Posts Tagged ‘Indian National Congress’

Has Congress gobbled up more than it can chew, much less digest? – By Ghulam Muhammed

June 3, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009 / Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Has Congress gobbled up more than it can chew, much less digest?


As if, a tsunami has struck the Indian political island and only two peaks jutting out that have survived the avalanche: dynasty and power; both peaks interconnected by an inverted rainbow bridge that never curves to touch the lowly grounded masses. The dazzled masses have yet to figure out how their future will change – when will they ride the rainbow.


The most awesome sight is the trooping of all the humbled aspirants of exclusive powers at the top, who are seeking the shelter of the victorious dynasty. Be that Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, Lalu or Paswan. Sages like Lord Meghnad Desai, whose sympathies with the Hindutva forces is not a secret, all of a sudden is prominent among the cheerleaders, who wants NCP and the Communists, both to merge with the Congress. In his weekly Indian Express column, he exhorts CPI (M) to ‘make peace with the Congress, change your spots, and merge’.


However, for Congress, these are like honeymoon days. Only time will tell, if Congress has gobbled up more than it can chew, much less digest? Though it is commonly believed that the Grand Old Party itself started up as a grand old coalition party; it remains to be seen if it has gathered the same across the board goodwill and unity of purpose to nurture and nourish an egalitarian India that would care for all its people in equal measure. However, as past history shows, how greed for power, exclusivity, egoistical one-upmanship,  gravy train corruption, polarisation of people as divide and rule strategies and high handed dynastic power trips, eroded the gloss that had held the coalition together. All these demons are still sheltering under the Manmohan Congress umbrella and it would not take time for them to raise their heads, at the first sign of the faltering of the top triumvirate.


The greatest challenges will come both from abroad and from within.


Skeptical observers correctly question the entire surrealism of the new Congress that is manifestly not supported by any upward mass upswing. The hoopla is more of a media creation.  Congress hand seems to hide a foreign hand. The technical fait accompli may be tested at various levels as time progresses. Just as US Vice President had publicly declared that Obama will face grave challenges in his presidency, so to, the trio will be put to severe tests. Their apparent strengths are also their weakness. They are too top heavy to be immune to buffeting from ground up. The team that the trio has collected in their cabinet does come out with rare display of a genuine gung-ho spirit to tackle challenges ahead.  Key ministers are well- experienced and well-tested. However, the rank and file that in fact runs the machines of the governance is yet to show that they are willing to accept the trio as their new masters who mean business. Heads should role, at first sign of laxity, compromise and chalta hai attitude. In that Manmohan should take a leaf from Mayawati, who demonstrably shows how a tight ship she captains. Sycophancy should be treated as poison. Favouritism and cronyism should be publicly derided. And any sign of collaboration with foreign powers to compromise on the integrity, security and prime interest of the nation, should be ruthlessly pursued and punished. All ministers with even a shade of corruption, actual and/or suspected, should be put on guard. Moves in foreign affairs should be reoriented towards India’s own longer term associations. An emerging nation, as India is, in the new economic power reshuffling, has to choose its friends and foes judiciously and not under foreign pressures and alien agenda. The recent storm in the tea-cup when known hawks were given the opportunity to bring in new colours of demonisation of our neighbours has been mercifully blown away for the time being. But the danger is lurking that India will be dragged into foreign adventures or misadventures, on the open and relentless demands of its supposedly strategic partners, that is bankrolling its economic turnaround. India will have to choose between a war economy and a peace economy. If it chooses a war economy, it would be thrust into a war, sooner than later. The national ethos of Indian people does not support it. The devastation on a mass scale will be so destabilising, that people may revolt against their government, though widely believed to be elected with a broad mandate.


With economists at the top echelons of Congress government now taking office, it is a moment of great challenge to choose, if India should be forced in to a war economy, when war could be looming large over the northern horizons. India could through astute diplomacy buy time for the economy to strengthen its grass root stability and not get entangled in any international Great Game to help other economic powers to thrust their agenda on our poor masses. India has survive the meltdown much better than the West and even China, due to its economy still heavily oriented towards its own people and resources. The foreign investments and entanglements have yet to percolate into the system to affect our economic life, to the degree that globalisation and liberalization has brought to the Western economies. Thanks to the erstwhile coalition partners from the Left, unbridled expansion was judiciously checked. The danger now is that that coalition partner has been cleverly taken out of all the reckoning, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be pressurised to open us further ‘reforms’. However, the choice of Pranab Mukherjee, with his past experience in planned economy, should be able to steer the country away from any reckless experimentation and close the loop holes that gave the opportunities to people like Satyam Chief, to play havoc with peoples’ resources.


On the internal organizational front, though the Congress decision to throw off the yoke of coalition partners has manifestly succeeded in returning Congress to once again at the helm of affair, and with much better head-count, Congress is essentially riding a troika, where the Rightist, Centrists and Leftists from within the Congress stables, are being harnessed to ensure a smooth journey. However, the pull of independence cannot be discounted for long. All three groups that had tasted freedom will maintain their linkages and might try to form or encourage alternative formations, to give vent to their ideological and/or regional aspirations. Congress cannot please all the people all the time and the whip of dynastic sycophancy and discipline will be tested again and again. The temporary strength of centralized power cannot last for ever and it will call for immense resilience on the part of Manmohan Singh and Sonia, to appease the troika in not dragging the party in all directions.


