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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Indo-Pak relations will not affect Muslim political approach
Defeating fascist forces is Muslim priority
By Andalib Akhter
New Delhi: With the general elections approaching fast, political activities are gaining momentum across the country. All political parties are using different means and tactics to grab power. Rath-yatras and road shows are going on. While pundits are donning "Muslim" caps and turbans, a few mullahs are safronising their Kurtas and dastars. In fact the situation has become very interesting. But unfortunately in the melee for power the common Muslim across the country is in a dilemma as to what he/she should do.
Their confusion and concern are genuine. Every political party makes promises to them at the time of elections and forgets them quickly after the voting day. This time too, all political parties are trying to give an impression that they are the real sympathisers of Muslims. Even the BJP this time round is trying hard to embrace the very same Muslims it discarded earlier. Great promises are being made for them even by BJP leaders .
While some parties are talking about Muslim rights, others are promising them the moon. Obviously all parties have realised that Muslims are now in a position of decisively influencing the political map of the country. It is high time Muslims show unity and farsightedness if they want a government of their like at the centre. This correspondent talked to a few most renowned Muslim scholars, religious leaders, journalists and social activists of the country to know their views as to what Muslims should do in the forthcoming elections. Three questions were put before each of them: 

  1. What should be the strategy of Muslims in the forthcoming elections or whom should they vote for; 

  2. Will the improvement in Indo-Pakistan relations prompt Muslims to cast their votes in favour of BJP; 

  3. Should Muslims trust Mulayam Singh's secularism? 

Here are the answers:

Saiyid Hamid, Chancellor Jamia Hamdard
Saiyid Hamid, Chancellor Jamia HamdardMuslim cooperation and support should go to secular parties. The choice may be different at national and state levels. We should support those parties in which Muslims have complete faith, those who are above prejudice. Muslims have complaints against the Congress Party, but its ideology is secular and hence Muslims should vote in favour of the Congress. But at local levels, Muslims should cast their votes in favour of candidates who are committed to the rights of minorities, who talk about the strengthening of democracy and secularism. At the same time Muslims should also put their demand before them particularly about their security, education, health and economic condition and ask them as to what is their position about these issues. If they were ready for the fulfillment of these demands, they should be further questioned about what would be their line of action to implement these demands.

Undoubtedly, Muslims are happy with improved relations with Pakistan. It is in the interest of both Muslims and the country. But it is just a beginning. However, this improvement in relations cannot change the political thinking of the Muslims. They will vote for those who are committed to secularism.

It is unfortunate that some recent initiatives by Mulayam Singh Yadav have created doubts in the minds of Muslims. But it will be premature not to trust his secularism. Mulayam has fought for the cause of Muslims and I hope in future too he will do so. Muslims should not ignore him.

Dr Abdul Haq Ansari, Amir, Jama'at-e Islami Hind
Dr Abdul Haq Ansari, Amir, Jama'at-e Islami Hind We want democracy, secularism and brotherhood in India. We want all the minorities to flourish here. They must not be victimised. There should not be rule of one religion. In this regard we want Muslims to cast their votes in full strength and exercise their franchise in such a way that communal forces are defeated. We should vote in favour of the forces which are democratic and secular and do not discriminate against people on religious grounds after coming to power.

BJP is asking for Muslim votes on account of improving relations with Pakistan, but has BJP ever thought as to what it did for Muslims in the five years of its rule. Did BJP make any law to prevent communal violence? Did it think about socio-economic development of the Muslim community? Did it think about reservation for Muslims in jobs? Indo-Pak relation is just a beginning. We have to see the results. Muslims are not so innocent. They know all the developments and have a political approach. There is no question that Indo-Pak relations would affect this approach.

Mulayam Singh has always been close to Muslims. It has to be seen as to what he will do in future. It has to be seen if he opts for Congress or other parties. Muslims should not take any harsh action against Mulayam Singh.

Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, scholar and editor, Milli Gazette:
Dr Abdul Haq Ansari, Amir, Jama'at-e Islami Hind Elections offer a democratic opportunity to choose the rulers for the next five years. We are very fortunate that as a result of democracy we are not going to suffer bad rulers forever. Every voter should exercise this right with responsibility and consciously so that we elect the best of rulers who really care about progress and development and do not keep us busy in non-issues. I think Muslims all over the country have made up their mind as a result of past experiences, to vote for the best secular candidate in the fray, irrespective of caste, creed and religion.

