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Islam and Muslims in India: 'Muslims are not foreigners in India, they have equal rights'

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  • Zafar Khan
    Muslims are not foreigners in India, they have equal rights Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012, 22:41 IST Place: Jaipur | Agency: PTI
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2012
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      'Muslims are not foreigners in India, they have equal rights'
      Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012, 22:41 IST
      Place: Jaipur | Agency: PTI


      Muslims need to be empowered with education and the community instead of depending on the government, should itself play an active role in their development, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar said on Saturday.

      "Why you are completely depended upon the government...why not force the government to get equal opportunities for you? You will have to do that," he said, speaking at the inaugural session of 9th All India Muslim Educational Conference (AIMES).

      Sachar, who headed the (Sachar) committee appointed in 2005 to study the socio-economic condition of Muslims, said that Muslims will have to create interest in education, if they want to change the prevailing situation, and also advocated cultural diversity in education.

      Delivering key note address, he said, "Muslims are not foreigners in India...they have equal rights as other communities have. If anyone talks about 'Hindu Rashtra' or one community will destroy it because the country is not made of a single community."

      Titled as 'Iqra-2012', the conference was inaugurated by Fathima Beevi, former Governor of Tamil Nadu and the first woman judge of the Supreme Court.

      In her address, Beevi said it was necessary to embrace technology and new models of education to bring positive change in the society.

      Other speakers also highlighted lack of education as the main reason for the backwardness of the community and asserted that education is the only strong tool to bring about revolutionary change.

      They strongly emphasised on creating awareness and adequate arrangements for quality education for Muslims and on formulating action plan to ensure overall development of the community.

      Why Indian Muslim politics is about to change forever
      by R Jagannathan Apr 19, 2012


      Political parties created of, by and for Muslims in India will be the defining trend of the current decade. This will change Indian politics forever.

      If the politics of the last 30 years was defined by the creation of caste-based parties comprising various strands of OBCs and Dalits – which branched out from mainstream political parties in many states – the second decade of the 21st century will see Muslim parties seeking to discover their own power of agency.

      On Thursday, The Times of India reported from Mumbai that on 1 May Muslims in Maharashtra will announce the formation of a new political party for motives that go no further than “service” to the community.

      Quoting Salim Alware, a member of the still-unnamed Muslim party’s core committee, the newspaper reports: “Muslims count 20-30 percent in over 60 districts and in a few districts they are even around 40 percent. Yet, there are just 11 Muslim MLAs in the current assembly. Our interaction with masses in 21 districts so far gives us hope that an alternative political platform in the state is possible.”

      This development should not be read in isolation, for there has been a deep realisation among Muslims that most political parties have stopped at symbolism in supporting their causes.

      The recent Uttar Pradesh election saw the rise of the Peace Party of India (which won four seats). The last two Assam assembly elections saw the rise of the All-India United Democratic Front (AUDF, which won 18 assembly seats), and in Tamil Nadu there is the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, a political front of the activist Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK), which won two assembly seats in alliance with the AIADMK in the 2011 assembly elections

      This does not add up to great political clout, but to this motley group must be added the traditional Muslim parties with strong, regional pockets of influence – the Indian Union Muslim League (in Kerala), which has always been part of the regional power structure, and the Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (in Hyderabad). When Telangana is formed, MIM will be more than a handful in that new state.

      The impact of the Muslim parties is clearest in Kerala and Assam – where they command real power by being among the top three parties in terms of seats or vote shares.

      The parties in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and the still-to-be-formed one in Maharashtra are nowhere near able to flex their muscles, but one thing can be said with some certainty: they are on their way. It may take all of this decade for them to build their political muscle and assembly strengths and meaningful coalitions, but it is more than likely to happen.

      The central logic of this development is this: Muslims are the only social group in India who are still to discover their power of agency. Every other caste or religious group either has its own party, or wields real power inside traditional parties.

      What is surprising is that Muslims took so long to realise that none of the political parties really gives them the kind of real representation and share of power despite their huge share of the national population (around 14 percent).

      One may question the need for a religious-identity based party for Muslims in secular India, but the obvious truth is that our secularism is a superficial, where all the mainstream parties have given Muslims little more than token representation. Muslims have not prospered in any state run by a “secular” party, whether it is UP, Bihar or even Communist West Bengal. This suggests that even secular parties are at the core “communal”. (Read the Sachar report, which documented the status of Muslims, here).

