New Age Islam Edit Bureau
15 April 2017
Pluralism Under Threat In Indonesia
By Endy M. Bayuni
Raising The Syria Stakes
By Stanly Johny
New Delhi’s Strategy Of Containment By Force Has Failed, There Is A Deepening Death Wish In Kashmir
By Pratap Bhanu Mehta
By Sanjaya Baru
Crisis Of Hinduism
'Write My Obituary After My Death'
By Asad Ashraf
Break The Grand Feudal Pakistani Alliance
By Bharat Jhunjhunwala
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
April 15, 2017
Irrespective of the result, the Jakarta gubernatorial election on April 19 will leave a bitter aftertaste that could have consequences on the political landscape in the rest of Indonesia. The election is already billed as the ugliest, and most divisive and most polarising the country has ever seen.
Religion, and to a lesser extent, race, were issues that were widely exploited in the election. Rivals trying to unseat the hugely popular incumbent, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, virtually forced Jakarta voters to decide whether a non-Muslim and an ethnic Chinese, hence a double-minority, could be allowed to govern the sprawling city of 10.5 million people.
Whether it is Basuki, or his challenger Islamic scholar Anies Baswedan, who wins the runoff, the religious bigotry and racism that the election raised will likely linger on, or even spread further afterwards.
Pluralism, or the notion that this nation of 250 million people made up of diverse ethnic, racial, language and religious groups could live and coexist peacefully, looks like in serious jeopardy now, unless someone puts a stop to it. President Joko Widodo has stepped up to the plate, and he may have taken his cue from Indonesia’s first president Sukarno by combining several ideologies into one. In his particular case, it is Islam and nationalism.
Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, has defied the myth that democracy and Islam are incompatible by holding four peaceful democratic national elections since the downfall of strongman Suharto in 1998. Now President Widodo must show that Islam and nationalism are also not only compatible, but that the two can work together to preserve national unity.
Jakarta is considered a political trendsetter and the whole nation is watching the election to get a sense of how deep religion now plays in national politics. Not that Indonesia needs more of it. Religious Intolerance is already on the rise in recent years with many minorities becoming the target of attacks. The ugly election campaign in Jakarta is bound to put more pressure on the religious minorities and more strains on overall interfaith relations.
Two big demonstrations in Jakarta, in November and December, that were ostensibly aimed at stopping the reelection of Governor Basuki were part of a persistent campaign to push Islam into the center of the political stage and then drum up support for whatever agenda their sponsors have, including the sharia to replace the law of the land, and an Islamic state down the road.
This is making not only the religious minority groups restless, but also many Muslims who don’t necessarily agree with the Islamist agenda.
Although nearly 90 per cent of Indonesia’s population are Muslims, Indonesia is not an Islamic state, a decision its founding fathers consciously made upon independence in 1945 to placate religious minorities like Christians and Hindus, particularly from eastern Indonesia. These eastern provinces would have happily opted out of the new republic and formed their own independent states if the former Dutch colony had gone Islamic.
Indonesia’s secular status has since survived many tests, including a series of armed rebellions and terrorist attacks in the name of Islam. But now the battle by the Islamist proponents is primarily being waged in the public space. With the help of the Internet, which has created an open market place for ideologies, this fight has become about winning the hearts, minds and soul of the people.
President Widodo is leading the campaign to stop or reverse the rise of Islamism. He does so by raising the spectre, rightly or wrongly, that the nation’s unity is at stake because its key underpinning, pluralism, is being attacked by those who want to turn Indonesia into a theocratic state. And he does so not by tackling Islam head on, but rather by embracing the religion without losing sight of the bigger interests of preserving the unity of this very diverse nation.
He is combining Islam and nationalism into a single powerful force for national unity, development and prosperity.
This is reminiscent of the founding father Sukarno, who as a young 26-year revolutionary thinker, penned an article in 1926 about synthesizing Islam, nationalism and Marxism, which he saw as the main political pillars for the independence struggle. These three are competing ideologies, Sukarno wrote, but their combination would portend for a force that the Dutch colonial rulers could not stop.
After independence in 1945, President Sukarno tried to rally the three pillars together again, this time with disastrous and fatal effects. The communist party was crushed for good and Sukarno lost power in 1966.
