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Should Indian Muslims Engage with Prime Minister Modi?

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By Arshi Khan

On 27 May, 2014, Dr. Rashid Shaz, an Indian scholar, academic, and a leader of the Milli Parliament, addressed a group of students at the Aligarh Muslim University. He urged the Indian Muslims to accept Mr. Narendra Modi’s victory as a ‘welcome development’ and to engage with him constructively.

Dr. Arshi Khan, associate professor of political science at Aligarh Muslim University, wrote a rejoinder in which he pointed out the fallaciousness of such a claim.

We reproduce below both Dr. Shaz’s press statement and Dr. Khan’s rejoinder.

Dr. Rashid Shaz’s Statement:  

Mr Modi’s victory is a welcome development. Now, for the first time in independent India, Muslims are able to see the ‘stark political realities that otherwise have been hidden by the secular hypocrisy of the Congress’, said Prof. Rashid Shaz while addressing a group of students on the sidelines of a debate at the Aligarh Muslim University. Prof. Shaz, an internationally acclaimed author, known for his reform writings on Islam and formerly President of the Milli Parliament, is probably the first Muslim heavyweight, who has openly asked the Muslim Indians to welcome and adjust to the new political reality.

According to Shaz, the Nehruvian secularism was a mirage, an unending trail of false hopes and hollow promises. It created a fear psychosis among Muslims. The Congress demonized ‘the political other’, posing itself as protector of Muslims – a promise that it never kept.

From communal riots to the illegal ban on Muslim organizations and from arbitrary arrests of Muslim youths to the refusal of their demand for a judicial probe into Batla House encounter, the Congress displayed a ruthless insensitivity towards Muslims. Now, that dark era of pseudo-secularism is over.

The new political reality may look even more depressing to many of us, but at least we are able to see today where we really stand. Those who believe in the protection of the Congress and its ilk should know that they are no more in a position to defend us, but those who believe in Allah Almighty should know that He is all-powerful and hence no need to despair.

One of the most positive aspects of the new political development is the fall of un-Godly Muslim clergy, who worked as middle-men between the Muslim masses and the ruling elite.

They were the Congress satellites constantly beaming message of fear and false hopes. With long flowing beards and empty rhetoric, they made us believe, as if without the support of their Congressite masters, Islam had no future in India. They are the criminals of Islam, working for their political masters yet posing to be true to their faith.

Now in the new situation, the Muslims have got an opportunity to build a direct bridge with a party that has no obfuscating mullahs and no middlemen. The BJP does not feel shy of declaring what it stands for. And this is the first pre-requisite of a true dialogue.

Mr. Modi’s recent remarks that in his victory he sees the victory of 1.25 billion Indians and that he wants to create a 21st century India are all indicative of the fact that he is open to a meaningful dialogue with Muslims.

Mr. Modi wants to consolidate what he has achieved through hard work and determination. He has been sending feelers for mending, rather, improving his relations with India’s 250 million-strong Muslims. But are Muslim leaders ready for a meaningful dialogue? Those accustomed to receiving only a patting from the Congress may find it difficult to enter into a bridge-building dialogue on equal footing. But this is the only way to survive and prosper. I believe, it’s a God-sent opportunity, said Dr. Shaz. There is no need to be apprehensive. The new rulers too are humans. They have a human heart. There is no reason then that we cannot reach out to them. Today, we Muslim Indians may find ourselves in a crisis but, never mind, a crisis is always full of new opportunities. It is for us how we make use of the new situation.

Dr. Arshi Khan’s Rejoinder 

Dr. Rashid Shaz’s statement in the Times of India and his unwarranted press release on the present political development has disappointed all of those, who endorse the constitutive principles of governance in India.

There are three main points in his press-release. He commended the RSS-led Modi government, condemned the Congress party and used insulting words for our religious personalities.

