Divergent views expressed on Muslims participation in politics

Prof. Bandukwala wants Muslims to stay away from politics; Dr. Manzoor Alam of All India Milli Council (AIMC) wants Muslims to give top priority to politics in the present political scenario when success in all walks of life depended on political influence of the community.

By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter,

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Ahmedabad: Divergent views were expressed here on January 24(Saturday) with regard to participation of Indian Muslims in political activities in the contemporary times when Muslim community in this multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation is facing the biggest challenge since India got independence in 1947 and being linked with violence and terror.

The programme was a part of the nationwide `Caravan-e-Bedari-e-Siyasat’ (Caravan for Political Awakening among Muslims) launched by the All India Milli Council(AIMC) with its headquarters located in Indian capital of New Delhi.

The Council has already organized programmes in more than 10 states from the last week of November 2008 to mobilize the Muslim masses to take active part in political activities to ensure that the forces trying to isolate this biggest minority community did not succeed. The exercise will conclude with a public meeting scheduled to be held in Ramlila grounds in New Delhi on January 31. The need for such a programme, according to Council’s representatives arose owing to decline of community’s morale due to official as well as non-official efforts to link the community with a series of terror episodes, without proper investigation.

Participating in the discussion, retired professor and president of the Gujarat unit of People’s Union for civil Liberties (PUCL) Juzar S Bandukwala expressed the view that there was a need for the community to stay away from politics at least for quite some time and must concentrate on education and business to improve their economic and social status in the present scenario when the Muslims were subjected to lot of discrimination and prejudices in all spheres.

Arguing that the two major political parties-fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) feeding on Muslim hatred and Congress surviving on generating fear psychosis among Muslims with their own personal agenda-have not benefited the Muslims, he said that the community could also not rely on Muslim leaders in these or other political parties because they avoided Muslim issues for fear of being branded as communalists. It was because of this reason that Muslim leaders in different political outfits tend to move away from the Muslim community even if they were given important assignments by their respective parties. According to him, it was a futile exercise to spend so much time and energy on politics with little gain.

Going further, Bandukwala, a victim of 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, pointed out how good political leaders like former MP Syed Shahabuddin had joined Janata Dal(United) aligned with the BJP and Mahmood Madani was with Rashtriya Lok dal(RLD) of Ajit Singh, also close to BJP. “So, the best way is to stay away from fielding candidates in elections”, he said. “let’s us vote only in contemporary period”, he advised.

But Bandukwala’s view came to be opposed strongly by Council’s General Secretary and Chairman of Institute of Objective Studies Dr. Manzoor Alam. Pointing out that politics was the key to success in all areas of human activity including education and trade because all decisions were taken in parliament and state assemblies, Dr. Alam said that a community without proper representation in legislative houses like parliament and assemblies would automatically be marginalized and their representation in state administration, police, judiciary and armed forces would gradually diminish and come to an end.

In the existing political scenario when the effort was made by various forces to push Muslims to the margins, he emphasized that Muslims must give top priority to politics with a view to take Muslims forward in the field of education, business and enable them to protect their life and dignity. He said that those Muslims living in ivory towers must join themselves with the community at the grassroots level so that they could utilize their talent and energy for educational, social and economic uplift of the community.

He also demanded appointment of a judicial commission headed by a retired or sitting judge of the Supreme Court to probe all the past riot cases and claimed that Muslim role in all these acts of violence would be found negligible. It was because of this reason, said Dr. Alam, that no party was coming forward to appoint such a commission.

Senior Gujarat High Court advocate Mukul Sinha, defending a large number of POTA detenus and innocent Muslims implicated in baseless criminal cases by the Narendra Modi government since 2002 felt that there was an urgent need to launch a movement for release of hundreds of innocent Muslims lodged in Gujarat jails. As the new US President Barack Obama ordered closing down of Guantanamo prison and release of innocent Muslims imprisoned on the pretext of being terrorists, a massive movement was required to force the state administration in Gujarat to release the Muslims imprisoned in Gujarat in false cases.

Former journalist and human rights activist Digant Oza pointed out that the country faced bigger threat from the communal forces than terrorists from outside as more number of people had died in communal riots than in attacks by foreign-based terrorists.