Widodo is not as academically inclined, but he can be as astute a politician as Sukarno was.
His campaign in recent months has taken him to meet with top leaders of the military, the main force to preserve national unity, to secure their support and loyalty, telling them that he is fighting against the forces that undermining the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).
He called a press conference during his visit to the headquarters of the Special Forces saying that in his capacity as Indonesia’s commander-in-chief, he could deploy the country’s most fearsome and revered military division anywhere in the country to quell any threat to the state’s pluralistic status.
He has met with leaders of the Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s two largest Islamic social organizations, to get them on board of his NKRI campaign, and to make their leaders publicly denounce the forces that threaten national unity and get them to say that all Muslim citizens have the obligation to support the state and its policies.
These two organizations, with their massive influence among Muslims in Indonesia, have been responsible in developing the more tolerant and moderate version of Islam in the country, and in the past have been counted on to fight against the rise of radical Islam. And now Widodo is turning to them once again. Has the President done enough to stop the creeping Islamism in Indonesia? Time will tell. And somehow, the Jakarta election, whichever way it goes, would also be a telling factor about which direction Indonesia is heading.
APRIL 14, 2017
Donald Trump has reversed his isolationist stance with the missile attack, but Syrian ground realities remain the same
U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to order a cruise missile attack on the Syrian regime on April 6, two days after a town in the rebel-held Idlib province was hit by chemical weapons, has earned him praise even from his strongest critics. The President’s supporters could now defend him better against accusations of him being a “Russian stooge”. But beyond the domestic political dividends, what did Mr. Trump’s Syria strike actually achieve in strategic terms?
Logic Behind Intervention
The popular narrative in the American media is that the President, apparently moved by the gruesome images of “beautiful babies” killed by the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, has acted on his impulse. He immediately blamed Bashar al-Assad for the gas attack, which he said changed his views of the Syrian President. But Presidents don’t take go to war on an impulse, unless they are pushing their nations into a self-destructive mode. In Mr. Trump’s case, he had stood opposed to military intervention even when a worse chemical attack occurred in Syria. And the high moral ground the administration is now taking over the civilian deaths also appears to be hollow. Weeks before the Khan Shaykhun attack, hundreds of civilians were killed in Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa, both by U.S. jets. So beyond the emotional appeal, there has to be a strategic calculus behind decisions to use force, and more so in the case of Syria where the central military force is currently Russia.
Mr. Trump over the last couple of weeks has clearly moved to the globalist wing of the Washington establishment, leaving his campaign rhetoric behind. He’s demoted Steve Bannon, one of the most potent opponents of the globalists, embraced NATO, warmed up to China, and stepped up anti-Russia rhetoric. The Syria strike should be seen as part of this larger trend. For the past three years, interventionists in Washington, both liberal internationalists and neoconservatives, repeatedly called for a “limited action” in Syria, which they said wouldn’t necessarily escalate military tensions between the U.S. and Russia, while at the same time help Washington win back its anti-Assad allies in West Asia who were disappointed with President Barack Obama’s Iran détente. Mr. Trump appears to have played ball with them.
The Syrian Matrix
But the real risk is that once America enters a battlefield, as the examples at least since Vietnam show, it doesn’t get out of it easily. Mr. Trump may have been able to send out a message that he’s ready to act. But the problem with limited attacks is that those are tactical actions that leave the balance of power on the ground intact while altering the overall political atmosphere drastically.
The same holds true for Syria. The U.S. strike won’t have any drastic impact on the civil war, while the Moscow-Washington reset is already dead. On the other side, the strike has cemented the Moscow-Damascus alliance further. In an act of defiance, Syrian air force jets took off from the airbase hit by American missiles the next day to bomb Islamic State locations in the Homs countryside, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a warship to the Mediterranean. The icy welcome offered to U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson in Moscow on Wednesday underscores the Russian fury, which has thrown the possibility of any future Russian-U.S. cooperation in finding a political solution to the Syrian war into jeopardy.
What will Mr. Trump do next? The conflicting statements being issued by the officials show that he lacks a coherent strategy on Syria or the administration is ill-prepared to deal with the political consequences of the strike. The failure of G7 at its Lucca summit early this week to reach a consensus on more sanctions against Russia over its Syria support shows even America’s European allies are divided.
