By Dileep Padgaonkar
January 6, 2013
Publication: The Times of India
Date: January 6, 2013
The two cases slapped on Akbaruddin Owaisi, the Andhra Pradesh MLA from the Majlis-e- Ittehadul Muslimeen(the Council of the Union of Muslims) party for his anti-Hindu rants will meander through the courts for months, if not years, as they so often do. The judicial delay, the accused doubtless reckons, will enable him to achieve three goals: consolidate his vote-bank, position the MIM to cut more lucrative deals after the elections and ensure that the rants fade from public memory. Success might not elude him on two of these goals. But on the third one – which matters in the long run – he faces ignominy.
To keep intact the Owaisi family’s vote-bank in old Hyderabad - and perhaps also to extend the MIM’s appeal to those areas beyond the city with a sizeable Muslim population - nothing would suit him better than to be denounced not only by the sangh parivar but also by secular elements, including moderate Muslims. (In his eyes, secular Hindus are secular only in name while moderate Muslims, who, he believes, have no real influence among Muslims, are damnable as apostates.) He can then project himself as the most valiant and steadfast guardian of the religion, culture, interests and concerns of the Muslim community.
Historical precedents are revealing in this regard. The MIM was established in 1927 as a religious and cultural organization. But, as Narendra Luther states in his brilliant ‘biography’ of Hyderabad, it soon developed on the lines of the Muslim League in pre-Independence India. It reflected Muslim communalism in the state. Three years later, Bahadur Khan, a minor jagirdar who mesmerised crowds with his hate-filled oratory, was honoured with the title of Bahadur Yar Jung by the Nizam. Armed with royal patronage, he embarked on an aggressive campaign to convert so-called Untouchables to change the demographic balance of the princely state. He came a cropper.
Sixteen years later, the leadership of the MIM passed into the hands of another fire-band: Kasim Rizvi, who originally hailed from UP and practiced law in Latur in Osmanabad. His diatribes against Hindus won him kudos from the Nizam and, even more significantly, from M.A. Jinnah. It is Rizvi who formed the razakars ('volunteers'), organized on the lines of Hitler’s ‘brown shirts’, whose terror tactics led to an exodus of Hindus from the princely state. Thanks to the swift police action ordered by Sardar Patel, Rizvi too came a cropper.
This background of the MIM’s record would normally have persuaded the party’s leaders in post-independence India to refrain from exploiting the toxic two-nation theory. Far from it. Had the Owaisi family restricted itself to protesting against the deplorable state of their community – their social and economic backwardness, their failure to get justice, their genuine concerns about the rise of Hindu extremism – one would have sympathised with them. But Akbaruddin Owaisi, in his incendiary speeches, has crossed all limits of civility.
This apparently does not matter to him. He wants to position the MIM in a way that would enable the party to cut a deal with any political formation - bar the BJP – after the elections. Owasi began to deliver his hate speeches shortly after the MIM parted company with the Congress last November over the issue of a make-shift temple adjoining the Charminar. But in its quest for power the MIM can be trusted to do business with that party once again should an opportunity arise in the future. Any anti-BJP party stands to gain from such a blatantly opportunistic alliance. This no doubt explains why the Congress leadership in the state, as well as at its apex, first turned a deaf ear to Owasi’s initial rants and then bided its time to move against him even after the most vicious speech he made in the last week of December. Such conduct is a smear on our secular republic. That is what should matter. Not the self-serving attempts to equate Owaisi’s anti-Hindu rhetoric with the anti-Muslim fulminations of the bigoted sections of the sangh parivar.
But on Owaisi’s third goal – that his anti-Hindu rants will fade from public memory – a word of caution. The parivar bigots have been condemned, especially by secular Hindus. But the worst of these bigots have not done what Owaisi has done: he has denigrated the divinities that Hindus hold with utmost respect. Not once has any Hindu bigot attacked Allah or his Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him.) But this riff-raff of a politician has spoken in the most venomous terms about the divinities that are dear to the Hindu community. This affront will not be forgotten.
Regardless of what the courts have in store for him, public opinion should bring pressure to bear on political parties to ostracize this man who spouts venom not just against Hindus but against citizens of all faiths who owe their primary allegiance to the Constitution. Doom stares the Congress, and other political parties that wear the secular badge on their sleeve, if they refuse to read the writing on the wall. And the writing on the wall is: Owaisi is a threat not only to inter-community harmony but to the security of India. He is, for all practical purposes, a fifth columnist.