Congress as a party has yet to acknowledge the voluntary participation of Muslim voters in some of the most crucial face-off constituencies. In the session of Parliament, where Smt. Meira Kumar was elected first Dalit woman speaker of the Lok Sabha, by unanimous vote endorsement from all political parties, the live telecast of the entire proceedings, appear to those from the 150 million Indian Muslim community that happen to watch, as throbbing with some unanimous conspiracy to ignore and bloat out the very existence of Indian Muslims as citizens of India, without any right to be represented in the affairs of their country. A few Urdu couplets read out by Trinamol Congress Chief Mamta Banerjee and a prominent Sikh MP, were the only forced and indirect recognizance that Muslims had some relevance to the historical proceedings that the nation was so reverentially witnessing.


Congress insensitivity towards Indian Muslims is appalling. It appears that it is still deeply committed to the 2-nation theory, while only paying lip service to the secular and democratic constitution of India.



Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai













A Muslim Revolt: The Hidden story of Congress’ stunning victory in UP – By Amaresh Misra

May 18, 2009

A Muslim Revolt: The Hidden story of Congress’ stunning victory in UP


                           By Amaresh Misra


        Each and every observer of Indian politics is angling for a simple answer to the vexed question: how and why did the Congress perform so well in Uttar Pradesh?

        The answer however is complex: apart from other reasons, the Muslim voting pattern in UP proved decisive. Muslims were known to be disillusioned with Congress beyond repair. Then what made them switch over from the BSP or the SP to the Congress, and that too at the last minute?

         Since 2004, Muslims in UP have been nursing a sense of betrayal vis-à-vis the SP and the BSP. This  alienation was sharpened after the Batala House encounter, in which boys from Azamgarh were targeted systematically by the UP ATS. Yet, Muslim MPs of the BSP and SP were virtually gagged by their respective party leaders—the MPs were unable to even demand a judicial probe in the affair. After that episode most Muslim MPs were seen more as third grade power brokers

        The incident and its fallout, and the wave of Muslim persecution that followed the July 26th 2008 Ahmedabad/Jaipur and subsequent bomb blasts, led Muslims to grope for a way to establish their independent forums. The thinking amongst the new Muslim leadership then was that if 7% Yadavs in UP can capture power, negotiate with the central government, cut deals and make and unmake governments on the basis of 18% Muslim votes, why can’t, Muslims form alliances with other castes and bargain or negotiate directly?

        This thinking found an echo in the Ulema Council of Azamgarh in eastern UP, which emerged suddenly in the wake of the Batala House encounter. The Council rejected Muslim power brokers; it was soon taking protest trains to Delhi and Lucknow; opposition to all four major parties—the SP, BSP, Congress and the BJP—was announced. Riding on a wave of popular support, the Council also announced 7 candidates—including one from Lucknow in Avadh—from UP for the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

        In the wake of the Council’s appeal, several other small Muslim parties of UP also formed a Muslim political front. That this phenomenon was not limited to UP, was borne out by Badruddin Ajmal who also tried taking his AUDF outside Assam and launch it in Maharashtra and UP.

        In Kerala and Bengal as well, attempts were made to float independent Muslim political parties. The Jamat-e-Islami too experimented with the idea. Factions of the Jamiat Ulama Hind also were seen looking for Independent options.

        None of these Muslim formations envisaged themselves as a communal forum. Right from AUDF to the Ulema Council, the attempt was to attract as many Hindus as possible.

         Most, not all, Muslim formations were led by Ulemas, the Deobandis in particular. Jamiat Ulama Hind was always the premier Indian Deobandi organization—it had opposed Jinnah’s two nation theory before partition and had stood by the Congress in the post-Independence phase. Yet on eve of the 2009 elections it was locked in internecine internal strife.

        Otherwise also, the Ulemas were facing a crisis of credibility. Most of the Delhi and Lucknow Ulemas, the two major cities with a sizeable concentration of Muslim clerics, had issued political fatwas in the past. Looking upon political fatwas as retrograde, the Muslim electorate had rejected these; however, the Ulemas of the AUDF and Ulema Council were seen in a different light. Both Badruddin Ajmal and Amir Rashadi, the convener of the Ulema Council, were respected for having aroused political aspirations amongst Muslims.  

        But as the 2009 elections proceeded, it became clear that even the AUDF and the Ulema Council were not sticking to their promise of carving out an independent niche for Muslims. The Ulema Council and Amir Rashadi were seen as hobnobbing with the BSP and the BJP, while the AUDF was looked at as a rich man’s Bania-Muslim party, lacking a sense of real Muslim issues at the grassroots outside Assam. It was not interested say, in uniting the Barelvi and the Shia Ulema and in issues like Muslim harassment by the Indian State.

        In UP, the Ulema Council seemed to be on its own trip—parochialism ruled the roost—the attempt was to remind the Muslims repetitively that they have to create their own BSP.

        In this, the Ulema Council missed a vital point—namely that Indian Muslims are not Dalits. They do not have a BAMCEF type support organization; secondly, they form part of the ex-ruling class and would like their party to be progressive and forward looking as well.

         In Azamgarh and other strong Ulema Council constituencies, the Council failed to link the issue of Muslim persecution with the massive anti-BJP, anti-sectarian, middle-path undercurrent that was perhaps the single most important feature of the 2009 elections. 

        Seeing their leaders lacking in anti-BJP fervor, Muslims began to doubt the secular credentials of the  Ulema Council. The same happened to a lesser degree with the AUDF on seats outside Assam. Then, the Lucknavi Ulema issued directives or semi-fatwas, asking votes blatantly for the Lucknow BSP candidate, known as a big neo-rich, money-bag.  

