Need for a political platform for Muslims – Do We really need this anyways?

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[An ongoing debate has always been raging in the Indian Muslim community about the pertinent need for a political platform that would address issues and help extract benefits from political quarters. But the said credible platform has never been able to take shape ever since independence due to lack of genuine leaders or those who are able to emerge on the horizon fail or turn into psychophants of the powers-that-be to serve their own vested interests. This posting presents an interesting debate on this issue. Readers are welcome to send their comments.]

[Pictures: (1.) Muslim leaders with Israeli President Simon Peres; (2.) Victim of Gujarat riots 2002; (3.) Badruddin Ajmal, Jamiatul Ulama-e Hind leader, canvassing for UDF in Assam assembly polls; (4.) & (5.) Cartoons.]

THE DEBATE on the need for a political platform for Muslims in India has always attracted a huge response from the community members. Majority of Muslims in the country still believe that there is a need for a credible and viable political platform for the community as such. But has this been able to take shape even after 60 years of independence? Several Muslims leaders like Shahi Imam of Delhi Jama Masjid Syed Abdullah Bukhari, his son and the present Imam Syed Ahmad Bukhari, Syed Shahabuddin, Maulana Asad Madani, Maulana Mahmood Madani etc. emerged on the scene to guide the community on several occasions. But were they able to or did they ever succeed in doing so? Did the community genuinely accept their leadership after all? What did Indian Muslims gain politically even after supporting these leaders for long?

These are the several questions that usually crop up in the minds of common Muslims. For instance, who doesn’t know the political profile of religious prayer leaders Abdullah and Ahmad Bukhari. It is well known that Syed Abdullah Bukhari called the shots in the Congress Party and always gave clarion call to support Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi during elections from the pulpit of Jama Masjid during Friday prayers. Later after getting bored with Indira Gandhi, both father and son supported Kanshi Ram and Mayawati of Bahujan Samaj Party. The present Imam Syed Ahmad Bukhari formed a political platform for Muslims called ‘Adam Sena’. Ahmad Bukhari hobnobbed with the Congress rebel and the then Prime Minister V. P. Singh for quite a while. Later on, Ahmad Bukhari asked Muslims to defeat the Congress Party and support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) instead in the elections. Maulana Asad Madani, President of Jamiatul Ulama-e Hind always supported the Congress Party and was rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat. He remained an MP for long. The present Jamiatul Ulama-e Hind leader Maulana Mahmood Madani is currently hobnobbing with the Congress Party and pitching for a seat in Parliament with Congress Party’s support like his deceased father Maulana Asad Madani. Earlier, Maulana Mahmood Madani had joined Samajwadi Party only in the hope that he would become a Rajya Sabha member with party’s support. But, Samajwadi Party never rewarded him with Rajya Sabha seat. Syed Shahabuddin, who resigned from Indian Foreign Service and was brought into politics by the BJP leader and ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, spearheaded the Shah Bano movement and at one time asked Muslims to boycott the national anthem on a Republic Day. He became a Member of Parliament after winning Lok Sabha elections from Kishanganj. Now he is with the Congress Party, but has retired into oblivion as the Congress Party has still not rewarded him with the Rajya Sabha seat nor has he been able to win any Lok Sabha seat.

Despite such stark truths about the Indian Muslim leadership and of the hapless Indian Muslims themselves, some responsible members of the community still feel the need for a political platform for Muslims in the state of Uttar Pradesh [thankfully, not for the entire nation].

Present here is the debate on the need for a political platform for Muslims in UP. The debate was initiated by M.J.Khan, Convenor of National Economic Forum for Muslims. J.S. Bandukwala from Baroda (Gujarat) and Danish Ahmad Khan gave their forthright opinions in their responses. -- Danish Ahmad Khan

New Political Platform in UP (India)

Dear All

I am writing this mail to all the members of AMU networks and also the members of various social - political organisations for their information, comments and considered opinions, advice and subsequently a support for what I see a long felt need of a political plate-form for weaker communities, and in particular muslims in Uttar Pradesh. It is possible that this mail reaches to many persons, who may not be belonging to minority or weaker sections or have any concern with Uttar Pradesh.

I may therefore like to mention for little more clarity for such people that Uttar Pradesh is the largest of the 29 States in India, with an estimated population of 180 million with share of Muslims at 19% and that of most backward communities (MBCs) 15%. If UP was a country today, it would be 6th largest country in the world, and therefore it holds enormous importance for muslims who are approx. 20% of the State population, but their share in jobs and institutions of higher learnings is less than 3% today. According to recent NSSO figures and Sachchar Committee findings, they have slipped below even schedule castes in education. According to our analysis, if 1,000 educational institutions of 1,000 capacity each are created for Muslims, it will take 32 years for them to catch up the national average.

