By Soroor Ahmed
With the election over and the focus shifting towards the formation of a new government it is introspection time for the citizens. Elections do not just mean going to the booths to push certain button of the Electronic Voting Machine; it amounts to the whole exercise involving it. It provides an opportunity to debate, argue and write on serious issues. It is an occasion to educate the masses. This is the very essence of democracy.
It is true the quality of debate during the recently concluded election campaign was not upto the mark. Nuclear deal with the United States, economic policy, the devastating man-made flood of Kosi, which took over 50,000 lives, Nandigram etc failed to become election issues. Our politicians talked on the security of the country and terrorism and almost nothing else. The BJP did try to whip up the Ram Mandir hysteria while parties in Tamil Nadu made a bid to cash in on humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka following the virtual debacle of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. Apart from that our politicians, the media and other public opinion-makers failed to raise the standard of the debate on the issues which had direct impact on the people of the country.
So far Muslim leaders and public opinion-makers are concerned it can be said that they failed to make the community aware of the real threats and kept them involved in non-issues. For example an average Muslim living in any state outside Karnataka is hardly aware of the impact of the BJP government in that state. It is for the first time that the party has won power in any south Indian state and their morale is high. What was the strategy of the Hindutva forces there in the just concluded election? Did they try to rake a Babri Mosque like issue in the land of Tipu Sultan or not?
In contrast, thanks mostly to the Urdu media, Muslim living, say some 1500 km from Lucknow, have been made to understand that Mulayam Singh Yadav is the ‘worst enemy’ of the community as he had roped in Kalyan Singh, the chief minister of UP at the time of the demolition of Babri Masjid, into his rank.
Many Muslims of Gujarat may not be aware as to how many of their brothers and sisters are still spending hellish life in refugee camps in that state. But once again, courtesy the community leaders and their media, they may be knowing that the Samajwadi Party leader had committed the biggest crime by once again giving ticket to Jaya Prada from the Muslim-dominated Rampur parliamentary seat. We have gone through a number of statements by Azam Khan, once a blue-eyed boy of Mulayam, on this count. During the two months long election campaign hardly any community leader seriously raised the issue of the economic, social and political boycott of Muslims of Gujarat. For the last seven years they have been treated like pariah in their own cities, towns and villages. More than Muslims, it was secular Hindus, who wrote more boldly on this topic.
Yes the Urdu media, especially of North India, did follow up the Malegaon blast case, the fake encounters involving Muslim youths in UP, Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra etc but they failed to educate the common mass on the much bigger design of the Hindutva and Zionist forces. India, it needs to be reminded, is the largest buyer of Israeli arms.
A perusal of the Urdu dailies of the last two months would give you an idea how low can the Muslim public opinion-makers fall just for the sake of some advertisements from a state government. It was not only Mulayam Singh, who was pilloried by the Muslim media for two full months. The other one was none else but Lalu Yadav. For all their faults Lalu, and to some extent Mulayam, are the two politicians who really did something for the community. Yet the behaviour of the Urdu Press, especially of Bihar, was extremely hostile towards them.
When the RJD put up its state party chief, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, as its candidate against Dr Shakeel Ahmed of Congress, it was spread all over the country that Lalu is anti-Muslim number one as he wants to divide the Muslim vote. Needless to say Shakeel Ahmed, as the minister of state for home affairs, defended the Batla House encounter, which many Muslims still think was a fake one. What these Muslim public opinion-makers failed to understand is that in the rest 39 seats of Bihar Lalu pitted Hindu RJD candidate against Hindu candidates of the other parties. In no less than half a dozen of these constituencies the RJD put up Yadav candidates against Yadav candidates of other parties, yet he was not branded anti-Yadav by any one.
The Muslim leaders and Press not only remained silent but justified the Congress stand of putting up Maulana Asrar-ul-Haque from Kishanganj, when Union minister Taslimuddin was already in the fray. Incidentally the Maulana was not the official candidate of the Congress, which had originally fielded another candidate. He was replaced at the eleventh hour. Nobody questioned this act of Congress.
This writer is not holding brief for Mulayam Singh Yadav or Lalu Yadav, yet putting up maximum amount of energy in the entire election campaign in showing them in poor light is no good politics. It seems that the community had no other problem left but to flay these two politicians though their contributions to the Muslims must not be ignored. Not only they emerged as the saviour in the heydays of Babri Masjid when Muslims were hounded out, the community got maximum job and other opportunities during their rule in UP and Bihar.
Politics is a different ball game. In that way taking Kalyan, now an isolated, powerless and ineffective man into the Samajwadi Party fold is not a wrong move. He can be used to expose the contradictions within the BJP. In that way Mulayam was within his right to take him. A distinction must be drawn between the powerful enemy and weak and vanquished one. Abu Sufiyan and Hinda, were the worst enemies of Islam and the bitterest critic of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). What they did with the body of Hazrat Hamza is known to all. Yet after the victory of Makkah the couple embraced Islam and the Prophet allowed them to join the rank.
Why we are so critical of those who have at least done something for us remains a mystery. Sounds unbelievable, nevertheless true! Effigies of Lalu Yadav were burnt by Muslim youths in the main thoroughfares of Patna when he in retaliation to the Congress’ criticism retorted that Babri Masjid was demolished and the Bhagalpur riots took place when the Congress was in power. What is wrong if he said so? In fact his effigies should have been burnt had he not said so. No Muslim dared on the streets of Patna to take out any procession against any BJP leader’s diatribe, even that of Varun Gandhi. Not to speak of that when some secular Muslim and Hindu non-political social activists, after a meeting held a Press conference in Patna, stating that they would support any candidate which is capable enough to defeat the BJP and Janata Dal (United) candidates of Bihar, the Urdu Press virtually blacked out the news though the release was personally handed over to the senior members of the editorial in their respective offices. Ironically Sangam, the Urdu daily owned by Dr Ejaz Ali, the rebel Janata Dal (United) Rajya Sabha MP, gave proper coverage to it. Dr Ali is against the party’s alliance with the Hindutva brigade.
It is said that people’s memory is short. But the case with Muslims seems to be somewhat different. They still remember Bhagalpur 1989 and surprisingly hold Lalu responsible for it when he was not even in power then, but have forgotten Gujarat 2002, which occurred when Nitish Kumar was the railway minister. Perhaps hardly any Muslim media chose to remind the people of this fact during the recent electioneering.