Should have Shed All Biases against the Community

By Syyed Mansoor Agha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked his party leaders in UP to reach out to non-Hindu communities, especially ‘Pasmanda Muslims’, who are not BJP voters but getting benefits from government schemes such as free rations, etc. Reportedly the party is mulling a big push to woo them in preparation for the 2024 general elections. The exercise will start after the Parliament’s monsoon session.

The party is emboldened by the wins of the Azamgarh and Rampur LS bye-elections. It claims that around 8% of Muslims, belonging to weaker sections also voted for BJP in UP assembly elections. Reports suggest that small economic benefits won over politically un-matured and socio-economically deprived beneficiaries. They say, no other party did so.

UNBELIEVABLE

Surely it looks unbelievable for Hindutva-zealous NaMo to stand up when UP report was being presented and interject the ‘pro-Muslim’ plank in the election strategies. But in principle, nothing is wrong if the P.M. really endures to outreach Muslim voters. Otherwise, it will be another mockery like we saw post-2019 elections. He instantly earned headlines for his slogan sabka sath, sabka vikas aur sab ka vishwas (support of all, development for all, and confidence of everyone).

But the hope of change soon sank down as Muslims were wickedly blamed in official press briefings for COVID spread. Hundreds, including foreigners, were pushed behind bars and the Nizamuddin Mosque of world fame was blocked for devotees. Even after scores of court verdicts absolving all accused, the mosque has not yet been cleared of allegations. If the P.M. wants to set his eyes upon ‘Pasmanda’ Muslims’, he should realise the fact that an overwhelming majority of Tablighi volunteers belong to ‘Pasmanda’ believers.    

PROPOSED COMMISSION

Earlier in January this year, there were reports that the Centre is exploring whether Muslim and Christian backward sections of Indian origin (converted from Hinduism) should be given SC/ST status or not. ET reported a proposal under consideration to set up a ‘National Commission on Scheduled Caste Converts to Other Religions’. No further development is known. Please do away with religion bar while considering SC status; the case has been pending in the Apex Court for years and the response of the Centre is being delayed.

To earn the confidence and help the “Pasmanda Muslims” will be a favourable stroke if the Union Government takes cognisance of the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission’s Report of 2007. It has recommended doing away with the injustice to Muslim and Christian Scheduled Caste Converts by continuing their earlier reservations and by amendments to Sikh and Buddhist counterparts in education and services under Article 341 of the Constitution. The Commission constituted by Union Government said, “The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, should be deleted to delink SC status with religion and grant religion-neutral status to all Scheduled Castes, like the Scheduled Tribes.”

ERRONEOUS CLASSIFICATION

The classification of Muslims in India as “Upper Caste” and “Lower Caste” or “Pasmanda Tabqa” (Backward Class) is an un-Islamic, erroneous concept. It is borrowed from its Hindu counterparts. The descendants of Sufis, Islamic scholars, or army personnel who came here get reverence and are called “Ashraf” or “upper cast”. They comprise Sheikh, Syed, Mughal, and Pathan.

Others (around 80% of the total Muslim population) are of Indian origin. They got impressed by the virtues of Islam when they came in contact with honest Muslim traders and people of pious character. Many of them later embraced the religion of monotheism. They are clubbed as “Pasmanda” or Backward except converts from higher Hindu classes like Brahmins (Pandits), Rajput, Tyagi, Gaur, etc. They enjoy the status equal to “Upper caste Muslims”. 

However, the majority belongs to the traditionally working-class, engaged in various professions like carpentry, cattle trading, weaving, tailoring, haircutting, scavenging, shoemaking, etc. Though untouchability is not permitted in Islam yet converts from untouchable communities are often treated as inferiors.

It is grossly ridiculous to consider all those belonging to the so-called “upper castes” socio-economically well off. Many of them are equally poor. It is also a misconception that all clubbed as “Pasmanda” are underprivileged. Many of them are well-placed and well-off. Consider 30 out of 34 recently elected Muslim MLAs in UP belong to the OBC (Pasmanda Category).

TAKE CARE OF EVERY ONE

In a democratic country, the state is required to help every needy person irrespective of his caste, clan, or religion. The Muslim community as a whole is a mix of haves and have-nots. The greatest curse is of educational backwardness. Increasingly privatisation of education is creating further hurdles for promising youngsters who lack economic support.

MODI’S DIRECTIVE

Mr. Modi asked his party in UP, “Now we have to do more experiments with different social equations and work on them.” He said, “The eight years of development work for the uplift of the minorities and marginalised sections, we need to see how development dividends are impacting our beneficiaries.” 

This raises a question. Whether it is correct in principle to design and evaluate welfare policies from a political angle? Sure, the credit also goes to the ruling party, but its right place is the executive desk without any political bias. Reacting to PM’s suggestion, a party leader acknowledged, “It was surprising for us that PM asked the unit to work with Dalit Muslims. However, he is right when he says we should also work among those who have not been with us electorally and find more social equations.”

UNTHINKABLE BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE

Considering his political preferences for the last two decades, his suggestion to work for ‘Pasmanda Muslims’ is unthinkable. After having injected hatred and enmity against the community by falsely abusing their ancestors of loot and destruction of religious places, forced conversions, and labelling them as anti-national, etc., even blasphemous remarks by party spokes-persons and protection provided to the guilty, etc., arrests of the non-wrongdoers, resulting in largescale physical and psychological agonies, this turn of Modi Ji looks a blessing in disguise.

If our Prime Minister really wants to reach out to Muslims, he should revisit the political philosophy he gulped down as Sangh cadre and his approach under that. The party should take account of anti-Muslim rhetoric which hurts all Muslims irrespective of their politico-economic status or allegiance to the Islamic school of thought.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

Withdrawal of the cases relating to Kashi and Mathura Mosques may be a big step in the right direction. This should also be done as Mohan Bhagwat Ji has critically commented against such ill manoeuvres. Besides, sympathetically considering re-opening of the places of worship, now locked under ASI, etc. would be another giant step. The Government should also take steps to rehabilitate victims of Gujarat and Delhi riots. Release of falsely implicated persons from jails and compensating the damages caused by bulldozing victims will also help in reaching out to the Muslim community. The Government should also take in confidence noted Muslim Organisations to resolve all outstanding issues. It is our endeavour to contribute to the peace and progress of our country.

[The writer is President, Forum for Civil Rights. [email protected]]

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