First, Shaz says,“Mr. Modi’s victory is a welcome development. Now, for the first time in independent India, Muslims are able to see the stark political realities that otherwise have been hidden by the secular hypocrisy of the Congress.” RSS has formed its government in India which is certainly not a welcome development. Sangh Parivar was thoroughly engaged during the BJP campaign and the ministerial allocation was made after the approval of the RSS. Stark political reality cannot be presumed on the basis of unexpected EVM results in the Hindi belt as voters other than the Caste Hindus are bewildered over the magic of the EVMs. Even if ‘polarisation’ is the accepted game of politics today in India, it is more manufactured than natural as India cannot be free from its religious and caste prejudices. In fact, Muslim voters have lost doubly this time as they are under-represented due to the absence of the ‘proportional representation’ system and the magical job accomplished by the EVMs.

Of the 23 cabinet ministers who were sworn in, a staggering 17 have their roots in the RSS and its affiliate organizations. The second in command to Modi in the cabinet is Rajnath Singh, who will handle the significant home department. Each and every cabinet level leader who has been sworn in was approved by the RSS top brass, including a reminder to Modi that the core issues of Hindutva, for which the cadres worked, would have to be brought to effect.

Mr. Modi’s victory has resulted into the following developments.

Sanjeev Baliyan, who is an accused in Muzaffarnagar riots nine months ago, was made minister of state for agriculture and food processing. Baliyan was part of a mahapanchayat held last year, despite prohibitory orders that inflamed tensions. He was charged by the police with violation of prohibitory orders and promoting enmity between two communities. Swagat Sabhas of close to 50 persons each stood every 2 kms to welcome this MoS – from Delhi to Muzaffarnagar – on May 30 to welcome his cavalcade. The announcer at Khatauli raised slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai, Gau Mata ki jai” to rouse the crowd, while at Mansoorpur, “Har Har Modi, Ghar Ghar Modi” filled the air. After results, too, Baliyan had taken out a victory procession in Muzaffarnagar ignoring prohibitory orders.

Dr. Shaz also “asked the Muslim Indians to welcome and adjust to the new political reality.” It is really disgusting on his part as the role and rights of the citizens in a democratic country is important when they happen to be a ‘minority’ under the kind of a government, which has a record of hatred, violence and discrimination particularly against the Muslim community in the country with a plethora of objectionable statements, instigated riots, humiliations, threats and role in various bomb-blast cases across the country. Even the Hobbesian (Leviathan) State had guaranteed security and dignity of its subjects. Muslims need the fulfillment of their constitutional rights for which the Republic of India was created. Muslims cannot accept a State worse than the colonial masters as they were not so cruel, dishonest and violent against their subjects. The citizens are not hosts to welcome a government but to watch it and to criticize it if it goes beyond the statutory rim. Muslims cannot object to a Hindu brother showing his choice for Ganga but for a Prime Minister such a preference is anti-constitutional as the country belongs to all communities and it is not the monopoly of one culture, one language, and one group. India is a plural society in which the Sangh Parivar is not ‘all’ but part of the whole.

We must differentiate between Mahatma Gandhi and Nathuram Godse, between Jawaharlal Nehru and Golwalkar, between Rahul Gandhi and Varun Gandhi. Both are Hindus. One followed Hinduism and the other Hindutva.

Dr. Shaz claims, Muslim Indians [should] welcome and adjust to the new political reality. Look at the new realities here. Every third newly-elected member of Lok Sabha has a criminal background. An analysis of 541 of the 543 winning candidates by the National Election Watch (NEW) and Association for Democratic Reforms shows that 186 or 34% newly elected MPs have in their election affidavits disclosed criminal cases against themselves. Of the 186 new members, 112 (21%) have declared serious criminal cases, including those related to murder, attempt to murder, causing communal disharmony, kidnapping, crimes against women, etc. Party wise, the largest numbers 98 or 35% of the 281 winners from the BJP have in their affidavits declared criminal cases against themselves.

Dr. Shaz says, “Nehruvian secularism was a mirage; an unending trail of false hopes and hollow promises. It created a fear psychosis among Muslims. The Congress demonized ‘the political other’, posing itself as protector of Muslims – a promise that it never kept.” This is not a type of criticism to legitimize Hindutva forces in power. Nehruvian secularism was neither European nor Leninist in nature but a product of the ‘social contract’ reached among all Indians who wanted to live together after Independence. The relationship between a political party and the Constitution is highly crucial. The Congress can be rightly blamed for its failure, particularly, in the area of reining in communal forces but the BJP has no ‘harmonisation’ principles and policies vis-à-vis the Constitution of India. One cannot find anyone in any party other than the BJP who asks voters to shift to Pakistan if not voting for the BJP; and urging people in Uttar Pradesh to vote for BJP to take revenge. This is not the culture of a country run by the present Constitution.

