By S. M. Anwar Hussain
Last month, there was a small conglomeration of Muslim political activists from all over India at the India Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi. Around 80 Muslims of different political shades and visions had gathered there including people from Congress, RJD, Peace Party, Rashtrya Ulema Council, AAP , Muslim League and some from Muslim/ Dalit outfits. The occasion was organised by , Popular front of India an socio-cultural outfit which is active pan India particularly southern states. Before participating in this ‘Muslim Political Convention’ I was under the impression, partly influenced by our national media and partly because of my own ignorance, that the PFI is a party promoting extremism , militancy and obscurantism in the Muslim community- a reactionary socio/political organisation in nature.
When I entered the venue Mr E. Abu Bakar , the national President of PFI was speaking. It was my first experience to listen to the head of such a kind of organization, which I never held in any esteem, face to face.I started listening to him with rapt attention. He was actually not speaking, but was reading out a written speech in Urdu. One can understand the difficulty of a Keralite when he is trying to read his key note address in Urdu. (It is a hard truth that once Urdu was the lingua franca of the country but it couldn’t not make in roads through Kerala). He didn’t take a long time. And contrary to my expectation he appeared moderate, well balanced, rationale, and like all South Indian Muslims very pragmatic and practical. Neither he boasted nor claimed of some big achievements or bulldozed the perceived enemy or maligned any person. Like any other politically conscious Indians, he was full of concerns for the present political situation of the country in general, and complete marginalisation of Indian Muslims, in particular. Along with BJP, and RSS, wrongly or rightly he blamed the Congress party also for the deteriorating conditions of Muslims of India. However, he refrained from asking people not to vote for Congress or vote for any particular political outfit. Neither, he never mentioned any intention of going into polls. The purpose of this “ Political Convention appeared ‘to create a consensus among various political outfits on a charter of demands to be later on presented to various secular political parties with a request to incorporate it in their manifesto.
The manifesto was nearly comprehensive, and it covered most of the areas concerned with Muslims. What was missing was a holistic and nationalistic approach. It was silent on country’s economic policy. It didn’t manifest any vision towards the health concerns of common people. It didn’t speak of unemployment. It was silent on the suicide of farmers. It didn’t have to say anything on the country being mortgaged to the corporate sector. It exhibited a complete shortsightedness on the issue of fast growing trend of toxic farming (and poisonous fisheries) that will sooner or later convert our crop yielding fields into barren land finally being thrown away to big corporate houses. It lacked any vision towards the present foreign policy of India that has no respect for the sentiments of its 18% population. And in this situation where the country is about to slip into darkness and unimaginable chaos, it failed to give any clarion call to people in general and Muslims in particular.
It was a short session- first the resolutions were put on the table and a short discussion was allowed. Actually on such an important document, a long and elaborate discussion was needed. It reflected one thing that the organisers in their conscious or sub- conscious level had already figured out that whatever they had drafted is absolutely complete and they just needed an approval or nod from the audience. Thankfully some of the amendments suggested were promised to be accommodated. What happened to these resolutions, to how many parties they were presented to, and how many parties accommodated them in their manifesto, I am not aware of that . Only after going through the manifesto of the Congress party, I realised that although in a completely different jargon Congress has incorporated many of visions suggested by PFI knowingly or unknowingly. However, one thing was clear from the character of demands presented by PFI that if our secular parties are still not ready to accommodate the hopes and aspirations of minorities, there are people who can chart out a separate political path for them by bringing other marginalised communities together . And that will be not a good omen for the nation in the long run . India is a people of different races, beliefs, religions, cultures, languages and food habits. In this divergence the binding force is the vision provided by its constitution authors and freedom fighters which aspired for prosperity of all the hues and tings , flavors and the aroma scattered all over the country. If the hope and aspirations of different sections are belied or majoritarianism plays the big brotherly role, it will open doors for every minority, and every cast to float its own party and that will be the first step towards disintegration.
