Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam says he respects the democratic right of Muslim participants of Modi conclave to do as they wish, but counsels the community to stay united in front of the BJP love offensive.
As I said in my last article the BJP has started what we can term a “full-blown love offensive” to win Muslim hearts. Recently 30 Muslims with a public profile attended a conclave organized by Citizens for Accountable Governance, a group that seems to believe that Narendrabhai Modi has been running an “accountable” government. If that was the case Gujarat 2002 would not have occurred, nor justice sought to be derailed consistently, nor would have innocent people like Ishrat Jahan been eliminated by the state with such cruelty and in such a lawless way.
However, as is the case always, some of us chose to go and attend the Modi show in Ahmedabad. That was not the preferred response of most of the Indian Muslims, the individuals and groups.
This is not the occasion to recount all sins of omission and commission of the BJP against Indian Muslims. Suffice it to say that the “change” in BJP’s stance being tom-tomed so relentlessly is merely tactical, not strategic. How it is so will become clear in the following parts.
The way things are moving suggests that justice is no longer important in our national life, that governmental accountability does not matter, that the blood of thousands killed under state patronage in Gujarat 2002 was water, that the sorrow of so many people is of no account.
There is no mention of 2002. Even Amit Shah, accused of the worst anti-Muslim atrocities while he was a minister of state in Gujarat, is BJP’s Uttar Pradesh election in-charge. The man was behind the bars for a while. Here also the same assumption works: that Muslim blood is of no consequence.
In fact, this is what some of our own people are saying today. One of the Muslim delegates is reported to be telling people to forget 2002. How can the Indian Muslim community so callously be asked to forget the victims and their kin? Since when did expecting justice become a sin?
There can be no reconciliation until truth is established and perpetrators of crimes against humanity publicly accept their guilt and express contrition clearly and unambiguously. In the case of Gujarat 2002, the state itself was involved in the crime. That makes a Truth and Reconciliation move like South Africa a prerequisite for Muslim individuals and groups to honestly and honourably participate in BJP programmes. Nothing of that sort has occurred so far, which makes any Muslim move to confer legitimacy on the Modi government undignified.
By participating in the Modi conclave, the 30 Muslims have betrayed the blood of the innocent victims. With their act they have conferred legitimacy on the Modi government and sowed confusion in the minds not only of Muslims, but a large number of liberal, fair-minded Hindus and others all over India.
One of the better-educated and articulate Muslims who participated in the conclave was Zafar Mahmood, formerly of the IRS, OSD to the Sachar Committee and head of Zakat Foundation. He says he had consulted the community’s elders before deciding to go to Ahmedabad and present the Muslim case at the conclave.
His power-point presentation runs into several pages in print. There are a number of issues raised in it, but some initial observations are quite interesting as they show his skepticism towards the genuineness of BJP’s change of heart. Mahmood says the putative goodwill of the BJP towards Muslims is not borne out by the party’s website. On the contrary, it shows extreme hate for and provocation against Muslims. (Mahmood has used the words “hate” and “provocation” in the presentation made at the conclave).
Read closely, and you know why all major milli organisations and most of the senior community leaders stayed away from it. Mahmood quotes an article by the Sangh journalist MV Kamath on BJP’s official website that gives “a call to Muslims to adopt Hindu names and Muslim women to wear mangal sutra.” Can anyone imagine Muslims forcing Jews or Christians, or vice-versa, to give up their names and rituals and adopt other people’s in their place? This is the fascist trait in BJP that not only Muslims but other sections, including Hindus, dread. Also, which face of BJP is real: the one in the above article, or that presented at the conclave?
Mahmood referred to another essay from the website on Semitic Monotheism, which said, “We must realize that we have a problem on hand in India, the problem of a stagnant and conservative Islamic society. A national effort is called for to break Islamic exclusivism and enshrine the assimilative Hindutva.”
Mahmood went on to talk about shared values, constitutional methods, common national goals. But it was clear that nothing would work against the basic long-term goal of the Sangh of obliterating Islamic values, civilisation and culture.
Against this backdrop of overwhelming hostility towards Islam and Muslims, one should ask as to how fruitful a dialogue with Modi or Rajnath will be. The obvious answer is that it will not be fruitful. A preponderant majority of Muslims is right, as are milli organisations, in their conclusion that the change of heart in BJP is merely an ill-disguised vote-catching stratagem.
We respect the democratic right of our brothers and sisters who have chosen to ride the Modi bandwagon. They are intelligent enough to make decisions, including political decisions, on their own. The rest of us, and the large milli organisations (all of whom have chosen to stay away) are not a khap panchayat to enforce, or try to enforce, their will on the dissenters.
However, we must admit that by breaking rank we become weaker, not stronger. Conversely, as they are a microscopic minority their breaking of rank may not make the community weaker, because it remains united. To be fair to those who attended the conclave, not all of them returned converted to Moditva.
It is a moment of introspection, not mutual disputation and use of strong words against each other. It is also a moment of closing our ranks.