no appeasement in any way; it was at best going the way of conservative orthodox sections of leadership while the Muslim masses’ condition continued to deteriorate. Sachar Committee articulated the ‘nose diving’ status of Muslims. State action was already blocked as any consideration for this section of society was propagated as ‘vote bank politics’.
One example is in order. In the wake of Sachar Committee report, the then Prime Minster made a general comment that the deprived sections of society (including Muslims) have first right on national resources. The network of shakhas, social media, lap media and word of mouth Goebbelsian technique propounded as if Manmohan Singh is diverting all the funds for Muslims! His clarification hardly reached the popular perception, “It will be seen from the above that the Prime Minister’s reference to “first claim on resources” refers to all the “priority” areas listed above, including programmes for the upliftment of SCs, STs, OBCs, women and children and minorities.”
The party which formally believes in secularism could hardly stand up for the rights of minorities (Muslims and Christians), mainly due to the intimidating propaganda and social-political pressure of the vast network of the politics of Hindu nationalism.
Today a section of Muslims is trying to put up a brave face to oppose the dominating presence of orthodox, retrograde leadership of Muslims, mainly in the hands of Maulana types, steeped in ‘frog in the well’ psychology and claiming to be the leaders of Muslim community. Surely their hold on a besieged community is at the core of opposition to the process of reform within the community. The ‘moderate’ Muslims and those for ‘secular democracy’ have limited influence in the vast masses of Muslims, intimidated by the fear of violence, built around temple issue, built around ‘Hindus have been persecuted by Muslim kings’ a narration built around religion while the issue has been that of power. As salt on the wounds the American-Imperialist design of controlling oil wealth gave birth to the likes of Osama bin Laden-Taliban and so the superficial and biased media popularized the word “Islamic Terrorism” and hundreds of Muslim youth’s careers was crushed under the suspicion. Many like Mohsin Sheikh, an IT worker, were killed while those accused for acts of terror were incarcerated due of the prevalent system, where every Muslim is looked down as a criminal.
The moderate Muslims and those for secular democracy are burning midnight oil to make sane voices; while the orthodox section gets good following. The progressive Muslim women did take up the reform (against triple talaq, Burqa and polygamy in particular) the biggest support for them came from Hindu majortitarian politics, whose central concept is presented as welfare of Muslim women. Same forces create a situation where hoards of Muslim women stage Shaheen Baghs to preserve their citizenship rights and try to save themselves from ‘detention camps’ many of which are under readiness to give them a life of hell.
Meanwhile the inability of secular parties is exploited to the hilt and many from Muslim community. In their intense ‘sharp’ criticism of secular parties they land up in the lap of Hindu nationalist’s forces. As such RSS-BJP and its allies are doing their all to woo a section of Muslims community, Pasmanda, Bohra, Sufis among others. The Rashtriya Muslim Manch with RSS pracharak Indresh Kumar has been trying to woo a section of community around the politics of Hindu Rashtra, Narendra Modi visited the most affluent sect of Muslims, the Bohras, and declared that he is come to his family. On one side the rampage of Monu Manesar (Killing of two Muslim youth in Haryana), the Hate speeches against Muslims and yet at another level giving the impression that the RSS chief himself is giving time to the top of Muslim echelons like S.Y. Quraishi et al, is going on at present. This feat can only be performed by a multi-headed hydra.
The dilemma of different sections of Muslims is writ on the various reports of plight of Muslims in India. The only hope is to realise that there may be weaknesses in other parties, but none of them is guided by the ideology of ‘Hindu Nation’. And that should be the primary factor to be kept in mind by the different sections of the Muslim community. And surely the way out is not to prostrate in front of the tormenter but to try to associate with political tendencies having commitment to values of Indian Constitution, and to put pressure on them to pursue the path of Maulana Azad and Gandhi.
Ram Puniyani is an eminent author, activist and former professor of IIT Mumbai. The views expressed here are personal and Clarion India does not necessarily share or subscribe to them.