Masood N. Khan M.D.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has become the sole major political party in the parliament and in the state assemblies in India, though there are other parties, some in alliance with BJP. By virtue of sheer number of its memebers, it is the world’s largest political party. Since its inception BJP has climbed the ladder by communalizing Hindus with RSS inspired ideology and vote bank politics promoting anti Muslim sentiments. Since Muslims constitute second majority in India they are perceived by BJP as the biggest challenge and threat to its goal of acquiring a hegemonic control of India by Hindus. Since it achieved an assertable majority in the parliament in 2014, it has taken concrete anti-Muslim steps to convince Hindus that it is their preserver and defender against other religions and cultures specially Islam. The examples of anti-Muslim policies by BJP are many.
a. It defined who is an illegal immigrant
b. Created a NRC the National Register of Citizens (NRC) a register of all Indian citizens.
c. Defined the category of overseas Indian citizens and their eligibility for dual citizenship.
Since Assam was the state where a sizable part of the population comprised of illegal immigrants, NRC was initiated to identify them. The final results, published on 31 August 2019 identified 1.9 million as illegal immigrants out of the state’s population of 33 millions. Many of them were Bengali Hindus, who would constitute a major vote bank for the BJP in state elections, This was an unexpected dilemma. In order to resolve this issue Tarun Ghosh the then CM of Assam proposed an ingenious solution stating that all the minorities that include Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis, from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who entered India because of religious persecution should be removed from the category of illegal immigrants and entered into NRC as citizens of India. This treacherous proposal very craftily excluded Muslims.
On September 10, 2015 Modi readily accepted this proposal and presented it as a bill which was passed and subsequently converted into an Act – Citizens Amendment Act (CAA).. This Act was a blatant viola-tion of the constitution of India.. Amit Shah declared in the parliament that the model of NRC of Assam will be implemented throughout India and will be followed by CAA as in Assam that will exclude Muslims. This declaration rang the bell of alarm to draw the atten-tion to a dangerous situation in making. It confirmed the dreaded notion that government has empowered itself to selectively grant citizenship to people ehereby it could exclude targeted sections of the population by categorizing them as “doubtful citizens” or “non-citizens”. They would then automatically lose their right to vote and worse even could be thrown into de-tention camps. The government declared that as a first step towards NRC, a National Population Registry (NPR) will be started where basic information to be fed into NRC will be acquired from each individual. When NRC results were combined with CAA, Mus-lims seem to be the direct target for exclusion as all others who were declared non-citizens by NRC were to be awarded citizenship through CAA. Protests of unprecedented magnitude then started throughout the country by Muslim and non-Muslims alike.
BJP’s history of origin and its performance record since it has been in power shows following:
This situation has created huge challenges for Mus-lims in India. It is time they assess the situation deeply and thoroughly and take wise and strategic decisions to overcome them.
Three generations later since independence, Muslims of India have long trashed the “Pakistan Stigma” no matter how hard BJP wants to dig it up. They are honorable citizens of India with a claim on India like Hindus. Their fight against injustice is the part of their duty and responsibil-ity towards their country. They will ceaselessly take stand against assault on India’s constitu-tion, and will fight against injustice. In this they should take special care to see that they don’t become spokespersons of any interest groups or reactionary forces.
I think the existing Muslim leadership in India is fragmented and devoid of vision. Regional Muslim leaders should not remain confined to parliamentary debates and local politics. They should come up with a vision for Indian Muslims. They should take the lead and come up with a vision for Indian Muslims. An All India Muslim Conference to study the situation and to find out ways to deal with it effectively is urgently needed. Hopefully Muslims could develop a road map that is based upon a vision, strategy and political shrewdness. The most important ingredient of that road map is the fact that they should not let the struggle against Hindutva degenerate into an exclusively Muslim issue.
There has to be good deal of introspection andl soul-searching on the part of Muslims. They cannot afford to be ignorant of the constitution, the political and judicial systems of the country and the social and economical changes that have taken place. So education has to be the biggest priority for them with an eye on the future. Muslims should reinterpret their religion to make it progressive and compatible with the modern world without losing its moral and spiritual message.
It is true that Muslims unfortunately don’t know how to live as a successful minority in a non-Muslim country. To be successful the minority in any country has to make strategically and politically sound compromises. For example there was no need for Muslims to fight against instant triple talaq. Rather they should have upheld and welcomed the ban and then taken the government into confidence to make laws against it that are not unjustly punitive to Muslims. In another example, Muslims of Kashmir should give up their slogans for freedom and accept that article 370 of the constitution is meaningless when their state is suffering from constant violence, death and destruction without any solution in sight even after so many years. Kashmir lost its wholesome face long time ago because of the circumstances surrounding the freedom of the country, which now cannot be undone.