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Face to face with the ‘Muslim vote bank’

20 May, 2009 10:06:33 AM, Ehtasham Khan




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On a lazy Sunday afternoon, as I moved into the street leading towards 27, Lodhi Estate, I saw dozens of skull cap-wearing men moving around haphazardly. Some had prominently displayed different types of caps symbolizing a Muslim identity. The bearded ones had sported nicely embroidered sherwani. These men were trapped in between OB vans of news channels, vehicles of reporters and hordes of security guards.


For someone who has been regular to this place, this was certainly not a mosque or a mazar. Lodhi Estate is a high-profile area close to Khan Market (one of the most expensive markets of Delhi; and it has nothing to do with Khan sahabs). So what are these Muslims, most of who looked like Madrasa students, doing here?


Well, its election time and the crowd had gathered near the official residence of Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh.


After mixing with them for few minutes I could make out the crowd was hungry. They had assembled here in the morning and it was 2:00 pm now. They couldn’t have food or even a drop of water. Someone who had mobilized the mob here told me pleasantly: “Hum unke (Amar Sing) bulane ka intezar nahi kar rahe. Darasal woh hamara intezar kar rahe hain. Lekin hum apne kuch aur logon ke aane ka intezar kar rahe hain. Phir andar jayenge. (We are not waiting for Amar Singh to call us. In fact, he (Amar Singh) is waiting for us. But I am waiting for some more of our people to come so that we can go inside together.”


Sensing the mood of the people, the leader arranged for some water. A window from the boundary wall of Amar Singh’s residence opened up to distribute water bottles. And people fell for it as if they would die without it. It was free for all and nobody cared if others got it or not. One tried to grab as many bottles as one could do by using all his muscle power.


After about an hour, Samajwadi Party MP from Rampur, Jaya Prada came out of Amar Singh’s residence in her fabulous car. She told the media she had nothing to say about reports that her seat may be given to her rival Azam Khan. She pulled up the glass as hordes of bearded and skullcap wearing men rushed to have her glimpse. Some even wanted to shake hands with her. But her car sped away. One person claimed his leader promised him he would meet Jaya Prada here. He was disappointed.


Somebody from Amar Singh’s residence came out with stacks of tabloid size newspaper called Akbari. The bilingual newspaper in Hindi and Urdu looked glossy. Most people turned the pages here and there and came to the conclusion: “Apni hi party ka lagta hai. (This belongs to our party it seems).”


The newspaper had everything which should be catered to a typical Muslim group. How Muslims have been fooled by different political parties post-Independence to the Sachchar Committee report, and of course Mayawati has tacit alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) etc. How can one forget suggesting Muslims to vote for a “secular” party because it is a question of their security and their very existence.


But one thing which had maximum affect on that small group was the large photograph of Jaya Prada, Samajwadi Party MP from Rampur, printed in the newspaper. Clad in twinkling pink sari, Jaya looked fabulous. Her beauty was the most debated topic there rather than other serious issues concerning the community. It seems people have learned not to be fooled again and again. So just chill!!!!


After testing all the patience of the people, Amar Singh came out and approached towards the microphone kept outside his house. Some were posted for Amar Singh Zindabad type slogan shouting. The stage was set and speeches started shortly.


Here comes a firebrand Muslim leader named Nazar Abbas. I just guessed if he was the same person about whom we heard in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as a great orator. To my surprise I was right. He introduced himself as a former student leader of AMU.


And he stood up to my expectations. He was no less than any Maulana that we hear in mosque -- chaste Urdu with regular reference to Islam and some chosen couplets of Allama Iqbal.


He started with all praise for Mulayam Singh Yadav for his secular credentials and communal politics of Mayawati. He then went to international affairs explaining how America killed Saddam Hussain, and that BJP is funded by Israel (without citing the source of this information). He then came to Batla House encounter in which some Muslim youths were killed by the police, allegedly in cold blood. Finally, vote for Mulayam Singh. He is the only saviour and Muslims are living in great danger.


Then came the main mobiliser – Azhar Masood Kachauchvi. He said he hailed from the family of the Khankah of Kachaucha Sharief in Uttar Pradesh. He claimed his father once saved Mulayam Singh government in UP by one vote. Without speaking much, he asked people to vote for Mulayam Singh Yadav.


Amar Singh started by opening up his heart. He first said he will speak only truth because he is not doing politics here. Politics is all about speaking lies, he said. But, he genuinely wanted to relate to this crowd. He apologised he could not take this crowd inside his bunglow because there was no space inside to accommodate such a big crowd.


I gasped in wonder. I have personally witnessed several of Amar Singh’s interaction with such gatherings inside his residence.


He started by telling Muslims that they were living in great danger in India as all the political parties are hostile. Muslim youths all over are being picked up by the police doubting them as terror suspects. He was the only one who stood by the community during the Batla House encounter. Despite that, his party candidate from Batla House (which is a Muslim majority constituency) lost the recent assembly elections there. He complained why people of the area voted for Congress candidate who supported the police action. He also apologised Muslims for some mistakes his party committed due to which his party was dumped in the last assembly elections.


The hour-long public meeting came to an end.


I then approached Nazar Abbas with my camera and mike. I asked him why he only spoke about the fear factor and why there was no demand or any economic agenda for the community.


He probably never expected this question. He became silent and could not answer. With great difficulty he said security is most important. I then asked him what were the demands of Muslims in the coming Lok Sabha elections. He replied: “Muslims are backward. This is there in the Sachchar Committee report. There should be more schools for Muslims. Education is very important.”


I again asked him if there was any economic agenda. I asked him if he could tell me five major demands of the Muslims with regard to the forthcoming elections. I hinted him that the brass factories of Moradabad and lock industries of Aligarh are dying. Muslims in large number are being affected. But he could manage to say just this: “These are secondary issues. Security is more important.”


I then approached two young men wearing modern outfit but had sported skullcaps. I asked them if they wear these caps all the time. He replied: “No, we wear it while offering namaz.” I further probed he was not here to offer any namaz. He was honest enough to reply: “We actually wanted to look like Muslims. All the media is here for us.”

Befriending him, I asked if he was convinced by what Nazar Abbas or Amar Singh said. “These are all politics. Who cares,” he said. Then why was here? He explained his family follows the Khankah of Kachucha Sharief and he was here because Azhar Masood Kachauchvi had asked him to come with him. He went on to tell me he owns a small manufacturing unit of denim and jeans pants at Seelampur neighbourhood in east Delhi.

He told me that his business has been severely hit by the ongoing economic recession. His garments are not being sold as it used to do earlier and that his workers are running way.


Sadly, this was not an issue. Not for Amar Singh -- but most surprisingly -- not even for Nazar Abbas.


(Ehtasham Khan is Principal Correspondent with IBN 7 news channel.)

(Courtesy Twocircles.net)








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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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