Enraged Muslims of Lucknow revolted—the  Ulema Council failed to read, or ignored deliberately, the anti-big Ulema sentiment. Ditching the Ulema Council as well, Muslims voted en masse for the Congress all over Avadh.     

         For the first time in the history of Independent India, Muslims launched a passive political revolt against their own Ulema, who filled their own pockets while the community starved; who bought huge donations from Arab countries for madrasasbut seldom paid heed to the plight of the Muslim under-trials; who while asking Muslims to unite themselves remained fragmented; who never taught the Muslims their glorious secular past in India or elsewhere; who kept the community backward while acting as dishonorable and parochial middlemen. While reaping the harvest of what Shah Waliullah and Shah Abdul Aziz—the  premier, reformist Muslim clerics and political thinkers of the 18th-19thcentury—sowed, these Ulemas had forgotten to even mention their legacy.      

This anti-Ulema revolt is against Muslim power brokers as well—that is why there are so few Muslim MPs in the new Lok Sabha. Secular forces ought to grab this moment and provide justice and a modern vision to Muslims. This is also the time for the non-Ulema, non-broker Muslim leadership to assert itself.      


(The author is a historian and was the Lucknow Lok Sabha candidate of the Ulema Council) 

Congress must stoop to conquer – By Ghulam Muhammed

May 11, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009


Congress must stoop to conquer


It was sheer arrogance of power that forced Congress to treat all its coalition partners, with deplorable insensitivity, if not with outright disdain. In these times of coalition politics, the Grand Old Party was reluctant to learn new tricks of trade. By going it alone, it played a ‘take it or leave it’ game with its coalition partners that has eventually hurt it as much as its partners. In the bargain, it lost people’s trust. That is the biggest loss that Congress cannot recoup in a hurry. 

Now that NDA has come out with the Ludhiana show of force, even before the last round of election is still due and there are only vague indications of numbers, Congress has to sort out its priorities. 

Will Congress fight for its own interest or for the interest of the nation at large? If Congress did believe in secular and pluralist polity of the nation, it should be prepared to eat humble pie and should stoop to conquer the bigger victory for the nation. If its priority is limited to ‘party first’, nation last, it may face grim choices and survive  to rue the day.

Time is of the essence. It should not be wasted on fruitless negotiations. Meet first, sort out later.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

Afraid of the Third Front? – By Jayanti Ghosh – The Asian Age

April 28, 2009

Afraid of the Third Front?


Jayati Ghosh

April.28 : India is a complex and diverse country, with many different loyalties and identities driving the aspirations and actions of its citizens. It is also a country in which — fortunately — electoral democracy is deeply entrenched, and difficult to dislodge, with ever growing numbers of people aware of their rights and deeply committed to casting their votes.

It is therefore not surprising that the electoral process — and electoral outcomes especially in the recent past — reflect both such diversity as well as processes of change. As the political churning in India continues apace, it is likely that it will throw up newer and different combinations of parties in power. These are not necessarily results that should cause concern or fear. Rather, they are signs of a national polity that is emerging out of an immensely complicated reality, in a process that has taken several other countries much longer (often as much as a century) to complete.

This process cannot and should not follow the same pattern as the US or UK models, with two major parties alternately contending for and attaining power, because the reality of India is so very different and places such varied requirements upon central governments. Indeed, the middle class yearning for a simple binary division of the polity is completely misplaced in India. It ignores the very reasons why regional and smaller parties have come up at all, and thereby denies the genuine democratic aspirations of most people.

Coalition politics is both necessary and inevitable in India at the current juncture not only because of this diversity, but because of the very obvious failures and apparent of the two major parties. Indeed, just looking at national vote shares of the different parties in the last few elections shows how the electorate is increasingly rejecting this binary division.

The Congress Party, because of its role in the national movement, had emerged after Independence as the default national party, able for a relatively prolonged period to dominate the national political spectrum and particularly the Central government, even though other parties managed to grow sufficiently to set up state governments. But there has been a continuous decline in its national presence. From the peak in 1984 when the wave of sympathy caused by the assassination of Indira Gandhi gave it 46.1 per cent of the national vote, the share has dropped to 26.5 per cent in 2004. It controls only a small minority of state governments.

Every government that has formed at the Centre since 1989 has been a coalition of many parties, and several have been minority governments dependent upon outside support, including the current United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. So the days of one party rule by the Congress are clearly over, whether this is accepted by the Party or not.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) until recently benefited the most from the Congress’ decline, but even the BJP this far has not managed to cross much more than a quarter of the national vote — its peak vote share (in 1998) was 25.6 per cent, and it has declined since then.

These two parties claim to be very different, and certainly it is true that the Congress still claims its secular credentials in opposition to the BJP’s politics of hate and fear, which still underlie the latter’s ideology despite all the moderate masks it seeks to adopt on different occasions. It is also true the BJP is definitely the greater evil, given that its divisive politics actually sows the seeds of more violence and insecurity for the country as a whole. Yet it is also remarkable how similar these two parties have been in government, in terms of economic policies and centralising tendencies.

They have both chosen to follow neoliberal economic policies that have dramatically increased economic inequalities, caused widespread agrarian distress and made material lives more fragile and insecure for most workers. It is true that since the current Congress-led UPA government was dependent upon outside support from the Left, it did bring in some positive and pro-people measures such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). But the basic neoliberal urge was still very evident.