The cold fact is that Mr. Assad is still winning the war and in all likelihood, the Syrian army will continue to retake territories from the rebels with Russian help. Now that he has already raised the bar, Mr. Trump will come under increased pressure, both from the interventionist lobby at home and allies in West Asia, to act again. He could either use diplomatic means — in Syria’s case, seek Russian help — for a negotiated settlement between the regime and the rebels or go for a full-blown attack. If he chooses the former, the moral argument Washington has built against “Assad the evil dictator” would crumble besides disappointing allies, and if he picks the latter, it would spawn a much more disastrous war with the U.S. and Russia standing up to each other. This is the dilemma the reckless Syria strike has taken Mr. Trump to.
Kashmiri protester throws rocks at Indian security forces in Chadoora town, about 25 kilometers south of Srinagar, Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin, File)
It is an unmistakable sign of the corrosion of Indian democracy that an odd combination of illusions and nauseating bravado is being spun in Delhi around the grim political situation in Kashmir. Every element of Indian policy in Kashmir lies in tatters. And yet, instead of asking forthright questions, our denial goes deeper. Kashmir now seems to be going from a deep and violent conflict to a state where there seems to be a death wish all around: Security forces with no means to restore order other than by inflicting death, Indian nationalism now more interested in showing machismo than solving real problems, increasingly radicalised militancy with almost a touch of apocalyptic disregard for life, foreign powers fishing in troubled waters, scores of young men and children even, who are making a statement that courting death seems a better option than what they regard as suffocating oppression. They are all feeding off each other.
The roots of the Kashmir problem are deep, and the point should not be to gloat at one government’s failure. The deep gulf between what the Indian state wants and what Kashmiris in the Valley want has always been unbridgeable. But over the last decade and a half, beginning with Vajpayee, there was an attempt to create at least some kind of modus vivendi that had three elements: Containing insurgency, relying on local political forces and elections to at least create partial modes of incorporation, and reaching out under some nebulous appeal to “insaniyat” or humanity. What has transpired in the last few months has made it clear that every shred of Indian policy is now ineffective even to produce a modicum of a modus vivendi in Kashmir. Whatever our counter-insurgency, or counter-militancy policy is, it is backfiring profoundly: Kashmir is more in the grip of militancy and radicalisation than at any point in the last 15 years.
Whatever our hope that some modicum of local democratic process can create a sense of participation has been belied by the single-digit turnout in the Srinagar by-polls: A stinging rebuke to faith in Indian democracy. Admittedly, the fear of violence and threats by militants contributed to this stunning debacle. Let us for a moment assume that it is just the threat of violence that kept people away. But isn’t that supposed to be the point? Why, after three years of this government’s strategy, are we less able to protect Kashmiri voters? What does that say of our counter-insurgency strategy?
It’s a fool’s errand to think that coercion alone will win India Kashmir. But more deeply worrying is the fact that the legitimacy of almost all conventional political actors on whom we have relied, from the PDP to the National Conference, is dipping rather than increasing. Their hold was always very tenuous. But it should be obvious now that they are not even remotely plausible instruments of placating Kashmiris. What other political interlocution will there be? And there is no space left for a dialogue outside of the realm of politics, a dialogue that can address the almost unbearable suffering this conflict has produced. We have regressed to a new and, even by Kashmir’s standards, a frightening low, in Kashmir, pure and simple.
But the disquieting thing is that no one in Delhi wants to face this truth squarely. The Indian emperor has no clothes. I am trying to imagine what the headlines would have been on Kashmir five years ago. This column was often critical of Manmohan Singh. But on Kashmir and Pakistan, he was wise, and it is a pity that we frittered away a slender historical opportunity to make progress on Kashmir. Yet, I can imagine, if the current catastrophe we are seeing in Kashmir had occurred under the UPA, Manmohan Singh would have been roasted and held to account. But we dare not say the truth that, for the moment, Kashmir has been lost on Modi’s watch.
