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Small savings can be big help
By Zahid Ali Khan

The substantial help of Rs 2 crore Gujarat victims got from brethren via Siasat Relief Fund makes this a prime model for others to follow

The condition of minorities, especially of Muslim minority in India, is well known. The most unfortunate part of it is that, instead of any improvement, there is a gradual deterioration. There is no dearth of people who shed crocodile tears on the condition of Muslims. Our politicians, social activists and even religious leaders cannot deny the fact that Muslims are far behind others in all spheres of life. There is no denying the fact that so-called backward classes are moving ahead of Muslims in social and economic fields. There are so many who feel sorry for the situation, but there are very few who want to do something about it. 

If someone wants to take remedial steps, he does not find sincere co-workers who could be of some help. Some people staked their claim to improve the condition of Muslims in academic and economic fields, but they did not stand the test of time. Instead of doing something useful for the community, they tried to promote their own personal agenda. The experience with such selfish leaders has made Muslims once bitten twice shy. However, I do not mean that there is no sincere leader among Muslims. What I mean is that we do not have as many sincere leaders as needed today. 

I can say without any hesitation that during the last fifty-five years, the Muslim leadership has not been as effective as it should have been. The result is before us. Muslim leaders did occupy high positions, but the moment they tasted power, they compromised with their principles. Some of them have even felt shy to identify themselves with the Muslim community. On the other hand, leaders of certain other communities feel proud of the people they represent.

The absence of a single united leadership has also contributed to our backwardness. There are no two opinions about the fact that neither the central nor the state governmenst have taken any positive steps for the improvement of Muslims. The so-called well-wishers of Muslims have not been really duty-conscious.

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the problems of Muslims with certain important personalities at home and abroad. Among them there were many Muslim politicians and high officials. Their common opinion is that Muslims have to blame themselves for the situation they are in. A very important personality who has held a key position in the government, took me by surprise when he said that Muslim leaders approached the government only in respect of certain stereotyped matters. The issues raised by Muslim leaders in parliament and assemblies were also of a particular nature. Even the commissions especially constituted for Muslims have not come forward with any specific and useful recommendations. 

Minorities have only been used as vote bank by central and state governments. Promises are made but not kept. It is surprising that at the time of swearing in ceremony, everyone takes oath to uphold the Constitution. If only the assurances laid down in the Constitution are fulfilled and the fundamental rights of minorities as enshrined in the Constitution are followed in letter and spirit, the minorities could be much better off.

The recent events and propaganda activities of certain communal parties against minorities and especially Muslims serve as eye-opener for us. The people who spread communal frenzy have shown a preview of their future plans of genocide and bloodshed in Gujarat. The country has anti-communal and secular forces also, but their internal bickerings do not enable them to become a strong force. People, who support the Gujarat carnage and the elements behind it, are holding key positions in the government. Sangh Parivar appears to have the remote control of the government. The economy, culture, language and traditional heritage of Muslims are being targeted in a planned manner. 

The events of Gujarat invite us to introspect. We must strive to make Muslims self- sufficient and self-reliant in every respect. Muslims have every reason to believe that the party in power would fulfill its constitutional obligations towards minorities. But when rulers with antagonistic feelings hold the reins of government, there is no point in expecting anything positive. Under these circumstances, Muslims who have real sympathy for their community will have to rise to the occasion. It is not the time to look to others for help. It is time that our heart should go out to the sufferings of others. 

At this stage, I would like to mention with deep sense of gratitude, the generous donations made by Hyderabadis living in all parts of the erstwhile Hyderabad state and those who are now working in the Gulf and elsewhere. In an overwhelming response, our brothers and sisters have made history by donating more than Rs 2 crore in a short span of time, for the victims of Gujarat riots. The Siasat Gujarat Relief Fund has the unique honour of being the largest ever private fund. This large contribution is in itself a testimony to the limitless generosity of our people. I am grateful to all donors who have so spontaneously responded to my call in the wake of Gujarat carnage. I pray to God for their well-being.