My idea here is not to write about the PFI conclave, but to discern and dissect the mindset of the Muslims of north India. Those who belonged to north India and spoke that day manifested a mindset as if they are living in a Congress vs Muslim League arena or at a time where BJP/ Jana Sangh stood nowhere and Indian political and power spectrum was just divided among many secular parties like, Socialists, Communists and Jana Sangh was not a political force to reckon with. I felt I was transformed into my student days where we used to blame the Congress for our every debacle and failure and decadence. I am not saying that this kind of discourse is wrong. What I want to suggest that with time we should bring some variations in our discourse and understanding and approach. That day it reflected from most of the speeches, especially from those who once were seen as seasoned politicians and were already having the honour of sitting in state assemblies and Parliament, that they were completely oblivion of what kind of danger is lurking over our heads- not only over our heads but the dark clouds are hovering over the whole country, from south to north and from east to west. Nobody seems to realise that worst kind of fascism are knocking at the door and not only Muslims but every section of the people is going to face a very horrible and unimaginable difficult time in India- . We have developed a political habit or approach to equate the tardiness, incompetence, unfairness, discriminations towards Muslims by Congress with that of BJP and RSS.
We have seen in last five years what kind of treatment has been meted out to us .Our constitutional rights have been thrown out in the dustbin , our right to live, our right to speak, our right to practice our own religion, our right to build our places of worship, our right to eat food of our own choice— everything is being denied, threatened and challenged very unabashedly and ruthlessly. Did we face such a situation before whether it was the government of Congress, Janta Party or Janta Dal except on and off communal clashes. We completely forgot that today we are able to give vent to our grievances sitting in New Delhi, openly and not in hiding, and tomorrow if the situation remains the same, even this gathering could be treated as sedition.
I am not defending Congress. I do accept that Congress is responsible for many ills. Yes not only many but many. The locks of Babri Masjid were opened under its supervision. Babri Masjid was demolished under its rule. Batla House encounter took place directly under its nose. Draconian laws were made under its rule and hundreds of educated and innocent Muslim youths were put behind the bar for more than a decade during its rule. Thousands of anti-Muslim riots took place during congress rules and the Congress never brought to book any rioter. But even then, can we equate Congress with BJP or RSS?
We too have to change our priorities. Yesterday , for many of us socialism and socialist parties were the option, but we can’t forget that in the wake of the worst communal riots in Gujarat, none of these socialist leaders resigned from the ministry including the socialist stalwarts like George Fernandes and Sharad Yadav. Not to mention Ram Vilas Paswan. For them Gujrat pogrom was something normal.
Those who try to equate Congress with BJP are either unaware of history or deliberately want to ignore the truth. I too used to be diehard anti Congress. But the experience faced in last five years has compelled me to change my political thought and approach. There is no doubt that Congress is responsible for our present predicament, but it is also a truth that BJP and RSS want to finish our existence from India either by turning it into Burma or Spain, where as Muslims owe their existence in India today to Congress. Isn’t it a historical truth that when India went through a very illogical and unreasonable partition, the whole of Indian Muslim population, who could financially afford to travel to Pakistan ،had packed their baggage and were about to set out on their journey, it was the Congress in the leadership of Gandhiji، Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad that came forward and requested Muslims not to migrate from India, and assured Muslims that they will be treated at par with everybody. This is an altogether a different matter that with the passage of time Congress forgot its promises and assurances and proved to the world that the fear on the basis of which Jinnah made the demand of Pakistan was not solely without truth.
But the changing discourse and aggressive rhetoric’s of Rahul Gandhi seems to suggest that he has realized his party’s mistakes in the past and has identified RSS as the biggest sinner and the ugliest threat to the future of the country. He is getting aggressive day by day against RSS and its satanic vision. Also if we look back at Manmohan Singh’s period, we cannot fail to notice some positive changes in the attitude of Congress towards Muslims, except the framing of some draconian laws in the name of national security. Congress tried sincerely to empower Muslims in concrete and structural basis and Sachar Committee report, declaration of minority character of Jamia Millia establishment of MANU and backing AMU to work independently as a full-fledged minority institution are some steps in that direction. Can’t the secular India forget the past mistakes and unitedly stand behind Rahul Gandhi. Let us give him a chance. And I have a strong intuition as a social activist analyst that Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi is going to bounce back. It is going to lead from every state except few- UP, Bengal and Orissa. Even there its vote bank is going to increase many fold.
Once Congress is back to power, don’t become passive. Be demanding, learn to assert both from within and from outside. Form pressure groups in every parliamentary constituency .Keep your parliamentarians at tenterhooks. Approach the high command if your MP works only in helping contractors or take interstate in transfer posting only.
The author is ex-president of AMUSU.He can be reached at : firstname.lastname@example.org