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EDITORIAL: 16-30 September 2000

BJP and Muslims

Media hype is responsible for the larger-than-life images of the new BJP president Mr Bangaru Laxman’s statements during and after the party’s Nagpur conclave. True to its opportunist nature, most of our ‘national’ media dances to the tunes of any party which happens to be in power at any given time. This same media, which was worshipping the Congress even during the Emergency, is going out of its way to serve the BJP. Thus Mr Bangaru’s statements were blown up as if a great change had suddenly dawned on the thinking and policies of the saffron party. 
Mr Bangaru reportedly said that ‘Muslims are the flesh of our flesh and the blood of our blood but they neither got their rightful share in the nation’s development nor have they been able to join the national mainstream to play their due role in nation-building.’ He has told his party to abandon the ‘no appeasement’ plank, field more Muslim candidates and enroll dynamic and socially respected Muslims to ensure that the party does not hurt its prospects in future elections.
This is not any new line. The BJP has all-along said that it is not an enemy of any segment of the Indian society, that it wants to ensure justice to all and appeasement to none which in itself is a very fair policy. On 13 June 1997 the then president of the party Mr LK Advani issued an official statement which said, inter alia, that 
The BJP is interested in, and will sincerely strive for, a qualitative change in the relationship that now obtains between the party and India’s Muslim community. The very thought of excluding such a large section of Indian population from our universe of concerns is repugnant to us. (Full text in Muslim & Arab Perspectives, 4:1-6 (1977) pp. 113-7).

Despite its conciliatory approach, the document sought to blame Muslims for India’s Partition (while Hindus and particularly the Sanghi mentality were equally, if not more, responsible for Partition). Muslims were blamed for vote-bank politics while the Congress Party alone, and not the victims, should be blamed if this was correct. Muslims were asked to accept a common civil code despite the fact that so many personal laws, even for Hindu factions and tribals, are respected in the country. For accepting all this Muslims were offered a ‘riot-free’ society and help in matters of education and economy as if a riot-free life and access to education and fruits of economic development are rewards for being in good books. Every society and state is bound to ensure these rights to all its citizens. Muslims are not even offered the mandatory compensation for life and property which is given to other communities as a routine.
Mr Advani conveniently forgot to apologize for the trail of destruction and death, armies of orphans and widows, burnt homes and raped women his Ayodhya rath yatras caused across the width and breadth of the country for over a decade culminating in the destruction of the Babri Masjid, ‘the structure’ in his parlance, despite solemn assurances given by his party to the National Integration Council and by his party’s chief minister in Uttar Pradesh to the Supreme Court of India. 
Mr Advani, Mr Joshi and many other stalwarts were gracing the platform on that fateful day when Muslims were being taught a lesson and one of his female lieutenants was shouting on top of her voice: ‘ek dhakka aur do’... All these people now deny any role in the destruction!. One of his senior colleagues, Mr Malkani, even claimed that the ISI was responsible for the demolition.. They have obtained pre-arrest bails and avoid appearance in Babri court cases or in front of the commission of enquiry instituted to investigate ‘the crime of the century’ (CBI description) which was enacted solely to put the Muslims in their place... The BJP is using every trick to lengthen and dilute the investigation process since it came to power. Earlier this was meticulously done by its fifth columnist in the Congress, Mr Narasimha Rao, who did half the job. 
Muslims have seen how life is in BJP-run states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. They have seen that even loyal and devoted Muslim BJP leaders like Sikandar Bakht could be shown the door. Arif Baig and Aslam Sher Khan could be pushed out of the party. How for the first time since independence a featherweight Muslim is representing the 150-million-strong community in the union cabinet. How a killer like Dara Singh could be shielded for so long. How riots again are a common phenomenon day in and day out in various parts of the country. Above all the ISI bogey is so recklessly raised as a daily diet by the government and its pliant media that it would seem that every Muslim is an agent and every madrasa and every mosque an ISI centre. This is not only utterly false, it is also extremely hazardous to sow the seeds of hatred and disloyalty in the hearts of loyal citizens by doubting their loyalty to their motherland. Let the BJP atone for its past crimes and failures and let it correct its current behaviour. If it does, it will find no problem in winning Muslim loyalty and votes. Seasonal statements alone will not do the trick.

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