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

Political representation of Muslims
Muslim organisations reluctant campaigners
By N Jamal Ansari

Despite the fact that Indian Muslims are the second largest Muslim Community in the world, next to Indonesia, they are facing the worst of times. In fact all the minorities and marginalised groups are desperately trying to save themselves from the onslaught of the so-called cultural nationalism propagated by Saffron Brotherhood and implemented by BJP. It is not merely the political parties or the Government that have failed the Muslim Community, leaders and socio-politico organisations of Muslims also have done nothing constructive to guide the community. 

Political representation of Muslims is falling day by day. There are several factors behind this unfortunate fact. One of the factors is the role played by Muslim organisations. Most of the Muslim organisations remain passive to the issues concerning the community. Some of these organisations do take interest in the community's development but they lack mass-base.

UP Rabita Committee headed by Saiyyad Hamid is doing great service to the nation as well as community. Its General Secretary Amanullah Khan is devoting much time and energy in formulating policies and course of action for the community. Recently Rabita Committee held several brain storming sessions under the Chairmanship of Amanullah Khan for drafting a Charter of Demands. A committee was formed comprising Dr Shakeel Samdani, Sr Lecturer (Law), Dr Muhib-ul-Haq, Lecturer (Political Science) and this writer for drafting the above mentioned "Charter", After much discussion and deliberation, the following demands were made to the political parties:

  • A genocide law for the nation, based on convention on the prevention & punishment of the crime of genocide" 1948).

  • Establishment of special courts for trying cases of riots,
    A law compelling police and other security personnel to act impartially 

  • with provisions of punishment,

  • Uniform compensation for riot victims.

  • Reservation in educational institutions and Jobs.

  • Amendment of Article 341 for including Dalit Muslims and Christians in reservation category

  • Constitutional Protection of Religious places and texts,
    Protection of language and culture.

  • Non-interference in minority institutions.

  • Reservation of seats in Lok-Sabha & State assemblies

  • Codifying Muslim Personal Law

  • Repeal of POTA and other draconian laws

  • Contain globalisation and liberalisation 

No doubt, these demands are the basic demands for the safety, dignity and development of Muslims. No Muslim organisation has ever raised such demands in Post-independent India. These demands have far-reaching effects If nothing can be done, a debate will initiate through these demands and in future a powerful pressure group may emerge. But what we lack? The well-oiled organisation is there, the agenda is there and right committed people are there but it is not mass-based. Rabita Committee may become flag-bearer, if it associates people who have talent irrespective of status. I have felt it bitterly that most of the Muslim organisations are in fact elite forums. The need of the hour is to broaden the "base and do the field work.

Syed Shahabuddin is a person of high intellect and missionary zeal. He is the President of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat. AIMMM has raised several issues concerning Muslims from time to time. No body can challenge the sincerity and integraty of Syed Shahabuddin. Recently he reconstituted AIMMM. A close look at the names associated with MMM reveals a elitism" as not a single person of humble origin and status could find place. Mushawarat can play a very constructive role and may become a bridge between community and government if it may be democratised. 

There are many other such organisations like Jamat-e-Islami, Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind and Momin Conference (unfortunately it broke into several small groups after sad demise of Zia-ur-Rahman Ansari) which may guide Muslim masses but they all lack internal democracy. My humble opinion is that all these organisations including Muslim Personal Law Board should become cadre-based with local units at district headquarters. As all organisations are working for the betterment of Muslim masses in one way or other they must forge unity and form an umbrella organisation for influencing policy makers and making deals with governments 

Elections for Lok Sabha and some state assemblies are fast approaching and this is the best time to act. Rabita Committee has shown the way to other organisations. It is also time to take stock of inner weaknesses such as egoism. We must remove it. 

The demand raised by Rabita Committee may become issues for launching a socio-politico movement in future. The purpose of this article is double fold to raise the issues of vital importance and to suggest for democratisation of Muslim organisations. This article is not the end result of any ill-will. On the other hand, the main purpose it to give a call for unity, so that we may carry out indepth research to identify the fundamental causes which are perpetuating backwardness of Muslims, submitted for consideration to all those who want to see Muslim organisations as flag-bearer and not as reluctant campaigner.

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