By Ram Puniyani
From 2002 Gujarat carnage Gujarat in particular and India in general has seen the rise of Narendra Modi on the political firmament. His propaganda machinery has given him the image whereby he is regarded as the ‘development man, non-corrupt, strong and all that. A substantial section of society has bought this propaganda uncritically. Modi asserted himself within BJP to be named as the Chairman of their election campaign committee of 2014 and in turn giving the overt hints that he is the Prime Ministerial candidate from the side of BJP-NDA. Pursuing this path he has begun organizing conclaves to woo the Muslim community. He has been advising the BJP people that they should try to reach the minorities. As a step in that direction a conclave was organized in Ahmadabad with nearly 200 activists, scholars of different persuasions (June 2013). Thirty of these were Muslims.
Many a Muslim leaders/activists/scholars were invited but many of them turned down the insistent invitations from the organizers arguing that it is an attempt by Modi to get credibility by inviting the Muslim leaders to his meeting. No community and group are uniform. Some of Muslim leaders turned up for the sessions, one of them Syed Zafar Mahmood attended the meeting and gave a detailed presentation. Before the meeting when Mahmood was asked how come he is attending the meeting as he has been critical of the policies of Modi? He replied that this question should be asked after he has said what he had to say in the meeting. Mahmood has been the Officer on Special Duty for Sachar Committee and is currently the chairman of Zakat Foundation of India.
His argument in attending the meeting might have been that it is an opportunity to present the plight of his community to Modi and use this space to articulate the grievances of his community. The presentation made by Mahmood was comprehensive, well researched and gave the picture of the community and criticised the BJP for its various policies. He also advised the BJP as to what they should be doing in coming times. In nutshell he said that the BJP’s is ideologically opposed to Muslims. For Mahmood it was not just a question of asking for justice and constitutional rights for the deprived Muslims of India. He quoted from BJP website to show the anti-Muslim stance of BJP at various levels. For example, he pointed out that one of essays on website of BJP titled “Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology” was “full of hate and provocations against Muslims.” Then, he pointed out another essay, with headline, ‘Give us this day our sense of mission’ written by MV Kamath was a “call to Muslims to adopt Hindu names and [for] Muslim women to wear the Mangalsutra (a black thread with ornaments to show that a women is married, worn by Hindu women in some parts of India).” The third one quoted by him titled `Semitic Monotheism’, saw Muslims and Islam as a problem. This essay posits “We must realize that we have a problem on hand in India, the problem of a stagnant and conservative Islamic society. A national effort is called for to break Islamic exclusivism and enshrine the assimilative Hindutva.”
So far so good all these points are valid as they are blatantly anti-Muslim. Presenting the plight of Muslim community, he demanded for implementation of schemes and measures for alleviation of the condition of Muslim minorities. He asked Mr. Modi to implement various demands the major one of which has been implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations. It is to be noted that Gujarat is one of the states which has been returning the scholarship for Muslim students. Incidentally another BJP Chief Minister has declared that he will not implement these recommendations. Mahmood also presented the plight of Muslim community, in Ahmadabad itself.
One concedes that the points made by Mahmood are on the dot. The issue lies somewhere else. Whatever he said is a common knowledge. Many an activists, writer has been pleading from roof tops about the worsening plight of Muslim community in Gujarat. The ghettoisation of Muslim community, the lack of access to banking and educational facilities and pushing them out from the common stream of society have all been well documented. Many reports, articles and books devoted to this topic are struggling to grab the attention of society and political leaders as such. Modi, more than others is aware of this all round marginalization of Muslim community. His Sadbhavna fasts also showed his refusal to accept the diversity of India, the cap offered by Muslim cleric was refused while he adorned all multi designed head gears given by others. His discrimination against Muslim community is too well known.
Irrespective of the claims that Muslims in Gujarat are comparatively better off, the truth is that Gujarat was a state where the condition of Muslims had been better than in other parts of India. What one observed with the ascendance of Modi and his iron like grip over the matters of Gujarat state is the worsening plight of Muslim in particular and also of Christians to some extent.
Muslims of Gujarat have known Modi too well for the last twelve years. They are the victims of Modi’s fascist and communal policies. Modi led the 2002 genocide from the front. So what did Mahmood achieve in telling Modi what he inherently knows and what the Muslim community is suffering. One understands that while Modi apparently told Mahmood that he will consider Mahmood’s points, Mahmood’s speech was blacked out. On the contrary Modi has been the victor in his attempt to gain legitimacy from the section of Muslim leadership. Dr. Bandookwala, one of the foremost human rights activists from Gujarat, who has been the victim of carnage itself, points out “Right now he (Modi) is obsessed with becoming Prime Minister. That is not possible with strong Muslim opposition. And so there is desperation to appear in public with prominent Muslims, to showcase his acceptability to all Muslims. Sadly our leaders have given him a golden chance, in the naive belief that he must be told what the community feels. Does Zafar Mahmood think we Gujarat Muslims have not spoken on these issues in print and on TV, repeatedly over the last eleven years?”
Modi’s choosing of this time to hold these meetings with a section of Muslim leadership should have alerted the likes of Mahmood, whose naïve approach that it is chance to express our demands is of no use as the real trick being played by Modi is to gain credibility and to win over elements from Muslim community, the way he lured Zafar Sareshwala a businessman who is now serving the cause of Modi in a most loyal fashion.
While Mahmood seems to have done some homework by going to the website of BJP and picking up some of the essays with anti-Muslim tone, what else did he expect? The practice of BJP, the political child of RSS, has constantly shown its anti-Muslim orientation through the issues which it has taken up all through, the ones’ like Ram Temple leading to demolition of Babri demolition, the one like cow slaughter ban, the ones like freedom of religion bills. One has to know BJP is a part of RSS; the BJP is manned by the Swayamsevaks trained by RSS, Modi being one of them. What does RSS want, Hindu Nation. What was its role in freedom movement-a total absence and criticizing the freedom movement as being merely anti-British! What type of Constitution does it want? Why did BJP led NDA went for review of Constitution?
There are stark observations and ample literature on the agenda of RSS and its progeny. Modi’s temporary mask of trying to reach to Muslim community is the chameleon like behaviour. It is an attempt with the elections of 2014 in mind, a mask is being tried to woo over the minorities. Giving importance to these attempts and to attend their conclaves and meetings may give a moments fame to the one’s attending them, few TV appearances and interviews, they can also be satisfied that they have made their point, but it is an extremely retrograde step for the community. It is like the leaders of Jews calling upon Hitler and telling him that they are being subjected to gas chambers and expecting that they have made the point. It is time that minority communities go beyond the obvious and introspect about the agenda of RSS, which is out to intimidate and subjugate minorities and other weaker sections of society.
Some readings into the books like, ‘We or Nation Hood Defined’, which praises Hitler’s methods vis a vis minorities or Bunch of Thoughts which label Muslims, Christians and Communists as internal threat to Hindu nation, by the ex- RSS Chief Golwalkar may work as an eye opening stimulus for those who still think that BJP can change its long term agenda and that making a point at Modi conclave will change BJP policies towards religious minorities!