Also both parties — despite being involved in coalition governments that depend upon inside or outside support from smaller and regional parties — have been extremely centralising in terms of concentrating various powers in their own hands, dictating economic terms to the state governments and forcing conditionalities that impose the same neoliberal policies upon the state governments in return for resource transfer in the form of centrally-sponsored schemes. Along with this, it is increasingly evident that both parties are hand in glove with imperialism, in ways that directly impact upon the security and sovereignty of the nation.

Since these are finally the features that affect most of the Indian people directly and indirectly, it is not surprising that these policies have not gone down well with the electorate and have further accentuated the tendency of decline of these two parties.

Things have come to such a pass that it is currently being widely predicted that these two parties together will not get even half of the total votes in the current general elections. So the claim of these two parties being the main relevant national parties is increasingly open to question.

That leaves a varied collection of parties with very different bases, perceptions, identities, ideals, political strategies and forms of organisation and mobilisation. Some of these parties have been, or continue to be associated with fronts, formed by one or the other of the two large parties. But the current evidence of the disintegration of these fronts is not without significance: it indicates that the smaller parties recognise that the role and power of these larger parties is likely to be further constrained in future.

It is obviously both unrealistic and premature to expect that such a diverse grouping (or even a large subset of this grouping) can immediately form a coherent and viable political front that is separate from the two main parties. Yet such a front is both desirable and ultimately inevitable, which is why the Left parties have already invested so much time and effort in working towards such an outcome. After all, these parties have become significant because they express and articulate the genuine concerns and aspirations of substantial sections of voters, and therefore they cannot be denied their space. And because several of them gain their political legitimacy from those who are reacting against unequal and centralising economic policies, they must eventually express this in their own economic strategies.

What is also significant is that many of them find political legitimacy among the bulk of people who have been adversely affected by neoliberal economic policies: workers and peasants, students and self-employed, those searching for jobs and those working at multiple jobs to make ends meet.

We need a Central government that acts to bring such people relief and improve their future prospects. Obviously, in creating such a government, a critical role will be played by the Left whether or not it actually joins the government.

This does not mean that simply forming such a government will rid the polity and economy of the various vices and weaknesses that currently dominate. And it is also very likely that such a government may be unstable and prone to dissolve or change because of contending pressures from the various elements in it. But this should be seen as part of a longer political process in which the legitimate demands of a federal polity and of the masses of people are sought to be met. Such a process is not always smooth and seamless; indeed it is likely to be as chaotic and colourful as Indian democracy itself. It does not make the process any less relevant or necessary.

The emergence of a viable third alternative in Indian politics is therefore a matter of historical inevitability. We should not be afraid of heterogenous political groupings, as long as they share the basic agenda of improving the lot of the common people.

Akbar’s misplaced perception of ‘hatred’ – a rejoinder By M.T. Hussain, Dhaka

December 15, 2008

14 December 2008

Akbar’s misplaced perception of ‘hatred’ – a rejoinder By M.T. Hussain, Dhaka

This has a reference to the Indian journalist Mr. M J Akbar’s item published in a Dhaka English daily on the 12th December, 2008, wherein he has blamed the Muslim League leader Jinnah for his Two Nation Theory that, according to him, gave birth to ‘hatred’ and the partition of the British India in 1947. How much he was right?

The historical truth is that during the colonial British rule in India for two centuries (1757-1947), misfortunes fell no doubt on the whole population, but the Muslims as a religious group felt more badly than any other religious group en bloc. The Muslims’ feeling so perceived might not have been reasonable as some of the Congress leaders did maintain, but the Muslims in general had that feeling generated not in a day or two but for many valid reasons over the period of the British rule.

The alienation of the Muslims from the British and their native good boys had many good valid reasons. First, the Muslims en bloc turned almost pauper in matter of decades beginning enforcement of the Permanent land settlement in 1793 A.D. by forfeiture of almost all of their landed property that remained theirs for centuries. The final blow was the application of the so-called Sun Set Law in 1841 that took away the remnant few of some other Muslims landed property. In addition, the Muslim learned society was also labeled in reality as uneducated almost overnight through introduction of the English education system abandoning formally in 1835 the century old but developed Muslim education system and then in two years replacement of the official Persian language until then for centuries in India had been the Muslims media for higher education by English. Thus poverty in terms of economic fortune and ignorance so far as higher level of learning was concerned became the obvious fate of the Muslims who earlier had been fortunate on both accounts. Such changes of socio-economic status had the impact not only in backwardness but also instilling a sort of inferiority complex and alienation from both the British rulers and the newly emerging native elite who happened to be all non-Muslims. Another stark reality was that as the English historian and highly learned and experienced bureaucrat William Wilson Hunter had in 1871 stated very clearly how the well off Muslims in about one hundred years of the British rule in India became poor and destitute.

There were, no doubt, other poor Muslims even during the Muslim rule, but their richer co-religionists would maintain and care for them in needs. Unfortunately, when the richer and educated ones turned poor and disadvantaged except very few, the whole Muslim mass had nothing but complete darkness all around.

The other crucial fact was that the Muslims of Bengal, of East Bengal, in particular, had the worst exploitation suffered not only for the British rule but also more so for their henchmen but native lackeys who perpetrated torture and inflicted exploitation of the most cruel nature. Poet Rabi Thakur’s epic poem ‘Dui Bigha Zami’ is a replica of the cruelty of the landlords during the British rule whose overwhelming large numbers in East Bengal happened to be the Hindus but their tenants at will Muslims- subsistence farmers, day laborers, artisans etc. who had short of bare necessities to sustain life and living.

