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The Fast Disappearing Muslim In The Indian Republic

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In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority. —Edmund Burke

In the Gujarat election campaign, Prime Minister Modi stated that Pakistan is supporting Ahmed Patel as Gujarat Chief Minister and that it is a “matter of concern.” The critical question is what is ominous if Ahmed Patel did indeed become the chief minister? He is, after all, an Indian citizen with a right to run for political office.

Shockingly, here, an Indian Muslim, because of their religion, is automatically identified with Pakistan’s interests. As the nation celebrated the Republic’s 69th anniversary, the one dangerous trend—solidifying since 2014—is the excision of the Republic’s secular foundations by the political invisibilisation, as well as the demonising of the Muslim in every social sphere.

While the egregious violent attacks against Muslims (and Dalits) have garnered expected outrage, including abroad (the New York Times, for example, has written an unprecedented sixteen editorials critiquing the Modi government for its embrace of religious extremism, intolerance and the curbing of freedoms) what has not is the Hindutva project of abolishing Muslim political representation. For, it is insidious and executed through perfectly “democratic” methods.

After all, people might ask, what is democracy other than the enforcement of the will of the majority? The answer is that Hindutva’s electoral majority does not want Muslims to be politically represented.

This is what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of majority” as early as the 19th century.

The last four years have seen a terrifying demonstration of this tyranny in action.

The 2014 Lok Sabha Elections were thus an alarming landmark in Independent India’s history. In a first, a party came to power without having a single elected Muslim Member of Parliament. The BJP fielded only 7 Muslims (5 in J&K and Bengal alone) out of 482 candidates. The total Muslim representation in Parliament fell to 4%, the lowest since 1957.

Muslims constitute 19.2% of the Uttar Pradesh population, that is about 4.3 crore people, as big as Argentina’s population. Yet, the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate in the last state assembly elections. Muslim representation drastically fell from 17.1 % to 5.9% in the UP Assembly.

In Assam, (Muslim population: 34.2%), the BJP has one Muslim MLA out of 61. In Bihar, Jharkhand and Maharashtra (16.9%, 14.5% and 11.54% Muslims respectively), BJP has no Muslim MLAs. In Maharashtra, the BJP won with 122 MLAs and fielded one Muslim, who lost.

Since Mr. Modi became the Gujarat Chief Minister in 2002, the BJP has not fielded a single Muslim candidate either in the Lok Sabha or the Assembly Elections. Political cleansing has ensured that Muslim representation in Gujarat Assembly has declined from 6.6% in 1980, to only 1.6% now (Muslim population: 9.67%).

All this leads to the terrifying fact: of the 1416 BJP MLAs now in the country, there are 4 Muslims. That is 0.28% when the Muslim population is 14.2%. The exclusion is simply staggering. Contrastingly, as Rukmini S.’ analysis shows, the non-BJP ruled states had (in November 2014), 300 Muslim MLAs, representing 13% of the MLAs.

The bogey that the BJP has ridden on to power is “Muslim appeasement.” This is a myth. Muslim representation in parliament in the Congress-dominant era of 1952-1977, ranged between 2% and 7%. The highest representation was in 1980; even then it touched only 10%, less than the overall Muslim population.

In UP, the Muslim representation in the Assembly ranged between 5.9% to 9.5% in the period 1951-1977, much less than its population.  Only as late as 2012, it touched the highest representation of 17.1%, but again fell short of its overall population share. Even in Bihar, where the “secular” Congress and Janata Dal/Rashtriya Janata Dal parties have been accused of pandering to Muslims, the highest representation was only 10.46% in 1985.

Similarly, Muslim representation in the Armed Forces, judiciary, police and civil services is significantly less than the population share. So let us not delude ourselves that the BJP is rectifying some anti-Hindu historical injustices by reducing Muslim representation. The argument that the BJP does not field Muslims because it cannot find “winning Muslim candidates” is again devious.  More deceptive is the claim that the BJP is beholden to protect Muslim women who, for example, voted in large numbers for it in the UP elections, a claim which is not factual (a question: why does the BJP, the champion of Muslim women, not field them in elections?).

That the majority can indulge in extreme oppression of the minority in a democracy does not mean that we abolish it. Instead, what is needed a radical deepening of its structures so that the most marginalised get representation. The first step would be to recognise there are no monolithic majorities and minorities. The raison d’être of the Hindutva project is to deny the hideous reality of caste and class and build a monolithic Hindu community (which is deeply iniquitous in practice). Recent events from Una to Bhima Koregaon demonstrate that. But, unlike the Muslim, the BJP is willing to make some symbolic gestures to the Dalit.

While society others the Muslim, the Muslim community is itself riven by caste and class. Thus, the Ashrafs (the forward castes among Muslims, constituting only 15-20%) have been the overwhelming beneficiary of communal politics and its small gains at the expense of the Pasmandas (backward and Dalit Muslim castes) who are also the main victims of violent bigotry. In UP Assembly of the last two decades, as Gilles Verniers shows, the Ashrafs cornered 70% of the MLA positions, a figure which would be typical (or worse) for India as a whole. The Ashraf political and religious elite themselves have been a major barrier in the material and democratic empowerment of the Muslim community.

