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PERISCOPE
The leadership syndrome
By Saeed Suhrawardy

Analyzing Muslim public opinion is a depressing experience. The only source available for the purpose is Urdu press. The editorials, statements of Muslim leaders and letters published in the appropriate column fall in a familiar pattern. Muslim public opinion is negative or defensive. If leaders of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad or Bajrang Dal voluntarily decide to keep quiet for six months, that shall create a problem for leaders of Muslim organizations and those who frequently write letters for publication. However that should be very difficult for Sangh Parivar. If they do so, they shall be out of business. Hypothetically, if they keep mum there shall be a serious void in Urdu press; there shall be an acute shortage of topics for editorial comments. There shall be few occasions for shadow boxing.

The Muslim-obsession of Sangh Parivar and Sangh-obsession of Muslim leaders has served as a brake for positive and constructive thinking in both camps. They are enmeshed in a trap of negative and suicidal mind set. That does not mean that they should not react to unfair criticism, baseless charges and biased accusation. But why should Muslims keep themselves confined only to that? That indicates that Muslim public opinion is by and large negative or defensive.

Nobody should find fault with them if they are concerned about their identity, progress of their institutions and well being of their community. They are sensitive if adverse reflection is passed about their beliefs, cultural and social customs.

Of course, there shall be police excesses, custodial deaths and interference in educational matters. There should be protests and resistance if the occasion demands. However we should not wait for something adverse to happen to swing into action. Absence of positive and constructive thinking has led to a state of mind that we expect the government or leaders to solve our problems.

A secular democratic government should do many things for amelioration of the lot of citizens. It may fall short of expectations. It is expected to mete equal treatment to every section of the nation irrespective of caste, creed and community. That may not be the case. A community that has suffered injustice and discrimination should stand up and state its grievances. But living with a catalogue of grievances is not desirable.

When the government fails in measuring unto their expectations they find fault with their leadership. That is a common topic in many letters sent for publication in Urdu newspapers. Of course, there is no shortage of leaders. They are there in every political party, including those affiliated to Sangh Parivar. They are there at every level, Panchayat, state legislatures and the Parliament. But it is disturbing that they have not been able to influence policies of the government in favour of the community. Muslims are the second largest community of the country; their numerical strength may be between ten to twelve per cent of the total population of the country. The representation of Jews in the population of USA is between two and three per cent. But they are in a position to influence the state policy including foreign policy. To aspire for that position shall be wishful thinking for Indian Muslims. For example, the foreign policy of the Government of India, which was pro-Palestine, sympathetic to Islamic world in the initial period after independence is now pro-Israel, pro-USA, which means anti-Iran, anti-Libya anti-Iraq etc. The anti-Pakistan stance may be due to Kashmir issue. But why pro-Israel? How does it serve the interests of the country? The conclusion is obvious. The political forces at the helm of affairs feel that can afford to ignore feelings of Muslims while shaping state policies.

Indian Muslims lack political weight because they do not have economic strength. Their economic weakness is the main cause of their educational backwardness. Lacking broad economic and political vision they cling to any institution or opportunity which comes to them. The indulge in factionalism, infighting among themselves or splitting the institutions or organizations to which they belong. That is the story of every institution or organization dominated by Muslims.

Similar is the case about leadership. Leadership emerges through a social or political movement. We had a leadership, which emerged through the movement for freedom. Another rose through the movement for partition. Non-Muslims also have two sets of leaders; one through secular freedom movement and another that came up through its communal counterpart. Unfortunately after freedom we have no constructive vision or movement. So we have a leadership that is selfish and opportunist. Why should we complain?
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