Gujarat incidents have convinced me that the community should try to safeguard its interests unitedly. If not at national level, at least on state level, Muslims should establish such funds, through which practical steps can be taken for the improvement of Muslims in economic, academic and social fields. Allah says in the Glorious Quran "… Allah certainly does not change (the condition) in which a people are, until they change that which is in their souls." (Surah 13-11)

In my earlier writings also I have tried to focus on the condition of Muslims and the consequent responsibility of the Muslim leadership. Like-minded friends have appreciated my point of view and I am receiving numerous letters in this regard. I also feel that this work should be taken up on priority. Andhra Pradesh can become a shining example for other states. It is not difficult to raise a few crores of rupees in one year. We can make substantial contributions, if only we curtail unnecessary expenditure. Such a fund, if established, would safeguard not only the interests of the present generation but also those of the future generations. 

Many institutions are founded by governments for the betterment of Muslims but their performance is far from satisfactory. Education is a must for our economic uplift. If the community is suitably educated, it can seek its own livelihood. Recent surveys show that Muslims are far behind other communities. The Festival of Education is being celebrated in the state but Urdu is not properly represented in the festival. The government must concentrate on the dilapidated state of Urdu schools, filling up of vacancies of Urdu-medium teachers and providing other basic amenities. 

Minority Commission, Urdu Academy, and Minority Finance Corporation complain about delays in the release of government grants. If we take into cognizance the population of minorities and the funds allocated for their welfare, we do not see any sense of proportion. Although the census figures for the year 2001 are not yet available, there are eighty to ninety lakh Muslims living in Andhra Pradesh. The funds for minority welfare (which included other minorities such as Christians, Sikhs, etc.) allocated by the government are about Rs 32 crore. If Muslims of Andhra Pradesh save just one rupee per month, we can raise eighty lakh rupees per month. If we exclude extremely poor people, at least fifty lakh rupees can be saved every month, which would go to make six crores in a year. If we avoid undue expenditure on marriages and other family functions our corpus can further expand. If such huge amounts are invested in the proposed Milli Fund, we will not just be able to serve the Muslims of our state but we would also be able to help poor Muslims in other parts of the country. All of us know the huge expenditure we incur on cars and stage decoration for marriages. Photography and videography form part of another avoidable expenditure. 

The Prophet (PBUH) has directed us to make nikah a simple ceremony. But we have made the very institution of marriage a nightmare. The very thought of a daughter’s wedding makes bride’s parents restless. Their agony can be felt by those who had the experience of marrying off their daughters. Nikah can be performed in the mosque and a modest reception can be arranged thereafter in some marriage hall. 

Look at the Christians. However rich they may be, they perform their marriages in churches. All influential Muslim leaders and religious scholars should stress the need for avoiding useless rituals. Muslim women can play a major role in this important mission. By avoiding pomp and splendour we can save substantial amount, which can be invested in the fixed deposit in the name of the bride. The amount so invested will be useful in many ways for the married couple and their children.

Unreasonable demands from bridegroom’s side and the dowry system are a curse for the society. Because of this, many girls of marriageable age have become a burden on their parents. Do we not owe any obligation to these pitiable daughters of our society? Actually every opulent family should undertake to arrange the marriage of one or two poor girls along with the wedding of their own daughter, to reduce the burden of the less privileged members of our society. As Muslims, it is our firm belief that on the Day of Judgment, we would be answerable to Allah in matters relating to our neighbours and relatives. If we do not help our poor relatives today, we are liable to be caught in the Life Hereafter. If we reduce expenditure on marriages, other functions and luxurious living and establish a Milli Fund, we can definitely help our needy brothers and sisters.

The welfare fund will be our strength in the event of emergencies like riots and communal disturbances. The proceeds of such a fund can render help in relief and rehabilitation work.

Today, anti-Muslim forces are bent upon depriving Muslims of availing of chances of promotion. The only option left to us is to properly utilise our own resources and face this grim situation with fortitude and unity. This way we can face the challenges of communalism. Remember, if we do not act today, tomorrow could be very late.

Zahid Ali Khan is editor, Siasat Daily, Hyderabad.
He may be contacted at editor@siasat.com
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