By Haider Abbas
The campaign of Muslim Other Backward Classes (OBC) deserves, to be juxtaposed, in terms of the concurrence of social/historical/economic/political under-currents of the society as a whole. The Constitution of India terms for equality, as its punch-line, a document which later, BR Ambedkar himself wanted to burn , as he had foreseen the result as to what in the last 70 years has proven, that it is only Hindu Upper Castes who have taken ‘giant-leaps’ into progress while Lower Hindu castes, still are castigated to be the ‘wretched-of the earth’, despite the ‘provisions of reservation’, which by every standard has been discriminatory against Muslims by every fold.
Before delving into the debate raging around Other Backward Classes (OBC) Muslims I ought to make it clear that I have always abided by the maxim-of-being-a-Muslim, and has never in my private-or-public life, nursed ever an iota of discrimination against any Muslim.
The historical background
On the issue of OBC Muslims and the General Category Muslims, in legal terms, one needs to know it clear, that probably everyone inside the more than a billion Muslim community, all across the world, has been the one who has reverted (not converted) to Islam, except for Syeds, but that too is not a niche as Islam holds everyone accountable in terms of deeds and not on genealogy. Any Muslim who discriminates on its basis, will be tried, in the after world, even if one agrees it or not.
Islam is the religion which started with the beginning of the world, after the advent of the first Prophet Adam and his wife Eve. Every Sanatani, a term right now in currency in India, is a lost Muslim, with only one syntax-that Islam has never gone for idol worship, institutional clergy (Brahminism), consolidation of wealth and has always preached for equality. The teachings of Lord Ram, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha, Lord Mahavir, Lord Christ, Lord Moses etc have been misappropriated or to have got mutilated, by their respective followers, or else there is no doubt for them for them being Prophets before the final Prophet Muhammed, the last to have been sent by the Almighty God, 1400 years back. There are of course now thousands of mutilations to Prophet Muhammed’s ‘sayings’ and in the interpretation of the holy book-The Quran.
In the recorded history of Islam of 1400 years Muslims have ruled over more than half of the world, for over a millennium, and have fought against Jews, Christians, Sanatanis/ Hindus or atheists/agnostics etc, and more than that amongst themselves. When Muslims, for ‘want of power’, have fought inside themselves, like the one between Ibrahim Lodhi and Zaheer-ud-Din Babur (first battle of Panipat) or the way have bled-each other in the past around 45 years in Gulf, or in Pakistan or in Lucknow (over Shiite-Sunnite differences), the world cares a fig.
The Sanatan humbug
But, the issue under discussion is the caste/class-struggle inside Muslims within the Constitutional framework of India. But before that, a historic cue is needed, in the melee of Sanatanis seeking that if Hindus and Muslims DNA be matched-all will be the same, is so simplistic, as after all, every human born is a Muslim first. What has DNA to do with it? There have been millions of Christians and Jewish reverts to Islam with the same DNA. The logic is nothing short to laugh at. The theory of DNA is to assimilate, inferiortise and change Muslims towards Sanatan Dharma, apart from the anti-conversion laws, racial/religious onslaughts on Muslims in real and (the now) virtual world, as the only recipe around Muslim in independent India. The Shuddi (purification) movement, seeking Muslims to come-back into the Hindu foothold, was started by Swami Shraddhanand as a reciprocation to Muslims making him address from the ramparts of Delhi Jama Masjid, during the Khilafat movement. Such was the thanksgiving gesture from the Sanatani Hindu. Sanatan Dharma is what may be called as Sadev se Sadev tak (from times immemorial to times immemorial) and there is a resurgence of this term very aggressively since the advent of BJP PM Narendra Modi (2014).
The fissures inside Muslims
There have been vociferous notes, most vocal from the Momin Ansars, who are a section of OBC Muslims, since around two-decades in the age of internet, about ‘Ashraf (General) Muslims societal discrimination’ against the OBC Muslims. For Ansaris, it is a matter of ridicule that Ansaris (Julahas) of India invented stories of their linkages with Abu Ayub Ansari from Arabia, Mansooris ( Dhunias) from the Sufi Saint Al Mansoor, Rayee from the mountain Rayee of Arabia or Churihar from the first Caliph of Islam Abu Bakr Siddique etc.
