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

Syed Shahabuddin

Here is Prof Iqbal Ansari’s rejoinder to Syed Shahabuddin’s reply published in the previous issue:

Dear Mr. Syed Shahabuddin,

Thanks for your prompt response (7 April) to my letter of 6 April on your joining the INC on the eve of the Lok Sabha general elections. It is the timing and manner of joining a new political party at this juncture, preventing you as president, AIMMM to enjoy more freedom in exercising all options benefical for the community, that is the main issue and not your record of courage of conviction in the past and hopefully in the future.

Dr. Syed Mahmood and Maulana Mufti Atiqur Rahman were veteran Congressmen, not election-eve new entrants aspiring for membership of the Lok Sabha (unlike you who are reported to have surveyed your chances of getting elected from some constituencies).

The AIMMM will be well advised to put a bar on any active political party member holding any office of the AIMMM, as is the practice in most human rights organizations.

In my view what was required to be done by the AIMMM & MOEMIN much before the election eve, was evolving a consensus of all significant politically active Muslim groups, including community biradari forums, on the issues and problems facing Muslims, followed by interaction with all political parties for their support, and extending support to candidates and parties in the light of the understanding reached with them. Such an exercise could have been undertaken by a body (like the AIMMM) whose office-bearens should themselves not have been candidates for membership of the Lok Sabha or convasser of any single party. 

In any case I hope you have reached some understanding with the INC leadership on issues related to Muslim grievances. There is still time for you to go public and ask Mrs Sonia Gandhi to make not only Gujarat but non-delivery of rehabilitative justice to the victims of communal violence and impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of periodic massacres in general, an important election issue if it wants its secular credentials to be taken seriously.

You may at least ask Mr Kapil Sibal, candidate from Chandni Chowk, to give the assurance that existing laws like 153 A etc. will be made more effective and laws on genocide and on the rights of victims of violence will be enacted. Simlarly you may raise the issue of extending not only the benefit of reservation to minorities, but address the issue of discrimination against and exclusion of minorities in general. In case you have exchanged letters, memoranda etc. or have had meetings, with Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and other leaders of the INC, followed by minutes, you may kindly make them public and send copies to me.

I may remind you that the proposals for a law on genocide and an Equal Opportunities Commission, were included in the recommendations of the People’s Integration Council 2003. jointly organized by the Congress and other secular parties.

Regarding my credentials to speak, on behalf of MOEMIN and other forums, you seem to have a selective memory. I was one of the four co-conveners of the Muslim Parliamentarians Meet and of the one on Muslim women. I was a member of the Steering Committee & Constitution Drafting Committee of MOEMIN and continue to be its life-member. I was earlier offered membership of the AIMMM. You also extended invitation to join it, but I declined to do so, to keep my independence intact. You may not be aware that AIMMM was founded single-handedly by Mohammad Muslim Editor, Dawat, with whom I worked for about a year in Delhi. Even if I had not been so closely associated with these bodies, my real credentials lie in the academic work and advocacy for the rights of minorities in India to be able to live as equal citizens with dignity.

Now that you have joined the INC in good faith, I look forward to a fruitful interaction for furtherance of causes that you and I hold dear. I hope you will focus attention of the INC on issues related to rule of law, non-discrimination and inclusion of the excluded and transparency as some core issues along with those related to human development of the deprived and weaker sections. All this will require a human rights perspective instead of the mantra of ‘secularism’.
I hope you will grow in political stature by raising these issues in the right national and human rights perspective.
Yours sincerely etc.
Iqbal A. Ansari

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