Such subjective conditions prevailing in society made the Muslim League gradually popular as the people through growing awareness and so shied away not only from the better organized Congress but also from the Krisak Sramik Proja Party led by the early nineteen thirties charismatic leader of Bengal, a Muslim, A.K. Fazlul Haq.

Whatever might have been others appreciation about the psyche for the shying away, the Muslims felt akin with the Muslim League and they made it themselves popular organization by 1940s, particularly when Muhammad Ali Jinnah took up its leadership at the second go in mid 1930s.

Jinnah was an astute politician, if not a statesman. He developed his own strategy for the disadvantaged Muslims of the subcontinent, to win over both the British and the Congress. The Two Nation Theory happened to be his effective strategy to establish a Muslim majority nation out of the Himalayan sub-continent along with the departure of the British granting self rule and independence. As soon as that was achieved due to his strong iron will thus defeating all adversaries and Pakistan got to its start on the 14th August 1947, he took not long time to redefine the nature of the country as a modern democratic and welfare nation guarantying equal rights and protections to all citizens of the country irrespective of religion, race, caste, ethnicity etc.

As is known to all Jinnah was never a communal Muslim who bread hatred as no Muslim can be. He had been a Congress worker and leader for decades and afterwards getting tired of the Hindu Congress leaders, not in personality score but for perceptional difference in problem solving, he parted with the Congress for good and joined the Muslim League providing full dedication and commitment. The Muslims, as well, deeply appreciated his commitment and took him as their Great Leader or the Quaid E Azam. Incidentally, the term Great Leader, was first conferred to him in address not by the Muslims but by the India’s great leader M.K. Gandhi.

He was so broad minded and liberal in thinking that even after the Muslim mass and the other League leaders had been fully committed to secure independent Pakistan, he went on trying compromising formula to keep India united as per the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946. He went further on and nodded go ahead to Huseyn Shaheed Sohrawardy and Sarat Bose to make greater Bengal independent, not only keeping that outside the proposed Pakistan but also of independent India, if the other party or the Congress would accede to any such proposition. Unfortunately, the greater Bengal plan failed just as the Cabinet Mission Plan not for Jinnah’s ‘hatred’ of anybody but for the clear hatred of the Congress leaders like Nehru, Patel etc. Is this not the truth of history?

Exclusion of Muslims By Dr. J. S. Bandukwala

September 2, 2008

Exclusion of Muslims



By J. S. Bandukwala

The Prophet of Islam was aware of India, once remarking that there is a fragrant breeze coming from India. Islam reached India almost immediately after his passing away in 632. The long Western coast had trade links with the Arabs, much before the arrival of Islam. The Islamic injunction of fair and honest trading, impressed the local people. Many Arabs settled down in Kerala, marrying local women. Shia Sufis converted many Brahmins and Rajputs in Gujarat. Four hundred years later, invaders came from Central Asia. They were followed by Sufi Syeds from Arab lands, escaping persecution from the Abbasid Caliphs. The most prominent was Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti (1142 – 1236), preaching love of God , combined with equality, brotherhood and concern for the poor. Millions, particularly from the lowest strata of society, responded to his teachings, and that of other Sufis such as Khwaja Bande Nawaz in the South, Nizamuddin Aulia and Baba Farid in the North. The Guru Granth Sahib extensively refers to Baba Farid. The foundation stone of the Golden temple was laid by Mia Mir. Sufism had a tremendous influence on the Bhakti movement, producing such spiritual figures as Guru Nanak, Kabir and Mirabai. Today the Muslim population in South Asia is about 500 million. That is about one third of the world Muslim population. Almost all these Muslims have forefathers of local origin, who converted to Islam. A miniscule are of non South Asian origin. The discrimination against Muslims is rooted primarily in this conversion, mostly from Dalit and backward classes. Six hundred years of Muslim rule widened this gulf. The religious policies of Muslim rulers ranged from the most liberal Akbar to his ultra orthodox great grand son Aurangzeb. Frequently Muslim kings fought Hindu rulers, such as Maharana Pratap and Shivaji. In due course these kingly wars were viewed as religious wars between Muslims and Hindus, widening the communal divide. This historical twist fails to notice that Shivaji’s general was a Muslim, while the Mughal general was a Hindu. But perhaps the most vital factor was the upper caste resentment at the large scale conversion of lower castes into Islam. This is the genesis of the communal hatred we see today.

As the Mughal Empire weakened, Muslims comprised a small elite of Nawabs and zamindars. There was no middle class. Most Muslims were economically and socially backward. Conversion to Islam gave them a sense of equality and identity within a larger Muslim world. But it had no effect on their living standards. Islam was superimposed on the caste structure. The Hindu dhobi became a Muslim dhobi. But he still remained a dhobi. The caste structure of Hinduism became the jamaats of Muslims. Marriage was strictly within the jamaats. Often even burial grounds were on jamaat lines. This was against a basic feature of Islam that all Muslims were brothers, as witnessed in the marriage of the Prophet’s cousin Zainab with Zayd, a former slave.

