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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Ask the Hamiyan-e-Vajpayee

By Mohd. Zeyaul Haque

The BJP (and rest of the Sangh) has worked itself into a froth over the 5 percent reservation for Muslims as a whole in Andhra Pradesh. So, will the Hamiyan-e-Vajpayee, who came to us asking for Muslim electoral support to a "changed BJP," please tell us what had made them to conclude that this innately anti-Muslim party had undergone a sudden change of heart?

This piece is not a case for Muslim quota in jobs. Or education, for that matter. Nor is it a case against affirmative action, benefits of which are quite evident. How evident are such benefits can be seen from a casual remark by the late Bhagwan (later, Osho) Shri Rajnish. When somebody said that job quotas for Dalits and tribals were a waste, he observed, "You tie the hands and feet of somebody for 5,000 years, and one fine morning ask him to compete in a marathon against someone who has been practising the run everyday, all through these years".

What the Bhagwan-Osho was trying to suggest in his brilliant style forms the crux of the affirmative action debate. To explain, people who had been hobbled for decades and centuries (for whatever reasons) can’t be expected to compete with others unless the ground rules are changed, and they are helped to compete. This is why even a highly competitive nation like the US opted for affirmative action in a bid to bring forward the lagging parts of its society. And this is why the makers of our august Constitution opted for it. The idea is so simple that you don’t have to be an intellectual like Syed Shahabuddin to grasp it.

The Andhra Pradesh government’s stance is that Muslims as a class (as opposed to a religious group) have fallen behind, and require special assistance to catch up with the rest. This has incensed the BJP so much that they have branded it as an "anti-national" move. (They retain an exclusive copy right on patriotism and enjoy the self-acquired right to brand anyone or anything as anti-national.) Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee has gone to the absurd length of claiming that the Andhra government’s move will trigger an avalanche of religious conversions. Conversions? Yes, we heard it right–conversions. That’s exactly what Mr Vajpayee has said.

Mr Vajpayee thinks that to grab the benefit of 5 percent quota in jobs and educational institutions, Hindus would convert to Islam. In short, people who already are covered under a 46 percent quota in one way or the other would find it a more attractive proposition to rush for the 5 percent quota instead.
BJP spokesman VK Malhotra went a step further and brought in the long-dead Mr Jinnah and his Two-Nation theory. On July 19, in New Delhi he announced the beginning of a nationwide stir, appropriately called "anti-appeasement" campaign.

One wonders whether the Hamiyan-e-Vajpayee (supporters of Vajpayee) know all this. The Hamiyan, a small group of Muslim religious scholars and divines, had convinced simple-minded folk like this writer before the parliamentary polls that the BJP had buried its anti-Muslims hatchet. As most Muslims (even those who are not "good Muslims") can’t take the risk of their souls being marked for eternal damnation for the sin of challenging the ulama and assorted divines, nobody dared question the Hamiyan. Quite a few Muslims known to this writer not only voted for the BJP, but openly campaigned for it.

Now that the old weapons are being brought out from the Sangh armoury, we know that nothing had really changed. Mr Jinnah is back with a bang. So is the Two-Nation theory. It would not be too long before Mr Narendra Modi gets back to this "Mian Musharraf" refrain of his election campaign. His Mian Musharraf is a metaphor for Indian Muslims, who do not deserve even the refugee camps because "they turn them into child-producing factories". And yes, the appeasement bogey too is back after five years.

Mr Modi’s ideal, Dr Praveen Todgadia, has gone a step further, saying this paltry 5 percent quota is the beginning of "yet another Pakistan". Incidentally, the initiative for the quota did not come from the present government, but from the Telugu Desam government of Chandrababu Naidu, a BJP ally in the erstwhile NDA government at the Centre. When the BJP was heading the ruling coalition it did not find it fit to oppose Mr Naidu. The present Andhra government is responsible only for issuing an order.

That such provisions are already there in states like neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Kerala does not bother BJP too much. Nor are they impressed by the results of an official study that showed Andhra Muslims were in dire straits and needed special measures to be pulled out of the abysmal conditions.

It is interesting to note that even the BJP leadership is admitting what has already been confirmed by the National Sample Survey Organisation, New Delhi’s prestigious Institute of Applied Economic Research and every other organisation of some consequence: that Muslims have been left behind in every respect. Bihar’s BJP leader Sushil Modi – who resembles the Gujarat CM not only in his surname and beard, but in deeply held political beliefs as well – too, admits that Muslim have become extremely backward. Only after this admission does Modi assert that he would fight against the Andhra government order. Sadly, one of the leading lights of the Hamiyan, Maulana Waheeduddin Khan, does not admit even this much.

To assuage fears stoked by the BJP, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister explained on July 26 that the five percent quota was meant not for all Muslims, but for the needy among them. This is what it should be, and no Muslims is going to dispute it. Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has stayed the implementation of the GO on a petition by a Sangh functionary.

All said and done, now let us return to the original question: What had made the Hamiyan-e-Vajpayee draw the conclusion that the BJP leopard had changed its spots? (iosworld.com)

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