The question of social opportunity and public policy needs to be answered keeping in view the poor economic development of the community. Lack of basic education, social vulnerability and policy discrimination has in totality contributed in keeping the community backward. The political prejudices and the exploitation of the community by various political parties "as the vote bank and nothing more attitude", particularly by the so-called secular parties, have caused much loss to Muslims. Only by unlocking the gates of access and equity in educational and economic spheres through political empowerment can the dreams of equality and mainstreaming of the community be materialized.

Announcements by political parties for Muslims are often made, keeping the coming elections in mind. They are completely forgotten, as soon as elections are over. Any possibility for betterment of Muslims in India in shorter run is possible only by their political empowerment. And for that to happen, they will have to win for themselves and shun the negative voting pattern.

Over the last two years, there have been wide scale consultations for creating a political platform in Uttar Pradesh, where many people feel that electorates are left with the choice of lesser evil every time, who have no development agenda. The new political entity shall have a clear agenda of:
1. Providing an honest and transparent government
2. A government free from corruption, castiesm and criminal elements
3. Justice and development with fair share of all communities without any prejudice
4. Educational, social and economic empowerment of minorities and other weaker sections

In the context of UP, while political initiatives in the last two decades brought social and political empowerment for some down-trodden communities, Muslims never benefitted in any form. The two successful experiments in the name of SP and BSP in UP are being widely seen as full of corruption, castiesm and criminal elements. While Muslims voted for them overwhelmingly, but they have been treated only as vote bank and a subject of mere political exploitation by them.

Muslims have been riding piggy of one party or the other and to be used and thrown every time. While communal parties have always talked bitter and barked on Muslims, the secular parties while speaking sweet, did the job of actual biting. The worst for Muslims is to continue trusting the vote traders in the name of secular parties, better is to strategically tie up with different political parties, election to election, and the best option is if they can initiate politically for themselves.

But starting own political outfit will require hard work, patience, little sacrifice and 'not for sale' attitude. Of late I have closely watched quite a few political and some socio-political initiatives by muslims and all of them met the well known fate. They got visibility, got price and got sold out. A sincere effort will now take little more time than what it would otherwise have taken.

While Muslims have been pushed to periphery in the vortex of democratic process, reservation system, educational policies and various socio-political dynamics in the last 61 years, the most backward castes (MBCs) among the majority community have also not benefitted. Therefore there is a scope for a broad Muslims led social coalition to be formed with a clear political agenda of fair and just rule and empowerment of minorities and MBCs. On purely political space, a natural alliance of Muslims with Rajputs in UP is immediate possibility. They can provide class and Muslims can bring the mass. The combination can work wonderfully well with Muslims 20%, Rajputs 7% and MBCs 15%.

There have been several meetings and consultations with many Rajput and MBC leaders and luminaries in the last six months, and the response is too good. A greater level of enthusiasm among MBC and Rajput leaders is seen for this political coalition than that among Muslims. They have possibly been let down time and again and are well within their logical thinking if they may view one more initiative with some degree of suspicion.

But, the need for such initiative is clearly felt and the possibilities of success seem to be strong. And I think, if there is clarity of purpose, consistency of efforts, inclusive approach and a clear "not for sale" tag, then it can succeed. Wide ranging consultations are being held on this matter, both in Delhi and at Lucknow, and movement forward seems a definite possibility. The intellectuals in muslims and other sections of society can make meaningful contribution to this move by their valuable suggestions and support.

We shall look forward to your kind comments and cooperation.

With regards
MJ Khan
Director & CEO, Concept Agrotech Consultants Limited
Convenor, National Economic Forum for Muslims
New Delhi - 110001
[Sent by NEFM]

[Response by J.S.Bandukwala]

Dear Khan Sahab,

I read through your piece carefully. I share your deep concern for the plight of our miserable community. In the context of UP, one is tempted to follow the path taken by the Yadavs and by the Dalits.

As I am from Gujarat and have been among the victims of 2002, my reading is different. Political process in India is substantially corrupt. Muslims who succeed are either corrupt or our totally alienated from the community, as they play an ' Uncle Tom ' role.

In the aftermath of Babri, a number of Muslim intellectuals came out to challenge the existing order in Muslim society. Sorrowfully, they withdrew as fast as they entered. Today the possibility of a Kanshi Ram emerging among Muslims is remote. But fortunately there is a distinct shift towards quality education and business. We must see that each and every Muslim boy and girl reaches graduation stage, and preferably in subjects like medicine, engineering, management, etc. We must see our women are granted the rights so enshrined in the Holy Koran. We must turn towards business and industry in a big way.I am convinced we Muslims must just stay away from politics, except that we must vote most religiously. Our effort must be on a total socio economic transformation of our community, within the parameters of Islam. Fortunately the democratic set up in India, allows us enough elbow room to do the same. This is not possible in Pakistan or most Muslim countries.

