Karnataka Assembly Elections – Muslims Negotiate Charter of Demands
By A Staff Writer
Bangalore: The Muslim bodies in Karnataka under the umbrella organization Karnataka Muslim Muttehada Mahaz (KMMM) have placed a charter of demands before the political parties in order to secure fair representation of the community in the political life and social and economic development of the state.
Though the charter is meant to be placed before all the political parties, the KMMM is veering to the idea that Indian National Congress will be the prime recipient of Muslim votes this time, given the community’s natural antipathy against the communal forces coming into the play this time and the dominant anti-incumbency mood among the general masses in the state.
According to Masood Abdul Khader, convener of the KMMA, the Mahaz is all likely to announce a list of Congress candidates to be supported by Muslims in nearly 200 of the 224 total constituencies in the State by April 28. (Islamic Voice goes to the press on April 26). Mr. Khader said the Mahaz had held two meetings with the Congress office bearers in the State in the last two months and several of the points in the charter of demands have found mention in the Congress manifesto released last week. It however, indicated to the party bigwigs that they would look for alternative parties and candidates wherever Congress candidates did not fit the bill for secular credentials, or were found to be tainted with corruptions or involved in scams.
The Mahaz held its meeting with the Congress leaders in the State on April 13 in Darussalam on Queens Road in the City in which the party was represented by KPCC President Mr. Parameshwara, leader of the Opposition leader in the outgoing Assembly Mr. Siddramiah, veteran Congress leader C. K. Jaffer Sharief and party MLC Naseer Ahmed. Mr. Syed Zameer Pasha, IAS Retired (who recently joined the party) and Aga Sultan were also present on behalf of the Congress. The KMMM told the party leaders that their support would be conditional and they would like the party to ensure that Muslim minority received representation in all the political bodies, boards and corporations, senates and syndicates, and Zilla Panchayaths and Town Municipal Councils in the state. They also pressed for rolling back the Anti Cow Slaughter Bill passed by the State Assembly during the tenure of the BJP government. The Congress leaders assured that Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle (Amendment) Bill will be rolled back as the 1964 Act enacted by the State fulfills the need in this respect.
The charter called for effective steps to contain communal violence, adequate compensation to the victims such as government jobs for the next of the kin and strict punishment to culprits and sensitization of police officers regarding security to the weaker sections and the underprivileged. It wanted action against vigilante groups operating in the coastal districts who were harassing minority youths and vandalizing churches and mosques and illegally pounding the cattle.
The charter also enlisted points regarding the indiscriminate arrest of youth in terrorism related cases and sought setting up a review committee to look into the arrest of people held on the charges of terrorism (on the pattern of provision of Goonda Act). It also calls for stopping forthwith the harassment of Muslim youth on the pretext of terrorism.
Other demands include enhancing the reservation for Muslims in the state jobs from 4% to 6% (as per recommendation of the Ravivarma Kumar Report), setting apart 5% of the Minority Welfare allocation for free housing for Muslims, setting up Kendriya Vidyalayas in Muslim concentrated block with provision of 75% seats for minorities, conducting a fresh survey of the socio-economic conditions of the minorities in the state (last survey was done in 1994); remedial coaching schemes for nearly 50,000 Muslim children dropping out of schools in the state annually; establishment of Navovidyalayas in Muslim dominated areas and reservation of 15% seats for minorities in the existing ones.
The charter also called for curbs against immoral and obscene advertisements in public places and the media, night clubs and disco centres and prostitution; gradual curbs on intoxicants and unhealthy foodstuffs; stopping of auctioning of national resources like rivers and water sources to private parties; making the Lokayukta institution more effective.
The meeting with the Congress office-bearers was attended by nearly 150 members of various Muslim bodies in the state. They included Messrs Masood Abdul Khader, convener; Md. Iqbal, secretary, KMMM; Syed Tanveer Ahmed, editor, Karnataka Muslims; Khader Mohiuddin, former KPSC member; Moulvi Iftikhar Ahmed Qasimi and Tanveer Ahmed Shariff of Jamiatul Ulema Hind; Abdullah Javeed and Atharullah Sharief of Jamaate Islami Hind; Syed Najmul Hassan Rizvi, former secretary, Karnataka Minorities Commission; Khaja Peer, former Vice Chancellor; Maulana Maqsood Imran, officiating Imam, City Jamia Masjid; U. Nisar Ahmed, former DIG of Karnataka Police.
However, no women were either included or involved in consultation by the KMMM at any stage.
The Mahaz i.e., KMMM, was formed in 1991 and has guided the Muslim electorate in the State through successive elections. Its principal plank has been to defeat the communal parties which however did not meet with considerable success during the 2004 and 2008 elections. In the 2004 elections, the BJP entered into a coalitional arrangement with the Janata Dal Secular and Mr. Yeddyurappa was deputy chief minister for two years. Denial of the rotational tenure of 19 months led to the collapse of the government leading to elections in May 2008. Though the BJP could not gain majority through the elections, it mustered necessary strength through a variety of means including Operation Lotus (poaching of MLAs from other parties) and by induction of independents into its ranks. It could rule the state for full five years, had three chief ministers during the tenure and extremely shaky during the last two years. Taint of corruption forced the High Command to ask the strongman and one of the main builders of the party in the state Mr. Yeddyurappa. Slighted at his being marginalized by the High Command, Yeddyurappa has raised the banner of revolt against the party and has vowed to reduce the BJP to a stump of its former self. He has formed the Karnataka Janata Party which has put up its candidates in all the Assembly segments. It is expected to undermine the BJP’s vote base in May 5 elections. It is merely these kind of fortuitous circumstances in which the Congress eyes the triumph in the elections.
Though the JDS is also a strong contender for votes in substantial number of seats in South Karnataka, the party is clearly not a favourite with the minorities, as it has marred its secular credentials after having shared a coalition government with the BJP. Most Muslims feel that the power-hungry JDS would not mind joining any party for the sake of power if it gets anywhere near the striking distance.
It is for the first time that the KMMM has done some methodical homework in order to crystallize the Muslim aspirations into a charter of demands and by negotiating them with the Congress party, albeit Congress being the Hobson’s choice.