Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
30 May 2019
is unanimous; India has elected BJP with a resounding verdict which has broken
the barriers of caste and in many instances, even region. It is as if there
seems to be a deep crisis within the Indian psyche to which the electorates
have responded, reposing their faith once again in Narendra Modi.
arraigned against the BJP fundamentally misread this national mood which earned
for a leader who was understood as decisive, bold and best suited for national
however, important to underline that Muslims voted overwhelmingly against the
BJP, for reasons which are historical as well as constructed by the opposition.
It is also important to underline that the opposition was very careful this
time not to talk about Muslim issues but despite this, Muslims voted overwhelmingly
in their favour. It was as if the opposition was constantly making efforts to
distance itself from the Muslims, but the Muslims themselves were hell bent on
voting for them.
things come to such a pass that the single largest party in the country, the
BJP, has no need for Muslim votes, and the opposition parties have taken the
Muslim votes for granted? Moreover, amidst the resounding victory of the BJP,
which has a distinctly pro-Hindu plank, how should the Muslim community respond
to such a political situation?
all-round dejection within Muslim community regarding the verdict, it is
important to remind ourselves that this is not about us alone. It is not
because of Muslims that the BJP has won. The party has won because there is a
fundamental shift within the consciousness of the Hindu population.
there is anyone who needs to think about the nature of this ‘new politics’ it
is the majority community. After all, it is the majority who makes the nation
state; minorities have always played a peripheral role. In India too, Muslims
have been peripheral to the national imagination and they will continue to be
so now also.
now, more than ever, Muslims need to do some deep thinking as to how things
have come to such a sorry pass that even their votes have stopped mattering.
Despair and self-loathing are not the solution. Perhaps this is the right time
to script a different political strategy by the community.
received wisdom within the community has been to vote for political parties who
promise to look after the Muslim interest. Within the last seventy odd years,
these Muslims interests have been narrowly defined as protection of their
symbolic assets like mosques, language and the personal law. Again, it were the
so called secular parties who were the perceived champions of protecting
minority rights. However, let us not forget that these so-called secular
parties also have their hands dripping with Muslim blood. Whether it was
Maliana, Bhagalpur, Meerut or Moradabad or Nellie, the secularism of the
Congress never became a hindrance when Muslims were to be killed, often with
the full complicity of state agencies. In recent memory, the Muzaffarnagar
anti-Muslim pogroms could not have taken place without the active connivance of
the ruling Samajwadi Party, again a so-called secular party and for whom
Muslims have voted overwhelmingly in this election in Uttar Pradesh. It is
equally true that the BJP did similar things to Muslims in Gujarat and other
But the important
question to ask is that if the community can forgive the Congress and the SP,
then why is it reluctant to forgive the BJP for a similar offence? Part of the
reason has been the actions of the BJP itself, but it is equally true that this
perception of Muslim antipathy towards the BJP has been created and fostered by
the so the called liberal and left parties for their own political benefit.
supporting these so-called secular parties, Muslims have not benefited in any
substantial manner over the years. They remain one of the most backward
communities in terms of education and employment. For long, these secular
parties have only treated Muslims as a vote bank. One would have expected that
in lieu of their support, the least that these parties could have done was to
ensure that Muslims do not get killed in communal riots directed against them.
Even this did not happen in many places; worse at times, these parties
themselves have been directly or indirectly involved in the killing of Muslims
to instil fear in them and get their votes. Today, after becoming politically
irrelevant, Muslims feel that they have been cheated by these parties. Those
who vouched for secularism such as the communists in Bengal have seen their
cadres wholesale shifting towards the BJP. Muslims have been left in the lurch
and now face an uncertain political future. They were marginalised economically
and educationally, now they don’t even matter in matters of forming any
Muslims need to think that even when their votes used to matter, the community
did not get anything in return. Some families might have benefited from such
political alliances, but the community as a whole continued to be deprived.
This was because Muslims never bargained with these parties for their own
development. Muslims never demanded either education or employment. For them it
was sufficient that their votes were enough to defeat the so-called communal
forces. Muslims unwittingly became an ideological force in this secular versus
need to realise that this secular versus communal divide was essentially
different articulations within a majoritarian discourse. Muslims should never
have become party to this ideological battle rather they should have looked after
their own interests primarily. Now perhaps is the time when they should realise
that from being an ideological force, they should become an interest group. As
an interest group, they should be able to bargain with all political parties
and should ideally go with that political formation which gives them the most
favourable material returns. No political party should be untouchable for them.
However, this kind of shift will not make a fundamental difference to the
extant Muslim politics. In this case also, Muslims will be transferring their
votes to some political party but once that party comes in power, there will be
no guarantee that they will listen to Muslim voices or that they will fulfil
the demands put to them by the Muslim community.
alternative, which will take much more time but will perhaps give better
returns in the long run is that Muslims should think in terms of forming their
own political parties. However, they should desist from forming an all India
Muslim party as that will lead to further Hindu consolidation, not to mention
the additional charge of trying to revive a separatist sentiment which the
Muslim League did years ago. Muslims must form their own political parties at
the regional level. Such regional formations should be steeped into the
cultural traditions of the region. The going will be tough initially as Muslims
are still loyal to various so-called secular formations.
subaltern groups, Muslims also possess a dominated consciousness and it require
years of hard work to convert them into a mode of dominant consciousness.
Eventually, they will realise that only a share in power can save them from
political oblivion. These regional Muslim parties must be open to all kind of
political alliances, including the BJP. The only thing that should matter is
who is giving them a better deal.
Muslim political formations succeed in capturing the imagination of people,
Muslims will see rapid socio-economic development in states like Assam and West
Bengal where their votes will matter to every political party aiming to form
the government. However, even in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where
Muslims are relatively less in numbers, this strategy will have a positive
impact. After all, Yadavs in Uttar Pradesh are only seven percent, but they
have the ambition of become chief ministers. If Muslims, who are much more than
the Yadavs, have ambitions to share power, who is going to stop them? It is
only through a sharing of power structures that Muslim lives will be secure. If
a government is dependent on the support of a Muslim party, then it will be
extremely difficult for the government to target Muslims.
We all know
that the police play partisan at the behest of the government. If a Muslim
political party is part of the government, the police will not be able to play
partisan. It is only when the lives of ordinary Muslims are secure can they
think in terms of education and employment. It is high time that the community
starts a debate on the possibility and consequences of having their own
Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com
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