What is the perplex point here is that if on the basis of profession a caste is appended, it would be worthy for the OBC Muslims to speculate as to which caste Muhammed Bin Qasim , Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi, Sultan Mehmood Ghauri, Ibrahim Lodhi, Amir Timur or Ahmed Shah Abdali came from? As after all, all these who invaded India must have been involved into some profession too? Speaking of chaste or ordinary Urdu, on which the entire Bombay cinema industry worth billions stands, or putting on a Sherwani ( which President of India dawns too) and which had always been the dress-code of Hindu Kayasthas or Hindu Upper Castes, down the centuries under Muslim rule, is a matter of ‘degrade’ for OBC Muslims, if not so? Isn’t it? It would be also worthy for research as to how Low/Caste Hindus rose to the power echelons, on the basis of their ability, during the eight centuries of the rule of Muslims over India.Forget the Upper Castes Hindus who formed the crust of bureaucracy/finance/administration etc, of course on ability basis, during that time.
But, times have changed and every phase has its own interpretation, and there is no doubt that there have been more than a Lakh of anti-Muslim riots since 1947 in India, as the only regular feature of the lives of Muslims inside India, but the bankruptcy of the OBC Muslim class has gone so abysmally low, that it starts to count the number of OBC Muslims ( Ajlaf and Arzal) killed during the riots and has a ‘stomach-churning’ as to why not the elite ( Ashrafs) are gutted to death. So much so is the contempt of this section, that even as an aftermath of the communal, anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim issue like the ‘snatching-off’ of Babri Masjid from Muslims, OBC Muslim section, looks at it as an issue responsible for the rise of the Ashrafs in the body politic of India. Thousands of Muslims were killed before and after the demolition of Babri Masjid and Muslim organisations, have had ‘Achilles-Heels’ to disburse relief/rehabilation material to every possible Muslim without the slightest thought of any discrimination, apart from legal aid etc.
The biggest icon of OBC Muslims have been Abdul Qaiyyum Ansari, who remained a minister in Congress led Bihar governments (1946-52, 1955-57 and 1962-67), for almost two decades at a stretch, and later a Rajya Sabha member ( 1970-72), had opposed Muslim League-as his grand qualification, and was an editor of Al Islah ( The Reform) and Masawat ( Equality) but what is yet to be known, is as to how he situated himself when Lord Ram idols were surreptiously and stealthily kept inside Babri Masjid, by the Congress government on December 22/23, 1949.
Ansaris role into for Muslim identity?
Did the Babri Masjid incident, which was to become a watershed in the history of later-India, had stood for any consequence for AQ Ansari? Is however needs to be founded out? Perhaps, he too must have been quite dismayed, as after all OBC Muslims are more comfortable with OBC Hindus and are loathsome of their Muslim identity? As after all, after the untoward of Islamic faith they have been denied the fortunes of reservation policy, under the equality framework of the Constitution!
But despite AQ Ansari, there is an undeniable fact of that of Muhammed Hashim Ansari of Ayodhya, UP, who was one of the oldest litigants of the Babri Masjid case since 1951, and kept on fighting for it until 2010, but later earned his ignominy as he got engaged into for an ‘out-of-court’ settlement of the case with Hindu organizations, betraying the cause of Babri Masjid. Dozens of times Muslims (including the writer), offered prayers presided by him. Did Hashim Ansari also replicate what Momin Ansars articulate that Babri Masjid was only a hallmark to help Ashraf Muslims rise in politics? After his death ( 2016), his son succeeded him in the case but changed his sides regularly until 2019 came the final judgement against Muslims. Only a few days back he was inviting BJP CM Yogi Adityanath, to contest from Ayodhya. Damn be it!
Interestingly, the ‘Bahujans First Muslims Later’ (sic), is also a slogan of OBC Muslims, so to remind in the same stretch, is that, OBC Hindu-centric-leaders like Bal Thackrey, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Kalyan Singh, Sakshi Maharaj etc have been the first rate hate-mongers against Muslims for more than 40 years. Will Muslim OBC embrace them too in alignment to their slogan? Isn’t forty years a big time? Yet, OBC Muslims, in their contempt for Ashrafs, still want to resonate with the slogan such as ‘pichhra pichhra ek saman Hindu ho ya Musalman’ (All Dalits and backwards are same whether they be Hindus or Muslims), in their desperate attempt to demolish the Muslim monolith. Only a fakery of this worst kind, from the likes of Ashfaq Husain Ansari ( Ex. Congress MP 1980) et all can summon for it.
