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Interfaith Dialogue (26 Nov 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Is a Dalit Muslim Unity Possible?

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

26 November 2016

The recently held Jamiat Ulema e Hind Conference n Ajmer gave a call for Dalit Muslim unity. Laudable in its objectives because of the marginal positions of both these communities, it is but natural that they should come together to fight the perceived oppressions against them from the right wing parties, particularly the BJP which is understood as the party of Brahmanical dominance. Given the fact that in a few months, there will be elections in Uttar Pradesh where both these sections can play a decisive role, the call assumed greater political significance. After all, dalits have been out of power in Uttar Pradesh since two decades and Muslims have never been so marginal in terms of political representation in Uttar Pradesh. Moreover, the Samajwadi Party, the ruling party and the party of choice for Muslims ever since it came to power, has failed to protect the life and liberty of Muslim, especially in the last three years. With incidents like Muzzaffarnagar and the rhetoric of Kairana Hindu exodus, it was a natural thing for the Muslims to look for a party other than the Samajwadi and they perhaps rightly think that it is only the BSP which has the potential to defeat the BJP electorally. 

From the Sachar Committee Report onwards, all analyses of the Muslim situation, particularly in the context of Uttar Pradesh is pointing towards the convergence of Muslim situation and the Dalit situation. In terms of representation as well as in terms of threat to identity, Muslims and Dalits today seem to be on the same scale of vulnerability. It would not be out of place to suggest that in terms of representation and other social indicators like education, Dalits seem to be catching up and in cases becoming better than the Muslims.

The Muslims, through years of faulty political choices have lagged behind and are today in a situation where it would not be wrong to group them together with the Dalits. But more importantly, the threat to identity has assumed alarming proportions. Dalits and Muslims have been the victims of targeted attacks on the basis of their identity. While in some cases, it has been an assault from the right wing Hindu forces, in other cases, they have been attacked due to a perceived sense of upward mobility among them which is resented by the dominant middle castes.

It shouldn’t be surprising therefore is both these blocks come together under the umbrella of BSP. The Jamiat Conference is merely articulating which seems to be the felt need within the Muslim community. The alliance will be formidable but will it also be sustaining and stable? Historically Muslims have voted with the SP, the ruling party of Uttar Pradesh. In fact when Mayawati was voted out of power, it was the Muslim vote which shifted from the BSP to the SP. How then are we to believe that the alliance will stand the test of times. And what lies behind the ambivalence of the Muslim community to rally behind Mayawati?

The answer perhaps lies in the self-perception of Muslims of Uttar Pradesh. Although all indicators suggest that Muslims are at the lowest rung of the ladder in Uttar Pradesh, the perceptions amongst Muslims continues to be that they are culturally the dominant community in Uttar Pradesh. There is an abject refusal to come to terms with the present situation and Muslims remain mired in the fantastic past in which they think themselves to large landlords and the ones who brought civilization to this part of India.

An average Muslim here is as caste conscious as an average upper caste Hindu. The problem is that even Muslims who belong to lower castes consider themselves to be firmly entrenched with the Ashraf culture of upper caste Muslims in Uttar Pradesh. The lower caste Muslim artisan or businessman who has seen economic upward mobility desires to be accepted within the upper caste Muslim subculture and for that reason denies his lower caste identity. This denial is very important to understand why any lower caste Muslim mobilization has not been successful within Uttar Pradesh. Because this denial leads them to consciously abrogate any ties which they have to other lower castes. Islam becomes the lone signifier in such a situation and secular identities like caste and region recede in the background. It is because of this that there is hardly any public proclamation of the acceptance of caste within Uttar Pradesh Muslim politics.

Thus in all probability, this alliance is going to be a political alliance of convenience. It would have been much better if this alliance would also become a social alliance between Dalits and Muslims. But for that to happen, Muslims have to engage with the entrenched caste practices and ideas within their own community. It is all very well to say that Islam does not recognise caste, but anyone who is familiar with Muslim society would say that Muslims are as casteist as the Hindu society. Only through a thorough interrogation which is internal to the community, can one visualize a true Dalit-Muslim unity. It is heartening to note that the Jamiat has had the voice to articulate such a unity. A good start to show that they are serious about the issue would be to raise the issue of discrimination faced by the Muslim Dalits themselves at the hand of upper caste Muslims.

Arshad Alam is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/arshad-alam,-new-age-islam/is-a-dalit-muslim-unity-possible?/d/109203

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  • Comment by Mohd. Imran. What he has proposed seems illogical. Muslims cannot marry a non-Muslim. Even if such marriages are performed, these are nothing more than live-in partnership which is not at all permitted in Islam. There are various reasons for that, not only religious but also social.

