Election 2019

Can Pasmanda Politics Ignore the Communal-Secular Debate?

Tausif Ahmad for BeyondHeadlines 

There is large debate over various issues of Indian politics. The leaders of pasmanda politics always blame the ‘Ashrafiya Muslim’ for not doing the caste politics among Muslims and for only being concerned about the security issue of the Muslim population. Caste politics among the Muslims which has not yet been established in the mainstream politics of India can be considered as a politics of social justice. The communal-secular politics which ‘Ashrafiya Muslims’ are doing for seven decades can be categorised as “politics of fear”. 

“Politics of fear” includes, the politics based on religious identity, threat of communalism, symbolisms like Urdu language politics, AMU and Jamia Millia Islamia, Muslim personal law board, Imarat e Sharia or Idara I Sharia etc. These politics based on these themes mainly focused on only religious or cultural aspects of life. The politics these days focuses on the formal issues rather substantive issues like good education, health care, employment etc. The issue of Muslim representation also included, as data shows that the Muslims’ representation has never been above 10 per cent whereas, we see that from the beginning (1947), the population of Muslims was always above 10 per cent.

After the Mandal commission implementation by the V.P. Singh government in 1991, in which total 84 Muslim backward castes also got reservation under the OBC quota system, the “politics of hope” which can be thought of as ‘politics of social justice’ raised in Bihar. Some enlightened intellectuals and activist started the caste politics among the Muslims, in which the real issues can be taken to mainstream politics. The real issues of the Muslims likely as those of other religion’s backward people centres around gaining a good education, good jobs, adequate representation and eventually a hormonal society. 

According to the pasmanda intellectuals, the broad “Muslim politics” which was mainly an ‘Ashrafiya politics’ was always focused on issues which were negative in character. The real problem of the pasmanda Muslims is to have an education, employment, adequate representation in the deliberative bodies like legislative assembly and parliament and not formal and symbolic issues. According to them, this politics of ‘Ashrafiya Muslims’ communal-secular politics did not do any good to the largest chunk of the Muslim population, because they don’t need only physical security but also social security. 

As we know that the rise of pasmanda politics is the 1990s phenomenon. This was the time when Hindutva politics reached its peak. Advani’s Rath Yatra and aftermath the demolition of the Babri mosque was the biggest threat to Indian Muslims and to the largest democracy of the world as well in the 20th century. The threat was going continuously, in 2002 the Godhra massacre happened where the Muslim men, women, elderly people and youths all were targeted. 

After the rise of Modi in 2014, the new kind of threat emerged like mob lynching in the name of cow and beef, outrages in the name of mosque’s loudspeaker, love jihad etc. This new type of everyday communalism affects everyone, whether they belong to upper caste or lower caste Muslims. The identity of Muslim is working for these threats. It can happen anywhere any time, at their home, in the train, or maybe in the field or market. The incidents are spontaneous but doers are not. They all are associated with the Hindutva forces. This new kind of threat is not concentrated in certain areas or states. The lynching in the name of cow even spread to the north eastern states like Assam and Manipur, where the beef eating is very normal and even not banned by the government. 

The ongoing election of 2019, the 17th general election is also on the verge of communalism and the polarisation of the Hindus in the name of Hindu unity, Ram Mandir, cow protection etc. the whole debate of the mainstream politics turns into the Hindu-Muslim dichotomy. After this narration, Muslim politics intentionally or unintentionally turns into the communal-secular issues. It means the larger narrative of politics is circled on the communal-secular lines. The politics of Muslims is not even in the position to create a debate on the larger democratic narration. The debate is created by other than Muslims and Muslim politics follows it. What all they can do now? In BJP’s manifesto for the 2019 election, the word Muslims is left out, you cannot think of any socio-economic agenda for the Muslims from this government. On the other side, the other big party the Congress’s manifesto, the word Muslim is mentioned with only Aligarh Muslim University. The manifesto of the Congress party promised that if they come to the power, the status of the minority of the AMU will be re-established. 

Now we can argue that the whole agenda and debate of the largest democracy is roaming around the communal secular things. One party keep excluded from its manifesto the 14.2 per cent of its population ( Muslims) and the other party, which is considered historically the “pro-Muslim” party put Muslims agenda in a meagre way. 

From the last election of 2014 to this ongoing election, the leaders of the pasmanda Muslims are in a silent mode because the larger narration of politics is not giving space to the backward Muslims to do a social justice politics. The whole debate over the past five years which was related to the Muslims was triple Talaaq, beef eating, Babri mosque, loudspeakers of the mosques, offering Namaz in the open area etc. The nature of these debates was negative and bothered most of the Muslims but could not do any good. There was no debate on the backwardness of Muslims.

The very basic of the fundamental rights of the Indian constitution is right to life. The right to life of Muslims has always been put to a threat by various state and non-state actors. According to the Muslims of India what is needed first is to be alive and be safe. It can be said that the larger democratic narration is created by those who are in power. The politics of pasmanda needs those larger democratic spaces to do a politics of inclusion and social justice. But still, in that politics, they must address the threat of communal violence, mob lynching, and the physical security of the individuals. Thus we can say that the politics of social justice or “politics of hope” will not be fulfilled without the “politics of fear”. 

(Tausif Ahmad is a PhD Scholar at IGNOU. Views are personal.)

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