BJP is trying to take all the credit for the improvement in Indo-Pakistan relations, which is not correct. Many local and foreign factors are responsible for the current thaw. The only new thing is that the BJP is exploiting this as a means to lure Muslim voters. Not long ago these very BJP leaders used to declare that they do not care about Muslim voters. Muslims naturally want good neighbourly relations with all countries in the area, including Pakistan, but this is an issue of India's foreign policy, which should not be made an issue of internal politics.

Mulayam, Mayawati and others are only after Muslim votes. They make big promises which are never fulfilled like Mulayam's promise last time to appoint Urdu teachers and translators which mainly remain on paper.

Dr. Manzoor Alam, chairman, Institute of Objective Studies (IOS)
Dr. Manzoor Alam, chairman, Institute of Objective Studies It is high time for Muslims to see what is in their interest. Whether those people should be elected who abide by the law of the land or those who violate it, disturb peace and attack the honour of citizens and are bent upon destroying the secular fabric of the country. Whenever such situation arises, Indian Muslims have shown preference to the national interest over their personal interest. This time too there is a big challenge before them. They should choose those candidates who are democratic and secular in the true sense and have determination to strengthen these institutions. Muslims should try to help in electing an alternative government which follows the rule of law, brings peace and prosperity to the country. It should be a government under which every community could protect its identity and make progress. Those forces should be defeated who try to mislead Muslims by false propaganda. 

The BJP's impression that the improvement in the relations with Pakistan will bring Muslims to its fold is not correct. In fact it is trying to create doubts about the patriotism of Indian Muslims. They are creating an image that Muslims in India are pro-Pakistan. By saying this, BJP is discarding the great sacrifices of Indian Muslims. 

As regards to Mulayam Singh, it will be premature to say which party he will align with in post-election scenario. Till now he has not openly supported those whom we call communalists. Muslims cannot ignore Mulayam Singh. If he joins NDA after the elections it would be his biggest political blunder as Muslims constitute a major part of his voters.

Dr Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, editor, Afkar-e Milli
Dr Syed Qasim Rasool Ilyas, editor, Afkar-e Milli It is a basic thing that Muslims want to defeat communal forces and they will try to do this during the next elections. Hence they will help secular forces. Muslims will support those parties which are secular in the real sense. Muslims should cast their votes in large numbers. They should increase their percentage of voting and try to strengthen secular parties. Where the secular parties are divided, Muslims should vote for the strongest candidate and ready to fight boldly for the cause of minorities and weaker sections. Muslim religious organizations should also come forward so that Muslim vote are not divided.
BJP is fully aware as to whom Muslims will vote. It is creating the Pakistan brouhaha so that the secular Hindu voter could be attracted. It is also a conspiracy to divide Muslim votes so that it is not cast enblock. Muslims have no enmity with the BJP. They only oppose the RSS ideology that BJP follows.
I think Mulayam Singh cannot go towards the BJP openly because Muslims constitute a major part of his votebank. Undoubtedly some of his recent steps have created doubts in Muslim minds. However, time has not come that Muslims should show their back to Mulayam. 

Hisam Siddiqui, editor, Jadeed Markaz, Lucknow
Hisam Siddiqui, editor, Jadeed Markaz, Lucknow Time has come that Muslims are forced to think who is secular and who is not. The need of hour is that Ulama should decide who is secular. I think Muslims should make a political agreement with political parties. They should ask political parties as to how much share in political power they are ready to give to Muslims. What is their position in regard to employment, loans and other facilities to Muslims? Will they allow Muslims to live in peace? For this Muslims have to be united keeping aside their personal interests. Muslim politicians do not serve their community. They are faithful to their parties only. For them after Allah and the Prophet the party leader is everything. Muslims should see at local level as to how a particular candidate is helpful for them. Study the candidate and his party too. 

It is difficult to say that Muslims will come to the BJP fold due to the improvement of relations with Pakistan. The environment is not such that Muslims will go to that party.

Openly opposing Samajwadi or any other party is not in the interests of Muslims. Like other segments of our society, they should make their choices intelligently and without publicity. Time has come for Muslims should to show political maturity. 

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