The point is not to apportion blame. Maybe there is an overdetermined futility about Kashmir. But we are doing ourselves a disservice by engaging in a politics of diversion. More than militant propaganda, the way we talk about Kashmir does more harm to India’s cause in Kashmir which desperately requires breaking the cycle of othering and humiliation that has marked this conflict. It creates difficulty even when groups in the Valley do this. But it is inexcusable when those more distant wage their bravado wars of revenge to perpetuate this cycle, as if we were not talking about fellow citizens. We do this by making territory efface all considerations of the people: The militants did this by forcing out Pandits; but we risk doing the same by not recognising the core issue is not holding territory, it is giving people confidence in the Indian project.
Second, we are gullible enough to buy diversionary tactics. At the height of this unfolding catastrophe, what was most of Delhi discussing: Were some stone pelters paid to throw stones? The faux outrage at what might be true of some stone pelters completely obscured the larger question of why our Kashmir strategy is a failure, pushing us to new lows. Our discourse on Kashmir is enough to convince anyone that if the Indian state needs this much propaganda and diversion to convince people in Delhi not to ask hard questions, it must surely mean that it has lost the plot. Even our jawans will be better served if, instead of fantasies of revenge, we asked hard questions about why we have put them in this situation in the first place. But treating a serious situation as a farce does not do our credibility any good.
The quality of Indian democracy may not be sufficient to enable an opening in Kashmir. But surely it is a necessary condition. It is difficult to shake off the sense that as Indian politics continues on its pathway of jeopardising individual liberty, and finding proxies for targeting minorities, whatever toehold Indian democracy hopes to have in Kashmir will erode even further.
There is a long and arduous summer ahead. The international environment is turning against India: China is more aggressive; our obsessive desire to get aligned with the American military industrial complex will not yield dividends on Pakistan. In short, Pakistan’s strategic space has increased, not decreased. But we are looking at a situation where our strategy of containment by force has failed, our political instruments are hollow, and there is a deepening death wish in the state. Kashmir is looking at an abyss. Who lost the plot this time around?
April 14, 2017
Shoji Ito was an Indophile like no other Japanese economist I have known. During the 1990s, he would frequently visit India to keep pace with the changes in the economy. We would always meet and have long conversations about India, Japan and the world. Unfortunately Ito-san died early. Our last meeting, in the late 1990s, was at a conference in Japan on globalisation in Asia. Speakers from the United States and China spoke eloquently in the first session on the benefits of economic globalisation. Ito-san and I were scheduled to speak in the second session.
During a coffee break, Ito-san walked up to me and said, “I hope you will not be like the American and the Chinese. Being Indian you should also speak about culture. Not just economics.” Globalisation is not just about investment and trade, Ito-san argued. It is also about values, ideas, culture. “India has been globalised for centuries. You are the home of so many great religions of the world, and have been open to so many others.” Ito-san implored me to widen the conversation on globalisation beyond economics.
But then, generations of Indian intellectuals and political leaders have done precisely that, arguing that India brings something more to the global table than just a billion, and more potential, consumers; that the rise of India is also about the validation of an idea — the idea of the political, social and economic empowerment of a long suppressed people through the institutions of a plural democracy. India may be a young nation, it has often been said, but an ancient civilisation that has believed in the idea of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — the whole world is one family.
This much many across the political spectrum are willing to say. Ideological differences arise on defining the idea of an Indian “civilisation”. The Indian National Congress went along with Jawaharlal Nehru’s concept of “composite culture” that many viewed as a clever cop-out, which avoided a direct link between India’s civilisational attributes and its ancient, dominant and in many ways defining religion, namely, Hinduism. The BJP rejects what it views as an unfair glossing over of history. The idea of “Hindutva” was proffered as an explanative civilisational construct. The BJP insists that Hindutva is an inclusive term since Indians of all faiths, including the Semitic ones, have, over centuries, acquired an Indian personality that has come to define the Nehruvian “composite culture”.
With the BJP emerging as an almost pan-Indian political formation and a natural party of government, it has become necessary for it to articulate its political vision more clearly so that the nation and the world feel not just reassured but enthused by India’s rise. In this context, it has often been asked: What does the BJP seek from political power and whether its priority is “development” or “Hindutva”?