When Chidambran and Shinde earlier spoke of ‘Bhagva atankwad’ only the BJP opposed it along with the Anti-Corruption movement started by Ramdev in December 2010, which diverted the issue of inquiry against Pragya, Purohit, and Indresh Kumar. Now their records would soon be tampered with to erase charges of terrorism against them like many files on the demolition of the Babri Mosque disappeared during the previous NDA rule. Moreover, those who killed hundreds of Muslims, raped their women and looted and burnt their properties, in addition to bomb blasts in different parts of the country, would simply be free from the Rule of Law.

Dr. Shaz needs to be reminded that on June 1, 2014 senior Gujarat Police officer G L Singhal, 48, who was suspended after his arrest in February 2013 for his role in the killing of Ishrat Jahan, was reinstated by the state government. June 15, 2014 will mark 10 years since 19-year-old Khalsa college girl, Ishrat Jahan, her associate Pranesh Pillai alias Javed Shaikh, and Pakistani nationals, Jishan Johar and Amjad Ali Akbar Ali Rana, were killed in a fake police encounter on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. The four were branded Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) fidayeen assigned to kill the then chief minister, Narendra Modi. As per the charge-sheet filed on 3 July, 2013, and court records accessed by The Indian Express, a close scrutiny of the CBI’s charges against him shows that Singhal is accused of being complicit at every stage of the alleged plot to kill them – right from the abduction of the victims, their confinement, planning the murder, execution and planting of weapons on the victims’ bodies.

Before his arrest in Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case, Singhal was a star anti-terror cop in Gujarat. Singhal claimed to have cracked the Akshardham temple attack case a day after it was transferred to him in August 2003. (Two fidayeen had killed more than 30 people on Sept 24, 2002). Last month, the Supreme Court acquitted all the six arrested and said the “police caught innocent people and got imposed the grievous charges against them which resulted in their conviction and subsequent sentencing”. Singhal was the investigating officer in the 2002 communal riots revenge case in which there was a trial against 44 accused and in January 2010, the Special Court (POTA) acquitted 22 of them. The other 22 were subsequently released by the High Court (The Indian Express, 2 June 2014, p.4)

Look at the mind and the language of Shaz in his words: “One of the most positive aspects of the new political development is the fall of un-Godly Muslim clergy who worked as middlemen between the Muslim masses and the ruling elite. They were the Congress satellites constantly beaming message of fear and false hopes. With long flowing beards and empty rhetoric they made us believe as if without the support of their Congressite masters, Islam had no future in India. They are the criminals of Islam, working for their political masters yet posing to be true to their faith. Now in the new situation the Muslims have got an opportunity to build a direct bridge with a party that has no obfuscating mullahs and no middlemen.”

He is contemptuous of Muslim ulama directly and he seems to have no concern for the community. Muslims as members of a religious community cannot be isolated from their ulama, who were the first to contribute heavily to the freedom struggle against the colonizers in 1857 and accepted India as their homeland after partition in 1947. These ulama regularly condemned acts of terrorism in the country besides providing knowledge on religion, reading, writing, and simple manners of living to most of the children for whom the bureaucracy hardly cared. What was wrong with the ulama in asking to use their votes against divisive forces? Should they have given the call to give support to the BJP? Should they become the satellites of the BJP? We should not forget the difference between Gandhi and Godse. Ulama’s role is highly commendable in spreading the message of peace, harmony and tolerance and the Muslim community has emerged as peaceful members of the political community in the country as a result of their efforts. Shaz has no authority and morality to disgrace the ulama as ‘beardy’, ‘un-Godly Muslim clergy’, ‘criminals of Islam’, ‘obfuscating mullahs and middlemen’. Such words from his mind and hand clearly show the make-up he wears.