The rise of the British saw Muslim elite lose political power. In their resentment they turned their back on anything Western, particularly the English language and science. They clung to a shadowy world of Persian language and culture, and to a princely lifestyle, they could no longer afford. A total lack of vision can be gauzed by their refusal to accept a British offer to open an English medium college. They demanded a Persian medium college. Around this time the British offered Hindus a Sanskrit college. They declined asking for an English medium college. Note the sharp contrasts in their responses. The 1857 mutiny ended Muslim rule. The British, replacing the Mughals, were especially harsh on the Muslims, who reacted by withdrawing further into their shell. Any attempt at an English education was strongly opposed and even declared as un-islamic. The great Sir Syed Ahmed, the founder of Aligarh was vilified and offered a garland of shoes. On the other hand Hindus responded most enthusiastically to Western education. Within a few decades there was a marked contrast between widespread Muslim poverty and decay, and a vibrant Hindu middle class. This Hindu awakening found expression in the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885. But the Muslims largely kept aloof. Sir Syed Ahmed was wary of antagonizing the British. His focus was only on the uplift of the community, and that required building bridges with foreign rulers. The religious divide soon became a political divide, with the partition of Bengal in 1905. Hindus opposed it strongly. Muslims favoured it, reflecting the nature of East Bengal, with Hindu zamindars and Muslim landless. After the First World War, Hindu aspirations for self government were turned down by the British. Resentment, led to harsh measures culminating in the Jalianwala Baug tragedy. This brought Mahatma Gandhi into the national limelight. Sadly this coincided with the British deposing the last Turkish Sultan, who as Khalifa was also the nominal head of the Muslim world. Indian Muslims reacted most strongly to this loss. The khilafat movement was born. Gandhiji sensed an emotional issue that would bring Muslims into the national mainstream. He offered Congress support for Khilafat. The result was a deluge of orthodox maulanas into the Congress, and the exit of its principal liberal figure Jinnah. The later was bitter about his eclipse from national politics. This bitterness contributed years later to the partition of the country. Equally important, Muslim leadership passed into the hands of maulanas, and it has largely remained so ever since. The khilafat movement died within a few years. But the damage had been done. Religion and politics were mixed in a deadly concoction. Moplah riots in Kerala followed, leading to the birth of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS. Inspite of Gandhiji’s attempts to project Sarva Dharma Sadbhav, the two communities drifted apart. The end result was partition, with frightening brutalities and a migration of millions across the borders.

Gandhiji’s assassination and Nehru’s stress on science and humanism cooled the communal fires. But this social peace lasted barely fifteen years. With Nehru’s death, and the constant irritants of Pakistan and Kashmir, the Hindu Muslim divide widened once again. Electoral politics, vital to a democracy, was also the incentive to inflame communal passions. Caste politics with the coming of Mandal, threatened the BJP hold on its Hindu vote bank. In response the Ayodhaya movement was launched. The last twenty five years have been most difficult for Indian Muslims. They are under a constant physical threat and mental stress.

The situation is particularly grim in a state like Gujarat that has become a laboratory of Hindutva. My own house has been attacked four times, the last time in 2002 it was completely destroyed. My daughter and I just escaped certain death. I have been in prison three times. Post Godhra saw an elected Government sponsor the mass killings of Muslims. This had never happened before in free India. The poison goes beyond Narendra Modi. For years the Gujarati language media, would carry provocative articles against Muslims. Repeated requests to the Press Council to stop this yellow journalism had no effect. Gujarati intellectuals would write long articles on the need to civilize the barbarian trends in the Muslim community. This author made numerous public appeals to persuade top Gujarati religious figures to express remorse for the horrors of 2002, in particular the rape and killing of Muslim women using trishuls, while shouting Jai Shri Ram. There has been no response. Honestly I have often wondered what has happened to this society that once produced a Mahatma.

Politically Muslims have no voice in Gujarat. Although the Muslim population in Gujarat is about 10 %, the communal polarization is so deep that it is impossible for a Muslim to win a significant election. With the rise of Hindutva, Gujarat has not elected any Muslim to the Lok Sabha, nor has there been a Muslim Minister in Gujarat. Since the coming to power of Narendra Modi, most Muslim officers have been sidelined. In national perspective, the hatred shown by the Gujarat BJP towards Muslims has poisoned relations between Muslims and the saffron party. All over the country, Muslims tend to vote strategically such that the BJP loses. This has been exploited by other parties to avoid doing anything substantial for Muslims, other than talk about protecting them from the BJP. The Islamophobia of the BJP has hurt Muslims tremendously. It also puts a brake on BJP winning elections. More important it damages the democratic basis of our

The situation could have been rectified substantially if the lower judiciary in Gujarat had been just and fair. Sadly case and after case against those accused in the post Godhra riots were thrown out, due to a deliberate sloppy police investigation, combined with Public Prosecutors appointed from the VHP. Even so notorious a person as Babu Bajrangi, who in a TV sting operation confessed to having slashed the pregnant Kauserbanu, to kill both the unborn and the mother, was granted bail by a High Court Judge. Later this same Judge was appointed on the Nanavati Commission to examine the causes of the riots. How can we have any faith in such a Judge? On the other hand the draconian POTA law was applied on about 270 people in Gujarat. Of these 269 were Muslims. Those arrested for the Sabarmati train burning, are languishing in jail for the past six years. The Government case is so weak, that it deliberately delays bringing it before a Court of law. Since the expiry of this law, the Gujarat Government has passed another POTA type Bill, which has not so far been signed by the President. It is called GUJCOC. It allows any confession made before the police as admissible before a Court of law. With the strong anti Muslim bias of the police force, one can well imagine the third degree methods that will be used to force any confession desired by the authorities. I just hope the President withholds his consent to this Bill.