OBC Muslims case against Ashraf Muslims
The OBC Muslims worst grouse is that Ashraf Muslims are extremely over-represented in various assemblies and parliament, and which has to be at every cost defeated, and this is when, that never the Muslim Ashrafs have opposed the reservation accorded to OBC Muslims. The only way to defeat Muslim elites, monopoly or hegemony, is to therefore vote against Ashraf Muslim candidates and towards any party, particularly BSP or may be even BJP, as after all Ashraf Muslims have to be brought down. Will the OBC Muslims also enlighten if Ashrafs Muslims had charted any movement against reservation granted to them and made a political or an electoral issue out of it?
So, OBC Muslims, should now overwhelmingly vote for BSP? Whose founder Kanshi Ram was ideologically bankrupt, as his party, cared a damn for Ashraf Muslims or OBC Muslims, and embraced BJP-the ultra communal and anti-Muslim parry, for thrice to form the government in UP. He would famously draw his pen-out saying that the upper side of the pen was Hindu Upper Caste and that he would wish to turn the pen-upside-down-making it for Lower Caste Hindus to climb up. This was all despite the humbug of DS-4 ( Dalit Shoshit Samaj Sangharash Samiti)) and BAMCEF ( Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation)-the analogies before BSP came into existence, but then where were Muslims in his pen? No where!
Did the indigenous Bahujan movement, undertaken by Hindu/Dalit BSP, cared a three-hoots for Muslim sentiments? Never. There is also one twice Ex. Rajya Sabha MP Anwar Ali, who is credited to have started the Pasmanda Muslim Movement and is an author of a book Masawat Ki Jung ( The struggle for Equality) but why ever would he demonstrate a Persianised i.e. Pasmanda, an extra-territorial term for his agenda? When Persian/Arabic/Turkish/ Pushto/ Urdu etc languages are loathed by the OBC Muslims at large?
Another Ansari stalwart has been Zia-ur-Rehman Ansari who was a Congress Lok Sabha MP from Unnao (UP) (1971-77) and who passed away in 1992, shortly before the demolition of Babri Masjid. How much of a role he played when PM Indira Gandhi orchestrated Muradabad riots (1980)? He was then a Commerce Minister in UP, and later his role into the rehabilitation of victims even as those as OBC Muslims, or after the Meerut riots of 1987, which took place shortly after the opening of the Babri Masjid locks in 1986? Or his role after the 1989 Congress sponsored riots in Bhagalpur-Bihar? To be precise it may be added that Muhammed Azam Khan, the nine-time MLA from Rampur, was carrying trucks loaded with eatables/vegetables etc probably every day from Rampur or Bareilly to Muradabad for riot victims of 1980.
Can such a question ever be put to OBC intellectuals, who in-turn equate the Congress/BJP onslaught on Muslim religious sites and identity, as a reason for the rise of Ashraf Muslims in politics (sic)?. What may also be referred is about the role Ashraf Muslims played, with millions and millions of donations and other rehabilitation facilities to the Muslim victims (read OBC Muslims) of the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 when SP was in government. Every riot happens with different motives, which needs to be researched and just cannot be swept under the euphemisms OBC/Ashraf Muslims glasses.
The trigger against Ashraf Muslims
Even before to the making of Sachar Committee (2005) which later turned-out to be a mockery under Congress rule (2004-14) at the Center, Muslims ( read Ashrafs) started a campaign for three reservation demands for Muslims. The first was to demand that out of 27% reservation granted to OBC category as per Mandal Commission in 1990 , there should be a 9% quota for backward Muslims within this quota, as Muslims were backwards amongst the backwards (Hindus) on social and economic grounds.
The second was that government should amend the The-Constitution-of-Scheduled-Caste-Order 1950, which is Article 341(1), where it is said, in its section III, that no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu [the Sikh or the Buddhist] religion shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste, hence there is no reservation for Muslim or Christians SCs under this category. This paragraph was ought to be amended as the parameter for reservation should have been educational and social backwardness and not religion.