Many have recently argued that while Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 on a development rather than a Hindutva plank, Yogi Adityanath rose to power in Uttar Pradesh on a Hindutva rather than a development plank. Is this an artificial and false dichotomy or one that requires further analysis? The fact is that both Modi and Yogi emphasise the importance of development for all (sab ka saath, sab ka vikas) while remaining true to their Hindutva ideology. Is it then possible for the BJP to articulate a vision of “Developmental Hindutva” in a way which shows that the term is not an oxymoron? What does striking a balance between the two mean? If development is defined in social and economic terms, while Hindutva is defined in cultural terms, it should be possible for the BJP to construct a political platform that is reassuring to a large majority of Indians and is respectful to the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Just as the policies and programmes for development have to adhere to the law of the land — respecting the basic principles underlying the Constitution — so too must the idea of Hindutva. Thus, for example, few can object to the teaching of yoga or even the singing of Vande Mataram — aspects of Hindutva that non-Hindus can easily live with. But many non-Hindus may be dismayed by the ban on the consumption of beef. A republic that is understanding of such nuances would truly hold up a lamp to the dark world of religious extremism, bigotry and violence.
In December 2007, as India celebrated four years of uninterrupted annual economic growth of 9 per cent, Singapore’s founder-leader Lee Kuan Yew famously asked: Why has China’s rise created so much apprehension around the world while India’s has not? His answer was that India was a transparent, plural democracy and the global community felt reassured by that fact. The rise to power of the BJP and the decline of the Congress in this past decade has not altered that basic fact. India remains a plural democracy and so the world will continue to welcome its economic rise. However, some have expressed concern about the growing assertion of religious extremism and wondered if this will alter, in any way, the basic character of the Indian Republic. In what manner is the idea of India as a civilisational entity getting altered? Will India’s economic rise be thwarted by the political assertion of ideologies that might weaken the republic? It is in this context that the clarification of the idea of “Developmental Hindutva” would be useful.
Combining the vigorous pursuit of equitable growth, within the framework of a liberal economy and polity, with the reinforcement of civilisational attributes that define the Indian personality can easily be a non-divisive political programme. Of course, there will always be extremist elements on all sides that will never appreciate the idea of building the widest possible consensus on such a programme of Developmental Hindutva. The challenge of leadership in a plural democracy is to construct policies that ensure political stability, social equity and economic progress on the basis of a widely shared ethical and cultural foundation.
Crisis of Hinduism
We do not have a Gandhi or Nehru or Patel now to chide communal Hindus and make them see their folly.
Will the ship of India be able to come out intact from the stormy waters it is caught in? This is a question all those who love India are asking and they are not all necessarily Indians. For them, India has been an experiment to find an idiom of sharing for a diverse people. The existence of numerous religions, sects, languages and customs was welcomed as a resource to build this commonality and never resented as a problem by the makers of the nation. They resisted the temptation of erasing differences to create oneness.
Indian secularism was not a mundane principle of statecraft. It was a bold attempt to negotiate the labyrinth of nationalism by rejecting the straight path of uniformity. The easiest thing for India’s founding fathers, all of whom were Hindus for Jinnah, would have been to say that Hindus were to be the benevolent patrons of Muslims and Christians. And Hindus they were, most of them at least — even Nehru called himself a Hindu.
Indian leaders saw the country as a message for the world. This is what Gandhi had in mind when he was invited by Sardar Patel to douse the fire of anger and hatred devouring Delhi, and told a friend that he could not give up on Delhi, for if Delhi goes, then India goes, and then there remains no hope for the world.
The idea was not to integrate the small into the big but to create equal relationships. The scope and sweep of the imagination of India was broad, not just geographically but psychologically too. It was to be an open space. In its beginning, it was inadequate. It had yet to develop the ability to hear the long-repressed voices of the Dalits and understand the Adivasis. There were also quarrels along the way but it started off as an interesting hypothesis.
The biggest achievement of the Indian nation was its promise to the identities, smaller in many ways to the Hindu identity: They are not expected to follow Hinduism or be its vassals. Hinduism, be it a religion or a way of life — was not to be the defining feature of India. It was this solemn promise which convinced millions of Muslims that despite Pakistan — created in their name — they could find peace in India.
