Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

SAFAR
- RABI-UL-AWWAL 
1425 H
APRIL
2004
Volume 17-0
4 No : 208
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There's Change in BJP's Outlook

Interview: Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan

There's Change in BJP's Outlook

By A Staff Reporter

 

Are they opportunists or they see a real change of heart within the BJP?
   
The question has become significant during the run-up to the Lok Sabha poll, looking at the hordes of Muslims joining the saffron party that has been wooing them actively all across the country. Of course, the compulsions of political survival for faded politicians such as Najma Heptullah and Arif Mohammad Khan are more than evident. But what about intellectuals like Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan (who earlier contributed columns to Islamic Voice) and a respected social worker in Bangalore. Khan had even taken up the question of communalism and fascism in his writings very vociferously. Khan joined the party on February 16, 2004 and was soon appointed as one of the vice- presidents of the party in Karnataka. A former professor of rural sociology at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, Khan has been working for the education of the children and empowerment of Muslim and Dalit women. He runs a host of schools and vocational centers in the city and has been active on the intellectual circuit. Islamic Voice talked to Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan recently to find out reasons for his choice for the saffron party.

What has taken you to the BJP, having written so much against communal forces all these years?

There were three to four factors that perturbed me. The yawning Hindu-Muslim divide was one among them. I interacted with the leaders as well as workers of the BJP and found that they were basically not against Muslims, but wanted the Muslims to be patriotic and not allow the difference of religion to colour their patriotic credentials. Even I found them not keen to enforce or impose the Uniform Civil Code about which they harp a lot. I was invited for giving a series of lectures to their leaders. Through these, I could remove a lot of their misunderstandings. I could convince that Muslims were as much loyal to the motherland as anybody else and deviant behaviour among a few people was because of illiteracy and ignorance and need not be seen as a community characteristic.

Secondly, I felt a strong need for a dialogue and found that Muslim tendency to oppose the BJP tooth and nail would only lead to stronger distrust and distance. I consulted some of the religious divines and my close family members and persuaded them to my point of view and thereafter joined the BJP.

Is there a real change of heart in the BJP?

There is a perceptible change in the party's outlook which will soon percolate down to the basic worker. The change is on two counts: 1-The party now looks forward to a position where it could command the confidence of all people, not merely the Hindus. 2- They want to expand the base of the party in real terms. It is why a lot of Muslims have felt enthused to join the party. Sometimes it surprises me to see how Muslims are pouring in the BJP offices. They named me one of the three vice- presidents in Karnataka within a week of my joining. I now sit on all panels of the party in Karnataka.

Any pointers for change in the party's policy towards Muslims?

In early February, a meeting of the Rashtravadi Muslim Andolan was held in Delhi under the aegis of a group known as 'My Hindustan'. Nearly 150 prominent Muslims were participants. Among them was retired brigadier of Indian Army, Urdu poet Mazhar Hussain and Prof. Nahida Begum from Ratnagiri in Maharashtra. The meet discussed the Indianisation of Muslims without any reference to religion (thereby di-sassociating it with the concept propounded by Balraj Madhok of Bharatiya Jana Sangh of pre-emergency days.). It discussed the ways and means to create Hindu-Muslim unity without sacrificing the Muslim identity. We were surprised to find full-time Muslim workers of RSS.

Then there are pointers from Vajpayee's leadership. Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani too has showed marked difference in his statements. He recently held Gujarat riots as a blot on India's secular image even while condemning Godhra carnage alongside. Sum and total of the whole discussion was that we felt that Muslims should also initiate the process by keeping the past behind. There should be a 'forget and forgive' attitude. I felt that there should be a time for national reconciliation. All these plumped me to join the BJP.

Will BJP accept pluralism as a characteristic of national identity of India with Hindus themselves being so diverse? Then there is the question of Article 370, Common Civil Code and Ayodhya tangle. Are there any winds of change?

Once upon a time, the BJP was a party of Brahmins. But now several Dalits, Muslims and Christians too are found within its ranks. During my discussions with the party, I told them that Article 370 is irrelevant to Muslims. It is a constitutional link between Indian Union and the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It should be kept beyond the pale of Muslim question, though I recognise that such a constitutional provision leads to a sense of separatism. As far as Ayodhya question is concerned, I felt that it must be entrusted to the Hindus and Muslims of Ayodhya.

But if the enemy incline towards peace, Do you (also) incline towards peace, and trust in God: for he is the One that hears and knows (all things) 8: 61

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