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3 Political Choices Muslims have in Modi's India

Muslims have to choose from these three options and each has its own narrative built around it

Sunday December 20, 2020 8:09 AM, Syed Ali Mujtaba

Indian Muslims

Muslims in India are at the horns of dilemma. In the given circumstances, Muslims have three political choices - vote for secular parties, vote for Hindutva or vote for Muslims first. In the adult franchise and secret ballot, each voter is free to exercise its mandate. Nonetheless, Muslims have to choose from these three options and each has its own narrative built around it to entice the Muslim voters.

Vote for secular parties

There are many who argue that Muslims have no other option but to vote for the secular parties even if it means no betterment for them. The argument runs that voting for a party other than the so called mainstream secular parties will polarize the Hindu votes and this will give the RSS- BJP a permanent majority in India. It will solidify BJP’s base permanently in the democratic system of governance in India. Those having such an opinion want Muslims to vote for the secular parties as it alone can provide them the shield against the onslaught of the RSS-BJP combine.

Those arguing for voting the secular parties’ seem to be convinced that all is well for Muslims in India. Even it means; lynching of the Muslims by cow vigilantes, Asifa rape and murder, assault on the Muslim personal law, SC judgment on the Babari Masjid, robbing of Muslim majority status to J&K, vilification of Tabligi Jamaat members and Muslims, shaving of a Muslim’s beard at railway station, making a Muslim drink cow urine in public view, cutting a Muslim's hand that had Allah tattoo, conversion law, and Citizenship laws etc. They feel these are non-issues having no implication on the Muslims of India.

Those arguing for voting the secular parties tooth and nail oppose the political party that asks to vote for Muslim first political parties. The backers of vote for secular parties tell that Muslims will be doing political hara-kiri, if they choose the communal path of politics. To them secular parties are the best bet for the Muslims in India.

Vote for Hindutva

There are some Muslims who like to argue to vote for the Hindutva party. This is to buy peace if Muslims want to live peacefully in India. They are of the view that Muslims should willingly accept the ideology of Hindutva and vote the BJP- RSS combine and permanently get rid of communal polarization in India.

The supporters of Hindutva protagonists feel that Muslim interests will be best served by merging their identity with the Hindutva ideology that sees every Indian as a Hindu. In order to trade for peace, Muslims only have to change their name, dress habits, food habits, culture, language, etc. This would satisfy the invincible Hindutva bandwagon who may refrain from constant vilification, subjugation, humiliation of Muslims in this country. The argument runs, if this happens so, there will be no more communal riots in the country and Muslims will get liberated from the current siege mentality. The argument further runs that under the Hindutva rule, Muslims will see a new dawn for the community and will get thumbs up.

Muslims First

Those who argue for Muslim first political strategy come up with the fact that Muslims with a population of 200 million are about 14% but have only 27 seats in the current Parliament of 543 members. The ratio of Muslim representation in the state assemblies is even more embarrassing. These Muslim representatives cannot talk about their community issues. The interest of their political parties runs contrary to Muslim issues and they do not allow their Muslim leaders to voice their community interests because they belong to a secular party.

According to Muslim first political strategists, consistent support of Muslims to the Congress and other caste based parties has brought them down to the level described in the 2005 Sachar Committee report. Since then condition of Muslims has worsened and not improved even a bit though they are voting for the secular political parties. The protagonists of Muslims First argue that Muslims have been tricked into supporting “pseudo secular” parties with the allurement that these parties will protect them and make their condition conducive for their betterment. But did that really happen? The Muslim first protagonists argue.

They explain that the so called secular parties seek Muslim support not to defeat the BJP but to enlarge their power base and end up doing nothing for the Muslims. What worse situations can Muslim face that is created by the BJP rule in India?

The solution that Muslim first apologists dish out that suppose if these 27 Muslim MPs may have belonged to one political party that espouses Muslims first, it certainly may have made some difference on the national scene.

Therefore Indian Muslims are on the horns of dilemma, caught between these three different shades of political choices. If they vote for the secular political parties there is hardly going to be any change. If they vote for Hindutva, tumhari dastan bhi na hogi dastano mein (their story will not be in the stories). If they vote for Muslim first political party, they have to make a choice between rock and the hard surface.

This is a very tough choice for the Indian Muslims to make. They are caught in a tussle between majoritarian Hindutva politics and minority identity politics. The majoritarian Hindutva politics pursued by the current regime is hegemonic in nature, wrapped in the toxic ideology of Hindutva that preaches racial supremacy of the Hindus.

In contrast, the Muslim minority identity politics is the desire for their proportional representation in the mainstream democratic politics. The minority identity politics is a quest towards social justice, equality and democratic way of life. The ultimate destination for minority identity politics is their amalgamation into the larger liberal secular polity with more democratic representation.

The problem with the minority identity politics is they fail to understand the shift that India has taken since 214. The BJP’s majoritarian politics is implementing its supremacist ideology in the country. That is to say everyone who has to live in India should imitate the Hindu way of life, like one nation-one network, kind of slogan.

This is a brand new republic where there is no place to accommodate “Eshwar- Allah tero naam”, kind of diversity in India anymore. The Hindutva politics has moved far from its own ‘Jai Siya Ram’ to ‘Jai Shree Ram’. This is a brand new republic where the main target is to subsume the Muslim religious identity within the Hindutva umbrella.

The other objective is to flatten the federal humps of India categorized in the linguistic, cultural and other specificities. The Hinduvta politics aspires to establish the supremacy of the Hindi – Hindu – Hindustan identity over all these identities of India. Any resistance to this can be tamed in a muscular way as done to J&K, with one ‘vidhan’ one ‘nishan’ argument.

The problem is with Muslim politics as it is ignorant to deal with the current political situation in India. Some think that voting the secular parties will maintain their status quo. Others think that voting for the BJP alone can ensure their safety and protection in the country. However, those pursuing Muslim first strategy say that Muslims should come out from their ivory towers. Its minority identity politics that alone can safeguard their interest in the country. Their separate identity alone can defeat the forces inimical to them. United we stand, divided we fall goes the argument.

This is a sanguine story that is unfolding in India. There cannot be a photo finish to this story. Let the democracy with its entire vicissitudes give its verdict on this tale of India.

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


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