By Sanjana Sanghi:
The fundamental political ideology of the Shiv Sena, “Bhumiputra”, that is “Sons of the Soil”, implying that Maharashtrians deserve more rights in Maharashtra than any outsider, finds resonance in often appearing articles in it’s mouthpiece Saamana. Only, when amalgamated with the Sena’s other ideological thrust of Hindutva, the resulting concoction is most often one that violates the rights of a few groups, the sentiments of many, and the principle of secularism.
In line with these usual tendencies, the Shiv Sena struck again.
“If Muslims are only being used this way to play politics, then they can never develop. Muslims will have no future till they are used to play vote bank politics and thus Balasaheb had once said to withdraw Muslims voting rights. What he said is right, the “secular masks” of all the so-called secular political parties will be worn out, once their voting rights are withdrawn” said an editorial in Saamana on Sunday.
No doubt, it requires extraordinary ability to believe that a democracy can function with a differential voting pattern. If we can take away the rights of Muslims, why not also suggest that each vote of a Maharashtrian accounts for two? Afterall, they are the sons of the soil.
The Sena called the All India Majlis-e-Ittihadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) and Owaisi brothers “poisonous snakes” who spew venom to “exploit” the minority community as made amply clear in this statement, “By saving the hiding place of snakes, you cannot kill them. Owaisi and his party are like a snake which, if fed, will do no good to the nation. AIMIM is an old snake.”
An edit piece in Saamana reads, “Asaduddin Owaisi is insisting that Muslims should get reservation akin to the Marathas. Such insistence had caused the separation of Pakistan from India. Hatred for Hindus compelled a section of Muslims to take control over Pakistan. Hence Owaisi may try to get his demands based on religious grounds fulfilled in Pakistan. The minority community will have to respect India as their motherland.”
The Sena has previously termed Owaisi’s statements as “hateful”, and demanded that the Devendra Fadnavis government file a case against him and start legal proceedings. They believe that the Muslim community must respect the Uniform Civil Code and stop demanding the continuation of Article 370 for Kashmir. Also, they have time and again tried to rubbish any claims of the sufferings of Muslims in India by stating reminders regarding the sufferings of Hindus due to terrorist activities of extremist Muslims.
On Saturday night, Owaisi, Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad, addressed a public gathering in Nagpur and demanded reservation for backward Muslims in government jobs and educational institutes in Maharashtra, claiming that “injustice” had been done to Muslims in Maharashtra. He blamed the 50 years of Congress rule at the centre, along with the Congress-NCP and Shiv Sena-BJP governments in the state, for the prevailing backwardness.
The Sena is of the view that vote bank politics is being played in the name of fighting against the injustice meted out to Muslims, wherein their educational and health status is being used politically.
“The (Saamana) article tries to say that to achieve development in every sphere of life, the politics of appeasement being done by a section of leaders needs to be done away with as it is not in the interest of Muslims. These people are only misguiding the community without really helping them,” said Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe.
Clearly, attempts have been made to downplay the article using every possible way, in an attempt to suggest that all the Sena is really looking for is putting an end to appeasement politics, and empowering Muslim women. To add to the already existing absurdity, Gorhe also went on to say, “There are people from all castes working in the Shiv Sena. All of us have been against the vicious politics being played in the name of Muslims against the Muslims.” A complaint has been filed with the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) against Shiv Sena MP and editor of party mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, for his remarks that voting rights of Muslims should be revoked as the community has often been used to play vote bank politics.
As far as reactions to these rather perplexing crossfire of offensive statements and consequent clarifications by the Sena go, here are a couple.
“It is disgusting to hear such remarks. We are living in a democratic country, not in any Talibani state,” said Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi firmly opposing the stand taken by Raut. Kamal Farooqui, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said “The comments are unfortunate and against the law.”
While we may end up in an endless continuum if we set out to decide whether the fact that the Sena even suggested this anti-democratic measure of differential voting is worse, or the fact that an attempt was made to make up for this by terming the excesses as efforts for “overall development”, for now, these statements remain entirely unfortunate and against the law, as Kamil Farooqui rightly put it.