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10 February 2020

OPINION: Indian Muslims have to make fresh political strategy to survive in India

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Indian Muslims are at the crossroads. The current situation in the country has given enough indications that Muslims are unsafe in India. In such a situation it is being hotly debated among Muslims that what they should do to safeguard their interests.

Muslims have always been a law abiding and peace loving citizens of this country. After Partition they adopted defensive postures because they feared any communal regimentation from their side can incur backlash from the majority community. So since 1947 Muslims have always flocked under the banner of some or other so-called secular parties.

They have forfeited their pan-Indian political identity and split themselves into regional identities. They lived under the hope that the secular parties will protect them from anti-Muslim forces.

They also hoped that secular parties can create a climate of trust and their well being would be protected. Further, they hoped under such political arrangements they may flourish.

However, Muslims aligning with the secular parties have seen their future in jeopardy. In last 70 years or so none of the secular political parties has given them any share in the political power. What maximum they could offer is lip service of providing them protection and security to them. The secular political parties have failed to create a political climate where Muslims can flourish.

Instead the so-called secular parties have helped in creating a situation where the identity of Muslims is at stake. The current turmoil in the country centering on Muslims makes it clear that they are a defenseless community in India. The government, the court and secular parties, all have failed to protect their identity. The current wave of Hindutva radicalism is hellbent to disrobe them from their life, honor and liberty being hitherto enjoyed as citizen of this country. 
If the media’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is to be believed, the entire country’s energy is geared to extricate Muslims from their own motherland. The situation has come to such a pass that Muslims have become the most vulnerable species in India.

In such a situation the dilemma before the Indian Muslims is what to do? The choice before them is to either rely on some or other political parties to defeat the anti-Muslim forces, or they need to make political strategies to protect their interests.

Some feel the time has come for Muslims to make choices. The choice is to either rely on some or other secular parties or to live in a political climate where they have to hear anti-Muslim rhetoric day in and day out.

The other choice is either to live in a climate of fear and insecurity or become the captain of their own ship and master of their destiny and steer their ship in the choppy waters of the country.

It’s time Muslims should unite under one banner and milk the electoral cow of the country. If somehow they can produce a substantial block of MPs under one leader then they may be able to secure their future in this country.
The best bet for Indian Muslims is to go for the formation of a political party that has a pan India identity. Under such a political outfit Muslims can converge both at the regional and national level. This they can do by doing some serious electoral arithmetic exercise and produce a block of at least 15 MPs.

Once such a Muslim block of MPs is created at the national level, it can always be in a bargaining position to protect Muslims interests. Such political outfit can always be in power by aligning with whichever party rules the country.

An example of Lok Janshakti Party is before us. It has no pan India identity yet this political outfit has always shared political power with whichever government is in power. Even though it represents an insignificant number of electorates, it has held cabinet portfolios. If LJP can do it, what is stopping Muslims to form such a strategy of their own?

Some may ask which political party and political leader can lead them. In the current situation, the leader of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Asaduddin Owaisi is the only Muslim who is heard speaking for the Muslim interests. Now imagine if he has a backing of more than 15 MPs, what could be the impact on the politics of the country.

It is clear that the kind of politics that is shaping up India, Muslims in the country have to decide whether they want to suffer catching the coattails of the political parties or have a political outfit that maybe powerful enough to stand on its own and share power in the political system of the country.

There may be some apologists who may argue Muslim communal politics would be detrimental for the community as it would invite Hindu backlash. This seems to be an argument more convincing in the fifties and sixties when Muslims were reeling under the trauma of Parturition of India.

Now, the situation is very different. Hindu India is trying to make its last ditch effort to stitch its open belly from where its caste groupings are oozing out. It has created a specter of Muslims to keep a semblance of Hindu religious identity intact. The other trick they have is selling the hyper nationalist agenda to keep their folks united.      

However, now the time is on a different roll call. It’s all about gaining electoral muscle and gain political mileage. If the case groups are busy doing such exercise, the religious groups like the Sikhs under Akalis in Punjab and the Christians under various political outfits in North-East are doing the same.

So, if the Muslims do the same there is nothing communal about it. The current political order in any case has demonized the identity of the Muslims. It has engaged in communal program and aided and abated Muslim’s lynching in broad day.

So, all these developments have given Indian Muslims enough food for thought to develop a political strategy to safeguard their interests.

Now if Indian Muslims goal to share political power in the country, they must mobilize themselves to achieve such goal.

The CAA, NPR, NCR, Babari Masjid verdict, post Godhra communal riots verdict, anti-human moves on J&K etc has given the Muslim community enough ammunition to and ponder about the future political strategy of living in India. The message is simple, if politics is going to decide the future, then Muslim should think about the kind of politics they want to safeguard their future.    

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com]

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