Politicians are not the ones whose bag of tricks would ever become empty. But if community leaders begin to follow their footsteps, one cannot but feel uneasy at the prospective outcome of their not-so-naive exercises. The All India Milli Councilís Caraven e Azadi would have deserved some commendation had it been an initiative from the political leaders who never tire of mouthing grievance-laced rhetoric. But an organisation founded purely to pull the community out of sedimented morass of centuries, is least expected to mount such spectacles a la padyatras or rath yatras, however benign the purpose or the objective might be.
Around the beginning of the past year, we had witnessed the Taleemi Carvan rolling out of Aligarh. None can dispute its favourable impact in arousing the educational consciousness. However, it did little by way of grassroot activism, be it in Faizabad, Churu, Gridih that object illiteracy exists among Muslims within 15-kilometre radius of the Aligarh Muslim University, the alma mater for majority of Muslim educated elite in the Western U.P. What therefore becomes apparent is that Delhi-based community leaders are now pouncing upon development-oriented themes to mobilise the Muslim masses, having lost rhetoric-steeped slogans in the aftermath of the Ayodhya events. They seem less motivated by the desire to tackle illiteracy, poverty disease, indebtedness and filth in slums of Seelampur, Trilokpuri or Jaffarbad, but would prefer appearing to be the guide of the destiny of the entire Indian Muslims. Their location in the nationís capital does lend them the advantage for usurping the pan-Indian titles. But their very physical surroundings in Delhi would be enough to convince that their writ does not run beyond their headquarters. Clearly, their claims for leadership lie not in apprenticeship in grassroot social work but in visibility earned through mobility. Their clout does not emanate from pragmatic action at the local level, but easy-chair intellectualism. Their forte lies not in remedying social ills in Rae Bareli, Madhepura, Bankura or Burhanpur, but in encashing upon the momentary surfiet created in the wake of rallies, caravens or mass meeting organised through the length and breadth of the country and carefully captured by the vedeo cameras. Perhaps due note must be taken of this tendency to flaunt much style but offer not substance.
One would wish the Milli Council well in its objective to enlighten the masses with aspects that are kept under wrape by the national media. But it must not ignore the fact that any leadership born out of stage-managed shows will fail the test of times as it happened in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition.
Unfortunately the Muslim psyche has been trained to react to situation rather than setting the agenda, a position that comes to a community through all-round socio-economic and educational development. Hence the community tends to gravitate towards emotive yet negative slogans. Examples, if required, are plenty. Everyone felt motivated to safeguard the Shariat in the Supreme Court judgement in Shah Bano case but not in development of social mechanism to address the grievances of the deserted, divorced and discarded Muslim women, some of whom are driven out of homes merely for bringing insufficient dowry. A Sir Syed Day Dinner would have halls packed in Delhi but few would be there to take up the Sir Syedís mission in Nanagloi or Pilibhit. All feel agonised by the media bias but none to eager to set up the aternative media. Consequently the Delhi-based leadership has little to offer to the Muslims elsewhere except the emotive issues with propensity to stir up controversies.
Indian Muslims do need leadership but it wonít descend from the ramparts of Lal Qila in Delhi. The community would be able to throw up enough national leaders only when local level social workers would inch their way up to regional level. This calls for tireless efforts to tackle issues and grievances more immediate to physical existence of people rather than exploiting their sentiments.