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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Should Muslims rethink about BJP?

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has again and again exhorted Muslims to rethink about BJP and remove any ‘misunderstanding’ about it. He wants them to take their decision after carefully evaluating the performance of the NDA government. One is at a loss to understand what performance is he projecting after the mass murders and rape of Muslims in Gujarat in which his own party’s government has been actively involved. 

Even on the grounds of ‘constructive criticism’ that he is inviting from Muslims, he has nothing to project by way of any positive steps to ameliorate the economic, educational, housing backwardness of the Muslim community. All his administration has done is to clamp down on various existing facilities that Muslims could have got on the basis of their Muslim identity, was a propaganda against the Madarsas, a series of restrictions on Haj pilgrims, a threat to Aligarh Muslim University’s minority character. This is all done in the name of secularism, while Hindutva is free to introduce all manners of distortions without any threat to India’s secular polity. 

All throughout BJP’s term of office, L.K. Advani has made it his full time preoccupation to breath fire and brimstone against the Muslims. New areas of disputes were racked up by BJP’s storm troopers, to threaten and destroy communal harmony and peace. Specially fashioned trishuls, which were more like lethal weapon rather than the harmless symbolic religious artifacts, were openly distributed all over the troubled and tense areas of mixed communities, with a deliberate agenda of terrorizing Muslims. On the other hand, by far the largest number of POTA victims are all Muslims.

On the economic front, all their distinctive trades that were traditional Muslim dominated were choked into becoming failures. Traditional Muslim handicraft trades including Handloom industry has been methodically destroyed with targeted taxation policies and rendered large population without means to make even subsistence level existence. Doors of employment were increasingly closed to Muslim youth, under increasingly hateful atmosphere created by the goons from various affiliated organisations, thus forcing Muslims to life of petty crimes for survival. Poverty, unemployment, illiteracy level in Muslim pockets is worse than national averages. Old Muslim localities are piles of rubble and ruin with hardly any sign of government help for rejuvenation of Muslim ghettos and slums in urban areas around towns and cities of India. Muslims are routinely denied any access to institutional finance and credit for industrial or commercial projects. Abominable levels of discrimination has been institutionalized in government bureaucracies and there is no recourse to any law that can punish the guilty for communal discrimination against Muslims or any legislated deterrent punishments against hate crimes. In effect, Muslims have been wiped out of all statistics. 

If there is any misunderstanding involved, it is due to the heady intoxication of the Goebbellian propaganda of ‘feel good’ factor, that has robbed the Prime Minister to delude that the record of BJP governance has been ‘good’ (sic.) for the Muslims and it is his constant refrain mixed with a veiled threat to Muslims to rethink the consequences of not voting for BJP that is the biggest misunderstanding that needs to be corrected by the Prime Minister himself, rather than forcing the victimized Muslims to rethink their stand against BJP on pain of dire consequences; thus making mockery of all letter and spirit of democratic elections in supposedly the largest democratic country in the world. 
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

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