Muslim Community: Think before you Vote

THE GENERAL elections have begun in the country. In the coming 25 days, the world’s largest democracy will elect a new government. But one thing that peeves me is the way the political parties are trying to garner votes from the Muslims of the country. Instead of uniting the different sections of society, which ideally is their job, many politicians are playing the “Divide and Rule” game which the British preached, to keep their vote banks intact.

MJ Akbar has mentioned in an article that “A history of riot, and the threat from organizations like the Bajrang Dal are sewn into wild conspiracy theories by ‘leaders’ of the community to shape minds on the eve of an election. For secular politicians, the Muslim vote comes at an easy exchange rate. Other communities demand rice and roads. The Muslim needs nothing more than the old ploy used to help children go to sleep: stories of ghosts and monsters at the door.”

Almost 62 years of independence, 14 Lok Sabha elections and numerous Assembly elections, Muslims are still falling prey to the gimmick of our politicians. And this time too the story isn’t different. In the last one month we have seen politicians from various political parties projecting themselves as true saviors of the community.

Varun Gandhi’s rhetoric at Pilibhit landed him in jail. What Varun said was indeed shameful but the act of charging him under NSA by Mayawati government was clear move to woo the Muslim votes. Laloo Prasad Yadav then said that he would run the road roller on Varun Gandhi. Then Congress’s D Srinivas went a step further and threatened to “chop off the hands of those pointing fingers at the minorities.” A million dollar question is, Would Varun Gandhi be capable of doing what he said? I don’t think so. But these politicians made sure that they use Varun Gandhi to their advantage and projected him as the biggest threat to Muslim community.

The Babri Mosque demolition was one of the shameful incidents to happen in the history of independent India. After spending more than a decade on the lap of the Congress, Laloo realised that Congress was responsible for the demolotion incident as well. But the timing of his speech was such that it clearly showed that he wanted to prove that Muslims have to fear both the national parties and vote for him instead. Unfortunately, he forgot that there are more issues concerning to the community which needs to be addressed right away. But then he somewhere knows that this is the best way to gather Muslim votes. Seems Laloo is a champ in playing such vote bank politics.

Mulayam Singh Yadav projects himself as the messiah for Muslims. Ask him what he has done in Uttar Pradesh, while he was in power, for 23 per cent Muslims living in the state. He very happily argued that SIMI should not be banned. Though there are clear links between SIMI and few of terror strikes in the country. Isn’t this an act to appease Muslims? Also to consolidate the Lodh votes in the state he didn’t hesitate to include Kalyan Singh in his party. The same Kalyan Singh whom he had once labeled, a villain of the Babri Mosque demolition. He now has justified that Kalyan Singh was not responsible at all.

Why didn’t government try to investigate on the local support for 26/11 attacks?

What did Dr Manmohan Singh mean when he quoted that “Muslims should have first take on nation’s resources”? Aren’t they granted equal rights by the Constitution of the country? Can’t the condition of Muslims be improved by creating more awareness and making the resources more accessible to them rather then appeasing them? Won’t the broader problem remain unsolved by just appeasing them? Why didn’t any political party oppose to the lollypop of reservations to Muslims? Isn’t it similar to creating vote banks with caste based politics? Why not have some other criteria for reservations apart from caste and religion?

The answer to all the questions above lie in what MJ Akbar had once written in his article. “Indian Muslims will get development the day they vote for development. For sixty years they have voted out of fear, so that is what they have got from those they elected: the politics of fear.”

The community needs to self introspect and avoid being used as a vote bank. Community leaders need to empower their community through better education and awareness. Muslims have to realise they will get development only when they demand and vote for it. They need to seek answers from their leaders. They should make their elected personal more accountable. Things will change, if the community takes the initiative to bring that change. People of country will readily support them if they are given privileges as a citizen of this country and not as Muslims of the country. Change has to come within community itself.

A closed mind can never liberate a community from the shackles.

Should there be Reservations for Muslims?

Reservations have become a political gimmick in India. Just before the elections you will see our ‘sensible politicians’ showing this lollypop to certain communities to create vote bank. In Maharashtra, Marathas have been demanding for reservations. Now the latest news is that Sharad Pawar has conceded to the demand of Muslims being given reservations. I was on a television show on behalf of Youth for Equality (YFE) for discussing this issue of Muslim Reservations. YFE has always maintained that the reservations should only be on economic basis and the opinion is no different on this issue either. There are many hurdles in giving the reservations to Muslims.

First, India being a secular country, reservations on the basis of religion is just not justified. Second, the reservation on the religional basis is not valid constitutionally. Muslim leaders want the recommendation of Sachar and Ranganatha Mishra Commission report to be implemented. And they feel that their condition is worst than those of dalits in our country and hence there should be some especial privileges for them so that they can be brought in the main stream and participate in the nation building.

It is no denying that the condition of Muslims is not great in our country. Sachar Committee had these startling facts to reveal that only 4% of Muslims graduated from schools; only 4.9% had representation in government employment; 3% in the IAS; 1.8% in the IFS and 4% in IPS; their per capita expenditure was less than that of SCs and STs in many areas; only 1.9% of them benefited from the Antyodya Anna Yojna; only 2.1% farmers owned tractors and just 1% owned hand pumps for irrigation.

A large portion of the Muslim community in India is suffering from a sense of alienation and frustration. They have been victims of both direct and indirect discrimination. A special effort is thus needed to bring them to the mainstream. But giving them Reservations is not going to solve this problem. It might benefit few but in long run this will prove detrimental to the future of this country.

