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

Good riddance, Mr. Bukhari
By Mohammed Ayub Ali Khan

Tornoto: That the self-proclaimed leaders of India’s Muslims are more interested in looking after their own personal interests than those of the community was never in doubt. In the name of community they have amassed incredible amounts of wealth- wealth that will last them posterity. For the past several years these leaders were acting more like contractors rather than displaying any leadership. They have consistently failed the community at every turn. Selling the Muslim community to the highest bidder is their choicest occupation. What is intriguing, however, is the level of shamelessness they have been displaying in this election season.

Milli Gazette/Yusuf The latest in this growing line of hypocritical "leaders" is the Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari. Long known for his fire spitting speeches targeting Advani, Vajpayee and Hindutva organizations the Imam has made a complete about turn. Suddenly, he says that Muslims should support the Bharatiya Janata Party in the interests of ensuring communal harmony in the country. 

For long Ahmed Bukhari was in the shadow of his father, the elder Shahi Imam, who was himself one of the leading lights of fatwa politics. Supporting Indira Gandhi’s Congress in one election and switching over to Janata Party and its later incarnations in other elections was his habit. The restless Ahmed Bukhari was always in the news for making provocative statements which were long in words but short in action. He created ripples when he formed the short-lived Adam Sena in the 80’s to combat militant Hindu groups. Some gullible Muslims joined it only to find that it was all a sham. After creating some initial noise its initiator immediately moved to disband it. 

In pre-Babri Masjid demolition times, the father and son team were the toast of Janata Dal. They acted more like celebrities than religious figures, attending parties of the rich and the famous and registering "Muslim presence." During these years they were also involved in the in-fighting among the Muslim leaders. Their reckless bickering with Syed Shahabuddin and other leaders of the Babri Masjid movement was one of the reasons that Muslims were not able to put up a united front.

In 2000, Ahmed Bukhari became the Shahi Imam after his father retired (some say forced out) from the position at Jama Masjid. Ahmed Bukhari’s ascension ceremony was a sight to be seen. It looked more like a royal coronation. Fire crackers burst in the background as he ascended the pulpit. Soon after he announced that he will be forming a new political party of the Muslims. 

"Let the other political parties now realize that we can get political power if we want. I do not say that a Muslim party is going to be a magic wand, but at least it can force Parliament to discuss issues that Muslims want like education and jobs. We are not here just to cast our votes and then suffer till the next election. And then again cast votes hoping for change. I told Muslims to remove their crutches and walk on their feet and become a political power," he said at that time. He announced at that time that he will hold a national meeting in January 2001 to name the party. The meeting was never called and the Shahi Imam threw it in the backburner.

Ahmed Bukhari’s legacy has been that of reckless irresponsibility, provocation, disunity and broken promises. The Muslim mainstream has finally realized the self-serving machinations of Bukhari and his ilk. By supporting BJP, Bukhari has lost even the miniscule support that he has in the few yards surrounding the Jama Masjid. Good riddance Mr.Bukhari. We hope your new friends will treat you exactly as you have treated the Muslim community: bandhua mazdoor (bonded labour).

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