Meet Ariba Khan: A Young Municipal Councillor from Shaheen Bagh

Ariba Khan. Picture:

Aatika S. |

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Ariba Khan from the Indian National Congress, and Municipal Councillor from Abul Fazal Enclave in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, speaks to Aatika from TwoCircles on her political journey, challenges for minorities in India and the similarities between the politics of BJP and AAP.

Background & Political Journey

Ariba is the daughter of Asif Mohammed Khan, a former congress MLA from Jamia Nagar Okhla. However for Ariba electoral politics is a new terrain. She’s a graduate in English literature with a post-graduate diploma in guidance and counselling.

Ariba was pursuing her studies and was involved in social work when the opportunity to get into politics came along. Given her privileged background, Ariba admits that it’s beneficial to be familiar with the process, but it does not help one thrive in politics.

“If you are given an opportunity and you have a voice and resources to make a difference, then one should be up for it and that is what I did.”

View on AAP’s politics. 

“The past few years, since BJP has come into power, it’s been a disaster.” She says whether it is the economy or religion, BJP has continuously caused severe damage. Ariba laments that the economic situation is going to worsen, due to the recent Adani-Hindenburg scandal.

But being an emerging political leader from Delhi, she views AAP as her biggest challenge. She criticises the AAP government on various accounts, such as their insensitivity for the victims of the Delhi Pogrom of 2020, for the Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s comments against the Markaz during Covid-19, for their lack of solidarity with the CAA-NRC protest, and the silence on Bilkis Bano case because of Gujarat elections.

“Kejriwal created a facade that they are saviours of Muslims. And he was able to persuade the innocent voters through the freebies,” says Ariba.

In reference to the North East riots, she also accuses AAP for showing double standards in their unabashed support for leaders like Manish Sisodia and Satyendra Jain despite corruption allegations against them, but not backing Tahir Hussain who was suspended from the party, even before he was proven guilty.

Ariba adds that the compensation amount announced for the victims has not been disbursed till date. “Although the electricity is free up to 200 units, the charges of 200 units are still Rs. 3.5 per unit as against Rs. 2.5 per unit during the Congress government in Delhi,” says Ariba highlighting another key concern.

For all these reasons, she believes that the Muslims have been dissuaded from AAP which has resulted in electoral gains for the Congress in the recently held MCD elections.

On her Constituency

According to Ariba, one of the biggest challenges is the issue of unauthorized colonies in her constituency of Abul Fazal Enclave. “Since these colonies do not contribute to tax revenue for the Municipal Council of Delhi, it becomes a challenge to procure funds for development works”, says Ariba.

Many issues of sanitation, garbage dumps resulting in road blockages, etc. continue to cause trouble to people residing in the area. She believes that her job as an MCD councillor should therefore be to ensure access to basic health and education by having more MCD schools, dispensaries, public toilets, etc.

Challenges as a Young Muslim Woman

On being asked about her experience as a young woman in politics, Ariba says “Mansplaining is a constant annoyance. A few people believe that a woman can’t handle things the way men do.”

So far, she’s happy with the respect she has received as a woman candidate but is also hopeful about the things to change for the better in the times to come.

Future of Congress and Bharat Jodo Yatra

Ariba thinks the four month long Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi in twelve states, will have a strong impact on the future political discourse of India. The Yatra passed from Badarpur which touches her constituency. Apart from logistical management, she had to coordinate with the faculty and students of Jamia University for their participation in the Yatra.

She reckons the Congress party is and will remain the true voice of the minorities in India. When being asked about political prisoners, she says “Those who are in jail including Sharjeel Imam, Umar Khalid, Shafa-ul-rahman and others, I stand with them, we raise our voice against this injustice under this dictatorial regime.”

She warns people to not view AAP as an alternative to BJP, as it was Priyanka Gandhi and leaders like Salman Khurshid, who led from the front during the protests of CAA-NRC and Violence in Jamia, but AAP shied away from taking any positions. “AAP has also compromised the status of 123 Waqf board properties by not putting up a resistance against the Centre”, says Ariba.

Minorities & Secularism

On being asked about Dalit Muslim unity against the BJP, Ariba believes that its only a small section that is with the BJP, as even Hindus are coming together to oppose this radicalisation, because it should not be about just one section as the entire population needs to stand up against the rising intolerance.

“We live in a country, where if we stop being secular, we won’t survive. It’s the essence of being an Indian,” says Ariba.

Aatika S is a fellow at the SEEDS-TCN mentorship program.