Indian Muslims and Electoral Choices

Sachar Committee has been an example of how any affirmative action for this deprived community is marred. In the aftermath of this report, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that deprived and marginalized communities have the first right on national resources.

Indian Muslims and Electoral Choices
Indian Muslims and Electoral Choices

by Prof. Ram Puniyani :

As the 2024 General Elections are looming on the horizon some Muslim elite are appealing to Muslim community to give a relook at BJP They claim that Indian Muslims are not being discriminated against. Such intellectuals also argue that BJP is giving special attention to Pasmanda Muslims and the Sufi Muslims. They also argue that Muslims are beneficiaries of BJP’s schemes for social welfare: food; housing; gas; water among others and lastly that there has been no major communal violence since 2014 and that India has been most peaceful during the last fifty years.

Such appeals are based on half truths and ignore the core problem which shapes the lives of Muslims in India. True, some elite Muslims may not be facing the problems so severely but overall the central issue of insecurity, marginalization and ghettoization as a whole is not accounted for in such appeals. The point that there is no major violence against Muslims since 2014 is a blatant lie. The horrific Delhi violence in the aftermath of massive Shaheen Baugh movement, instigated by BJP worthies, (Goli Maro, and ‘we will get them removed from the place of Dharna’) led to the death of 51 people, 37 of those being Muslims.

Day in and day out bulldozers are on the streets to target the Muslim properties, on one or the other pretexts. In BJP ruled states there seems to be a competition as to who can inflict more damage to Muslim properties. AP Shah, a retired chief justice of the Delhi High Court, affirmed to the news portal Coda, “Mere alleged involvement in criminal activity cannot ever be grounds for demolition of property.” While the cow beef politics has led to stray animals causing accidents on roads and in attacks on the standing crops on one hand on the other it has led to initiation of a new phenomenon of lynching on Indian streets. Starting from Mohammad Akhlaq there are many cases where Muslims (and also dalits) have been the target of the incited mobs.

The case of Monu Manesar who was part of the crime of Nasir and Junaid is most frightening. Harsh Mander who visited victims’ families wrote “I am profoundly chilled as I scan social media pages of Monu Manesar. He and members of his gang live stream as they openly brandish sophisticated firearms, sound sirens mimicking police jeeps, shoot at vehicles, and brutally thrash the men they catch.” The proper data of bovine related violence is not available as the state wants to hide it, but it has created a fear among large sections of Muslims. In Mewat in particular where Muslims deal with dairy business face a tough time. Just a couple of horrific incidents which give us chills in our spine are when Shambhulal Regar not only killed but videotaped brutal killing of Afrazul in Rajasthan. We saw those accused of murdering Kalimuddin Ansari feted by Jayant Sinha, a Union Minister at the time. Such incidents have now become ‘new normal’.

We also saw the scare created around Love Jihad and then types of Jihad were tabulated, UPSC, Land Jihad among others. The amusing one was Corona Jihad, where the Tablighi Jamaat meeting was blamed for the spread of Corona, the Muslims hawkers were denied entry into societies.

Islamophobia is reaching new heights by the day. This intimidatory atmosphere is leading the rise in the process of ghettoisation of Muslims in the cities. Muslims are being denied housing in the mixed localities in most places. This is accompanied by the decline in their educational and economic status. One example of this is the scrapping of Maulana Azad Fellowship, the major beneficiaries of which have been the Muslim students trying to pursue higher education. The economic climb-down of the community continues in recent years. Gallup data shows that, “For both groups, (Hindus and Muslims) perceptions that standards of living were worsening shot up between 2018 and 2019, as the Indian economy entered a deep slowdown. Among Muslim Indians, the percentage jumped to 45% in 2019, up from 25% the previous year. And among Hindu Indians, the percentage saying the same hit 37% in 2019, an increase of 19 percentage points from 2018.”

The threat of disenfranchising the Muslims through exercise of NRC, CAA is very much there. The Assam exercise showed that among the 19 Lakh people who did not have proper papers the majority were Hindus. For Hindus the safety clause of CAA is in place and for Muslims, detention centers are coming up.

The present show of sympathy for Pasmanda Muslims is a mere eye wash. We understand the majority of victims of violence inspired by majoritarian politics are Pasmanda Muslims. The Muslim Ashrafs do need to ensure better treatment of the Pasmandas, but the bigger threat for the community as a whole is the insecurity, which affects them both and makes a fertile ground for orthodox elements to flourish. Reform amongst Muslim community is a must, however the point is reforms remain in the backyard till the community feels the threat to their existence and to their citizenship.

The BJP Government in different states is now planning things which are further discriminatory against Muslims. With Ram Temple inaugurated the RSS-BJP’s majoritarian politics may become more assertive. Already Muslims have been losing representation in the political institutions. We remember that in this Hindu nationalist party not a single MP is a Muslim.

Even earlier governments could not alleviate the suffering of this community. The major obstacle in this direction has been the opposition from RSS-BJP. Sachar Committee has been an example of how any affirmative action for this deprived community is marred. In the aftermath of this report, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that deprived and marginalized communities have the first right on national resources. That was propagated as if Singh is saying that Muslims have the first right on national resources. And then there was a brake in any initiative to alleviate the miseries of this community.

BJP’s claim that its free rations etc. are reaching all sections of society. Such schemes and the very concept of Labharthis is so much against the democratic ‘Rights based approach’. We do need to introspect about electoral choices in general for all the communities, and of course the luring of Muslim community is a hollow drum bereft of any substance.