      While it is not surprising that a so-called Hindu party like BJP does not give Muslims their due, the Congress, the Communists and various regional parties do not do that either.

      The tragedy of Muslim politics in India has been that after partition, Jawaharlal Nehru’s secular politics drove Muslims towards the Congress, but once Nehru disappeared from the scene, the Congress policy towards Muslims was reduced to running a protection racket for the community without giving them real economic benefits. Congress politics was reduced to courting the most sectarian and reactionary of Muslim leaders, to the irritation of the Hindu elite.

      In other words, the Congress practiced its own brand of minority vote-bank politics, and periodic communal rioting all through the sixties and seventies and eighties helped herd frightened Muslims towards the Congress during election time – to the detriment of their economic prospects. The worst Gujarat riots took place not under Narendra Modi, but in the late 1960s, when the BJP did not exist.

      The first to break away from the Congress brand of umbrella politics were the other backward castes (OBCs, in UP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu), followed by the Dalits under Kanshi Ram and Mayawati.

      The Congress, an unstated coalition of upper caste, Muslim and Scheduled Caste and Tribe voters, did not deliver the results to the latter three. This is what prompted Kanshi Ram to launch his Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to consolidate the Dalit vote and identity over the long term. In Mayawati, the Dalits finally discovered their true power of agency – their right to represent themselves and look after their interests.

      The rise of Congress vote-bank politics in the 1960s and 1970s gave the BJP (formerly Jana Sangh) hopes of creating its own Hindu vote-bank on the rebound. For a while, during the Ayodhya movement and after 2002 in Gujarat, this vote-bank almost came into being. But a Hindu vote-bank that groups all castes under one banner was always an unlikely prospect – as the creation of several caste-based parties in the Hindi heartland and in the south shows.

      The fault-lines in caste will ensure that there will be no monolithic Hindu party or vote-bank, and the same could be true for Muslims, too. In the initial phase of the re-discovery of identity politics as a tool of social and economic empowerment, Muslim parties may be more regional than national in character.

      While it is difficult to predict how this will reshape Indian politics over the coming decade or two, one thing is clear: Muslims will no longer be willing to play second fiddle to the parties they so far voted for, whether it is the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad, the Communists, or Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.

      Indian politics over the next decade will thus evolve to take one or two forms: coalitions of caste- and religion-based parties both at the centre and states, or much higher representations for communities in the mainstream political parties.

      The BJP victory in Goa was largely the result of the latter idea. The party’s decision to give tickets to more than half-a-dozen Catholics party tickets was what brought it to power. It cannot now go back to Hindutva – though it can certainly claim to represent Hindu interests and negotiate with those who represent Catholic ones.

      Politics in the country will thus have to follow the Kerala model (where each community – Muslims, Christians, Ezhavas, Nairs – has its own party) or the UMNO model of Malaysia, where the coalition will always be headed by the Muslim United Malays National Organisation, with the Chinese and Indian populations having their own parties as junior – but powerful – partners.

      This, in fact, opens up possibilities for parties like the BJP, which can now woo Muslim or caste-based parties on the latter’s own terms. However, tokenism is not going to work. The BJP’s Hindu character – which it cannot deny – is currently a weakness because this places it squarely in the sectarian camp.

      An alliance with, say, a Muslim party or a Dalit party (as recently happened between the Shiv Sena-BJP and the Republican Party of India – worked out on the basis of power-sharing and an agreed approach to policies, could convert this weakness into a strength. A Hindu party aligned with Muslim and Dalit parties could be a potential winner since it would not then be seen as communal. (The paradox: When the entire coalition is communal, it is secular)

      The liberal ideal may be to have political parties that represent economic or social ideologies, where communal identities do not matter in governance.

      But India is not currently headed that way. Till we reach a minimum level of economic and social inclusion, the best we can hope for is a genuine coalition of castes and communities.

      An emerging coalition of regional Muslim parties is the missing link that will complete the picture in this decade.

      Gandhi clan scours India's largest state for votes among Muslims and outcast
      The Congress party of Nehru and Indira Gandhi is accused of sacrificing free speech to make a comeback in India's most populous state
      Jason Burke in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
      The Observer, Sunday 5 February 2012


      You can find the Islamic Centre of India in the Aishbagh neighbourhood of the north-eastern city of Lucknow, flanked by a Hindu temple and a wedding hall. Most evenings the call to prayer competes – or coexists – with the thumping bass of Bollywood dance tunes that accompany the nuptial celebrations of the city's middle classes. Often it is the centre itself that is the source of music, although the couples that hire its lawns for their wedding parties choose classical melodies that Muslim musicians have played in the city for centuries.

      Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, has long been an important centre of south Asian Islamic culture. These days the music in the city – whether from films or mystic masters of Sufism – is being drowned out by the discordant tunes blaring from the tinny speakers on the campaign vehicles of political parties.

      It is election time in the northern state of more than 200 million people, India's most populous, which if independent would be the world's fifth largest country.

      Polling for the legislative assembly begins this week, and will last for three weeks because the state is so vast. Though politics in Uttar Pradesh rarely attracts much attention outside India, last month the battle for votes here hit global headlines.

      A key constituency are the state's many Muslims, who account for about 18% of the population. This group could eventually swing some power in the state back to Congress, the party of the Gandhi dynasty, after a gap of more than 20 years. Congress will not win outright, but even a small improvement from its low level of support would be a victory. Critics claim that the Congress-led national government in Delhi was pursuing this Muslim vote when it very publicly failed to intervene to support Salman Rushdie, after ultra-conservative Islamic groups called for him to be stopped from speaking at a recent literary festival in India. According to the organisers of the event, this was a "defeat for free speech" and thus a "tragedy".

      Rushdie, born in India, spoke of his disappointment at finding the country no longer committed to secularism and liberty, but a place where "religious extremists can prevent free expression of ideas at a literary festival [and where] the politicians are too … in bed with those groups to wish to oppose them for narrow electoral reasons".

      For a few days, the dispute continued. Muslim groups said it was right that the author of The Satanic Verses, the 1988 book considered insulting to the prophet Muhammad, was prevented from talking. Liberals castigated the government for putting votes in Uttar Pradesh before principles. Few bothered to talk to Muslims in the state. For Khalid Rasheed, the cleric and scholar who directs the Islamic Centre in Aishbagh, the Muslim groups that had called for Rushdie to be denied entry to India were speaking for the community. "All Muslims are united. The words used by Salman Rushdie cannot be tolerated by any Muslims," Rasheed said.

      Certainly, if Muslims in Lucknow and elsewhere are asked what they think of Rushdie the answer is uniform. "If anyone writes that against any religion, it is not tolerable," said Misba Khan, 31, a social worker. "Of course he should not be allowed to come and talk. He is out to create hatred."

      But push a little further and a slightly different picture emerges, particularly in terms of how the state's Muslims might vote and why. Uttar Pradesh has poverty levels worse than most of sub-Saharan Africa. More than half of the children are chronically malnourished and nearly half of women cannot read or write.

      About 100 miles north of Lucknow, and 40 miles south of the Nepal border, is the scruffy town of Gonda. It lies in one of the poorest parts of Uttar Pradesh. The roads that exist are so pitted and holed that the short distance from the state capital takes more than three hours.

      It is a desolate drive, even in winter, when temperatures are bearable. In summer, crows fall dead from the sky in temperatures of 45C or higher. Most villages are without power; almost none have proper sanitation; many comprise little more than a miserable huddle of mud and straw huts.

      About half the population are either Dalits, the caste at the bottom of India's ancient but still tenacious social hierarchy, or Muslims who, repeated surveys have shown, are among the most disadvantaged people in India. Even in the towns, life is little better.

      "The government says there is electricity 14 hours every day, but if we get two or three we are lucky," said Dinesh Shukla, a journalist in Gonda. "There are no jobs. There is nothing."

      Five years ago, Dalit and Muslim votes carried the firebrand populist Mayawati Kumari to power in Uttar Pradesh. She is hoping that the support of the same communities will, despite the rampant corruption and broad lack of development during her reign, bring her another five-year term. A second caste-based party is her biggest challenger. The Congress party comes a weak third or even fourth behind the Hindu nationalist BJP.

      Last week, as Mayawati addressed a rally in Gonda, only a hundred yards away Muslim barbers cut and shaved their customers without even lifting their heads when the chief minister's helicopter circled and landed.

      "If Congress had helped Rushdie come, then we would have been angry. No Muslim likes him. But that doesn't mean we are going to vote for them. We will vote for people who make our lives better," said Kaleem. "No one listens to the poor people anyway."

