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Published in the 16-28 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

OPINION

All India Muslim Personal Law Board

The Milli Gazette Online

Some are born great. Some acquire greatness. Others have greatness thrust on them. All India Muslim Personal Law Board, had started off back in 1973, with the limited and well defined objective of securing Muslim religious rights in India, starting with protecting a status quo on Muslim Personal Law Act.1937; passed primarily by the British Government of India, though with some consultations and agreement with Muslims themselves. 

Today, the Board is virtually besieged by both friends and foes forcing it to give a total leadership to Indian Muslims, even though, it is neither formally nor mentally prepared or populated with that role of greatness. In effect, greatness is being thrust on All India Muslim Personal Law Board, for the sheer USP of its being there at the helm of affair of Muslims through over thirty years and remaining immunized to the lure of political ambitions for so long. 

As historian will record, the one single incident of a Brahmin judge, taking on himself the prerogative of practicing proactive justice, in letters if not in spirit, and coming out with a decision in Shah Bano case, disregarding the fine line that had protected Muslim personal law from the vagaries of motivated judicial adventurism for over 4 decades of Independent India’s recent history, forced the Board and its august personages to sound an alarm the reverberations of which are still ringing practically all around the country and ‘inviting the faithful’ to ‘come to aid of the party’. 

For an overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims, who were virtually sidelined by the Congress leadership in shaping the new constitutional set-up of India, mainly as a ‘punishment’ for the so-called sin of ‘partitioning mother India’, their Sharia had not remained free during the British colonial order and much less so, under the current Brahmanical order, if enlightened leadership in Congress had not been pragmatic enough to choose a secular, democratic national polity for the future of peace in a pluralist India. Still the chipping at the citadel is relentless and ongoing. More than ever, the Board finds itself not only responding to judicial challenges, but now being battered to stand up and lead the Umma in providing the framework for social and political activism. 

The beleaguered Indian Muslim community, at partition, was fully cut off from the subcontinent’s other Muslim majority areas and population that is now known as Pakistan and Bangladesh, ----who together form a formidable mass not only within the boundaries of sub-continent but even in relation to the world Muslim population. 

India’s Minister of External Affairs K. Natwar Singh has most courageously and correctly taken note of the fact, when he delivered the 12th Lal Bahadur Shashtri Memorial Lecture in New Delhi recently, and said: "There are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, of which 450 million are in the sub-continent alone." Some wishful thinkers are not off the mark when they point out that if the British had not been forced to fall back to partitioning of British India, for their life-line existence in protecting their longer term geo-political interests in this part of the world, 450 million Muslims would have tremendous impact of shaping of the South Asian leadership and could even have formed a nucleus to lead the whole Muslim world. It is not clear, if British or the Congress leadership foresaw the unsettling future development and deliberately went ahead with the partition. But the fragmentation of subcontinent’s Muslims did leave Indian Muslims in a self-inflicted ghetto existence, where All India Muslim Personal Law Board did appear to be their last protective defense boundary. 

Recent spate of copycat Muslim Personal Law Boards is symptomatic of the desperation in political circles, both within Sangh Parivar as well as the Communist circles, realizing that Muslim presence in India cannot be ignored. The overwhelming moral leadership of Ulama as well as lawyers and activists in the Board that have assiduously forsaken any political ambitions, so as to serve the cause of protection of Muslim Religious Rights vis-à-vis a whole army of detractors, is an earned reputation that cannot be easily challenged or duplicated by politically sponsored competitive shell organization. They can never command the following that AIMPLB has earned, even when subjected to the worst possible barrages of motivated propaganda and calumny. 

It is significant that all the groups that have come out with new sign-boards, do have their current representatives still holding fast with their membership in the AIMPLB and none has resigned or tried an ‘split’ as liberal media writers have misguidedly propagated. 

Media and interested groups are building up pressure on the Board to move into uncharted waters. The Nikah Nama episode is a serious test of its great ability to hold together groups of diverse schools of thoughts within a united group. The very idea of unity on which Board has been founded back in 1973, is anathema for anti-Muslim elements in other political groupings. Its moral weight in the community is a nightmare for both Sangh Parivar and the Communist hardliners. Board should resist all such spurious challenges. 

AIMPLB has started taking remedial steps to broaden its membership to give proper weightage to groups within the community that feel aggrieved. However, it is time, the BOARD start serious and open deliberation as how its organizational set-up could be improved to take up the broader challenges that the Indian Muslim community is facing, due to political polarization calling up Muslims to come out of its hibernation and play a more secular role in the best interest of the nation as a whole. 
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Ghulam_muhammed2@yahoo.co.in
 

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