Why Muslims should change their attitude towards politics

This is India specific but it can be applicable worldwide wherever Muslim votes matter

The Muslim community in India has been short-changed by almost every political party pretending to be espousing their cause. In the name of protecting them from the majority community, every political party plays on their apprehensions and fears, and since, unfortunately, such a cynical approach pays dividends, these political parties neglect pretty much everything that can actually help the Muslim community fight poverty and illiteracy. Consequently, the Muslim community remains one of the most backward and disadvantaged population segments in the country. Some of the figures speak for themselves.

According to a 2013 study by the government’s National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) titled “Employment and Unemployment Situation Among Major Religious Groups in India” India’s Muslims have the lowest living standard in the country on a per capita basis. While Sikhs spend Rs. 55.3 per day and Christians Rs. 51.4, Muslims spend a meagre Rs. 32.7. In 2009-10 an average Muslim household was spending in Rs. 980 per month compared to a Sikh household spending in Rs. 1659. A Hindu household spends Rs. 1125 per month and that of a Christian, Rs. 1543.

The Sachchar Committee Report says that the status of Indian Muslims is below the condition of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and this is when we have had one secular government after another for the past 60 years.

Talking of secularism, it is in our DNA and it wasn’t just introduced to our intellect through the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in 1976. India is a secular country not because all the non-BJP parties stuff the concept down our throats, it’s secular because this is how we have been living for thousands of years. Scores of religions have thrived concomitantly — many came from foreign lands and many developed indigenously. Even Islam that initially came as a religion of conquerors, got assimilated into the prevalent milieu of the country. Religious and cultural practices got interchanged and whatever new forms of religions we have these days are a result of that. We lost something, we gained something, and this is the kind of metamorphosis all civilisations go through, all over the world.

Anyway, that’s another issue. Vote bank politics is a curse in our country because it encourages political parties to concentrate solely on gimmickry without ever having to worry about delivering and performance. One could have seen some merit if vote bank politics also resulted in development and the betterment of the people being used as a vote bank. It has been observed wherever there is vote bank politics, development exists just on the papers, and the concern for development builds up only during elections. The same old promises and assurances are juggled around each election.

If you see the patterns, just before the elections, or even during the elections, there are some major riots and a sense of insecurity spreads through the minority community.

Survival, naturally, becomes the ultimate priority. “If you are not alive, what use you have of development and progress?” a young Muslim recently commented on a social networking website, and he made perfect sense. When it comes to survival and development, survival takes precedence.

But what the Muslim community needs to understand is they will keep going on in the same loop of safety-first-development-later if they don’t analyse the root cause of the problem. Do you think the BJP in general and Modi in particular will cause large-scale anti-Muslim riots?

During the past 12 years there have been no Hindu-Muslim riots in any BJP-ruled state whereas there have been multiple riots in the non-BJP-ruled states such as Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan (during Congress-rule). The Mumbai riots of 1992 were no less serious than the Gujarat riots and it was the Congress government at that time — you may say that the riots happened in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition, but then the Gujarat riots can also be attributed to the burning of a train. The point is, there was a Congress government and it couldn’t control the riots, the same blame that is put on the Gujarat Chief Minister. Many other riots in places like Bhagalpur, Jamshedpur, Meerut and Malliana took place when the respective States had a Congress Chief Minister. In 1984 it was the Congress that was responsible for the security of Delhi residents and you all know what happened.

Let’s quickly go through some figures now, of people who died in riots under the non-BJP-ruled governments in India.

Rourkela [1964] ruled by Congress => 2000 died
Jamshedpur [1979] ruled by CPIM => 125 died
Nellie, Assam [1983] ruled by Congress => 5000 died
Ahmedabad [1969] ruled by Congress => 512 died
1984 anti-Sikh riots ruled by Congress => 2733 died
Bhagalpur [1989] ruled by Congress => 1070 died
Mumbai [1992] ruled by Congress => 900-2000 died

These are but a small sampling of various communal riots that have taken place when BJP was not the ruling party.

Unfortunately, due to whatever reasons, media does not openly analyse these figures and put the right information in front of the public. Perhaps they know that an aware public can take better decisions and when it takes better decisions, it votes for better political parties.

In whichever manner its past is construed, for the first time there is a party that is trying to change the language of the discourse. Yes, it happens to be from the majority community, but that’s so natural in a country where Hindus constitute more than 80%. Narendra Modi doesn’t talk about Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Yadavs, Tamils and other such divisive segregations; he talks about Indians. This has happened for the first time. Instead of offering soaps to various individual communities, he promises development for all Indians, and when someone talks about all Indians, it naturally includes the Muslim community because even if one community is discriminated against, the entire purpose is defeated.

The problem with Muslims is — at least this is what is propagated repeatedly even by the so-called secular intellectuals — that Muslims vote to defeat the BJP rather than vote for a party that can do something concrete for them. Take for instance Lalu Yadav in Bihar. Lalu is the worst thing that can happen to a state and still he is once again emerging as a powerful figure even while he is out on bail and canvassing on borrowed time. Nitish Kumar miscalculated his political ambitions, but he is thousand times better than the roguish government that Lalu will bring once he gets enough support. Just because Muslims think that Nitish won’t be able to do much damage to the BJP, they are supporting Lalu, who stands a better chance with his cast formulas. Grapevine has it that many JD(U) supporters are working for the BJP rather than for their own party. Muslims will be voting for Lalu not because he will do any good for the state in general and for them in particular, but because they don’t believe that Nitish Kumar can stop the BJP. They are applying the same logic with AAP; wherever an alternative is not available but AAP is, they are voting for this party. They supported AAP in Delhi and everybody knows what happened. They have also decided to support it in Varanasi.

Voting for a secular party is obviously a better choice compared to voting for a communal party but then you have to understand whether the parties espousing the cause of secularism actually practice it or not. Most, don’t.

Don’t want to support the BJP, well, don’t, but don’t vote just to defeat it because then also in one way or another, it is controlling your voting behaviour. Right now, if you compare, the BJP seems to be the only party that does not use divisive language. It wants to take the country out of that 70s and 80s mentality when hollow promises and communal fear mongering would reap great electoral results. Its core support base does not come from people who want a temple or who nurture an inveterate dislike for other religions; its core support base comes from people who were fed up of the country lolling in the quagmire of backwardness and poverty forever. Its core support base is only bothered about development and accountability, at least, this is a language that is being used by the BJP and no other political party. It’s high time Muslims changed their attitude towards the politics of the country and voted in a government instead of voting it out.

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