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Jharkhand and Muslims

After a long struggle and wait the Jharkhand bill for a separate state was passed in Parliament last month. The bill could not be passed in the previous Parliament session due to technical problems. The new state is slated to emerge on 1 November next together with two other sanctioned states, Chattisgarh and Uttaranchal.

Every political party is trying to take the credit for creating these new states. Whether it is JMM (Jharkhand Mukti Morcha) of Soren or Mandal group, AJSU (All Jharkhand Student Union), Congress or the NDA, all claim to champion the cause of these new states which have been cleverly carved out in order to benefit the BJP. Laloo Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), once totally opposed to the creation of this state, is also in the fray to claim the credit for creating Jharkhand. 

The credentials and the vital role of Muslims is notable alongwith JMM, AJSU and state Congress party which forced RJD to get it passed in the State Assembly. Few decades ago Jharkhand, presently consist on 18 districts, was much different from what it is today. Jharkhand possesses the richest region of India in terms of natural resources and minerals. It leads India in the production of black diamond (coal), iron, copper, uranium, aluminum, gold and mica. The British, realizing this natural wealth, tried to capture it, when India was under their control but could not succeed as tribals (aborigines) fought against them under Birsa Munda, a tribal leader, and defeated them. 

When industrialization was in full swing after independence people of other regions migrated to this place. These emigrants captured all key posts of government organizations as well as of industries like HEC, BHEL, Tata, NALCO, CCL, BCCL, SAIL etc. The tribals were recruited as labourers and exploited in all possible ways. In this way the tribals could not prosper and remained cut off from modern developments. Their new generation observed this and retaliated demanding a separate state of its own. Even on this point cunning politician misled them. Some inevitable situations exposed their policies and their caste hegemony. Seeing this the tribal established their own party which local Muslims supported at every level. In order to thwart this development and tribal-Muslim unity, politicians and upper caste people spread the venom of communalism in cities like Ranchi, Jamshedpur, Hazaribagh which became riot-prone especially during the Ramnawmi festival. On the other hand, these people enriched themselves economically at the cost of mineral wealth.

Two incidents were very vital to turn these communal policies upside down: they openly killed a popular tribal leader, Nirmal Mahto, during a press conference in 1987, and in 1989 tribals avoided rioting against Muslims in Jamshedpur even after instigation of communal elements. 

The question arises as to what Muslims will get in this state after its creation? When the issue of the Muslim participation in governance comes they start frowning and show an unhealthy attitude. They do not want Muslim participation as it can be observed with the presence of only one Muslim MLA in 18 districts. As the situation has turned in favour of these people, Jharkhandi politicians are also changing up their mind following the Chanakya politics. It were Muslims who gave their shoulder in every struggle for making Jharkhand a state while others only watched the situation. In the political turmoil when these leaders fared badly they blamed it on Muslims that they did not support them and chose to align with their traditional enemies. The party they befriended became more powerful at their cost and tried to marginalize them. When they felt that their very political existence is at stake they turned towards Muslims and with their support fought the last assembly elections and reaped a good harvest. Here again it were only Muslims who supported them. 

But these developments alarmed Muslims that they may be discarded in the Jharkhandis’ pursuit for power. Muslims of the area must redraw their policies with prudence. Muslims must make their own party including Dalit and backward groups and fight elections under their own political umbrella. This will be more proper and practical. If it is not possible then they should create minority cells within the Jharkhandi groups and empower themselves in the process. Without such participation Jharkhand Muslims will continue to be exploited in the name of religion and even their religious rights as a minority will be curtailed.

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