Why did this promise convince the Muslims, under suspicion and attack in those days? Because they witnessed the sublime act of the leaders of the nation — followers of Gandhi — defending this promise, body and soul. It was this conviction which made Gandhi reject the proposal by Rajendra Prasad that cow slaughter should be prohibited in India. Gandhi was unambiguous in his resolve not to let such a law be passed as it would mean imposition of a particular way of life and privileging it over other lifestyles. Gandhi, a sanatani, a vegetarian devotee of the cow, warned Hindus against falling in this trap.
Today, when the chief minister of the state he was born in declares his intention to make Gujarat vegetarian, the promise that India was to those who live differently from vegetarian Hindus stands broken. When mutton shops are forcibly closed in Gurgaon under the watch of the police, the constitutional principle of freedom is violated.
We do not have a Gandhi or Nehru or Patel now to chide communal Hindus and make them see their folly. The state itself has turned into a bully. What, then, is to act as the safeguard? It was thought that the institutions created by the constitution’s mandate would act as bulwark against any attack on this fundamental idea of India. We see them sadly inadequate to the challenge facing them.
That Hindus take pleasure in the humiliation of Muslims and also relish the deception and duplicity with which all this is done — in the name of hygiene, legality,economy, etc. — reflects poorly on them. India is definitely in crisis, but Hinduism is facing a greater crisis.
Indian Muslims have often been lauded patronisingly for having rejected the call of the Islamic State. They have invested heavily in the idea of secular India and stood by it. Can the same be said about Hindus in 2017? By siding with a politics which marginalises minorities and seeks to subjugate them, they are losing their soul.
Gandhi had warned Hindus in his last days that if destroyed in India or Pakistan, Islam has other lands to realise its spiritual potential but if Hinduism is destroyed in India, it has no hope. By destroying others, it first destroys itself. It can grow, not by competing with others, but with itself. Gandhi was silenced not only because he favoured Pakistan or Muslims but also because he was constantly challenging Hindus. He considered it a weakness and sin for religion to align with the state — this was a lazy path, outwardly strong but hollow of spiritual content.
After Gandhi, this critical tradition in Hinduism stopped. Hinduism is not a source of creativity for literature and the arts in India any more. The references to religion we find in music and dance also demonstrate that there is no new imagination of Hinduism, it is largely nostalgia for an imagined past. We do see modern philosophers using Islamic or Christian resources to address the dilemmas of our times. Hinduism has only pop philosophers giving sermons and churning out popular literature who ultimately build large statues of gods or turn propagandists for political Hindutva. It is exclusionary, inward-looking and fears to engage with others.
The rise of the Hindu state of India is thus also the decline and impoverishment of the promise of Hinduism. The corrosion of the state’s institutional structure would affect our worldly life but this unchallenged take-over by Hindutva would turn Hinduism soulless. The task of recovering the Hindu self will not be easy then.
Asaduddin Owaisi is the president of the All India Majlis-e Ittehadul Muslameen. He is a three time Member of Parliament representing the Hyderabad constituency in the Lok Sabha. He was honoured with Sansad Ratn Award for overall best performance in the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.
Owaisi is known for his articulation on constitutional rights of the Muslim community in India. His party is trying to move beyond Hyderabad and expand its base to other parts of the country. In this interview with Asad Ashraf, Owaisi talks about his party's loss in Uttar Pradesh , the crackdown on meat shops in UP and the question of the Pasmanda community within Muslims among other issues. Excerpts:
Q: After the electoral debacle in Bihar, you came out saying that the party will perform better in the Uttar Pradesh election as there was some party structure there and that people are working on the ground in the state. What do you have to say about your recent loss in Uttar Pradesh?
A: It is sad that we didn’t get success. However, victory and loss are a part of the electoral process and I humbly accept the people’s verdict. I am happy though that through this election I have been able to establish my party in the state. We will introspect into the causes of defeat and try to overcome them in the next elections.
Q: Quite a number of leaders from secular outfits and analysts have been pointing that your entering the electoral fray in Uttar Pradesh caused religious polarisation, essentially because you spoke exclusively for the Muslims. What are your thoughts on that?