As long as the two demands were going it suited OBC Muslims, who laughed in their hearts that Ashraf Muslims were peddling their (OBC) cause, and if they were to succeed, OBC Muslims will further have a chance to entrench their strength, which inadvertently Muslims, for the cause of common Muslim, were undertaking. A massive campaign was launched for it from Lucknow, under the slogan of Muslim Reservation Movement in 2004. But, what triggered the OBC Muslims, was the third MRM demand, which was to initiate a Commission so as to find out as to how General Category Muslims have become more backward in social and educational spheres than the declared backwards and that after excluding their creamy layer, general Muslims as a whole be also given a 10% reservation.
The OBC Muslims were aghast by the proposal as they could not imagine a reservation for General Muslims too! Hence, started a berserk campaign to scuttle any prospects for General Muslims, which is all abound since around twenty years. All the likes of Ali Anwar et all came out to never let it become possible, until came a striking bolt from the BJP government, with the sole objective to consolidate Upper Caste Hindus, as BJP cleared the Economic Weaker Sections Bill, for general category in January 2019. This will also include General Muslims too, whose presence is an anathema to OBC Muslims, and by virtue of it a literal great-slap came for OBC Muslims. There was not even a whimper against the government’s move. Some organisations have challenged it in the Supreme Court as well.
How OBC Muslims have made it to the crest
The attempt of OBC intellectuals is to make genealogy the sole parameter for any success , but here the logic is inward looking as OBC Muslims are getting their reservation since long, and there is almost negligible possibility of General Muslims ever making it to employment into government sector as the General Category Hindus, will be the first amongst equals with their slice-in-the-pie, yet there is a tremendous heart-burn, being felt from OBC intellectuals, in the wake of EWS reservation.
But, a look also deserves to be made beyond the paradigm of reservation and electoral politics, that is to find out, as to how OBC Muslims (read Muslims here ) have made it to the ultimate regard-and-respect in the Muslim world. Will it be better to remind that the two Ameers of Jamat-e-Islami Hind, one of the most credible Muslim organization in the country, late Maulana Yusuf Saheb and Maulana Sirajul Hasan Saheb, were both Momin Ansars, and the same goes for Darul-ul-loom Deoband and Darul-ul-loom Nadwatul Ulema, Lucknow, rectors like Maulana Abul Qasmi and Maulana Saeedur Rehman Qasmi. The writer has had the honour of performing his prayers behind Saeed-ur-Rehman Sahab in Lucknow on multiple times.
The details are not to satiate the misplaced egos of the OBC intellectuals. As OBC Muslims, for their political/social contempt are not likely to ever comply that caste inside Muslims, is not only a social issue but a religious one too! But, for those believing in the spirit of Islam, such mislaid notions, will just remain nothing more than a ‘far-outdone-cry’ is not anything else.
The next-building scenario
As UP along with other four-states, is slated to go to polls in this month of February 2022, the OBC Muslims must have sat over with ‘pen-and-paper’ trying to figure-out Ashraf Muslims as candidates from all parties, and therefore be caught in a catch-22 position? As for OBC Muslims the only scourge is a General Muslim winner. How will OBC Muslims bring this down is to be seen? As their growing anathema for Ashraf Muslims is now brooding to the limits of fascism?
Therefore, what will be the next possible scenario? After the much awaited-and-necessary caste based census is made public, and which, will automatically make it for the second-Mandal-wave, may be an almost new variant may arise, as perhaps, in their overall contempt for Ashraf Muslims, the OBC or the Ajlaf/Arzal Muslims may fall-on to Ashraf Muslims and make India witness ‘full-blown’ riots on Ashraf factions. As the pre-1947 riots genie was resurrected in 2016 when Sikh-Muslim riot happened in Saharanpur, UP, despite Muslims to have helped Sikhs during the Delhi pogroms of 1984, all thus owing to the maneuvering of RSS nurtured Congressmen. Cannot this unprecedented may happen in this form too?
This would also finally put-the-record-straight, as in riots mostly OBC Muslims, at the hands of OBC Hindus, guided by Upper Caste Hindus have died, therefore when Ashrafs would be killed, for Ajlafs/Arzals, the score would be leveled.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and a political analyst.