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My Ahmedabad presentation: genesis and impact

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Saffron approach: By the ninth decade of the twentieth century the Hindu rightist political grouping of India had decided that for the purpose of quickly catapulting themselves to noticeable visibility in the Parliament and assemblies it would use some carefully selected patently anti-Muslim planks and would converge the politically un-informed Hindu masses on to the streets. For this purpose, to the low-hanging fruit of the emotive Ayodhya issue, they added the sauce of opposing Article 370 and demanding a uniform civil code. The spectre of Bangladeshi intrusion was trumpeted, LK Advani rode the Rath across states and Babri Masjid was demolished. There was an air of celebration on 6 December 1992 in the Civil Services Academy at Mussoorie where hundreds of the nation’s future administrators were being trained. On its website, the BJP cherishes such phenomenon and calls it Cultural Nationalism.

The party thus headed toward the success of its mission. Within a decade thereafter Gujarat pogrom was staged and the process of showing down the Muslims thickened. In early 21st century, another anti-Muslim weapon came in handy in the form of terrorism. The overall scheme paid off and the rightist group is now ensconced at the national stage as an experienced claimant of political power.


Muslim inaction: But, during the last 2-3 decades, strong and pinpointed Muslim challenge to such divisive saffron approach has not been reported in the national media. Muslims have been content with some political parties issuing some anti-Saffron statements, Narendra Modi’s US and UK visa being scuttled and carrying on intra-community drawing-room discussions or Internet chats. This lack of action encouraged the saffronites who happily thought that Muslims lack grit and they can continue to rub them on the wrong side.

On the other hand, Muslims affected by Gujarat pogrom are still hardly able to sustain themselves deep down the social abyss. Mostly they pass life worse than animals while Muslims in rest of India remain busy in their vocations oblivious of these hapless Gujaratis. Those of us who do care and act are very few and far between. I and my colleagues have been visiting Gujarat intermittently, finding the state of affairs pathetic. Our reports have been published all over the Urdu media as well as the periodicals published and Internet news sites run by Muslims. We continued with our Gujarat visits, selected academically brilliant Muslim graduates, brought them to Delhi, provided them India’s best coaching for civil services. The products of such effort have begun working in the state in executive and magisterial positions.  For the riot-affected children, we established in Delhi separate orphanages for boys and girls where they are still being nicely brought up and educated. Other individual and institutional help is also in progress. But, lo and behold, the political ice in the state has yet to melt.


UPA’s non-performance: Alas, Muslim condition elsewhere in the country is no better. For the last nine years we are under the intoxication of reports. But these reports have not been acted upon, as aptly observed by Harsh Mander, because, in the process, the UPA fears of losing out some of its Hindu votes. All said and done, it is common knowledge that institutional measures for restoration of justice to Muslims can be taken only by the Government, the community can at most chip in here and there. Obviously, this applies to Gujarat too. But during the last three elections in the state, Muslims have remained on the periphery like in some other states and in the Centre (1999-2004). 

Yet, now some silver lining is visible. The hitherto politically un-informed Hindu voters have begun realising that they have been used not for a good human cause. Such thought process needs to be properly channelized. On the other front, during the first five years of the UPA Government, Sachar and Mishra reports came in and, in return, Muslims happily helped the coalition’s return to power. But, during the first four years of its second inning, the UPA did not implement the Sachar and Mishra reports.


Sachar & Mishra Reports not implemented: Misra Commission recommended that (a) out of the reservation for minorities, two-third should be earmarked for Muslims as they constitute 73% of the minorities. This was ignored by the UPA. The recommendations (b) to make the definition of Scheduled Caste religion-neutral and (c) to de-reserve substantial-Muslim-presence constituencies (even though SC percentage in these constituencies is negligible) were consigned to the dustbin. (d) The Waqf (Amendment) Bill 2010 was a cruel joke on Muslims. Twenty vital recommendations of JPC and Sachar Committee on Waqfs were over-ruled without giving any reasons in the Minister’s introductory speech in the Lok Sabha. The strong Sachar recommendation (e) to institute a separate cadre of Waqf officers (may be called as Indian Waqf Service) was opposed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs even though in about a dozen states officers are separately recruited by law to manage the affairs of Hindu temples and endowments. The demand of (f) Special Component Plan for Muslims in the budget (on the pattern of Scheduled Castes from whose definition Muslims are excluded on the basis of religion) was rejected. (g) For recruitment of 1400 additional IPS officers a limited competitive examination was devised so that the eligibility pool has less than one percent Muslims. This would have resulted in nil Muslim recruitment or thereabout. The Muslim community’s agitation in the court was vehemently opposed by the UPA Government. (h) Noor Masjid in Delhi was demolished on the pretext of court order which, however, said in the open court that it never ordered the demolition. Later under RTI Act, it was found out that the Delhi Government’s so-called “Religious Committee”, which had recommended the demolition, comprised only about a dozen government officers none of whom was Muslim. 

