By Mohammad Sajjad
September 26, 2018
Muslim leadership thinks their religious-cultural worries are supreme. Fact is, they can protect their identity only if they are educated and economically empowered. They must learn that regressive attitudes on caste and gender issues will deepen communalism which will ruin them.
Never did I make such a good use of a Sunday. A very hectic, long travel to Darbhanga (with an anxiety to get back to Aligarh to engage in classes), then a talk, diluting academic and jargonised contents into lucid Hindustani for a certain kind of audience.
There were other concerns/apprehensions too.
The talk was on "Emerging Trends in Bihar Politics.”
A gist of what I spoke there:
How Did we Reach the 2014 situation?
Mandal and Kamandal or caste or majoritarian politics since the decline of the Congress facilitated the political rise of the deprived groups-OBCs.
Mandal politics has by now, however, run its course, in a way, as it degenerated/reduced into a cult of the leader, the family and the core caste.
On the governance front, the less said the better. Cause of social justice and psychological upliftment (Swar Diya, Bhale Swarg Nahin Diya) is settled and over.
Now the aspiration across all castes is for a better future and hence the "Acche din" found such resonance with the demagogue.
The coming of another regime during 2005-13 and its delivery on development has established that there has to be a right mix of 'caste politics + development' to curry favour with the masses beyond the upper OBCs. This paradigm was also deepening the benefits of quotas amongst the "Mahadalits" and "Ati Pichras" who were sidelined by the more privileged caste groups within the reserved categories- OBCs.
And there was, within these categories, a simmering resentment against their respective elites; anti-Yadav OBCs, anti-Jatav Dalits by other OBCs against Yadav led formations in UP and Bihar and anti Jatav sentiment against Jatav led BSP.
BJP taps on these underlying and unaddressed resentments of castes by co-opting as many leaders from these splinter castes or striking alliances with such smaller parties.
The Mandal or Dalit leadership is not accommodating enough to fulfil such aspirations.
However, the return of BJP led govt in UP (2017) and Nitish's ditch to rejoin NDA in Bihar has thrown back to old Savarna hegemony. Now, BJP is the powerful hegemon in Bihar since July 2017.
This throws up a challenge as well as opportunity.
Launching Mandal-2 and Fighting Muslim Conservatism/regression on gender and caste.
There is a churning taking place and Mandal-2 and fighting against Muslim conservatism as this conservatism breeds communalism, it feeds the majority communalism and also weakens our secular battles.
The deepened social justice can be revived by an equitable distribution of positions in party and government to widest possible demography.
A brand of "pichhra politics" that is less about one caste or one family; which is for the “Bahujan Not Ek Jan.”
There has to be a degree of idealism too; that political office is not for money-making; that it has room for men and women of enterprise and merit too.
Today's Politics Is Youth-Driven
Their population is largest among the demography. These are aspirational youth. They are trying to make their mark on their own and they identify with leaders who are seen to be working hard for expanding their career or parties. A 24/7 politician is needed.
Muslims constitute a demography which has a presence nation-wide with a sizeable population.
Their identity and role have always been a matter of contest. In the 1950s, they were content with voting Congress in exchange of semblance of security. The riots, which increased in frequency after Nehru and went largely unpunished, were meant as a control mechanism. To keep the community in a state of fear rather than demand their fair share in fruits of development. Sachar Committee is the document of this monumental neglect.
The regional and caste-based parties have relatively been more accommodative of Muslim communities in terms of allocation of seats and resources of the state. But the Muslim leaders and the community have failed in articulating its demands.
They have been doing in mainly identity-related themes - Protection of Personal Laws or Urdu or Haj-related issues.
Muslim leaders have misplaced and wrong priorities. They think their religious-cultural worries are supreme. Fact is, they can protect their identity only if they are educated and economically empowered.
So, their identity concerns made them take to the streets in 1986 on Personal Laws and made the then Govt nullify the SC judgement in Shah Bano. Babri Masjid was thrown open to balance the favour shown to Muslims. They committed the same blunder by responding to the Deen Bachao Rally on April 15, 2018.
Another SC judgement on Triple Talaq in 2017. All India Muslim Personal Law Board was a party. It made its arguments and lost. It should have endorsed the judgement and run an awareness campaign. It did neither. TTQ continues unabated. Govt comes up with a bill to criminalise it and then the theatre is enacted under Deen Bachao banner. The Bill has not just passed but has the force of law through ordinance. Govt wins both ways- it plays the champion of Muslim women and does not submit to street protests. This also queers the pitch for secular parties- if they come out openly against the bill, they will be labelled as appeasers, if they align they lose out amongst Muslims.
The correct stand is to let the judgement be honoured. And let those suffer who refuse to heed it. As for misuse, leave it to time and courts to provide safeguards.
So no street politics which are deemed as anti-women.
They must learn that regressive attitudes on caste and gender issues will deepen communalism which will ruin them. They should rather organise on civic issues- Bijli, Sadak And Paani, Shiksha Swaasthya.
They should Demand delivery on these, from their representatives; strike up cross-community alliances.
Try to be a citizen at all times. And a voter with loyalties only at election time.
"Riots" are politically manufactured.
How to avoid getting provoked and giving up on provocation.
And to stand by victims of violence (caste, communal or gender-related to one's own and others.)
The Muslim leadership has failed lynching and riot victims. No mobilisation of legal aid or permanent relief whereas they do spend a lot of money in various elections to win and lose.
Their misplaced priorities are reflected in their attitudes towards the criminals within their own ranks.
They also need to fight out criminals among their own ranks/mohallas who are increasingly rising higher and stronger to represent the Muslims, just as in other social groups.
In the recent communal violence of Bihar, besides the menacingly well organised, state-backed, "everyday communalism" of the virulent Hindutva of 21st century, there were some local Muslim tough men cum political aspirants, who resorted to polarisation, in certain instances.
They need to be exposed and marginalised, if not reformed. The society has to become brave enough to come out to fight out such evils.
Finally, I also shared my apprehension and a forewarning that a covert, BJP-backed third front might be launched to dupe and mislead some voters. This third front might comprise of the Deen Bachao thugs.