Uploaded on July 1, 2019

A new stage of disempowerment-2

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

A few days ago, in this column I had discussed how the Muslim representation in parliament had been brought down to a level at which this faith community of 17 crore people has been made politically irrelevant, voiceless, and pushed to the margins. In 1980, there were 49 MPs. Today, the count has come down to 27.

Today it has become exceedingly difficult for Muslims to win elections because an anti-Muslim venom has been injected in the entire body politic. In the larger society, Muslims have been given an enemy image: children of invaders, beef-eaters, idol-breakers. Barely a week passes without some Muslim being humiliated and lynched amid loud religious taunts.

How can Muslims win elections, get representation in parliament and state legislatures when everybody is saying, “All mosques are built over temples. Hence, all mosques should be demolished and temples built over them?” There are other equally venomous street gossips like “Muslim are wasting too much land for burying their dead. Their remains must be disinterred and dumped into ditches, and the land reclaimed to be used by government as it pleases.” They are not bothered by niceties like an acre or two of graveyard lasting for centuries.

Today, BJP is claiming to have “changed the political narrative.” Now the entire narrative is centred on “mosques must be turned into mandirs, women in burqa are a security threat, Muslim Personal Law must be changed, no burial grounds, Hajj is a waste of money, beef-eaters (by which only Muslims are meant) must be stopped.” This is the new narrative. Is it not foolhardy to imagine that Muslims will still get representation commensurate with their numbers?

It is important to note that very much like political representation there is something called literary and artistic representation, which is about how something, some group or idea is represented in art and literature. That includes political and media discourse also. Marginalised groups have either little or no representation, or whatever representation is there is adverse. The BJP claim to have “changed the political narrative” should be seen in this light. Granted that the all-round Muslim disempowerment has not come in a single day, or in 2014, or 2019. It is a process that began well before the Bharatiya Jan Sangh Party (BJP’s earlier version) was formed in the mid-50s of the last century. Jan Sangh and BJP have only sharpened and quickened it. There is a need to look at the issue in a long-term perspective.

All this is part of a protracted process of gradually excluding Muslims from all sources of sustenance, political decision-making, policy formulation and law enforcement. We have brought out a book, Exclusion of Indian Muslims, a comprehensive volume edited by Prof. Arshi Khan of AMU. Anybody interested in the entire gamut of related issues would do well to go through the book. It would be better to have a pencil and writing pad at hand to make notes while reading it.

To be able to address an issue properly one has to know it thoroughly. That is the area in which the Institute of Objective Studies specialises. To have a clear picture of where the Muslim community stands today and where it will be in 2025, we conducted an ambitious project, Vision 2025, under the illustrious academic and former Civil Service person Amirullah Khan. That gives you a picture of the community, post-Sachar Report, with a futuristic projection.

At the IOS, these are our basic concerns and make a significant part of the thrust of our research, documentation and publication. As I said in the first instalment of this article, we have already done considerable work on the issue of political representation in recent years. We are going to revive that project soon.

PS: We are aware of the administrative lapses, EC’s less than stellar role and the questionable functioning of EVMs. However, because of methodological constraints we are not focusing on them, leaving them to other individuals, groups and institutions to study. These issues are no less important, but division of labour allows greater depth and clarity. Hence, our decision to leave them aside.