A view of workshop on Road Map to Political Empowerment of Muslims in India
The second session was devoted to discussing yet another important topic: Opportunity and Space Provided by Indian Political System. Moderating the debate, Prof. M. Afzal Wani emphasized the need to find a paradigm that will take us to the road map which will ultimately lead the Muslims of India to their real empowerment. He said some works had been done to find out the paradigm. Most specially the constitution was adopted after independence that defined the way that India had to walk on. So, the constitutional roadmap is there. The problem, however, is that there are obstacles in the way of its implementation. Prof. Wani suggested that reservations in services can help empower the Muslim community, and this much space must be provided by the state within the constitutional framework.
Participating briefly in the debate Prof. Z.M. Khan suggested some practical ways. He said that the constitution has created and given space to everyone in the country. Our political system is huge, and has varieties of space and opportunities. There is the electoral space that we can make use of to empower our community. The judiciary provides another space. Then there are decision-making bodies in which the Muslims must have adequate representation. Media space is there which can be used to form favourable atmosphere for understanding the problems of the Muslim community. NGOs also provide space that we need to make use of for Muslim empowerment.
Mr Agha Sultan, Member Executive Council, Vishvesvarya Technological University (VTU), Karnataka said that there was no denying the fact the constitution was an important document. The problem is that people find ways to prevent its implementation or hamper its functioning. In Karnataka, for example, the Minority Commission is being filled with members of minority groups which do not have sufficient presence in the state.
A view of audience
Mr. Ranvir Singh appreciated Prof. Wani for discussing key concepts like equality, justice and human fraternity etc. He asked if these principles applied to Dalits in Pakistan. Prof. Wani said that Pakistan does not fall in the purview of today’s discussion.
Mr. Basheer from Kerala said that, well, the constitution has provided space. The problem is that we do not have capable leader who can get a better bargain for us. So, we need to develop a sincere, outspoken and dedicated Muslim leadership, he remarked.
An other view of audience
Mr. Mauji Khan, a retired police officer, said that the constitution has surely given us all the rights. But within the constitution there are clauses which are used to deny us or delay the implementation of the constitutional rights. He emphasized the need to develop mechanism that can compel the government to implement the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the Muslims.
Dr. Rasool Siddiqi agreed with Mr. Mauji Khan and said that the number of Muslim elite was very small and very few of them bother about the problems the Muslim community has been facing. This situation must change, he observed.
Mr. Qayamuddin, Advocate, said that participation in electoral system can solve many of our problems. The problem is that the Muslims are also getting divided on the basis of caste. He urged that the Muslims should act as a religious group which is very effective. Caste-based Muslim politics will weaken them, he said.
Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad, Advocate, said that leaders are important but our problem is that students unions are banned in noted Muslim institutions which, as a result, have ceased to produce leaders.
Dr. M. Manzoor Alam intervened in the debate towards the end of session II. He said that the bulk of the space provided by the system was already covered. We have to act intelligently to create our space within and outside the system. This is the only way the Muslim community could be empowered.
Session Three was devoted to discussing “Civilizational Set-up and Inter-Community Linkages”. The moderator, Prof. Refaqat Ali Khan adopted a simple but very effective method of historical narrations to highlight the theme of the session. He said that a ruler of Jaipur did not have a male child. He went to Shaykh Burhan seeking his blessings. The Shaykh prayed and the ruler had a son whom he named ‘Shikha’ after the Shaykh. It is the descendents of Shikha who are known as Shekhawat, a powerful group in Rajasthan politics. Prof. Khan also said that in the medieval period it was common that a Hindu Raja would have a Muslim as commander of his army and the vice versa. Even Shivaji’s army had a Muslim commander. The communal riots are a British legacy; these never happened before, he said. He also said that Aurangzeb, who is often projected as anti-Hindu, gave more grants to temples than Akbar. He remarked that things changed drastically after independence. Even Muslim leaders of Maulana Azad’s caliber were rendered ineffective, he observed.
Prof. Z.M. Khan highlighted the pluralistic character of Indian society which has flourished all through its history. Mr. Basheer said that without doubt the Indian society was plural, though it was not secular in the strict western or philosophical sense of the term. As a result we have this composite culture to which the Muslims have contributed immensely. He further said that as we, Muslims do not have a dynamic leadership, we have failed to use India’s pluralism to our advantage.
