Politics is a strange world. Sworn enemies suddenly become friends in the name of seat sharing, and those holding membership for years suddenly realise that they have ideological differences with the party.
While in school we read about people like Nehru and Azad. The kind of passion and vision they had for their country. One reason could be their own involvement in the freedom struggle. For them it was country first.
As we close in to celebrate our 67th Independence Day, a lot has changed, including the politics in India. There is more polarisation than ever. The three Cs (Communalism, Castesism & Corruption) have changed the political landscape in India. It’s in this changed atmosphere that Indian Muslims are finding it difficult to raise awareness about genuine issues that affect them.
Communalism in India actually started with the British ploy of ‘divide and rule’. It influenced the electorate system and saw Jinnah’s two nation theory come into being. Indian Politics reached a new low, first during the Congress rule in 1984 and later in Gujarat (2002) under Narendra Modi.
However cliched it may sound, Muslims have been used as a ball in the playing field of Indian Politics. Congress entice them in the name of secularism, BJP turns them away in the name of communalism, SP projects itself as their saviour, BSP with its Dalit friendly outlook appeals to them, and so it goes with many other national and regional parties.
While Muslims may not bring any party to power on their own but have time and again swayed political fortunes. They have known to vote en masse. Political parties have been wary of this phenomenon. So it came as no big surprise when Nitish Kumar, after 17 years of association with the BJP realised that his alliance with the party has reached a point where the Muslims voters may turn away. With elections round the corner, the honeymoon of JD (U) and BJP in Bihar is over for the moment.
There are numerous other examples. Kalyan Singh who was blamed by SP for being a part of the Babri Masjid demolition, decided in 2009 to campaign for the same party. It took both Kalyan and Mulayam only a few months to retract their paths, Kalyan went back to the BJP and Mulayam to his original vote bank (the Muslims).
And then there are people like Akbaruddin Owaisi who further complicate the situation. Regional Muslim parties like MIM should be more responsible and careful, but then who cares.
As for Congress, the role played by its leaders during the national struggle and as the first democratically elected government in India makes its the big elephant. The 1984 riots (targetted killing of Sikhs) to them was a spontaneous reaction to a barbaric act of dissent.
It was the Ayodhya episode that actually changed the face of communal politics in India. A court judgement in 1986 saw the unlocking of Babri Mosque for Hindu puja. A highly sensitive move, Ayodhya divided the nation for almost two decades. For many Muslims it has forever partitioned the country. BJP pounced upon the opportunity to promote its Hindu nationalist agenda and Congress used it to highlight its secular credentials. Many other smaller parties used it for their own good.
It’s also no secret that Muslims have a soft corner for the Congress. Many feel it still is their best bet.
There have been attempts, though, to create a national level Muslim political party in the past, efforts continue in that direction. What Muslims need instead is a lobbying group which can exercise influence over those who represent them.
The elections next year could again end up as more noise and less substance, unless the Muslim masses wake up in time to vote for education and jobs. And so I hope.