A: The question here is that if I have contested 35 seats out of 403 seats, how does it cause polarisation? Secondly, many Muslim scholars and ulemas urged Muslims to vote for Dalit parties. Thirdly, during the tenure of Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh there were 400 communal riots, a riot like Muzaffarnagar happened, there were custodial deaths, Samajwadi party was engaged in its own family feud, Bahujan Samaj Party gave tickets to 100 Muslim candidates. Leaders and analysts who have been pointing fingers at me do not have the courage to question why justice was not given to the victims of communal riots. Why did Muslim candidates of the BSP lose? Why did Congress lose seats in Amethi and Rai Barelli? Counter-polarisation did not take place because of me but due to the misgovernance of Samajwadi Party.
I did not contest elections in Jharkand, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir. Why did BJP form the governments in these states? Is it also because of me?
Q: Going through the population composition of places where you had fielded your candidates in UP, it appears you had put them up where there were large chunks of Muslim population. Why so when you claim that you are not merely the representative of Muslims?
A: It was the first time that we were contesting elections in Uttar Pradesh. Like other parties we also have our electoral calculations. It was the party’s decision to contest the election on these seats. I am sure if I had placed my candidates in other seats and not these, you would have had another question on similar lines for me.
Q: By following your interviews and speeches quite closely one can observe that you talk about the constitutional rights of the minorities and other marginalised communities. But why is there a perception among the masses at large that Asaduddin Owasi is communal?
A: What is happening in this country is that you don’t talk about Sharia, you leave the matter of Triple Talaq for Hindutva, you don’t eat meat for Hindutva, you sacrifice your culture for Hindutva, and for secularism, you end your political participation. If I take a position against meat ban, Hindutva, ill-representation of the Muslim community politically I am branded as communal. I really can’t help it.
Q: How do you see your politics in the future? Experts and scholars believe that there cannot be any future for a political party which solely talks about the issues and rights of Muslims in this country.
A: It will be too early to comment on that. I suggest you write an obituary after my death. If I don’t get success in my own life, the future generations will reap the benefits out of my politics.
Q: There is another brand of politics within the Muslim community which identifies itself as backward ~ the Pasmandas. These groups do not accept you as their leader and claim that you represent upper caste Muslims. What do you have to say about that?
A: Yes, there are social groups within Muslims. However, I don’t identify myself as a Pasmanda or Ashraf. I only identify myself as a Muslim. In fact, I have clearly stated that Dalits should include Muslim Dalits too. My position is that the 1950 presidential order be removed which violates different fundamental rights of the Constitution.
Q: What is your position on the recent crackdown on meat shops and the attack on the economy of a certain community?
A: We all have to struggle against it. Muslims have been struggling for long and they will continue to do so. But I also think that secular forces such as Samajwadi Party are responsible for this crackdown and not just BJP. Why didn’t they renew the licences of the slaughter houses whose licences had expired? You knew that Rs 11,000-crore revenue was coming from the export of meat. Why didn’t you renew them?
As far as BJP is concerned, their hypocrisy is not hidden. It is the party which talks about the beef ban in North India and assures that people in North East will get to eat beef. As I said earlier, “Cow is mummy for BJP in North India and yummy in North East India.”
Q: It is often said that the Muslim community has to undergo some kind of social reformation. What is your position on that?
A: I strongly believe that the key to any kind of reform is political participation. As the late Kanshiram used to say, if we have political representation as a community our status both socially and economically will improve. It must be understood that for any reforms to take place within a community, their political participation must be ensured and they must have adequate representation in Parliament and state assemblies.
Break the Grand feudal Pakistani alliance
Apr 15, 2017
The roots of export of terror from Pakistan lie in the Grand feudal alliance that the leaders of that country have cobbled up. Nehru had implemented land reforms in India that broke the backbone of rural feudal lords. He also put private businesses on the leash by declaring that commanding heights of the economy will be held by the public sector. Indira Gandhi carried that movement forward with the nationalisation of banks and the coal industry. That broke the stranglehold of the capitalists on the country. Such was not done in Pakistan.
