Unveiling Muslim Perspectives: Election Dynamics, Governance Challenges and Continued Atrocities

Snobar, TwoCircles.net

New Delhi: The 2024 Lok Sabha election results, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured victory with the backing of its coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but fell short of a majority on its own, mark a significant democratic shift, particularly concerning minorities, notably Muslims. TwoCircles.net spoke to the members of the community to know their perspectives on the poll outcome and to underscore their thoughts and apprehensions regarding the unprecedented absence of a Muslim representative in the Union Cabinet.

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These elections were pivotal for the nation but held heightened importance for minority communities. Under the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many Muslims perceive a marginalization of their concerns. With the community comprising 15% of the population, issues of representation and inclusion resonate more acutely than ever before.

Election Results Highlight Democracy’s Resilience

Commenting on the Lok Sabha election results, where the BJP secured 240 seats while the Congress-led Opposition alliance (INDIA bloc) won 232 seats, a former professor of Islamic studies at Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia, Akhtarul Wasey, described the outcome as “unexpected”.

He emphasized that the results signify that politics based on religion cannot sustain itself in India for long. Pointing out the BJP’s defeat in Ayodhya, which houses Ram temple, he noted, “This indicates that the Hindu population values secularism and is not easily swayed by the idea of a Hindu Rashtra.”

Professor Wasey further underscored the BJP’s significant setback in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha and plays a pivotal role in government’s formation in the Centre.

“Despite their campaign slogan, targeting over 400 seats, they (the BJP) failed to achieve a clear majority on their own. I credit both Muslims and Hindus for resisting polarization in this election,” he added.

Rehna Shajahan, an HR manager at a multinational company in Dubai, reflected on the election results, acknowledging the BJP’s strong support base and emphasizing the importance of alliances within the NDA for effective governance.

She remarked, “The Lok Sabha election results demonstrate a growing awareness among people that India should uphold its values of unity in diversity and move away from any inclination towards becoming a Hindu Rashtra.”

Mutiur Rahman, a 30-year-old Ph.D. scholar from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), shared his thoughts on the recent election results, stating, “I believe the outcome, where the BJP secured victory with NDA support but fell short of a clear majority on its own, signifies a fractured mandate. This situation underscores the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our democratic institutions.”

Continuing the discussion on the election results, Sadique Anwar, team manager at London Stock Exchange Group in Bengaluru, Karnataka, observed, “For Indians, this signals a promising aspect of democracy. Previously, when the ruling party held a majority in Parliament, they could act unilaterally. Now, with the necessity of alliances, such dominance is less feasible.”

However, the ruling party and its allies are not ideologically aligned. Leaders like Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Telugu Desam Party chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu have significant differences in their approach to minorities, which may still allow the BJP to take unilateral decisions.

“Moreover, the Opposition’s position has strengthened compared to previous years, presenting a substantial challenge for the Modi government,” he said.

Regarding the absence of Muslim representatives in the Union Cabinet, opinions vary. Some express concerns about this gap, while others argue against the need for token representation without real authority to advocate for their community’s interests.

According to Shajahan, the absence of Muslim representation in the current Union ministry is concerning because it risks neglecting issues, which specifically impact the Muslim community. Representation plays a crucial role in ensuring that diverse voices and concerns are heard and addressed at the highest levels of governance.

Rahman also expressed dismay over the lack of Muslim representation in the current Cabinet. He finds it particularly troubling that some lawmakers have indicated they may withhold benefits from Muslims because of their voting preferences for other parties.

He emphasized the importance of the ruling government, acknowledging this issue and promptly taking corrective measures.

Meanwhile, Kamal Faruqi, a practicing-chartered accountant involved in various educational activities across the country, remarked, “As a positive thinker, I believe our concern lies not in the absence of immediate change. Historically, having Muslim representation in the Union ministry did not yield significant differences or substantial improvements. What matters is genuine authority and sincere commitment to serve the country and its people, regardless of religious affiliation.”

Additionally, Professor Wasey commented, “In previous governments, the presence of Muslim representatives did not lead to tangible societal impact. Their constituencies often lacked essential infrastructure like schools and hospitals, reflecting systemic neglect. What we truly need is empowered representation that can address our legitimate concerns effectively.”

When discussing the protection of Muslims, he pointed out, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi often refers to Pasmanda (backward) Muslims, but he may not realize that all the victims of mob lynching in this country were Pasmanda Muslims, not Sheikhs, Syeds or high-caste Muslims.”

He further elaborated, “During the recent elections, Modi’s rhetoric indicated that he does not depend on Muslim votes to govern. He labelled the community as infiltrators, accused them of overpopulation and claimed that the ‘mangal sutra’ of Hindu women would be unsafe under an Opposition alliance government. This raises the question: did previous Muslim representatives in the ruling party effectively protect Muslims?”

He emphasized, “The primary concern now is ensuring the physical safety of Muslims. Alongside physical security, the community also requires freedom and equal opportunities in all spheres of life. Mere appointment of a Muslim representative will not address these fundamental issues,” he concluded.

Critique of BJP’s Policies and Impact on Muslims

When asked about their reluctance to support the BJP, they pointed to the atrocities, lynchings, hate rhetoric and anti-Muslim policies that have occurred under the BJP’s rule.

Shajahan expressed, “Muslims often feel marginalized and targeted by the BJP’s policies and statements from its leaders. Measures like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) are perceived as discriminatory and disproportionately affect Muslims. There is also concern about the climate of fear and reprisal faced by Muslims who speak out against injustice.”

She continued, “Instances like the dehumanizing ‘Sulli Deals’ app, where Muslim women’s pictures were auctioned online, and films perceived as targeting Muslims further exacerbate feelings of discrimination and alienation. These factors collectively contribute to why many Muslims find it difficult to support the BJP and instead lean towards parties they believe will safeguard their rights and dignity more effectively.”

In addition, Rahman said, “Muslims generally do not support the BJP because the party has consistently displayed a hostile stance towards them. Even the prime minister has made inflammatory comments against the community during election campaigns. The BJP’s power seems to be reinforced by anti-Muslim rhetoric, which explains why they continue with their acerbic comments and policies against the Muslim community.”

While discussing why Muslims prefer the Congress over the BJP, despite the history of riots under previous grand old party’s rule, he explained, “Muslims often choose the Congress over the BJP because, despite the former’s failures to fully meet their aspirations, there is a perception of greater safety. However, it is time for Muslims to develop their own leadership. Nevertheless, the preference for the Congress remains, as it appears to offer more protection compared to the BJP.”

Shajahan added, “Muslims tend to support the Congress over the BJP because they perceive the former as more inclusive and protective of minority rights. Despite past instances of violence during Congress regimes, BJP’s policies and rhetoric often create a perception of being less supportive towards Muslims.”

Opposition’s Responsibility and Silence

In discussing the Opposition’s silence regarding the continued atrocities faced by minorities even after the election results were announced, Professor Wasey remarked that responsibility does not rest solely on the current ruling party.

“Previous ruling parties must also be held accountable for atrocities against minorities. Neither the BJP nor the Opposition can ignore the issue of mob lynching of Muslims. The Opposition must not remain silent, especially considering the significant support they received from the Muslim population in this election. They have a duty to address these issues. It is not solely Asaduddin Owaisi’s responsibility to speak out against these atrocities. The Opposition also bears the responsibility to take action for the safety of minorities,” he concluded.