Muslim Politics and Proportional Representation

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A solution for Muslim deprivation lies in a long and sustained battle for proportional representation. — File photo

A prolonged struggle for “proportional representation” is the only solution for Muslims and other marginalized sections of the Indian society to get justice and get out of their present plight

S.M. Anwar Hussain | Caravan Daily

THAT day when I said, let Asaduddin Owaisi put himself under the command and supervision of the People’s Front of India (PFI), I was not making fun, I was serious about it. Hyderabad-based Owaisi is a good parliamentarian and a good public speaker. He has earned name and fame by his espousal of Muslim causes. Problem, however, is that he is neither a master strategist nor a good planner. These are what win a game, and more so in the politics of today.

Owaisi is well-versed with the Indian laws, yet he doesn’t know how to protect himself or the community from the onslaughts of the law. He is outspoken against the RSS and the BJP, but he also unwittingly helps these two in polarising Hindus against Muslims, and also helps them gain strength from his rhetoric that goes overboard and sometimes targets Hindu mythology and ideology. Every time Owaisi throws in challenges at PM Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, that “you can’t do this and that on us,” the very next day the Modi-Shah duo implements it. Thing to note is, Owaisi Saheb is bold enough to throw the gauntlet before the mightiest, but fails when it comes to countering their onslaughts, resisting them or foiling their game plans.

Problem, for one, is that Owaisi and his party have no inner democracy. He and his brother Akbaruddin Owaisi are the only two leaders of the MIM. There is a desire to make the MIM an all-India party, but there is neither strategy nor the required labour to achieve this goal. Owaisi has a lot of wealth under his command, but he is yet to pledge a part of it for community and gain wider recognition for him. His father opened a medical college in Hyderabad, well and good, but I am yet to hear that there is some room for the poor and talented Muslim students there.

The Triple Talaq bill has transformed into law. A draconian law, like UAPA, was slapped on the face of the nation for the unannounced purpose of victimising Muslims in the future. Now, the Babri Mosque land has been gifted on a platter to an undeserving party. Entire Kashmir has been converted into a prison for Kashmiri Muslims. I am yet to see what the MIM, or Owaisi, did about these. It seems he has no think tank to guide him or take matters forward. Just two brains – himself and his brother — are controlling the party. Owaisi must go about in a more meaningful manner. He must have people around him to provide his party with the policy guidelines, a stronger organizational network on the ground to push his programmes and hold events like public meetings. Such a team will also make sure that he doesn’t throw unnecessary challenges and then face embarrassment. Such an entity should also ensure he does not antagonize the people who seek guidance from him.

Also, such a set-up will ensure that Owaisi’s oratory is not boastful and loaded with incitement. It would make necessary arrangements to see that he reaches the victims of communal onslaughts anywhere in the country as early as possible, and doesn’t simply shed tears from his comfort zones. The think tank can advise him how to effectively attack, expose and isolate the RSS and other hardline Hindutva forces, and also control his tongue from uttering words that might hurt the common man’s religious sentiments. No doubt, Owaisi is the most-educated and articulate Muslim leader. But he often fails in setting priorities. He’s more focused on his historical antagonism towards the Congress than on devising a strategy to take on the biggest monster of the time, the Hindutva forces.

A question might arise as to where to find or how to form this kind of a think tank to guide Owaisi and take his causes forward. For one, the Kerala-based Popular Front of India (PFI) can provide Muslims an umbrella, with a view to uniting all Muslim groups in this country under one banner. Asaduddin Owaisi can be its leader in Parliament. The PFI should give him a respectable place and present him as the most important voice of not only the Muslims, but also of all other marginalised communities – those who are marginalised socially, politically, economically or otherwise.

PFI and Asaduddin Owaisi may together try and bring about a new political awareness among all the marginalised communities in India and prepare the ground for launching a strong and sustained public struggle for proportional representation in legislature, the executive, the judiciary and in jobs in both private and public sectors. Only such a political move can ensure that a judgement like the present one on the issue of Babri Masjid is not repeated in future.

Why am I talking about PFI? I have observed its organisational strength, its strategy of networking, its approach towards slowly but consistently moving towards attaining the goals, and its ability to discipline its cadres. All over India, there are hundreds of Muslim political and social outfits. But, only the PFI showed the guts and organised a protest march against the Ayodhya judgement. PFI has internal democracy. Its leadership or office-bearers keep rotating. There is no hunger for publicity. They follow a two-pronged strategy. They approach individuals quietly, but they address the masses loudly and clearly. They are not in a hurry to reach the assembly or the parliament. They understand the value of mass mobilization and slowly but steadily want to achieve electoral goals.

Though the PFI has a political structure or outfit, it is not satisfied with the performance of secular parties, specially the Congress. PFI men understand that the real enemy or the most dangerous monster at the moment is the Hindutva forces. They seem to have the vision and planning that can turn Muslims into a political force. In the past, I never endorsed the idea of having a separate Muslim political party. But, after the judgement of the Supreme Court on the Ayodhya issue, it is now incumbent on us to work for political revival of the community, to create a political umbrella and start the struggle for proportional representation.

A simple formation of a political party or trying to win some more seats in Parliament and assemblies, by itself, is not going to be of much help to Muslims. A 20 per cent minority cannot defeat the 80 per cent majority in an electoral battle. Before going for the electoral battle, we need to mobilise our masses with issues that can hit not only the imagination of the Muslims, but other marginalised communities too. I am sure a solution for our deprivation lies in a long and sustained battle for proportional representation. I am also certain that, once Muslims take the lead on this matter, many more social groups will join hands with them.

Every struggle asks for sacrifices, a readiness to suffer, face police brutality, spend years behind the bars or even face bullets. If Muslims have some iota of life and valour left with them, they should get ready to march forward under the leadership of Owaisi, but, more importantly, under the banner of the Popular Front of India (PFI). The PFI has its own political front known as the Social Democratic party of India (SDPI). The MIM and the SDPI can be merged to make a new outfit and all other small Muslim political parties can be brought on board.

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The author is ex-President of AMU Students Union. The views expressed here are his personal.

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