Looking for light at the end of the tunnel
The assembly election in the largest state of the country, Uttar Pradesh, is round the corner. The battle of ballot is due in early 2017. Naturally, the whole nation has set eyes on the outcome of this election in the most populous state, which, by and large, plays a major role, in deciding the fate of the nation.
This election is seen as an acid test to conclude what would happen in the next parliamentary elections which are still two and a half years away. The forthcoming U.P. elections are a matter of prestige for most political parties. The BJP, the party at the helm of the affairs at the Centre, has the biggest stake in this election, as its results would decide the party’s future at the Centre in the next general elections. After the BJP’s shameful debacle in Bihar and West Bengal, this exercise at the hustings, is of great importance, for its leadership.
Samajwadi Party, the ruling party in the state, has to fight for its survival as the outcome of the polls would decide its political future, particularly because the party is facing a sort of civil war within its house. Nevertheless, one hopes that the party supremo would succeed in keeping his flock together. Unity in the party is the need of the hour, as that’s the key to gain success and retain power.
Bahujan Samaj Party is the second largest force in the state. Its supremo would leave no stone unturned for wresting power from her arch rival, the SP. As far as Congress is concerned, it’s at the fourth place, after BJP, and it’s an uphill task for its inert leadership even to maintain the status quo. The irony of the situation is that all secular forces in the state seem to have accepted defeat well before entering the arena. And that’s really tragic.
The election itself and the outcome of the election are very crucial for the Muslim community. These are hard times for the community and harder times seem to be ahead as in case of victory in the election, the BJP would get further emboldened and more powerful than ever before. In view of the fact that U.P is the state where a majority of Indian Muslims live, and that they hold the key to power in the state provided that they are united and vote en bloc in favour of any one political party which will have a fair chance to win.
Needless to say that if, God forbid, BJP conquers this state, then it would enjoy more and more power and would make its best efforts to fulfil its poll promises (imposition of Hindutva, introduction of common civil code, building of Ram Mandir, etc.) virtually unfurling its whole anti-Muslim agenda.
The situation is so bleak that even the very survival of secularism in this country seems at stake. The fascist forces have already begun their pet game and the Union government is interfering in the religious affairs of the Muslim community. In their next stride, they may conspire to end the freedom of faith altogether.
No one is sincere and principled in politics. Secular Hindus have all options to join any chosen political party which may serve their interests. Hence, many of them-for instance, Jagdambika Pal, Ram Vilas Paswan, Udit Raj, Choudhary Virendra Singh, Rao Inderjit Singh and the recent addition, being Rita Bahuguna-have gone into the fold of the fascist forces, either by joining them or by aligning with them. All these so-called leaders are those who were earlier seen as having untiringly opposing BJP and RSS. But now they have joined these very forces. Muslims at large had put faith in these people and looked up towards them for pleading for their democratic rights. But, now they feel they have been badly betrayed. Who could they rely on, now?
I very painfully warn Muslims of the enemy inside. Leave Hindu leaders aside. One finds some time-serving Muslims who, for their petty interests, take shelter under BJP’s umbrella and stab their own brethren in the back, as it is always easy to rob one’s own family and loot one’s own house.
Muslims, in general, were never in favour of the creation of Pakistan. But, they have always been blamed for this uncommitted sin and ‘punished’ for it too. In such a situation, people, secular to the core like me, whose forefathers have offered all sorts of sacrifices for the nation and its integration, are now forced to suspect whether our decision to stay back in India back in 1947 was wrong? Indeed, we are in a dilemma. What we have got in response to our loyalty and sacrifices? Our properties, belongings, honour and even our lives are under threat of being destroyed and we are supposed to be deprived of everything, we possess including political rights. The height of the tyranny is that the Muslims are not physically safe even inside jails. First, they are implicated in false cases and then annihilated in fake encounters. Whom we should look to for any guidance, help, and protection? None is there in sight.
I have always been against a separate political party for Muslims as I honestly believed in secular politics and in taking secular non-Muslim leaders along for any move to make genuine demands for the community, be that regarding Personal Laws, Urdu or the minority character of the Aligarh Muslim University. What to do now? The irony of the situation is that now even the non-communal leaders in the ranks of ‘secular parties’ are failing in mustering courage to overtly support Muslims and their causes.
Now, a million dollar question: who deserves Muslim votes? Muslims are in a tight corner. We are not in a position to take a decision as our earlier messiahs have deserted us. In the context of the forthcoming elections in U.P., we find it hard to choose any secular party to vote for. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party has failed to fulfil its promises concerning Muslims and Urdu. Worst riots occurred during its current regime and the ruling party miserably failed in protecting Muslims. Samajwadi Party is a divided house today. Still, it is a secular party. At least it has never shared power with BJP. The only other secular party not to have ever shaken hands with the BJP is Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad Yadav. But this party has no presence in U.P. There is no point in talking of Mayawati or her party as she has a dubious record of having aligned with BJP for lust of power. Further, all efforts to form a grand alliance in U.P., like Bihar, have virtually failed. So, what’s in store?
There is a hidden threat before us. The small parties, emerging like mushrooms, holding a banner for an ‘imaginary Muslim unity’, are engaged in all types of slogan-mongering and are throwing baits to attract innocent Muslims in order to rope them in. But their real motives are no secret. Any sane person can realise on whose behest they are operating and from which source they are being funded for throwing lavish parties, organising huge rallies and publishing broad-sheet advertisements in all leading Urdu dailies. Such elements, though on a smaller scale have tested Muslims’ wit in Bihar where the community, acting coolly, sanely and wisely, rejected the temptating offers made by them. Now, the same jinn is out of the bottle again and we have to push it back into a new tight-capped bottle. Would Muslims rise to the occasion and succeed in containing such forces which are active for their own vested interests? That’s the big knot to be untied.
Here is a hard test to be faced by Muslims in U.P. We have to take every decision and each step very carefully. Any hasty or wrong decision may push us into a deep pit of disaster or even political death. We have to act wisely as we did in the case of Bihar not long ago. We should read the writing on the wall, carefully and take any step with utmost care. We would have to get united and stay in a single camp.
The one-point programme of Muslims is and should be to defeat BJP and its allied forces, at any cost, in the U.P. elections. The repercussions of U.P. election results are certain to have an impact on the national politics in the long run. Now, it is high time that all Muslim community leaders, religious heads of all sects should join their heads and take a firm decision to halt the march of the communal and fascist forces which are on the prowl for targeting, hitting and harming Muslims as a whole.
In the given conditions, people like me, see Muslims’ future, as dark and gloomy with no ray of hope, even at the other end of the tunnel. Therefore, I appeal to my Muslim brethren to sit together, ponder over the prevailing conditions, take a uniform decision in the collective interest of the community, society and the nation, at large. God save our community.
The author is a former Member of Parliament. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org