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Abu Asim Azmi arrest drama in Mumbai
By MH Lakdwala, Mumbai

Muslims in India are very sensitive about their religious identity. The series of recent assault on their religion through the route of legislation, courts and riots have made them highly emotional about their religious identity, culture, values and ethos. All political parties have exploited this vulnerability of Muslims. Ironically Muslim politicians, irrespective of parties they belong to, are the major culprits. In the name of protecting the rights of Muslims to practice their religion, they have often emtionally blackmailed the community.

Last month Mumbai unit of Samajwadi Party (SP) led by its Mumbai unit president Abu Asim Azmi took this route to reach out to the religious sentiments of Muslims. His eyes are on the coming elections of BrihanMumbai Mumnicipal Corporation, which has about 20 SP corporators.

On 2 August Azmi led a march to protest against the demolition of the extended boundary wall of the Anjuman Jama Mosque at Malavni near Mumbai. BMC demolition squad claimed that it was an illegal extension for which no permission was taken. Whereas SP leaders say the local trust had taken permission to extend the mosques boudary wall.
During the march Azmi and other party workers of SP were arrested for violating prohibitive orders and rioting. Azmi was offered bail immediately as is routine in such cases but he refused and insisted to remain in the Thane Central Jail. The very next day in a wel-l planned strategy a bandh was organised in Muslim majority localities and series of public meetings were arranged to boost the image of Azmi with posters pasted all over the place boasting his great sacrifices for the community.

Urdu dailies carried a series of advertisements followed by front-paged coverage projecting Mr Azmi as the savior of the Muslims. Spin-doctors of Azmi were successful once again in exploiting the Muslim religious sentiments.

Time and again politicians take Muslims for granted. None of the politicians and political parties care or bother for the real socio-economic issues faced by the Muslims. Inspite of having four Muslim cabinet ministers in the current government in Maharastra the real issues of Maharastra Muslims are never raised.

An interesting point to note in Mr Azmis arrest was that the issue he raised about the mosque wall demolition was an old one which had died last year. It was out of the public memory. It could have been resolved through SP corporators very easily. But Azmi chose to make a public issue out of it. The reason is not far to seek.

Last month DF government decided to reduce the subsidy to English-medium schools by 50 percent. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) sensing the wide spread anger against the decision, took Chief Minister Vilasrao Desmukh into confidence and convinced him to cancel the controversial notification. NCP Muslim MLAs and corporators, most of whom defected from SP recently, took the credit for this achievement and projected their success through hand bills, posters, banners and advertisements in Urdu newspapers.

This alarmed the SP which totally depends on Muslim votes in Mumbai for its survival. Hence spin-doctors advised Azmi to act and the march against the demolition of mosque boundary wall was concieved.

Its now two years since DF government in Maharashtra came to power. SP is an important constituent of the DF government with one minister in the cabinet. But in these two years SP has not been able to put up any of the issues which concern Muslims of the state before the cabinet, nor they were able to do anything for the implementation of the Srikrishna commission.

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