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

Are Dalit politicians fair to Muslims?

Neither Muslim masses nor Muslim leaders are opposed to an electoral/political understanding between Muslims and Dalits in order to remove the oppression of both communities. But Muslims are not willing to help in the unleashing of a caste based confrontation between two segments of Hindus (upper castes vs lower castes), or between Hindus and Muslims. Unfortunately the Dalit Voice magazine (Editor: Raj Shekhar Reddy) and a few Dalit politicians have for some time, blamed the Muslim community leaders for preventing this coalition from taking shape. He also blames the Muslim leaders for oppressing the so called "low caste Muslims". 

140 million Indian Muslims are already a very weak community in all respects. It will be suicidal for them to weaken themselves further by dividing the community between so called "upper caste Muslims - Ashraf " and "low caste Muslims - Ajlaf", that some Dalit politicians are trying to create. In the Muslim community there has never been any real separation on the basis of caste; the differentiation being a class phenomenon based on financial ability. 

Also the facts of recent history tell us that 3 times when India's largest Dalit political party, BSP, won power in UP with support from Muslim voters, it formed coalition with BJP to rule UP. During BSP's 3 periods of rule in UP, almost nothing was done to help the impoverished Muslims of UP. Under the pressure of BJP, BSP went back on its pre-election promises to improve the condition of Muslims. In the Gujarat election of December 2002, nine months after the horrible massacre of Muslims in Gujarat abetted by Modi and BJP, Mayawati (then Chief Minister of UP) campaigned for BJP and Modi and decalred that Modi & BJP are good for Muslims.

While the common Dalits feel friendship for Muslims, some Dalit politicians look upon Muslims only as a vote bank.

Besides India's future lies in eradicating the existing differences of castes, not in increasing such differences, or creating new differences in the Muslim community where it has never existed.

Kaleem Kawaja, Washington DC.

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