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

UP Muslims deserve more than just cosmetic gestures

For about 15 years now the Muslim voters of Uttar Pradesh have constantly given total support to the Samajwadi Party and its top leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. Over these 15 years Mulayam Singh has repeatedly said that he is a staunch friend of the Muslim community and will ensure that when his party is in power, Muslims are treated with fairness. For 15 years he has often made public statements criticizing those who harass Muslims. But when the U. P. Muslims look at what real benefits they have received in return for such total loyalty and support to Mulayam Singh, they find a very unbalanced picture.

Most of what U. P. Muslims have received in return from "Maulana Mulayam" are cosmetic and symbolic gestures, e. g. (a) Allowing Muslim students holiday in schools in the afternoon on Fridays; (b) Trying to establish an Urdu university and, appointing the very loyal and senior-most Muslim SP leader, Azam Khan "pro-VC for life" in that university. What is strange is that while Mulayam Singh has declared that Azam Khan has "Number 2 rank in the cabinet" after him, he has not given him Number 2 or Number 3 or Number 4 important ministry. He has only been given the less important ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development. No other loyal and capable Muslim SP leader has been given any of the top ministries either.

In the good old 1950-1980 period, several senior Muslim leaders in many states eg UP, Bihar, MP, Maharashtra, Assam etc became chief ministers, deputy chief ministers or top ministers in states, by their service and loyalty to their party. Some of the names are: Abdul Ghafoor (CM-Bihar), AR Antulay (CM-Maharashtra), Taimura Anwar (CM-Assam), Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad (Deputy CM- Assam), Hafiz Ibrahim (Deputy CM-UP). One wonders why in his repeated regimes in UP, Mulayam Singh has never given even the Home or the Finance or the Industries ministry to any of his loyal and proven Muslim leaders?

It is very obvious to everyone that in order to break out of the awful circle of gross impoverishment and backwardness, the Muslims of UP, who constitute 18 per cent of the population of this huge state, need better opportunities in education and jobs. The condition of the Muslim high schools/colleges in most cities in UP is pitiable today. Both the infrastructure/building and the quality of teachers has suffered horribly in the last 30 years. Additionally there is large scale unemployment in the Muslim community throughout UP. The infrastructure in Muslim mohallas in major UP cities has deteriorated very badly. Today the Muslims of UP should stop being shy and hesitant and demand some substantial benefits from Samajwadi Party and Mulayam Singh. For instance:

  • UP Muslims should demand that like some other states, Mulayam Singh formulate 5 per cent reservation for Muslims in UP Govt jobs/higher education.

  • UP Muslims should demand that Mulayam Singh increase financial aid/grant to the very depressed Muslim colleges/high schools, to bring them at par with other schools/colleges. At this time in most Muslim colleges/schools, libraries and labs have deteriorated so much that they are either non-existent or useless. New libraries and laboratories are a pressing need.

  • UP Muslims should demand that physical infrastructure improvement be made in Muslim mohallas. In Muslim mohallas sanitary facilities parks and community centers should be improved and such new facilities should be built.

  • UP Muslims should demand that Mulayam Singh appoint a Muslim as either Home minister or Finance Minister.

All of the above demands are justified entirely on the basis of the extraordinary backwardness of the Muslims of UP, far in excess of the general population of UP. Mulayam Singh/SP have done all of the above for the OBC community during his repeated regimes. The Muslims of UP have waited on the promises of SP and Mulayam Singh for over 15 years. Today the Muslim MPs/ MLAs and other Muslim leaders in SP should ask their party and Mulayam Singh to set specific milestones and timelines for real developmental projects for the Muslims in UP, and implement them as soon as possible.

Kaleem Kawaja,
Washington DC

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