The recent Ahmedabad blasts have been tragic. In Islam terrorism is strongly condemned in Surahs 5, 6, 17 and 25 of the Quran. Life is given by the Creator and it is sacred and no individual has a right, to take it away, except in the course of justice. To kill an innocent is a sin that will deserve double punishment from Allah. Tragically many victims of 2002 are filled with burning revenge. I urge these youth to look for justice in the majesty of Allah. But they must never hurt innocents.

History tends to divide. Geography forces us to unite. 150 million Muslims are spread over every state, district and taluka of this country. There is no alternative but to live in communal harmony with our 800 million Hindu brothers. Muslims must play their part in making a success of the idea of India. After all which country in the world can claim a Father of the Nation who laid his life for its minorities? Muslims must realize that all Hindus are not supporters of the RSS. India is secular because of these Hindus. We must do everything possible to win their goodwill. Without diluting our roots in Islam, we must make adjustments in our world view and our own life styles. One sad aspect is the decline in Sufi beliefs among Muslims. Sufism enabled a reconciliation of different philosophical and religious tenets in India. It brought Muslims closer to Hindus. Under increasing threat from Hindutva, Muslims have sought to reassert their distinct identity in appearance. They are also moving away from Sufism. In the process they are distancing themselves from those non RSS Hindus, whose friendship is essential for their own welfare. This may damage secularism in the country, and ultimately hurt the Muslims of India.

Muslims must emulate the gentler, warmer and nobler nature of the Holy Prophet: his integrity, his simplicity, his laughter with children, and his concern for women, the old and the sick. Somehow we have drifted away from the life of the Prophet. A society is judged by how it treats its women. Muslim men have not realized the psychological damage the practice of triple talaq does to women. It is a sword that hangs over every woman. The Quran refers to talaq in (2,226 / 232) and also (65, 1/ 7), with the clear stipulation that the process be spread over a period of about four months. This is to prevent any misuse by anger or pettiness. There is no mention at all of instant triple talaq. The Quran directs the husband to treat his divorced wife with dignity, honour and kindness. Horribly women are divorced on the telephone, or in a drunken state, or for not cooking the right type of meal. Tragically it is considered valid by our Muftis.


This is wrong in religion. It is also against all the tenets of human rights, and we must condemn the same. Similarly polygamy is mentioned in the Quran (4, 3) wherein a man is allowed to marry up to four wives. But it stipulates that they must all be treated just and fair. The very next sentence says that even if you try to be just, you will not be able to do so. This implies monogamy is the rule in Islam. Polygamy is permitted only under extreme conditions. In Islam a child is conceived when an egg meets the sperm. Allah gives it a soul. Hence Islam treats abortion as murder. But coitus interruptus was sanctioned by the Prophet. This method just stops the egg meeting the sperm. Then why do we oppose family planning, when it does the same work?

Hindutva has led to the impossibility of Muslims finding residential accommodation in most Hindu areas. This is very true of Gujarat. Strangely it is also true in cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai. The result is a ghettoisation, with Muslims forced to live in highly congested areas, with poor water supply, drainage disposal, bad roads and equally shabby public transport. I would urge Muslims not to complain. They should plan and develop their own areas such that essential facilities are provided. If necessary use community funds. Trees must be planted and properly watered. Cleanliness must be maintained. They must learn to use their electoral power to secure these rights. As an example the Juhapura locality in Ahmedabad has about 3 lakh Muslims, most of them migrants from riot prone parts of the city. Juhapura had no banks, as it was classified as a ‘negative rating’ by bureaucrats. We fought this issue for years, up to the level of the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the RBI. Friendly members of Parliament were persuaded to ask questions on the subject. Finally we succeeded.

Quality education is the highest priority of Muslims. That implies stress on English, Maths and Science. There has been a sharp rise in the number of Muslim students attending schools and college. Our focus must be on professional courses, such as engineering, management and medicine. That is the only way the Muslim community can come out of its present miserable state. I am totally against any form of reservation, which is ultimately a crutch that hurts the sound healthy evolution of a society. I am horrified at the mad rush for ‘backwardness’, and I pray my community avoids that pitfall.

At this stage it is best that Muslims stay away from power politics. The experience of the last sixty years is that Muslim leaders, who join political parties, do gain at a personal level. We have had Muslim Presidents, Vice Presidents, Cabinet Ministers and Governors. Sadly they are so scared of being branded communal that they just completely avoid the community. Muslims must treat the vote as a sacred power, and use it wisely and hopefully for the best candidate. That requires that the BJP come out of its hate Muslim politics. Hopefully that day will dawn. That will be the highest tribute they can pay to Gandhi who laid his life so we can usher in the idea of India.

July 31, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008








Sushma Swaraj breaks the conspiracy of silence




Incensed by the blatant display of defiance, the serial bomb blast, however symbolic they may be, in the two BJP ruled state, within days of BJP’s humiliating defeat in Lok Sabha trust vote, when several of its own members, so famously committed to BJP/RSS Hindutva ideology, defected to UPA side, Sushma Swaraj public statement during a TV interview was long on coming.



She directly blamed Congress for the bomb blasts in Gujarat. According to reports she alleged that the weekend blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad were a conspiracy to divert attention from the ‘cash-for-vote’ scandal. She said: The blasts are a conspiracy to divert attention from the cash-for-vote scandal, claiming that the incidents took place just a few days after the government won the trust vote. With a note of finality she added: “These are not off-the-cuff remarks. I mean what I say.”