  • The policy is short sighted.
  • It is just a method to create the vote bank.
  • The rift between Hindus and Muslims will further widen with these reservations. It may lead   to more bitterness, jealousy, communal hatred and disintegration.

Before giving them reservations we must need to get into the details. The details should include, how many Muslim students enroll to the school, how many apply for the jobs, etc. If there is less number then what is the prime reason behind this. Unless we try to focus on the crux of the problem, we will not be able to do justice and might end up with more problems for the community and country.

So then what is the solution?

  • The first thing that the community must do is to think while voting and should not play in the hands of selfish politicians. It is undeniable fact that till date, Muslims have been just used by the political parties.
  • They must also open their own gates. I feel that some where Muslims have alienated themselves from the main stream. They must do self introspection on their backwardness and find reason for the same.
  • It is thus very essential that the community pushes for some reforms within. There should be equal rights for men and women. The clerics should avoid issuing weird “fatwas” and instead focus on the solutions to the problems surrounding the community.
  • The areas with majority of Muslim population, we can have more and more schools there. There should be some motivation and education programmes for parents as well so that they send their children to the schools. These schools should provide free education and books. The funds should not be the problem as World Bank and United Nations will help without any doubt.
  • Financial Assistance and 100% scholarships should be given to poor students. The corporate sector can manage funds for this.

These are the few solutions which should be implemented all over the country.

If we can have much better infrastructure and will to solve the problem then we can do that. Blindly giving reservations just shows the parochial thinking of our leaders. Reservations in the current form are just going to be a vote plank and nothing else. I agree that many have been benefited with the reservations but it has failed to reach to those who truly deserve.

If we really want to bridge the gap then we need to take some strong decisions. I would prefer that we must abolish all the caste based reservations and implement reservations on basis of economic ground. This way we can have affirmative actions for all deserving, belonging to any section of the society and at the same time not dividing the people. This in turn can bring the so desired change in the country.

To take the nation forward we must abolish the prevalent caste based politics and avoid any further division in the name of religion. This might be very optimistic view but it is indeed possible. I believe in it. Today’s youth believes in it.

Muslims in India after the 26/11 attacks

Muslims across the country are a worried lot post 26/11. Whenever there has been a terror strike in the country, Muslims are subject to suspicion and discrimination from the other communities and investigating agencies. Their loyalty to India is doubted. Unfortunately, some elements from both the communities (Hindus and Muslims), along with the dubious political class always ensures that there is continuous rift between the two communities so that may take advantage of it.

The common man is full of anger post-Mumbai attacks and Muslims too are not leaving any stone unturned to condemn the terror attacks. Even the celebration of E’id was scaled down. They want to present their viewpoint that terrorists are enemies not only of humanity, but also of the country, Indian Muslims and Islam. The clerics of the community have also refused to allow the burial of terrorists in any of their graveyard. “The bodies of these inhuman plotters against our motherland must not be buried anywhere on the Indian soil,” they said.

Terrorism in India has affected the Muslims of this country badly. It has provided a more conducive atmosphere for the political parties who survive on divisive ideology and destructive politics. There was a story in ‘Hindustan Times’ where the teacher who was upset with a Muslim girl in a Delhi convent school, called her ‘Pakistani’ in front of the entire class. There was an incident in Jet Airways flight where a passenger heckled a Muslim flight attendant citing her religion. There are various other instances as well. What is coming out of this is that across urban India there is anger and open prejudice against the Muslims.

I have no doubt that majority of Muslims in the country believe in the concept of one nation and are as patriotic as you and I are. I would like to question all those hypocrites who would look upon Muslims with an eye of suspicion but will watch SRK’s latest film or will cheer when Zaheer topples the batting order of opposing teams or will admire APJ Abdul Kalam as an icon or recite the poetry of Javed Akhtar. But this same group will not think twice before raising doubts over fellow countrymen.

Simi Grewal does not know the difference between the Islamic and Pakistani flag and makes absurd comments only to apologise later. But dear Simi, you have already done enough damage. The same is true for the majority population, which is proud of India’s secular fabric but will not think twice before raising suspicion about Muslims.

The problem within our country is that we have never developed a thinking of our own and have always played into the hands of selfish, power-hungry politicians. They have ensured that there is always an atmosphere of animosity between the two communities. BJP and Shiv Sena protest over the use of the word ‘Hindu Terrorism’ but have no qualms in accusing Muslims after every terror activity. Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav project themselves as messiahs of Muslims and will see every action in the interest of national unity as a bid to suppress the minority community.

Let’s face the real scenario. We as a citizen of this country are slowly and slowly shedding the concept of national integration. Muslims are made to believe by their top religious and political “messiahs” that they are being targeted in this country while Hindus leaders will attribute each and every problem related to internal security in the country to the Muslims. As a citizen, I want that there should be trust among all communities and we should be internally strong. The investigating agencies should carry the probe without any bias and influence from political authorities. If there is an anti-social element in any community we need to ensure that he is dealt with seriousness and is punished for his crime.

Greater political will is required to strengthen internal security. The issue of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants must be dealt with seriously. There should be no blame game in an hour of crisis until concrete evidence is available. Muslim clerics should also take the responsibility to protect their community members from any prejudice. Instead of issuing stupid ‘fatwa’ against Sania Mirza or Imrana, they should push for greater reforms within their community. They have the power to convince millions and they should use their reach for the betterment of the community.

On other hand, we should take a lesson from Pakistan that a nation formed on the basis of religion would end as a failed state and even an “international migraine”. The concept of India is based on its diversity and this makes our country special. We must not lose the beauty of our nation to such prejudice and bias. We need to work collectively to make our nation even stronger and that will be the fitting reply to all the anti-India forces.