Thursday, July 27, 2017

BJP’s recent love for Pasmanda Muslims

by Khalid Anis Ansari

It is true that BJP is aggressively wooing the Pasmanda communities. Since none of the secular/social justice parties have accommodated the Pasmanda demands so far, in fact not even registered the existence of the Pasmanda category, BJP has the first mover’s advantage in this regard. If BJP persists in its policy then there is a possibility of a significant Pasmanda vote sliding towards it. This becomes more glaring because most of the secular parties are not immune from the charge of fomenting/abetting communal riots when they were in power.
If Pasmanda votes shift towards BJP then the onus must be placed primarily on the champions of secularism and social justice and not on the Pasmanda communities. Like all communities there are politically ambitious individuals and organizations within the Pasmanda communities as well who may align with right wing forces for their personal benefits. No community is immune from this trend: Shazia Ilmi, M.J Akbar, Shahnawaz Hussain, Najma Heptullah, Udit Raj, Ram Vilas Paswan, Anupriya Patel, Swami Prasad Maurya, Upendra Kushwaha, etc., are illustrious examples. In the conference of Backward Muslims organized by BJP’s Sabir Ali on May 9 only about 2000 Pasmanda Muslims from Bihar, U.P, Delhi and other states attended. None of the key Pasmanda leaders were present in the conference and the strength was miniscule when compared to the total population of Pasmanda Muslims in these states.
There are reports that Sabir Ali is a Muslim thakur and therefore not a Pasmanda. His caste thakurai got into the OBC list due to Laloo Yadav’s ashraf appeasement just like high caste mallicks were inappropriately included by Nitish Kumar's government subsequently. On the same day when this conference happened our PM Narendra Modi also met a delegation of Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind, an ashraf organization, in Delhi. The Catholic Priests have met CM Adityanath Yogi in Lucknow recently. A few years back SIO (Students Islamic Organisation) had invited Indresh Kumar, a member of RSS to a conference in BHU. So such events must be placed in their proper context and interpreted without a prejudiced mind.

Any government, including right wing ones, are constitutionally expected to address the concerns of all citizens. If the Pasmanda communities face any issue—symbolic or economic—they are within their rights to approach the government of the day for redressal. Pasmanda movement believes in engagement and not withdrawal from the State. So they will engage with both the BJP government at the Centre and U.P.
However, the Pasmanda movement will continue to oppose fascist and manuwadi forces just like all major dalit, left and progressive/democratic forces do. But the people are open to other negotiations and influences and their electoral behavior cannot be really predicted. In Uttar Pradesh 2017 assembly elections a significant number of dalit and OBC votes went to the BJP (the savarnas obviously supported the BJP wholeheartedly).
Should we merely blame the voters for this without understanding what made the BJP attractive to them? If secular/social justice parties continue with their slumber with regards to Pasmanda demands then a significant shift of Pasmanda votes may happen towards the BJP in 2019 general elections. In such a scenario should the Pasmanda voters be held responsible for that? If the answer to this question from the secular/social justice camp is affirmative then they must simply pack up their bags and exit politics altogether.
[See also the news coverage of this note here]

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