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‘Muslims need to fight for share in power and decision-making’
distinguished Urdu journalist, a well-known politician and a social
worker. It is how Mohammad Afzal or ‘Meem Afzal’ as he is known to his
readers, can be described. Editor of a leading Urdu weekly, Akhbar-e-Nau,
Afzal wields considerable respect among Muslims in the country.
He has always been in the forefront when it comes to airing Muslim issues
in the open and has tried to project Muslim issues through his weekly. He
is a former member of Rajya Sabha and chairman of the Urdu Editors
Council. He was recently appointed as secretary of the Minority Department
of the Congress Party. SU Rahman interviewed him recently. Excerpts:
|What is the scope of the
activities of the Congress Party’s Minority Department?
Minority Department’s foremost work is to project minorities’
issues and their problems and to keep the party leadership informed
about such issues. In states where we have Congress governments we
try to implement the promises we made regarding minorities. In
states where we are not in power we try to project minority issues
and establish pressure groups and insist the governments to chalk
out policies about minorities and implement them. Muslims are the
largest minority in the country so their interests are taken up on
Minority department is not a safety valve. We are expected to react
on whatever happens in the community. But we do not react to each
and every issue. We brief the party leadership on issues concerning
minorities and then party’s media department reacts on these
Unfortunately ‘reaction’ has become the most glaring aspect of
the Muslim identity in our country. They are perceived to be the
reactors. And the history of the last fifty years is the history of
Muslim reaction in this country. They have never acted on positive
issues. So far they have merely reacted on some issues raised by the
community’s enemies. When everyone is taking the path to
development on the power of action we are just reacting.
Has the minority Department been able to change the policies of
the Congress on minority, particularly Muslim, issues?
Congress is a very huge party with a history spread over more than a
century. It rules more than a dozen states today. So it is not
possible for anyone to change its policies in a short period.
I am new to the Congress culture. But I have seen the difference
between the Congress and other parties. Here several Muslims are
part of the highest decision-making body. They influence decisions
and policies of the party. Ever since I joined the party and was
appointed secretary of the minority department, I have met party
president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, several times. I have come to the
conclusion that she is honest in getting minority issues solved. She
has shown great interest in their issues and problems.
A number of so-called secular parties have cobbled with saffron
parties and have associated with the RSS and its other affiliates.
This is taking place despite their full knowledge that the Prime
Minister is misleading the nation. They are playing in the hands of
fascist powers and are not ashamed. In this distressing scenario I
find no other party except the Congress which can save the country
from the clutches of fascist powers. People like Mulayam Singh and
Laloo Yadav, who have been claiming to have saved the Muslim
community, have actually killed Muslim leadership. Though Mulayam
plays the politics on Muslim power, there exists no Muslim
leadership even in his party.
Does any Muslim leadership exist in the country?
Leadership does exist, but it is weak. And Muslims’ approach and
some of their leaders are responsible for the scenario. In-fighting
has become a hall-mark of the Muslim character. They do not fight
others, but fight their own people. It is said that people get the
sort of leadership they deserve. So Muslims themselves are
responsible for this mess.
I have been of the opinion that a Muslim should not live merely for
himself and his family. He should live for the whole community. But
Muslims do not care for even themselves and their families. It seems
that the community is going through a phase of political, economic
and educational decline. We will have to reverse this trend.
There is a talk these days of establishing a Muslim political
A section among UP Muslims feel that Muslims should have their own
political party. This thinking is derived from the success of the
BSP. BSP went on to form the government in UP on the power of only
69 MLAs in an assembly of more than four hundred members. So they
too want to adopt the same strategy. But this is wishful thinking.
There was no leadership among Dalits. Mayawati and Kanshi Ram were
people who created opportunities for themselves. And they were
largely followed by the whole community. Muslims, on the other hand,
have surplus leadership. In every corner we can find a couple of
leaders who claim to be the saviors of Muslims.
Though there were some news that there is talk of establishing a
Muslim political party but it seems parleys failed to bring any
fruitful results in the initial stage itself.
What should be Muslims’ attitude in such circumstances?
Power is the only solution for Muslims in the country. During the
last fifty years what we have talked about is only survival. We have
been fearful of survival in the country and everyone has tried to
scare us. Despite having a large number of population in the country
we have no senior minister in the central cabinet. This has happened
for the first time since Independence. But even those who were in
the government wielded not much power. We will have to struggle to
get a fair share in power. We will have to struggle for a share in
the decision-making process. Parties care for leaders who have mass
base. Parties are forced to listen to the views of those who have
mass following. We will have to think in these terms. We will have
to create leadership ourselves. There is no alternative.
Mulayam Singh ruled in UP on the strength of Muslim votes. Despite
being the bigger partner in numbers (Muslims are 18 percent and
Yadavs 7 percent in U.P.), no Muslim was given any important
ministry when he ruled the state. What they are given are qabristan
affairs and other silly portfolios of the sort. We need to fight for
power in the country. q