    One may argue that live-in relationship is permissible in India, legally. But is it permissible as per Hindu faith? I would like to know. I know of few couples who live as live-in partners. But I am yet to see one such couple with children. What is the reason for not having children? It needs to be analyzed and understood. In fact in such relationships there have been problem of a peculiar kind. The two persons lived like husband and wife for all practical purposes. But as soon as the girl wanted to have full-fledged marriage, the boy or the boy’s family did not agree. In such cases girls have been filing cases of rape. I am unable to decipher how that kind of situation be considered rape? After all they were living together by desire. But I am not aware of the legal position. If the opposite happened i.e. the girl or her family did not agree to marriage, the boy had no choice except to sing the songs of films like "Devdas". I understand that the boys cannot claim to have been seduced, legally.

    The second issue in such marriages is of the next generation. The couple may say: “Hell with religion and faith. We are OK, so it is OK.” But the question is- will the society accept the children of such marriages? By accepting, I mean-will the society give their own daughters/sons to such children in marriages? Certainly Muslims will not. I am not aware of the Hindu society. I would like to be enlightened.

    There are other issues too like that of inheritance. Lot of problems will be there as others (not the children) who can become legal heirs of properties will forward their claims and the same cannot be denied as the children will not be children, legally. Participation in religious ceremonies etc. will be additional problem. So the next generation will suffe badly.

    As far as caste system is concerned, Islam does not approve any. We find this only in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. i.e. erstwhile Undivided India. Muslims adopted it here. But they must give up as it is anti-Islamic. Hence, once a person is Muslim, the person is just Muslim and nothing else. the person's antecedents have no value.

    By Dr. M.A. Haque - 11/30/2016 2:03:46 AM

  • Muslims will make common cause with the Dalits after they sit down and eat meals with Dalit castes and when they accept intermarriage with Dalit groups. Nothing will change before that.
    By mohammad Imran - 11/29/2016 9:08:57 AM

  • Mr, Narain Din Valmiki M.P. told me this story. Baba Sahib Dr, Ambedka after studying  all the religions asked his close followers to adopt Sikhism.
    Then he himself marched to Amritsar to become a Sikh. On his way he was shown that caste still exists in Sikhism, Finally, he was told about the 'chautha paura.' Fouth side of the holy tank of Amritsar. Dalits could only use that side. Secondly, Sikhism was a tiny minority. He attached the Dalits with the largest religion Budhism.   

    By Bhandari P. Singh - 11/28/2016 7:30:29 PM

  • After a long duration I have read something reasonably balanced from Mr. Alam, otherwise he generally goes on arguing that Muslims are the root of all 'evils' in India.

    By Dr. M.A. Haque - 11/28/2016 1:50:50 AM

  • "Mayawati said while addressing Dalits “You are not Hindus.” She further added, “BJP is doing vote bank politics and it is misguiding Dalits and Muslims.” She specifically took Dalits name with Muslims to make them understand that they are not Hindus." - ("Internet Hindu")

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 11/27/2016 12:14:12 PM

  • Dalit will be fifth  time cheated if this unity comes into existence.

    Cheating sequence.
    1) Hindus cheated them for centuries.

    2) Islam came and cheated even smartlier by just allowing them into mosque. But did used as political alliance during the creation of Pakistan, where first law minister form lower caste has to run later on and come to India.

    3) Christian came as just imperial power to double exploit.

    4) Our poor sick Sikh brothers not even ready to consider Valmiki Sikh as their own but as Hindu Low caste and its Hindu problem.

    Dalit should reject all this four bullshit major relgions who were here for centuries and never care about, as one our senior( in age)commentator says that Islam is poor, but it is not case in India.

    Hindu had one good system of creating gods which Hindus never minded, Baba Ambedkar and Jyotiba Phule should be there new gods and reject all the relgions that are trying to cheat them, they should declare them non-hindus who are first hand oppressor of Dalits, they can take refuge in Buddisium which had never cheated mankind.

    And should not be cheated by follower of Islam which also never offered them anything but cheating Auliyas and Fake Sufi babas( not all Sufis in India were cheating)

    I am Hindu but never mind even if anything is against us if it is truth, which was very much true for New Muslim when Islam came, Here are words from Tarekh Fateh मूसलमान जूढ नहीं बोल सकताता था अगर वो उसके खीलाफ भी हो।

    By Aayina - 11/26/2016 8:52:35 PM

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