SEEMA MUSTAFA | 10 NOVEMBER, 2017
The Isolation of the Muslim In India: BJP Sets the Agenda, Secular Parties Cave In
The Isolation of the Muslim In India: BJP Sets the Agenda, Secular Parties Cave In
NEW DELHI: I am tired, fed up and absolutely sick of being politically correct. As the politically correct these days is systematic, organised marginalisation of the Muslims. Not just by the BJP, but by all the so called secular parties whose leaders caution in stage whispers, “shhhh, don’t speak lest they polarise us even more.” And when the elections come around as they fortunately do every so often in this democracy this changes to a campaign whisper addressing the Muslims, “Vote, but do so very quietly or we will lose”.
The Muslim masses, unable to think for fear of losing their lives, are now so conscious of their sad identity, that they literally justify this gag order. “Shhh,” they say in Bihar, in Uttar Pradesh, and now in Gujarat, “don’t talk to us, go go talk to the other voters. You don’t want the BJP to win do you?”
And how will they win if we speak with you? “You will write about us, do not do that, we know where we are voting, you go and ask the others, do not bother about us.”
But we want to bother about you? We want to know why are you so scared? The question terrifies them further, they look over their shoulders, their voices drop to a barely audible whisper, “they are killing us, please let us be, beta jao yahan se, election ke baad baat karenge.”
A senior Janata Dal(U) leader, with chest expanded and chewing tobacco, was happy during the Assembly elections in Bihar when told of this. “It is good they know, we must say the Muslims are behaving very maturely, and we also are not going to them because we know they will vote for us,” he said issuing the certificate of good behaviour. Of course since he and his Chief Minister Nitish Kumar are sitting pretty on the BJP lap.
The Congress legislator from Gujarat just said, “arre the Muslims are with us, we have to look out for the patidars and the Dalits, also we don’t want to communalise the elections you know.”
This then has become the politically correct approach. Do not even mention the word Muslim, do not seek them out, do not speak for them, as that will communalise the elections. And the BJP will win. And the BJP must lose, even though in real terms it has won as it has set the agenda, created a divide that now determines voting behaviour not of the voters but of the political leaders, and managed to isolate the Muslims completely.
The BJP of course has a clear playing field and does not hesitate to twist campaigns towards polarising hate, as the most recent example of the Ram and Haj posters of Gujarat clearly demonstrate. The whisper campaign on the ground to entice the voter in Gujarat is, ‘do not vote for the opposition otherwise the Muslims will be back in power.’ This was the same in the Uttar Pradesh elections earlier, and while reporters and even candidates were looking at the speeches and the posters to analyse the campaign, the whispers away from the public domain stressed on a Hindu rashtra and all the trappings---such as more jobs, more land, more resources---that the voter was told, went with it.
This manna from the heavens was promised by the RSS/BJP and its affiliates through a strategic, well planned campaign to entice the marginalised classes in UP who had been left out of the development map altogether. Besides, what stakes does democracy have for those who have never known it’s fruits as it were, living on the edge, unsure of even one square meal a day let alone drinking water. So when the rumours begin, and the promises follow, it is easy for the villager in UP, or Bihar, or Gujarat to vote for those who have so well crafted and created the ‘other’ while the opposition was sleeping, And then during the election campaign vowed to push out the ‘other’ and divide the proceeds between those truly deserving of a majoritarian state.
Of course, the idiom used to spread the word varies from state to state, but the message remains the same. In Gujarat, unable to answer hard questions about the economy, the BJP has turned again to the Muslim for deliverance, as it warns the voters that if they are not careful even the little they have gained since 2002 when the minorities were effectively shown their place, will be lost. Whether this cuts into the anger on GST and demonetisation remains to be seen, but it will certainly not be for the want of trying.
The Congress is aware of this campaign as it was in the Bihar and in the UP polls, and has taken a strategic decision not to say a word---even by mistake---about the existence of the Muslim voters. So the poor Muslim masses aware of this, and of their own insecurity and fear, as well as their rapid marginalisation from the economy and the social structure of even the villages in India (as Muzaffarnagar has so well demonstrated) follow the instructions to become invisible. And just emerge on polling day to quietly, without fanfare, cast their vote.
So there is no major leader who goes to Pehlu Khan’s house to dry the tears of his grieving family; there is no one following up on Junaid’s parents search for justice as they come under pressure to reach a compromise with those who killed their son; there is no one to raise a voice for the Muslims being picked up in the hundreds in the districts of UP on trumped up charges, or no charges at all really; there is not a word about the continuing tensions in western UP with many families having been compelled to leave their homes for fear of their lives; there is no secular Opposition for the Muslim at all.
This is because in the absence of an understanding of secularism these political parties bent the other way to woo the minorities in elections past. They paid the maulanas to canvas for them; they allowed Muslim criminals to go scot free in UP for instance; they took regressive positions in support of the conservative Muslims, ignoring the progressive and the secular in the community; they made Imams issue fatwas endorsing their positions; so by the time the BJP came into play these political parties had created an environment fertile for communal exploitation.
They have big baggage, and since they do not know how to get rid of it, and replace it with an unequivocal secular campaign with social justice and rights of all as its core, they are again taking the easy way out. “Vanish, disappear” they advise the Muslims, “for if you come near us we will be seen as anti-Hindu.”
But what no one seems to be asking or even noticing, perhaps deliberately so, is how the emerging generation of leaders has no such compunctions. Jignesh Mevani has not hesitated to attach Muslims to his Dalit agenda, moving through the villages of Gujarat calling for the unity of all and in particular Dalits and Muslims. Those with him raised slogans through his Una yatra for Dalit-Muslim unity. Mevani himself does not even hesitate to include the marginalised communities in his campaign for justice and rights. Asked if he is worried about polarisation he looks surprised, saying that this is precisely what he is the field to ensure does not happen.
Similarly Hardik Patel, though a product of an essentially pro-BJP community, has no problem speaking of the rights of Muslims and all communities along with the rights of Pattidars. He welcomes Muslims in his meetings, as does young Alpesh Thakor, the OBC leader who has joined the Congress since.
In fact in polarised UP under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Bhim Army leader Chandrashekhar tried to cut through the polarisation by bringing Dalits and Muslims and the backwards of Saharanpur and adjoining areas together through a sustained struggle. He has been jailed since and according to his organisation, beaten badly. He has not been given bail, and this is largely because he was cutting into the communal polarisation, not by excluding the Muslims but by including them in his struggle for rights.
These leaders have got it right. All are equal in the struggle, although unequal in the sights of the state. And that is what their protests are about.
However, the established political parties seeking to defeat the BJP are unable to understand the Constitution or the democracy of India. And instead of giving succour to a frightened minority by including them in the larger narrative of the poor and the marginalised, they have basically moved into the narrative structure provided by the BJP. Namely, it is the majority vs the minority and to win, they have to win the majority by keeping the minority marginalised. (and silent of course). Logic that completely blurred the dividing lines in Bihar and had Nitish Kumar who was a huge proponent of this ‘strategic’ approach moving to join his natural ally, the BJP; logic that led to the collapse of the so called secular coalition in UP as by marginalising the minorities it actually strengthened the BJP’s campaign; and logic that will probably not help the Congress in Gujarat until and unless the three young leaders have helped blunt the BJP narrative with their direct, honest narrative with issues of the economy then winning over communalism.
But the hypocrisy and the neglect of the concerns and insecurity inflicting the minority of India is not just saddening, it is downright infuriating!