Let us look at Shaz’s recommendation in his words: “He (Modi) is open to a meaningful dialogue with Muslims. Mr. Modi wants to consolidate what he has achieved through hard work and determination. He has been sending feelers for mending, rather, improving his relations with India’s 250 million strong Muslims. But are Muslim leaders ready for a meaningful dialogue? Those accustomed to receiving only a patting from the Congress may find it difficult to enter into a bridge-building dialogue on equal footing. But this is the only way to survive and prosper. I believe, it’s a God-sent opportunity. There is no need to be apprehensive. The new rulers too are humans. They have a human heart.”

Where is the need for a dialogue for Muslims in India? Are we in conflict with our Hindu equals? Not at all. This is what is called Ganga-Jamni tahzeeb. All of us belong to Adam (peace be upon him). On the contrary, some of them categorize us as Malechh and place us outside the ‘putra bhumi and punya bhumi’ line of control. They also categorize large numbers of people outside the Varna system with purity and impurity differentiation. Mahatma Gandhi had asked the RSS long ago to open its membership to Muslims but he failed to persuade. Dialogue without tolerance is talk-show on the screen without substance. RSS does not want dialogue with Muslims but dominance on its preset terms. Muslims in India are a big-sized minority surpassing the size of Caste Hindus. The tragedy is that one of the two numerical equals has acquired powers at all levels while the other equal is excluded and marginalized. Dialogue can be the remedy for this if it happens within the Sangh Parivar and BJP endorse the Constitution and the Rule of Law and treat all Indians as equals.

The national government led by any political party must follow the Constitution and must not use establishment agencies in the interest of a party or a community.

Dr. Shaz says, “Mr Modi wants to consolidate what he has achieved through hard work and determination.” Everybody knows the record of the Gujarat government in the last thirteen years vis-à-vis Muslims. Where is the hard-work and achievement in the case of even those Muslims, who were murdered and humiliated in 2002 and afterward. Shaz says, “this is the only way to survive and prosper. I believe, it’s a God-sent opportunity.” Prosperity is not based on survival but a dignified life and the constitutionality of the State system in which Muslims are full and equal members of the political community. The magical EVM result itself is a God-sent opportunity for the BJP to make a shift from Hegdewar-Golwalkar to Gandhi-Nehru tradition. It is not a God-sent opportunity but a challenge to the constitutional State and the Indian Republic based on the social contract concluded in the Constituent Assembly of India and the process of federal nation-building resting upon our willingness for power-sharing and adequate representation to minorities in the country.

Political analysis without understanding the purpose of the “State,” “Politics” and the factor of “legitimacy” of the national Government in the eyes of the largest Muslim minority community in a multicultural setting is adulation with ignorance. Politics is neither inter-faith dialogue (as part of the US public diplomacy in collaboration with Saudi Intelligence) nor translating the wrong as the right nor seeking power by all means but to seek legitimacy on the basis of the citizens’ approval. Politically, India is a Constitutional State as a Federal Nation, which requires different communities to be civic and democratic in substance for the purpose of nation-building. One nation, one culture, and one language idiom is not compatible with the constitutional values against which the BJP has struggled all its political history. Those who have built their political careers on hatred and violence against Muslims, mosques, and madarsas, denying rights and justice to thousands of victims mainly women and children, have loyalty to a particular ideology rather than endorsing the Rule of Law as the rule of governance.

Muslims in India, basically, need to be full and equal members of the political community for which they always tried to seek their constitutional rights. But the Sangh Parivar and the BJP have historically and ideologically been opposed to it. Constitutional values certify the group rights of the minorities under Article 30 and dignified life under Parts III and IV of the Constitution along with affirmative action policies under Articles 15 (4), 16 (4), 46, 340, etc., in addition to the federal autonomy for J&K and North-Eastern states.

India has certainly entered into a turbulent phase of its constitutional existence which will not last long.

Author:

Dr. Arshi Khan is associate professor in the department of political science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.

[Dr. Khan’s rejoinder first appeared in The Milli Gazette.]

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Lucknow’s Many Muslims”. Edited by Prof. Nadeem Hasnain & Aseem Hasnain. The rich array of essays explores various facets of Lucknow, a ‘Muslim city par excellence.’

 

 

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