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Will affluent Muslims now take part in building a constructive India?

By Mohammad Sajjad,

One clear message emerging out of the ongoing election campaigns in Gujarat is that polychromatic politics in India is taking on only two shades of one colour: saffron. All of a sudden, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is putting his ‘Hindu’ credentials on display and, not surprisingly as a result, is also being made to prove his ‘Hinduness’ with Congressmen ‘attesting’ it by stating that as a Brahmin, he even wears a janeu (sacred thread).

The Congress plan is that this way, many voters identifying themselves as Hindu, and who have becomedisenchanted with the BJP administration in Gujarat, will cross over to the Grand Old Party’s latest version of ‘soft’ (read: ‘better’) Hindutva.

The last election that the Congress won in Gujarat was way back in 1985. Yet, the BJP’s campaign in the state is harping on anti-Congressism. Hardly anyone is asking the BJP, in power in the state since 1990, as to why its much-trumpeted and self-described USP, vikas, development, is largely elusive in its campaign. This is a state where Muslims, forming almost 10% of the population, have already been thoroughly marginalised politically.

Which is how it has been so very easy to secure the Hindu majority votes by demonising Muslims. With your ear on the ground here, it becomes as plain as daylight that it isn’t development, but anti-Muslim and pro-Hindu rhetoric that is the magnet for the majority votes. The Congress, in its wisdom, has joined the fray.

So what stops political parties to declare, à la Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath, the death of secularism in India? Only those still keen to mop up the Muslim votes will politically maintain it vocally. This has profound implications for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It could well be the last secular general election in India.

Subsequently, even non-BJP/saffron parties may also use this strategic ‘business model’ to contest elections: by ignoring the Muslim electorates, and competing only for Hindu votes.

Such a scenario was probably there from 1938 to 1946. Notwithstanding the voluminous outputs from that period, comprehensive records of the socio-political scenario remain grossly inadequate. So much so that even secular historiographies, and textbooks for school and undergraduate courses also used by the civil services aspirants, put all the blame of that time in India’s history squarely on the Muslim League.

So, we are unable to gauge in any empirical way what was happening then within Hindu socio-politics; how rapidly it got communalised; how strongly it stoked Muslim separatism; and how effectively it pushed even anti-Muslim League Muslims towards the League. It is only armed with hindsight that one can now understand as to how things had unfolded during the communally inflamed 1938-46.

Today, when Hindu majoritarianism is unpacking its layers of chauvinism, and is rapidly rendering Muslim electorates not only irrelevant but also a liability for non-Hindutva parties, it becomes an urgent task for India’s Muslims to introspect about their own future in their country.

From now on, will a Muslim candidate be elected only by a Muslim electorate? Will they win only from parliamentary seats like Kishanganj in Bihar, Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, and afew seats in Kashmir, Bengal and Assam? Will this Hindu-majority Hindu majoritarian India suggest that the country needs only Muslim leaders like the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (MIM) Asaduddin Owaisi, and the Samajwadi Party’s Azam Khan, so that the former may conveniently blame and vilify the politics of Muslims — thereby conveniently justifying Islamophobia?

What about the Muslim intelligentsia, in whatever little proportion they exist? They are busy finding their enemies within their co-religionists — unlike their non-Muslim counterparts who do reflect upon, and intervenein, current socio-politico-economic issues. Consequently, the biggest Urdu ‘literati’ — madrasa students and teachers — are left under-educated and under-trained on political, economic and social issues outside their narrow Lakshman rekha.

Muslim traders prefer to earn religious points and prestige by spending on taller and more decorative and costly minars and gumbads for mosques. They are reluctant to contribute towards institutions of modern education and better healthcare.

A good proportion of affluent Muslims prefers to spend money on electioneering, rather than on mobilising education and healthcare funds as they don’t see much ‘charity’ in engaging in the latter.

Nor do they think of raising quality research centres to collect data and to strategise action plans to take ameliorative steps even within their own religious community. On this count, south India’s Muslims, when compared to their north Indian counterparts, have taken some real positive steps over the last few decades. And for this, they must be commended for playing arole in real vikas.

So, the question that stares in the face of the beleaguered, cornered, demonised, hapless community is this: will the affluent Muslims of India, the Muslim intelligentsia, as well as the firebrand leaders from Rampur and Hyderabad take steps in constructive nation-, community- and, indeed, life-building?

The writer is professor, Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University

Courtesy: Economic Times

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