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With no third political option available,

Muslims in Gujarat face the worst political dilemma

20 May, 2009 10:04:02 AM,  Twocircles




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This is the biggest dilemma of the Muslim community in this Western Indian state which saw the worst anti-Muslim riots in 2002, resulting in the death of about 2000 Muslims, displacement of lakhs of others and loss of property worth hundreds of billions.


This is largely owing to two-party system-Congress and Bharatiya janata Party- in the state, with no viable Third Force available unlike in the Hindi belt of UP and Bihar or in South Indian states where Muslims have other political options available as well.


The two-party system has virtually reduced Gujarati Muslims to a political pariah, with none giving any importance to Muslim voters. As Muslims don’t vote for BJP owing to latter’s anti-Muslim policy, they have only the Congress as alternative.


As the Congress leaders know that this biggest minority community has no other option than voting for the Congress under the existing political situation, they don’t bother about the interest of Muslims, making Muslims a helpless group despite the fact they account for 10 per cent of 5.5 crore population of the state. They are also not concentrated in any particular area but scattered all over the state, a situation not favourable for Muslims to float their own party and put up their own candidates.


Muslims don’t account for more than 10 to 15 per cent of voters’ strength in any of the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Their largest presence is in Kutch seat, followed by Bharuch and Rajkot. With communal poplarisation, Muslim candidates have little chance of winning and hence even Congress avoids fielding Muslims.


Though other political parties like Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and even Nationalist Congress Party have floated their units in the state but have yet to create a mass base to challenge the Congress and the BJP who are well entrenched in the state for decades.


"Under these circumstances, Muslim prefer to vote for Congress considered a lesser evil than BJP’’, says retired professor J S Bandukwala, who is also president of the Gujarat unit of Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL).


But Bandukwala admits that Congress leaders take Muslim support for granted as they don’t have any other option. ``I recently told a Congress delegation that the party need to change its attitude and pay attention to Muslim issues as well in order to repay what the minority community has done for the party’’, he told this reporter.


He says that voting for other parties like SP, BSP or NCP will mean division of Congress votes and ensuring victory of BJP. ``Unless SP, NCP and BSP establish their mass base, there is no point in voting for their candidates because it will mean indirectly helping BJP’’, explains Bandukwala.


"So, the Muslim political dilemma is not going to be solved soon’’, feels Bandukwala.


"It is the double standard of the Congress leaders which has generated distrust among the Muslim community against the Congress party’’, says a well-known Vaddoara-based activist and president of Gujarat unit of All India Milli Council Munir Khairuwala.


"Since Muslims don’t feel comfortable with the Congress, it also results in low Muslim polling percentage during elections’’, elaborates Khairuwala.


"While Congress leaders have been giving pro-Muslim statements but have done nothing in reality for the welfare of the Muslims'', he says.


"In fact, Congress leaders statements also make fair-minded Hindus biased against Muslims, thus causing double loss as Muslims lose the sympathies of the secular Hindus as well due to public statements of Congress leaders which is never put into practice'', he comments.


"This has really caused immense loss to the community'', he says. He gives non- implementation of Srikrishna commission inquiry report on 1992-93 communal riots in Mumbai as an example of Congress' non-commitment to secular and democratic ethos.

Ahmedabad-based social activist Dr. Hamidullah Petiwala says that there is disappointment among Muslims owing to Congress leaders’ indifferent attitude towards the community and in fact, it results in political loss to the Congress only because their candidates get defeated as Muslims don't turn up in large numbers to cast their votes.


"But Congress leaders don't seem to realise what they are doing'', he says.

"Congress record in Gujarat has been as communal as that of BJP'', points out Anwar Sheikh, a young Muslim working with a private organisation in Vaddoara.


"If 2002 Gujarat riots were state-sponsored, 1969 riots in Ahmedabad during Congress rule in which about 2000 Muslims were killed, were also state sponsored,'' he alleges.


"Since Muslims are not able to adjust with BJP due to its ideology, they vote for Congress in the absence of any secular political option in the state'', he says.


"Congress in Gujarat has always been silent on Muslim issues'', says Ahmedabad-based activist Ibrahim Sheikh.


"We are not interested in tickets for Muslim candidates but mass welfare programmes for the community'', he says. According to sheikh, the community leadership had several times taken up the community issues with the Congress leaders but the latter did nothing more than giving hollow promises.


Vadodara-based politician and activist Aziz Dangiwala wants Congress to learn a lesson from UP and Bihar where it has been reduced to non-entity as its voters switched to regional parties due to the party's compromise on secularism.


"We don’t demand masjid/madrasa but roads, water, electricity, educational facilities and means to earn livelihood, the basic amenities for any citizen irrespective of religious affiliation.'' says Ahmedabad-based activist Dr. Yaqub Menon.


"See the condition of Muslim areas. They are the worst. Even when the Congress was in power in the state and in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, it took little interest to improve Muslim areas’, points out Dr. Memon.


"Indifference of Congress leaders are slowly distancing Muslims away from the Congress’’, he says.


"Muslims will opt for any third political alternative at the slightest opportunity under the prevailing political circumstances in the state’’, he says.


"But till then Muslims must vote for this lesser evil'', he advises.


A senior advocate practicing in the Gujarat High Court on conditions of anonymity said Muslims must stop aligning with any particular party but look for options in other parties, may be smaller ones, as "blind'' political alliance with Congress has harmed the community's interests.


























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Sare Jahan Se Accha

Hindustan Hamara

In 1905 more than 100 years from today, when Iqbal was a lecturer at the Government College, Lahore he was invited by his student Lala Hardayal to preside over a function. Instead of making a speech, Iqbal sang Sare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara in his style. Iqbal compiled this poem in praise of India and the poem preaches the communal harmony that had unfortunately started ceasing in India by that time. Each and every word in this poem depicts an Indian’s respect and love for the motherland and the values the Indian society inherited for long...Read Full




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