Now the UPA Government is in its tenth year. After 6-7 months, the parliamentary elections bugle will be sounded. During the last many years I have drawn the attention of the Government and the people toward these issues through about forty articles in different languages, letters to the ministers, speeches delivered and powerpoint presentations made in meetings and seminars. Taking recourse to RTI we got anti-Muslim bottlenecks dissolved in various offices. However, the political jam still remains unresolved.

Mosaic challenge: Against this backdrop, Narendra Modi’s political managers needed some Muslim faces for an Ahmedabad gathering and they invited me also. I told them that I will speak out my mind and I would expect Mr Modi to sit and listen. His concurrence was communicated to me. I wrote email messages to about 35 community elders including many journalists and sought their opinion and inputs. It was decided that I would perform the tradition of Prophet Moses (pbuh) who was divinely ordained to go to the tyrant and speak out the truth. In my powerpoint presentation, I included some of only those issues which I could prove with evidence. These are: (i) Anti-Muslim philosophy enshrined on BJP’s website through articles and essays where Muslims have been dubbed as a “problem” for India with the determination to assimilate them in Hindutva and also wondering why Muslims do not adopt Sanskrit names (obviously these are patently Hindu) and why Muslim women do not wear mangal sutra, (ii) Undue emphasis on uniform civil code while ignoring other important Directive Principles of State Policy, e.g., special care of the weaker sections (while Sachar Committee has documented that Muslims are most backward among all religious communities including scheduled castes). (iii) BJP’s silence on Justice Sachar and Justice Mishra’s recommendation to delete the conditionality of religious affiliation from the 1950 executive definition of Scheduled Castes. (iv) BJP’s silence on Sachar Committee’s recommendation to de-reserve those parliamentary and assembly constituencies where Muslims have influential presence and, instead, reserve those constituencies where Scheduled Castes have high visibility. (v) BJP’s diametrically different treatment of refugees who recently came from Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma) while both once belonged to undivided India. (vi) Gujarat’s blockage of central scholarship scheme for minorities even after Supreme Court ruled against the state. (vii) On the outskirts of Ahmedabad, 50-feet high, one km-long heap of city’s trash surrounding the twin rehabilitation colonies of Citizen Nagar and Dhoraji Nagar housing Gujarat pogrom victims of 2002. I requested Mr Modi to visit these colonies. Later, during the NDTV programme, ‘The buck stops here’ the BJP representative said that this matter rested within the realm of the municipal authorities, why should the chief minister go there. To that I responded that Mr Modi should go to these and other similar colonies using the same karuna (benevolence) in his heart because of which he recently travelled to Uttarakhand. I apprised Mr Modi of the Qur'anic injunction of ‘Adl (justice) and Ihsan (compassion). I said that if he feels that justice does not demand that he should apologize for the 2002 riots, using his sanskar he should shift to the higher orbit of compassion and still render an apology. For details please see www.syedzafarmahmood.in


Muslim window: Had I not gone to attend the conclave, the media would have still reported that some Muslims attended, sending different signals to people across the country. But now the scene is changed. The Muslim disenchantment with saffron approach is now duly renewed, documented and has become well known. The latter also are aware of the possible serious and ground-level areas of fundamental change of its philosophy, policy, action and manifesto promises that are likely to reduce its distance with Muslims.

One immediate advantage of this exercise is that the UPA need no longer be afraid that if it does anything for Muslims the Sangh Parivar will negatively publicize it resulting in reduction of Hindu votes for UPA. Now, it all depends upon the UPA’s real willingness to restore justice to Muslims. It can do a lot within the next six months at its disposal. I am grateful that more than 100 newspapers, Internet sites, agencies and TV channels carried forward my message to the people. The messages of greetings received from all over the country and abroad are my precious treasure. AMU Professor of Theology Dr Saud Alam Qasmi narrated to me the Hadith: “True jihad is speaking out the truth in the presence of a tyrant ruler.”


Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood’s presentaton may be seen at www.syedzafarmahmood.in

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 July 2013 on page no. 7

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