      Uttar Pradesh was long the fief of India's foremost political dynasty. Jawaharlal Nehru, the country's first prime minister, and his daughter Indira Gandhi, perhaps its most controversial leader, both held parliamentary seats in the state. Now it is the turn of Indira Gandhi's grandchildren, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, to campaign in the dusty lanes and villages of the dynastic seats near Lucknow. This adds a personal dimension to the fight for the Muslim vote in the state.

      The old city of Lucknow is a labyrinth of alleys choked by cows, motorbikes, chickens and filth. Vast monuments dating from the time when the city was a centre of refined culture, wealth and power rear up above the jumble of rooftops and wires. Old houses with ornate plasterwork that are now home to scores of destitute families disintegrate slowly.

      The glorious past of the city, from where the nawabs of Awadh once ruled before being deposed by the British, is evident everywhere.

      At a religious school where hundreds of students learn Arabic, English and Persian, the language of the Mughal and Awadhi courts, Farooq Alvi, who runs a perfume business, spoke of how his family had been using the same techniques since "the time of Shah Jahan", the 17th-century emperor who built the Taj Mahal.

      The glorious history is now long gone. In a cramped office, Zafaryab Jilani, a Muslim lawyer at the high court, said that little had changed in recent years despite India's economic growth. "Some of India is shining … but not all of India," he said.

      Near by, underneath a vast poster advertising a satellite television channel devoted to discussions and recitals of accounts of the prophet's deeds, Mohammed Saeed, 69, served tea for four rupees a cup.

      Illiterate and half-blind, Saeed had not heard of the Rushdie affair. He spoke instead of his ill wife and his children, all seven of whom had died of various illnesses, leaving their parents alone in their old age.

      "The best time for Uttar Pradesh? That would be in the 1950s, when I was young, and food was cheap and there were less people and the air was good and the water didn't make you sick," he said.

      'Give our dignity back' say released Malegaon blasts accused
      Published: Nov 17, 2011 21:06 Updated: Nov 17, 2011 21:06


      MUMBAI: Seven out of nine accused charged in the Sept. 8, 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts that killed 37 people and wounded hundreds, were released on bail on Wednesday on the order of the Special Court in Mumbai, ruling that they were innocent and were falsely implicated in the case by the police.

      Speaking to Arab News on Thursday, prior to leaving for their homes in Malegaon, the seven released accused Salman Farsi, Shabir Ahmed, Nur-Ul-Huda Doha, Raees Ahmed, Mohammed Zahid, Javed Shaikh and Farouq Ansari said “The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad falsely framed us. We want our dignity and five years of life back."

      The seven were released on bail except for the other two accused Asif Khan and Mohammed Ali, who were also granted bail in the case but were not released as they are also accused in the serial train bomb blasts in Mumbai in 2006.

      A large crowd of more than 2000 Muslims had gathered outside the high security Arthur Road prison to accord welcome to the released accused that walked to freedom and into the eager arms of their loved ones, relatives and friends amid emotional scenes with the accused crying bitterly.

      A special Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Nov. 5 had given them bail after the federal National Investigation Agency (NIA) decided not to contest their fresh bail applications, claiming that there was not enough evidence against them. The National Minorities Commission chairman Wajahat Habibullah had also forcibly argued with the government early on November that all the Muslim youths framed in the Malegaon bomb blasts were innocent and should be released on bail and that the federal government instruct the prosecution lawyers not to oppose their bail application.

      The ATS had picked the nine Muslim youths from Malegaon within days stating that they were Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) members and had plotted and executed the bomb blasts. Even as the arrested Muslim youths were languishing in prison waiting for their trial to begin, there was a dramatic turnaround and late last year when Swami Aseemanand, who was arrested in 2008 for his alleged role in the Malegaon bomb blast, reportedly confessed that Hindu militants and not Muslims were behind the 2006 blasts.

      Swami Aseemanand’s confession led to a fresh campaign to secure release of the nine arrested Muslim youths. As the accused emerged out of the prison gates, the large crowd shouted "Allahu Akbar" and all of them said that they were thankful to Allah for their freedom.

      Gulzar Ahmed Azmi, secretary of the Legal Cell of the Jamaat-Ul-Ulema of Maharashtra unit which fought for the bail of the nine accused said: “We have stood our grounds that innocents should be released. The fight is only half won; we still have another struggle ahead: To get all the nine Muslim boys cleared of all allegations.”
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