The Choice, The Bottom-line
By Javed Anand
Oct 19 2013
To the BJP’s glee, Maulana Mahmood Madani has lashed out at the Congress for the second time in as many months. His latest lambasting is aimed at not only the all-India Congress, but all other “self-proclaimed” secular parties. While the Congress remains the prime target, he has challenged all of them to stop wooing Indian Muslims with a “negative agenda”. His refrain: Stop scaring Muslims with the Modi bogey — “Aa jayega, kha jayega”! Secular parties must come out with a positive agenda, account for the yawning gap between words and deeds, promises and delivery, to a community that continues to be discriminated against, remains vulnerable to recurring assaults on life, limb and liberty.
This, of course, is music to BJP ears. Its jubilant spokespersons have been quick to boast that “educated Muslims” can, at last, see through the secular charade. The Congress, it is now claimed, is the “most communal party”.
Who is Mahmood Madani? He is the chief of one faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), an organisation restricted to the products of the Deoband Madrasa. His paternal uncle, Maulana Arshad Madani, heads the rival faction. Both claim to be leaders of the “real” Jamiat. What is the political reach of either or both among Indian Muslims? Anyone who knows anything about Muslim politics will tell you that outside a few Muslim-predominant pockets of Assam or a city like Malegaon, either of the factions would find it difficult to ensure the victory of their candidate even in a civic election. Not surprisingly, the politically ambitious Mahmood Madani wisely chooses to stay away from the electoral arena, content to negotiate a seat for himself in the Rajya Sabha from this party or that.
Yet there is no denying that his outburst articulates growing countrywide Muslim frustration, disillusionment and anger against most secular parties, especially the Congress. In 2006, the UPA government declared its acceptance in toto of the recommendations of the Sachar committee, aimed at correcting the prevalent institutionalised discrimination against Muslims and promoting equal opportunity to all citizens. But its performance in the last seven years has been so pathetic that even a member of the Planning Commission, Abhijit Sen, was constrained to remark recently that it would be better to scrap the Union ministry for minority affairs. Before the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, the UPA constituents had promised a new law for the prevention of, and punishment for, communal violence, which would also include a comprehensive scheme for rehabilitation and reparation for the victims of targeted violence. Nine years later, a bill is yet to even be introduced in Parliament. Meanwhile, there is no indication, even in Congress- or Samajwadi Party-ruled states, of a policy to ensure professional and impartial conduct on the part of security agencies tasked with handling terror cases.
If election time is the only time accumulating Muslim grievances are even heard by secular parties, what better time to make demands, shout and scream? So why feign injury over Madani’s remarks? The winter session of Parliament is still ahead, there is time still for the errant secular parties to make amends. The tabling in the Rajya Sabha of a bill that makes state actors — police officers, civil servants, ministers — directly responsible for preventing violence and enforcing the rule of law and accountable for their acts of omission and commission, for example, would be one step forward. If political parties can form an unholy nexus to protect the corrupt and the criminals among them, why is it so difficult for them to agree on a law that delivers on a constitutional promise made to all citizens at the birth of the Republic: non-discrimination between citizens, equality before law, equal protection of law?
What will Muslims do if the self-proclaimed custodians of secularism remain reluctant to mend their ways? Maulana Madani has chosen to stay silent on this. But here’s a simple answer that Maqbool Alam, a septuagenarian from a Muslim Mohalla in Mumbai, offered at a meeting of social activists last week: “In places where Muslims are in a tiny minority, they may vote for the BJP or the Shiv Sena out of fear. Otherwise, there is no question of their voting for Modi.”
Here is the bottom-line. For Muslims, as for all Indians who subscribe to the idea of a secular, plural India, the choice in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections will be stark: the mascot of the RSS/ VHP/ Bajrang Dal vs the rest. Put differently, irrespective of the motive, a vote for any BJP candidate will be a vote for the Sangh Parivar’s “Hindu nationalist”, “Hindu Rashtra” agenda.
Ask yourself a few questions: which organisations still remain ideologically committed to the revered Guru Golwalkar’s vision of treating religious minorities as second-class citizens? Which organisations have worked overtime in the last three decades to turn Muslims (and Christians) into hate objects, poisoning Hindu minds, attuning millions to the idea that “Muslims must be taught a lesson”? Which organisations are still so proud of Pracharak Modi having turned Gujarat into “the first successful laboratory of Hindutva”? Who can guarantee there are no more “laboratories” on Modi’s and his Parivar’s agenda hiding behind the development chant? Which organisations are quick to denounce every half-hearted attempt at redressing legitimate grievances as “Muslim appeasement”? Which organisations even today are keeping the communal pot on the boil with their malicious “love jihad” propaganda? If you know the answer to these questions, you’ll know what Muslims will do in the Lok Sabha polls.
The writer is general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy, and co-editor, ‘Communalism Combat’