Bangaru's Olive Twig and Muslims
Muslims should desist both from biased rejection or unquestioned acceptance of Bangaru Laxmanís offer, argues Mohammad Mujtaba Khan
THE new BJP chief, Bangaru Laxmanís (Bangaru in Telugu means gold or golden) gesture indicating a change of heart on the BJP agenda deserves serious thought on the part of the Muslims. It is a moment for the Muslims to remain cool and cautious and not to be carried away by emotionalism.
Historically India has been a tolerant society. Assimilation, consensus and synthesis have remained the hallmarks of Indian culture. Despite a tremendous change in her value matrix under the impact of the Western political institutions and cultural imperialism her traditional ethos continue to hold her strong. It may not be an exaggeration to argue that subservience to leadership in the organizational functioning remains an important factor and even the most democratic organization- the Congress under Nehru was no exception. It has been the leadership traits and personal vision of the leader that has strengthened or weakened organizations in India.
The stratagems like making a Lockerbie out of a small incident at the AMU will only make matters worse. The Country paid dearly for suspecting the entire Sikh community
The architect of modern India- Nehru- had always resorted to a moderate approach in his quest to build a strong India. In this context the talisman of secularism, mixed economy and non-alignment paid much dividends in both the domestic and international sectors to evolve a new India as a global entity to be reckoned with. Those who succeeded Nehru had neither his vision nor qualities to combat the fissiparous tendencies. Lust for position, corruption and criminalisation of politics added fuel to the fire of disruption. Ironically, it was Indira Gandhi who had presided over the process of decay of the Congress Organization paving a way for the rises of umpteen fanatic and communal groups in the political calculations and mobilization processes.
Consequently, as a counter strategy, in a bid to retain power, the Congress under Indira Gandhi was compelled to toe the line of its competitors and gradually brought to the fore the hitherto silent RSS hawks within the Congress lexicon projecting them on higher positions of responsibility thereby pushing the organization into the limbo of political opportunism. The Turkaman Gate incidents were the beginning of open appropriation of sectarian fanaticism in the Congress.
The Congress penchant to woo Hindu votes manifested itself in ĎOperation Blue Starí, exploitation of Punjab issue and the 1984 onslaught on Sikhs. It completely altered the electoral calculus and enthused Hindu support in favour of the Congress.
The Muslims, haunted by the trauma of communal divide and its after effects, found Nehruís Congress with its commitment to the ideal of secularism as safe heaven and formed its strong electoral support base. Even after the exit of Nehru from the political scene they continued to carry a false sense of optimism that Congress alone could be their Messiah. The Congress fully exploited that sentiment using them as a solid vote bank now and then picking a few courtier Muslims as Ministers to demonstrate secularism. The real setback to Muslim confidence in the Congress occurred on December 6, 1992 when the Congress at the Centre gave free hand to the fanatic criminals to fix the last nail in the coffin of Indiaís secularism.
For historical reasons communal frenzy and religious hatred is more pronounced among the north Indians as compared to their southern counterparts. After the Jana Sangh, the BJP has been functioning as a tentacle ,of the RSS- hydra head. The leadership of the organization has always remained with the upper caste north Indian RSS zealots. Now that the leadership has gone to a south Indian Dalit, reason seems to have dawned to overshadow and prevail upon emotional frenzy. After having come to power, a section of BJP seemingly realized that to remain in power in a pluralistic society like India sectarianism and caste superiority are not the correct tools of the trade.
Increasingly the BJP leaders are realising that it is difficult to govern in a conflict-charged atmosphere. Even Mr. L. K. Advani is a much mellowed man now
Perhaps, it was because of this realization that Prime Minister Vajpayee, though firm in his actions, has been showing signs of helplessness amidst the hawks. The Centreís inaction in the recent case of Shiv Sena seeking a bail out for the offences of its leader, despite protests and threat of withdrawal of support testifies this argument. As a matter of fact, with the passage of time in power, even L.K. Advani pregnant with Muslim baiting, seems to have realized how tough it is to govern in a conflict charged atmosphere. How can any government at the Centre remain insensitive to the fact that the largest minority of the Indian society is left alienated and its implications on Indiaís relations with its neighbours, more particularly the Arab world?
The Congress has tactfully but successfully played the minority card not only to emerge victorious at the hustings but also to garner international support as a champion of minority interests. While the political relevance of the Muslim Community in India cannot be simply glossed over, however, lack of an All India Muslim Political Organization and organized political articulation have reduced the community to a demoralized, scattered and confused lot. Their withdrawal from the Congress could not be properly augmented, as no alternative organization was available to them. Even V.P Singh or Mulayam Singh could hardly come up to their expectations. The BJP, despite, control over the secular power center continued to behave like traditional BJP in opposition in its peculiar dogmatic sectarian style. The political history of independent India amply proved that only political organizations with a moderate and tolerant approach carrying along with them all segments of society irrespective of caste, creed, race region, language or religion can alone sustain in power. The Congress is guilty of deviating from this noble path laid down by Nehru and consequently found itself in the wilderness of Indian politics. The BJP is at the verge of meeting the same fate. However, Bangaru Laxmanís stewardship with his commitment to carry along all segments of society particularly Muslims, if implemented in the right earnest may rescue the organisation from making a titanic sink but all depends on what line the party adopts vis-vis Muslims. A mere lip service to the cause of the suffering minority is not enough. Some quick actions are necessary to enthuse their faith. The irresponsible manner in which the Central leadership reacted to the recent AMU incident pressing for the closure of the University is deplorable. Such incidents are not uncommon in universities and it is for the government and university administration to bring the culprits to book instead of taking the entire university community to a ransom. It is unfortunate that some so-called responsible leaders at the Centre are trying to make a Lockerbie out of the incident. The Congress had also committed a similar blunder by unleashing terror on the Sikh community when one Sikh was involved in the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi. Aligarh is dear to the Muslims and any attempt at destabilizing it will naturally hurt the Muslim sentiment. Better late than never, it is high time for the organization to give up some of its anti-minority agenda items, incorporate items of general interest, ensure proportional reservation for Muslims both in organizational positions as well as in distribution of tickets for Parliamentary and Assembly elections, broaden its membership base by opening up for minorities and introduce minority membership campaigns. Perhaps the entry of Muslims in the organization in large numbers may generate consciousness of secularism in the BJP rank and file and help the organization emerge as an acceptable all India political force.
Author teaches political science in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.