M. Aariz Imam | Caravan Daily
ASPIRING to build an India of their dreams, Muslim Indians stayed in this country when others of their faith did not. If there is one authoritative expression that contextualizes their role in Indian polity it is this. They tilled and toiled, labored and slogged so that in death they would leave a better place than what they had inherited after partition.
For seventy long years and over several generations, they have lived their life in pursuit of this sworn objective, paying in blood and sweat for the secular cause. Pushed they have chosen to bend, deprived yet they have cared less, discriminated yet they bargained peace, accepting whatever little pittance offered; convinced, for the greater good.
Today, as they stand ghettoized, systematically disenfranchised in their own land, one is left to wonder was it far too long a time for any hope to stay alive. The hope of a secular republic their ancestors dreamed and died for. Was the idea of India as distant a dream as it had been at the outset?
Since the time of first general election and elections for states and center held thereafter, Muslim Indians, driven by the constitutional duty of creating a secular republic have been passionately herding to the polling booth to defeat forces that defied constitutional ethos. On the eve of every election, as the threat of communalism somehow assumes all-time high, the flag of secularism by default is for the Muslim Indian alone to uphold. Yet what is more frustrating, even after 16 rounds of general election and multiple rounds for the near 4000 assembly seats, there seems to be no end to this fight. They have become bannermen, who are to uphold the dignity of the sacred vow they have pledged and are left to perish once the war is over, with no honor and no glory. Shamefully, at the same time also being under state’s watchful eyes; their patriotism forever suspect.
All these years while the minorities have fought and defended the constitution, the victor forces of secular front have conspired to corner all the gains. Their representation in state apparatus withered with secular forces full knowledge. Their political representation has been deliberately cut to size first by delimitation and second by reserving Muslim majority constituencies for Scheduled Castes. Whatever little area is left under Muslim influence is used as a safe haven to contest elections by the secular benefactors. It has become way too normal to neutralize their political agency by branding their aspirations communal. Amid the marginalization, even after extreme scrutiny, were one off leader to succeed in getting recognition, it invariably has to be at the condition of toeing the party line. As Muslim India’s leadership is repeatedly coopted, the search to fill community’s leadership vacuum never sees the day.
On the other side of the spectrum, there is a strong resistance within the community when it comes to supporting a Muslim candidate, were he to be contesting on a BJP ticket. Still, quite surprisingly, the aversion seems to taper down if he were to be a member of an alliance partner. Yet, passions flare and friendly discussions among youth turn sour were one to take the candidate’s side. Muslims unlike fellow citizens from other faith easily sacrifice the affinities owing to the bonds of faith when it comes to upholding the banner of secularism. However, as is evident there is not much worth in holding that banner as well. The sigil of secularism is not for Muslims alone to bear. It’s the constitution emanated duty of every Indian citizen.
With secular front having failed to deliver proportionate representation, and BJP led NDA being a natural corollary to their ideological stand, Muslims are left with nowhere to go. The situation in recent years has taken a turn for the worse as both the major alliances are fighting over what appears as competitive communalism. BJP’s aversion for Muslim candidates is well known, the opposition is also fielding less and less Muslim candidates. On the eve of the next General Election when once again there are high decibel sounds being made about Saving the Constitution, it should serve Muslim India’s interest not to participate as foot soldiers in the fight against BJP.
In prevailing circumstances, a lot better would be to pay heed to what the patriarchs of the community say, often at the expense of being ridiculed and ignored in exuberance of youth.
A conclusive fight must be waged to ensure proportionate representation in all spheres of public life, not alone in jails. Pending this the community must put their weight behind ensuring maximum Muslim representation in the state assemblies and parliament, even if it requires supporting a Muslim representative of BJP or its ally.
It has been long enough for Muslim India to have lived a life of fear. Though true indeed, nothing can further go wrong. No safer they have been in company of seculars than in communal reign. Nothing can be worse than what they have been witness to all these years. They summarily adorn the bottom quartile of every development index. The gutter flowing through their colonies are already over flooded and the stench keeps suffocating whatever little hopes that be.
Nations prosper only when people at its margins prosper. Since Muslim India prominently features at the margins it is not just in its own interest but also its responsibility to work for its own upliftment. One of the many ways to achieve this is by empowering its own voices, ensuring they assume a bargaining position and participate in the law-making process. This would naturally mean extending support to every Muslim contestant from across political divide.
The idealist in youth who offer the toughest resistance should be told to think beyond the binary of victory and loss. The apologists who decry should be confronted to the fact that neither the BJP’s victory causes additional misfortune, nor secular front’s victory, eases a bit of it. The proposition though seems difficult, but needs to be reasoned with.
The writer is a Jamia Millia Islamia alumnus and does freelancing for citizen journalism portals. Presently he lives in Oman. The views expressed here are his personal and Caravan Daily does not necessarily subscribe to them.