Mr. Ranvir Singh said that the Dalits, the OBCs, and the minorities form 85% of Indian population. The remaining 15% are the upper castes and they dominate our polity and policy-making. They chalk out a development policy which spends only one rupee out of a hundred for the 85% Indians. This explains the reasons for the backwardness of minorities, Dalits and OBCs. These groups, therefore, must unite to oppose LPG, that is, liberalization, privatization and globalization, the policies our government has adopted, and these have surely harmed the majority of Indians and benefited only the upper caste minority, he asserted.
Mr. Manzoor Ahmad, retired IPS Officer and former Vice Chancellor of Agra University, was the moderator of the fourth session. He initiated discussion on the theme of the session: Strategies to Utilize Political Processes to Get a share in Governance”. He said that India’s history has been one of conflict, the conflict of interests. Caste conflict has been the worst. Castes were exploited in the name of religion. In the present political system also caste plays an important role. Political parties have apparent ideologies but it is mainly the caste combination that dominates their strategies and decision-making. Party ideologies are almost dead, practically at least.
Another trouble with the party system is that there is no internal democracy. Anti-defection law has also contributed to the demise of internal democracy in political parties. As a result members of a political party can not speak against their high command, said Mr. Manzoor Ahmad. He cited the example of U.P. where Muslims are over 18%. Their representation in assembly is less than 9%. The members are slaves of their party and never or rarely speak for their community. They follow the party line.
Mr. Ahmad also said that Muslims should form alliance with other oppressed groups. This is what Islam has also urged. There was collaboration between the Dalits and the Muslims in the past. It was the Muslim League which had got Ambedkar elected to the Constituent Assembly. In post independence period Ambedkar lost election to his little known personal secretary. Mr. Ahmad also said that weaknesses within the political system often go against the minorities: Mr. Manzoor Ahmad also suggested remedies.
(i) Multi-member constituency system which was in operation even after independence should be revived. This will increase Muslim representation in the political arena.
(ii) The Muslim-dominated constituencies should not be reserved for SCs and STs. This practice serves none of the two groups.
(iii) Islam urges to raise a party that champions the poor and the oppressed. Such a party needs to be raised. Tribals and Dalits are the most oppressed and the OBCs, like the Muslims, are exploited. The Muslims should stand for all these groups.
Mr. R.B. Singh appreciated the overall approach of Mr. Manzoor Ahmad but differed from him that the reservation was given to the Dalits by Gandhiji. It was given by the British, he clarified.
Mr. Manzoor Ahmad responded to it saying that he did not refer to that reservation. He was in fact, referring to the post independence debate. A section wanted to scrap the reservation given to SCs and STs. Ambedkar sensed it and urged Jagjivan Ram to convince Gandhiji about the utility of reservation. Thus the reservation for the Dalits continued in the post independence period also. Mr. Mauji Khan urged to implement the Sachar Committee’s recommendations fully. He also said that there must be a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the fund allocated for the minorities are spent on them and not on others in their name. There is also the shameful practice of not spending the minority-related funds which are returned at the end of a fiscal year. This practice must stop, he said. Mr. Feroz Ghazi said that polarization along caste and religious line was taking place. It should be the oppressed versus the oppressor irrespective of their caste and religion. Such a political party ought to be set up. If it is not possible to do it immediately, then an NGO should be established for this purpose.
Mr. Abdul Bari Mashhood, Mr. Muzaffar H. Ghazali, Mr. Basheer, Dr. Neyaz Siddiqi and Mr. Aqeel also participated in the debate. Dr Ausaf Ahmad urged on economic emancipation which would lead to political empowerment. Dr Sandhu urged on the political empowerment of all the oppressed groups. In the end Mr. Manzoor Ahmd answered the questions raised during the debate. Prof. Z.m. Khan read out the following resolution which was unanimously adopted.
1. Efforts are to be made to form specialized NGOs, trusts, voluntary self help groups for the purpose.
2. Formation of cooperatives and professional bodies may be taken up.
3. Suitable institutional mechanism should be created to gain strength in electoral policies.
4. Special efforts should be initiated for healthy inter-community linkages.
5. Relief and rehabilitation schemes should be worked out for victims of political violence.
6. Use of technology should be worked out in gaining strength in politico-social arena.
7. Organise the use of religious infra-structure for taking up issues of spreading awareness among common masses.
8. IOS may be requested to create a Centre for Information to cater to all concerned agencies and organizations.
9. Form a standing committee to evaluate and to formulate the roadmap for political empowerment of Muslims in India.