I will welcome your response.

[Sent by]

[Reply by M. J. Khan]

Dear Dr. Bandukwala

The nation is going fast towards privatisation, and hence the importance of quality education. No reservation system in jobs or more representation in politics will help community. What you said is absolutely required. Empowerment through education holds key in the emerging socio-economic order. If they are well educated, they will carve their place in the society, whether job or own work.

But, private education is a costly education and given the economic status of most Muslims, affording the quality private education will get out of reach. My fear is that Muslims will get further marginalized in the emerging socio-economic order due to privatisation and the prevailing reservation system. Again, Muslims traditionally worked in semi-skilled jobs, but with the changes in technologies, they will ahve no choice, but to go for skills training and certification, and without which they will again get pushed to periphery.

The fact that this community is so backward, educationally and economically, there is every justification for some instrument of support, in terms of reservation in education, or through a substantial economic package to be given to them to help them bring at par with the rest of the nation, so that they could also play equally vibrant roles in the society.

But, in democracy logics do not help. What helps is political voice and holding hostage. Gujjars deserve ST quota, no one will agree. Jats and Yadavs in backward reservation, no one can agree. But, they had political voice and got, what they did not even deserved. And muslims, as a most backward social block in Indian society, have repeatedly been denied any support. Not only this, there is also a communal quota in SC/ST reservation introduced under Article 341 (2), imposed by the infamous Presidential Order 1950 by secular Nehru, where every religion, except Muslims and Christens get reservation.

I believe, we will have to have our say in political affairs of the country. There are Muslim leaders in different parties, but there is no leadership with us. These leaders have no say, even if they feel for the community, cannot do anything. And we have no say in decision making of the country. Today, in a cabinet of 44 (33 cabinet and 11 MOS - IC) there are only 2 Muslim Ministers and that too with poorest possible portfolios. In my meetings with Sonia Gandhi, I have been pointing out how Muslims are being sidelined in every sphere, including even political. Out of 10 President Quota seats in Rajya Sabha, not a single Muslim nominated?

We go on and the agonies are countless. In democracy, without political power, no voice is heard. In Indian states, where Muslims are 20% plus, there is no reason why they should not take other equally suffering MBCs and move politically. This is difficult route, but, if community has to be empowered in shorter run, then there is no choice. Riding piggy of different secular parties from time to time has yielded no results. In fact I have known most of them, little too closely. For them, we are only the vote bank.

The poor and pathetic situation of Muslims that I see around and the NSSO and Sacchar Committee findings authenticate, need exceptional steps for any significant change. I have made many presentations and held discussions at Planning Commission and at PMO, but in democracy only pressure, lobbying and political weight matters, not logics and rationality.

I am marking this copy to other friends, who have send responses. I am thankful for your kind response.

With regards
MJ Khan
[Sent by NEFM]

[Response by Danish Ahmad Khan]

Dear Mr. M.J. Khan,

I read with deep interest and share your concerns regarding the need of a political platform for Muslims of Uttar Pradesh. But, Sir, do only UP Muslims deserve this. What about your underprivileged, downtrodden brethren in rest of India? I’m from Gaya (Bihar), where Muslims too are struggling for an honorable existence. However, let me tell you we, Bihari Muslims, never felt the need for a political platform of our own. This is because everybody knows the fate of so-called Muslim leadership, which becomes saleable and ultimately loses its voice in the end. With such a leadership at the helm the community is naturally left to fend for itself and rue its own fate. Sir, I can give you several examples from my state itself where a handful of Muslims took the lead in forming a political entity of their own, but the dream fortunately ended in the already-expected whimper. I refer to your quote: “On purely political space, a natural alliance of Muslims with Rajputs in UP is immediate possibility.” Truly, this idea may sound music to your ears given the bitter experiences that UP Muslims had from two significant political parties – Samajwadi Party & Bahujan Samaj Party. However, let me cite an example how Muslims in my district Gaya were ditched by Rajputs [whom you are referring to as a natural choice for proposed alliance]. You might be aware that Naxalites are ruling the roost in Gaya and other districts of Bihar. To fight the Naxals, Muslims of Imamganj & Dumaria [Blocks in Gaya] joined hands with Rajputs and formed ‘Sunlight Sena’. Rajputs led the Sena with Muslims being a major support base. But when it came to take the Naxals head on, Muslims were pushed at the forefront and Rajputs were nowhere on the scene. The result was that several Muslims were killed and are still being killed, and they had to flee to the district headquarters and elsewhere. This is what happened because of the natural alliance in my place. I’m therefore simply at a loss as to how much UP Muslims are going to be benefitted if such a natural alliance ever comes into place.