Coming from a front-ranking Member of Parliament of the opposition, blaming the ruling Congress party for organizing serial bomb blasts, in two highly industrialized states in India, where BJP is now ruling, it shook the whole political establishment in India. Fresh from the open resort to horse-trading in MPs switching over from various opposition parties, the blame of actually organizing bomb blasts in which Indian citizens were killed and injured is something Congress can hardly stomach lying low. It apparently showed how far the two major political groups have fallen apart in as much as both are blaming each other for high criminal acts of massacres of innocent people through mass murder devices.




However much it may be said, that while both the parties have gone over board in blaming each other, there can be no smoke without fire. Even though the outraged media, from Times of India to Indian Express, Economic Times, Asian Age, Hindustan Times, Free Press Journal, all wrote editorials on the appalling nature of Sushma charges, all their efforts to paper over the crimes of the past, could hardly be suppressed.




In fact, Congress has been widely known in Muslim circles, to be in active collaboration if not actually using RSS cadre, to organize communal riots, targeting Muslims all around the country, throughout the 60 years of independence and even during freedom struggle days. The Rajeshwar Dayal episode is all on record.




The Sushma Swaraj outburst is more credible, as Samajwadi Party has now joined Congress in the new bail out arrangement and the proximity of SIMI to Samajwadi Party who had lifted the ban of them in Uttar Pradesh when they were in power there, could be a new alternative to Hindutva cadre that Congress can now use as muscle power, whenever it may need them. It is this factor that is intensely galling to the BJP. It is the cry of the jilted.




For all practical purpose, the war on India that Narendra Modi, has spoken about has turned into a civil war and common people will be mute victims of the spectacular changes in Indian polity from now on, much more bloody, much more ruinous, much more divisive than India has seen in the past. As they say, chickens have come home to roost.




Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai



Muslims should think and vote regional – By Ghulam Muhammed

June 1, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008



Muslims should think and vote regional


By Ghulam Muhammed


Karnataka election victory of BJP has started a media frenzy to predict the imminent doom of Indian National Congress. All sorts of calculations are projected to nail the point that Congress is sure to lose the next Lok Sabha elections and BJP and its allies will form the next government at the center.


The whole scenario points to regionalization of Indian politics. The national stature of Indian National Congress has been declining since the demolition of Babri Masjid and the Muslim voters’ rejection of Congress as their true friend and ally, in confrontation with Hindutva and RSS forces. Like Congress, Indian Muslims too had an all India presence and this factor had immensely benefited Congress to maintain its national presence and relevance. With each election after the imposition of PV Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh team on Congress and the nation, the all India presence is being challenged not by BJP as clear alternative, but more regional parties. States have realized that Congress and/or any other National party, is seriously handicapped in being responsive to the genuine needs of one or other state, while it has to look to other states clamouring for similar sops. The resulting deadlock, or indefinite postponement of vital decisions so crucial to individual states, damages the credibility or bona fide of the national party.


When a Raj Thackeray comes out with sons of the soil demand, mere platitude about national integrity would not suffice. The rat race in on! Some states have already got cozy niche in Central government, while others are waiting their turn as the next change of coalition equation.


Under such circumstance, Indian Muslims too should think regional. They should identify themselves with local strong groups, rather than the political parties with national ambitions, especially those with Brahminical leadership — like Congress, BJP or CPM.


The current TMM campaign to get old Nawab Masjid in Vellore Fort, open for prayers, shows how Congress being a national party, had to play divisive communal politics of the worst kind when ASI under central jurisdiction, finds it convenient to allow a temple and a church to be handed over to their respective group while refusing the same yardstick of justice for Muslims. The injustice is so glaring that Congress leadership just cannot defend its communal policy with any degree of reasonable excuses. This is a case of high crime of communal discrimination against Muslims. However, Congress worry is not confined to only Tamil Nadu. It is apprehensive that if it gives in now to the just Muslim demands in Tamil Nadu, that would become precedent all over India. Being a national party it cannot afford to lose its bigger constituency of Hindu communalists, while ‘appeasing’ the Muslims in Tamil Nadu. It is time, therefore, for Muslims to relieve the Congress of this onerous duty to be just and appear to appease the Muslims, and shift their votes to regional parties, with whom they can be in a better position to bargain. Let Muslims and Congress not be emotional about such a parting of the way; as it is in the best interest of the nation, that the straitjacket of pseudo-secularism that Congress is wearing, should no longer force it to deny justice and fair-play to the Muslims.


Muslims however, should be very very vigilant that they keep out of the dragnet of Brahmin formations. Each and every political grouping, if dominated by the high-caste, like even BSP should be summarily rejected. Muslims should only cooperate with OBC and Dalits and SC/ST, to the complete exclusion of the criminal gang of exploiters, that will not relinquish their stranglehold on levers of power and pelf, unless they are clearly, publicly identifies and ostracized, just as they themselves ostracized the Dalits and the Malechas.


Muslim organisations, like Jamiatul Ulama, Jamaat e Islami, Mushawarat, Milli Council together with regional Muslim organisations should openly go regional. The Delhi based Muslim organisations should be humble enough to cooperate and even accept the leadership of regional Muslim organisations, especially from South and East. They should together come out with their favorites in each state, right from the very beginning of the campaigns that are now in full swing.


The first order of priority is not to think that Congress is our only saviour. All Brahmins think alike. If Congress has its Babri, BJP has its Gujarat, CPM has its Nandigram. All such crimes should be punished at the ballot box and better take care of the ballot box rigging too.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai