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

BJP's Muslims
As of now, one can only be either of the two either a BJP person or a Muslim, contends Mohd. Zeyaul Haque 

A few years ago, a political commentator compared the late Sikandar Bakht, then a vice-president of BJP, to a Jewish member of the Nazi party. The Nazi, who was also a Jew, ultimately committed suicide. His agony is quite understandable, because nobody can live a life of such severe contradiction for too long. Interestingly, Bakht did not meet the fate of the man he was compared to.

Bakht, who died a natural death after a long innings in politics, may not have suffered attacks of conscience like his Jewish counterpart. However, a BJP Muslim still remains an oxymoron, that is, one can only be either of the two either a BJPwallah or a Muslim never both. After Bakht and Arif Beg came Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who spent the entire mid-80s to mid-90s running around newspaper and magazine offices and trying hard to convince everybody that Indian Muslims were rotten and everything about them was terrible. He had the gall to invariably add that he was saying all that "as a Muslim"!

Naqvi used to give press notes carrying his statements on "Muslim" issues. Most English newspapers (and others, too) obliged by carrying these foolish statements, some even giving him enough play in terms of positioning these statements. However, the general impression in the editorial rooms was that this man was in a hurry to prove his trustworthiness to the Sangh.

Some journalists observed that his fanatical anti-Muslim fervour came from the fact that he was kicked out by his parents for marrying a young woman who happened to be related to a RSS leader. Now that he was disowned by his own family, he had more reasons to cling on to the RSS parivar. Several years later, he was rewarded for his loyalty to the Sangh with a ministerial post at the Centre. The attraction of political power is said to have reconciled his alienated parental family.

Interestingly, while Naqvi was drawn into the Sangh fold because he married a Sangh leader's relative, his predecessor Bakht became the target of Sangh's ire for being impudent enough to have married a Hindu woman. The Sangh was so furious at Bakht that a massive communal riot was barely averted. It was a time when the city was still recovering from a terrible riot fatigue.

Delhi would certainly have witnessed terrible riots had the people not been sick and tired of the protracted post-Partion riots. However, the Sangh did try its best to disturb peace. Bakht later moved into the Sangh fold, and this friendship, which had begun from enmity, lasted till he died recently.

Bakht is said to have started his political career as a sympathiser of Muslim causes. Later he moved on to the secular front of Subhadra Joshi before jumping on to the Hindutva bandwagon, a career trajectory similar to that of Arif Mohammad Khan.

Khan's first major victory was his AMU students union presidency, which he won with the support of Islamists in the teeth of fierce opposition from secularists. He changed quite a few cloaks before donning the saffron robe. A classical turncoat, Khan today can muster the cheek to call Islamists kathmullahs , a term of derision applied to the same people who had ensured his first victory.

In the intervening years he inched close to Mrs Indira Gandhi. After that came his avtar as India's minister of aviation. The Boeing deal scandal of that period made massive headlines, as did the news of his figuring in the Hawala scam. He came virtually unscathed out of the two scams thanks largely to shabby investigation.

BJP's other Arif, that is Arif Beg, also turned out to be a chameleon who has little faith in anything except his own narrow interests. Najma Heptullah, whose refrain has been her putative genetic link to Maulana Azad, tops them all because only she knows how to blend Azad and Hedgewar.

That leaves us with Syed Shahnawaz Hussein, whose greatest contribution to the country is that he has tried to tell the Muslim world that everything is fine with Indian Muslims. He avers that under the BJP, Muslims of India experienced "only one riot , that of Gujarat". That is like somebody declaring innocently, "In my entire life I have murdered only once." Nobody expects any better quality of mind in the Sangh Muslims. Had they known better, they would not be where they find themselves today.

All said and done, some understanding with the Sangh is still possible, and desirable. But that is possible only with organisations, like the Jamiatul Ulema-i-Hind trying to establish a dialogue with the Sangh and build bridges. Or, the Jamaat-e-Islami trying the same during the Emergency. Solo players and freelancers like Najma and Arif or, for that matter, others of their ilk, speak and act only for themselves. (

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