In my considered opinion at present Indian Muslims neither require reservations nor a political party of their own. Everybody knows the fate of Syed Shahabuddin [of Babri Masjid fame] and his ‘Insaf Party’. Today, Muslims are in urgent need of quality education – both on the technical and professional front. I completely agree with what Dr. J.S.Bandukwala says. Historically, Muslims have had their say during Mughal era. They lost to the Britishers because of their leaders’ follies. Again, after fighting for India’s independence Muslims were relegated behind because of their leader M.A. Jinnah and Muslim League’s follies. This was naturally not because of Rajputs or other castes, but solely by Muslims themselves. Still after 60 years of independence, Muslims have still not learnt to co-exist. It is about time that Muslims need to change their mindset and act holistically. It becomes the duty of intellectuals and social engineers to chalk out plans on how to empower the community in a way that they themselves become a force to reckon with on the political front under the guidance of you all.

The community must take lessons from Grameen Bank founder Mohammed Yunus, who brought about a radical change in impoverished Bangladesh. It is only now that Mohammed Yunus has decided to take a plunge into politics to bring about further change through political means. We, Indian Muslims, are sadly lacking stalwarts a la Mohammed Yunus.

Isn’t it true that we, Indian Muslims, hold immense power that political changes are brought about on the national and state level whenever need be? In Bihar, we Muslims did this by throwing out Lalu Prasad Yadav. The current leadership in the state under the stewardship of CM Nitish Kumar is doing an excellent job and keeping everybody happy with its performance. I think it would indeed be a great service from you all if the community is left to decide for themselves whom to elect or not as per their needs and at their own level.

I’ve an agenda that would not only empower but also radically transform Muslims for India’s well being.

(i.) Muslims need to come out of the ‘Madarsah’ mindset. Are we ready to control proliferation of ‘Madrasahs’ ourselves? Are we ready to make ‘Madrasahs’ into meaningful schools that would provide quality education along with Deeni Taleem to the rich and poor alike? I personally know how these ‘Madrasahs’ function and what radical changes are required to better the lot of those gaining education here.

(ii.) Are we ready to centralize ‘Fitra’ and ‘Zakat’ collections during Ramadhan at Mohalla & village levels? The present system of collection is completely disorganized and gives immense scope for corruption. Only seldom in the community know where these donations are being given and who are being benefitted. Rest of the collections is going down the drain. With a centralized collection, the community is going to be immensely benefitted. Small-scale industries might be established in every village with centralized collections.

(iii.) In my opinion Darul Qazas/Darul Iftas/Imarat-e-Shariah are useless and should be done away with. Their opinion to the community from time-to-time has only bred confusion amongst the Muslim masses. Sometimes their opinions have also become laughing stock in the national media. Those giving ‘Fatwas’ more often are not able to defend themselves. Their actions are only dividing the community.

These are some of the important things I’ve raised, which needs immediate proactive action from the community. I’m myself proactive and working to better the lot of the community in my own way [Please seethe following links: (This is about the institution founded by my grandfather and my association with it); (This is regarding my Interview given to ‘The Hindu’ while I was working with a community journal.)]

I warmly welcome your responses.

Danish Ahmad Khan
Sr. Content Writer-cum-Head – Content2Mobile operations
IANS [Indo-Asian News Service (Formerly India Abroad News Service)]
New Delhi – 110022
Mobile: +91 – 9990179721/9868005605

Posted by Unknown on 1/17/2009 12:00:00 AM. Filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

1 comments for "Need for a political platform for Muslims – Do We really need this anyways?"

  1. Dear Mr. Bandukwala

    First I express my appreciation for your progressive thought for the Muslim community. It is right that if the community is educated and socio-economic condition is better then we can witness a shining sun on the darkening shadow of Muslim community. But I disagree that Muslims should leave politics. My point is that India is primarily a “secular democracy” that is how our constitution pronounces it. We Muslim are equally Indian as any other. Moreover in democracy the policy makers are always politicians. So if the community becomes weak and just a voter, my fear is that Muslim will be culled in other states like Gujarat. ( I seek my sincere apology for harsh words). In my opinion the community should come out and find right leader irrespective of religion. But this is equally true that we hardly have any politician who can really take the issue of development and communal harmony ahead. So the community should begin a disinterestedly dedicated step to bring positive change.

    I would appreciate any criticism & comment

    Nabeel A. Khan
    New Delhi

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