Feudal landlords ruled the countryside and trade and industry were controlled by a small coterie of business houses. The political parties pandered to these ruling families. They needed an issue that would divert the attention of the people from the inequities perpetrated by this alliance. The issue of Kashmir came in handy for this purpose. The people, instead of opposing the alliance for its anti-people policies, turned around and supported it for its stand on Kashmir. The Pakistan army extended support to this alliance. They found they could get large amounts of arms and money as long as the Kashmir issue was kept burning. The ruling parties and the army propped up jihadi groups to push the Kashmir issue on centrestage. Kashmir and jihadis, therefore, are integral part of the strategy to divert the people’s attention from the economic inequality that is pervasive in Pakistan.
The emergence of Al-Qaeda and Taliban enabled America to join this alliance as its fourth member. America had its own agenda against Taliban in Afghanistan and a resurgent India, whom America has never trusted. In order to make the government of Pakistan take up the war against Taliban and in order to create a counterweight to resurgent India, it was necessary for the Americans to support this alliance. In return for support from America, the alliance agreed to move against the Taliban, at least on the surface, and keep up pressure against India. Thus America turned the Pakistani government against its own people. This is the root of all pervasive anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. The Americans furthermore pushed the Pakistani governments to open up the Pakistan economy for American companies. Thus, one more member was co-opted in the grand alliance—the American multinational. My assessment is that the people of Pakistan are not happy with the Americans. They are more inclined to forge a friendship with China. Thus, the ruling alliance walks on a tightrope between America and China. They seek financial and military support from both America and China to keep the other at bay.
Generally speaking, economic reforms mean that businesses will compete with each other and bring prices down. Not so in Pakistan. Here economic reforms mean that a cartel of MNCs and local businessmen would be free to charge exorbitant prices and fleece people. As a result, Pakistani society split into two mutually hostile parts. The naked and jobless common man stood on one side. On the other side stood a grand alliance of feudal landlords, business houses, multinational corporations, and the Pakistan army with the American government standing ready in attendance to help if and when required. Pakistan government and Army have roped in the jihadis to bolster their bargaining power against the Americans, and, at the same time, deflecting the attention of the common man from poverty and other problems. Their purpose is secured by ‘optimal’ terror—big enough to be invoked as a trump card before the Americans and small enough that it does not push India to take a definitive action.
The perception of China as a friend among the Pakistani people causes a schism between them and India. In their view, India is their enemy since India is a friend of their enemy America. Again, in their view, India is their enemy since India is an enemy of their friend China. The anti-India sentiment in Pakistan is being fuelled by the support of the alliance to the jihadis. It is being strengthened by the perception of India being a friend of America and an enemy of China.
Government of India wants to put pressure upon the Pakistan government to take action against the jihadis. This policy will not deliver. The jihadis have a vital role in the survival of the alliance. They deflect the attention of the people from the anti-people doings of the alliance. The anti-people agenda being followed by the alliance will get exposed if the jihadis go low. We are asking the alliance to dig its own grave by putting a leash on the jihadis. It is a waste of our energies if we try to turn the alliance against the jihadis. Instead of trying to create a schism between the alliance and the jihadis; we must try to create a schism between the people on one side and the alliance and the jihadis on the other. The solution will come from weakening the alliance itself just as we did with Sheikh Mujib in Bangladesh.
We should provide big financial support to international donors and route the funds to people’s civil liberties organisations of Pakistan to raise the issue of economic inequality against the ruling alliance and foster internal dissention. Global donors regularly give funds to foster internal dissention against governments that do not toe their line. We should do the same. We should try to establish a pro-common man government in Pakistan which will create a soft society and remove the need for the government to rely on the jihadis to deflect the attention of the people from poverty. In one go, we shall liberate the Pakistani people from the tyranny of the grand alliance and also secure friendly government across our borders.
Second, we must reexamine our pro-American anti-China stance. Here we can take a lesson from China. That country has often taken an anti-American stance, such as in respect to North Korea, yet obtained advanced commercial technologies from American multinationals. It has also developed advanced military hardware despite lack of cooperation from America. We must do the same. We must extend our hand of friendship to China. We can create a pro-Indian sentiment among Pakistani people if we become friends with China and enemies with America. We have to make a hard choice whether we want to lose the support of Pakistani people by being seen as supporters of their enemy America and enemy of their friend China; or we will befriend the Pakistani people by distancing ourselves from America and embracing friendship with China.