New Age Islam
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Islam and Politics ( 19 May 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslims Of West Bengal Look Forward To Receiving Their Long Awaited Dues Under Mamata Government

Employment, Education, Prevention Of Riots And Honouring Official Status To Urdu Are Some Of The Rights Of Muslims Of Bengal

Main Points:

1. Muslim representation in government jobs in Bengal is just two per cent, though  they constitute 27 per cent of the population.

2. Communal riots need to be prevented.

3. Educational development of Muslims should be facilitated.

4. Greater participation of Muslims in police administration needs to be ensured.


New Age Islam Special Correspondent

19 May 2021

The unprecedented victory of TMC in the recently concluded Assembly elections brought a great relief not only to the Muslims but also to the majority of Bengalis who hold their cultural values and literary ethos close to their heart. West Bengal rightly takes pride in the fact that it has produced four Nobel Laureates (Mother Teresa, Rabindranth Tagore, Amartya Sen, Abhijit Banerji) and the people of Bengal are known for their revolutionary mindset. The Bengali culture is not the creation of only Bengali speaking Hindus but has developed and evolved from a composite culture of Buddhism, Vedanta, Bhaktivad and Islamic Sufism. Giving account of this cultural background of Bengal was necessary to understand why TMC won so overwhelmingly and the party singing of Hindutva lost though 70 per cent of the population of Bengal is Hindu.

Bengali language and culture or Bangaliana is more important than their religion to the Bengalis whether they are Hindus or Muslims. This is the reason the Bengalis of Bangladesh ( majority of whom are Muslims) feel a greater affinity with the Bengali speaking Hindus of West Bengal than with the Urdu speaking Muslims of Pakistani. This cultural bond of the Bengalis of West Bengal and Bangladesh is so deep and strong that the Bengalis of the two Bengals consider themselves a single community and not parts of two countries.

This cultural bond has been at the root of the rule of secular parties in West Bengal. That was the reason the Congress ruled the state for more than 25 years.

After the ouster of the Congress in 1977, another secular front the Left Front came to power which ruled the state for about 33 years.

The contribution of the second greatest poet of Bengali language Qazi Nazrul Islam to the growth of communism in West Bengal cannot be ignored as he was instrumental in the formation of the Communist Party of India in Calcutta with Muzaffar Ahmad. He was the most popular poet after Rabindranath Tagore and so the Communist party cashed in on his popularity to spread its reach among the masses. His songs with communist undertone like Gahi Sammyer Gaan also promoted the Left Front in West Bengal.

However, due to their long and boring rule and due to their suppressive measures in their last years they lost public sympathy and Mamata Banerji's dynamism and her party's openness to criticism brought an atmosphere of freedom of speech and opinion in the state. Though this provided the Hindutva parties an opportunity for growth, it also assured that a citizen can join any political party under democratic set up. Therefore, the BJP flourished in the state and grew from 3 seats in 2016 to 77 in 2021.

This was the greatness of TMC that on the one hand, it guaranteed the BJP the space to work and on the other hand it defeated it decisively by dint of its ideological and political superiority. In other words, unlike the Left Front which did not allow the BJP to flourish with the help of its organisational power, TMC allowed the BJP to play and then won with the help of its better performance.

This was the cultural values of the state that was at the root of the victory of TMC in the recently held elections and because of this, both the Muslims and Hindus of the state out rightly rejected religious politics. Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM and Abbas Siddiqui’s ISF could not make a mark in the elections. This was because of the maturity and the deeply itched cultural ethos of the people of Bengal.

Gone are the days when Abdullah Bukhari would appeal to the Muslims of India from the stairs of Jama Masjid Delhi to vote for a particular party and the Muslims would vote for it en masse. After his demise Junior Bukhari would do the same in favour of different political parties. But gradually the Muslims realised that these clerics actually got personal favours from the political parties in lieu of Muslim votes and so they started ignoring them and made their own decisions in the elections.

In Bengal, even the clerics campaigned against AIMIM and ISF and appealed to Muslims not to fall in the trap of opportunist Muslim leaders and vote for secular parties. The fear of NRC also mobilised the votes of both Muslims and Hindus in support of Mamata.

Now the question is: What is the road ahead for the Muslims of the state of Bengal? What will they get in return for their collective support to Mamata Banerji's party? The truth is that during the 33 year rule of the Left, Muslims supported the Left and in return they got only communal peace in the state. Their share in the state government jobs fell to a pathetic 2 per cent though their population was 30 per cent. 55 per cent of the majority population was sitting on 98 per cent of government jobs. This is a glaring example of how the Left Front exploited Muslims by showing them the fear of BJP. They did not grant Urdu the status of the second official language. They even opposed the setting up of the branch of Aligarh Muslim University in Murshidabad.

Muslims expect the Mamata government to honour its promise of implementing the official status of second language of the state in pockets where the Urdu speaking population is more than 10 per cent.

Soon after coming to power Mamata government declared Urdu as the second official language by passing a bill but could not implement it for the fear of the allegation of minority appeasement. Now that she is firmly placed, she can move forward in that direction. Another area in which Muslims expect her to work is towards giving Muslims their due in government jobs and raise their representation above 2 per cent. Educational development of Muslims is also one of the important tasks of the Mamata government.

Another area on which Mamata government needs to work hard is to curb the growth of communal hatred by overhauling the police administration and the intelligence. After Mamata's ascent to power in 2011, a number of small and large scale communal riots occurred in different towns of Bengal due to intelligence failure and the failure of police and civil administration though they are now better equipped and manned. One effective way of preventing communal riots will be to increase the participation of Muslims in the police administration and in intelligence.

These are some of the measures Mamata government should take to provide better governance to the people of the state who have demonstrated a greater degree of trust in her in the assembly elections.


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