The BJP is ruling 19 of the 29 states now, but has Muslim representation—that too minuscule—in only three. It has made a “Congress Mukt Bharat” its rallying cry. But what is immediately manifest is the march to a Muslim Mukt Bharat. Its terrifying denouement will be especially catastrophic for the Pasmanda Muslim, who is subject to the “double-bind” of religious as well as caste discrimination, and who even during the “golden age” of secularism was on the absolute margins of the nation’s socio-economic parameters.

A democracy will be brittle when its minorities are systematically subject to a political apartheid and denied political representation. Certainly, no democracy can be a real democracy when its oppressed castes and classes, cutting across religions, are fatally pitted against each other on the basis of religion.

The article was originally published in The Indian Express.

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  1. Rishi Ghosh

    I don’t know about the muslim mukt bharat but few years back a community was killed and drove away from kashmir, that community was hindu do they were able to return to their land, who is representing KP’s from Kashmir in Kashmir assembly now?? A democracy will be remain brittle If the minorities abuse secularism and free speech. Come to west bengal , and check most crimes are done by Muslims, they are communal and bigot even when they are in higher posts and they perfectly enjoy the power and protection from the ruling government. Portals and channels like yours have played a big role in maligning the term’Liberal’. You have drove Hindu youths who wanted to remain liberal into the lap of organizations like RSS and VHP. You articles are always one sided, instead of focusing on whole issue of appeasement, your hatred towards a particular political party has made you blind. You never complained how appeasement is being done to Christians in NE and southern states, how openly mulsims in Kerela and hyderabad are appeased by the political parties, how muslims are appeased are states like kashmir, west bengal etc. BJP is a hindu party it might not field muslims but it is also because muslims have a perceptions about BJP being anti-muslims. Muslims are always fooled by their maulvis, like they are taught to hate america and west by their maulivis but they will die to get a visa to a European country. Come to Kolkata where prayers are held on the roads for Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists like Yakub Menon. Muslims in India have alienated themselves, they have done it socially and then politically. They payed the price for doing that in Myanmar, which is very unfortunate but is the reality, they are doing the same in UK in US and also in India. The same kind of politics was done by them before partition and we know what happened. Our champions of secularism were present then , then there was no BJP or RSS, but still hindus died. We never wanted a separate nation it was Muslims who wanted. But hindus had to pay the price. Had the hindu leadership got the courage a declared the country a hindu rashtra I think the lives that are lost in communal violence for all these years would not have happened. But hindus chose the difficult route and years after hindus have to suffer at the hands of the appeasement politics of political parties. BJP winning the 2014 was also because to some extent hindus are fed up with the appeasement politics. Politics is not just about numbers it is also about the perception. Today the media and the so called elite intelligentsia of the nation have led to a situation where hindu youths either have to choose BJP or death at hands of appeasement politics of parties like congress and other regional parties. In a horde to appease the minority the majority values are insulated, that is the model of political class and media have provided us for years. The whole media is completely silent on the killings of hindus, in karnataka, kerala, kashmir, west bengal and now even in New delhi. Why there is difference in outrage when a dalit is killed by a upper caste criminal and when a dalit is killed by a muslim? Why the media is not asking for the rights for those hindu youths who are butchered by communists and muslims?? Actually for editors and arm chair activists life of hindus does not matter, hindu vales and culture is nothing fro them. Then do you expect that hindu youths should remain neutral. Sorry sir but the violent hindutva which you pointed out is nothing when you compare it to violence done by Muslims, communists and also by christian missionaries.

    1. D Roy

      Very well said….I am truly sick of the shameless antics of the so-called secular brigade.

      We have tolerated the nonsense of secularism long enough…time to throw away this bloody nuisance once and for all.

  2. Altamash Shamshuddin

    the article is true… i dont know wheter bjp had actually never gave any chance for the muslims to be elected, but even if they had given, muslims themselves would never join bjp because of ideology conflict and fear of muslim community declaring them as hypocrites…
    Obvious strategy of any political party will be to take advantage of minority vote bank and bjp might also have offered muslim political leaders, and show the world – we are secular. but as i said Muslims would not join bjp for they are hindu centric party and the usual hate and disrespect from their own community, fear of declaring them kaafirs.
    in andhra pradesh itself, there were indeed muslim contestants from telugu desam party in 2014. but when this party gave its support to bjp, most of the muslim contestants shifted to congress or the ysr congess party. lot of propaganda was spread by muslim contestants exactly the way bjp had propaganda towards muslims. these ashrafs are no better for a good cause except for communal violence. there were many cases where these ashrafs did provoke communal voilence- throwing alcohol bottles in the masjid premises and blaming on the hindus.
    the point is, everyone is wanting to take the advantage by provoking communal violence, it’s sometimes muslim leaders, sometimes hindu leaders.

  3. D Roy

    The post seems to have been written with a view ti defame the silent Hindu majority of the country, who are peaceful and tolerant.

    Shame on the writer!

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