1. Dr. Hanif Lakdawala
Secretary, NGO Sanchetana
“The massive mandate for Narendra Modi is indication enough that his hold over the majority mindset has not loosened a bit. He thrives by presenting himself as the firmest bulwark against any threat from Muslims (who ruled Gujarat for close to 600 years.).
Earlier the divide was merely psychological. Now it is physical with the entire community holed up in Juhapura which brims with four lakh Muslims. Civic amenities are pathetic at best, and absent at worst. Road, water and power supply are at their minimal. Gas pipelines have been laid in a manner that it would not touch the locality. Even the BRTS does not provide access to the area.
Dr. Kanu Kalsaria, who had been elected three times consecutively from Mahuva, and who was instrumental in uprooting the Corporate giant Nirma’s cement plant in Bhavnagar district, lost to the BJP candidate in Gariadhar constituency. Dr. Kalsaria who resigned from the BJP, and represented by Gujarat’s discontent against Modi’s regime, could garner merely over 10,000 votes. Kalsaria had fielded six candidates as independents under the banner of Sadbhavana Manch. All lost.
2. Yunus Chitalwala
Archaeologist (Retd) & Social Activist
The Congress’ “KHAM” (Kshatriya, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims) theory brought about a backlash of the upper caste communities by going over to the BJP. This left Muslims isolated and vulnerable. Even the Congress began to play soft Hindutva to maintain its hold on its traditional supporters like the Patels who had begun to change sides. This downslide ultimately resulted in the first BJP government in Gujarat in 1995. This situation was compounded by the absence of any credible Muslim leadership. This void was filled by men of the ilk of Abdul Latif Sheikh who was promoted by the Congress. This gave a handle to the Hindutva brigade to further malign the Muslim community. This way, Gujarat’s civil society got polarised and Muslims got increasingly marginalised.
As has been pointed out, Gujarati civil society has remained highly unsympathetic to the lot of Muslims. Even if Modi shifts his base to Delhi, things are likely to remain the same.
Muslims live like sleepwalkers. They do not introspect nor do they throw up an enlightened leadership. They can do a lot more for themselves if they form institutions of learning and make acquisition of education their sole aim. Of course this will not happen overnight. They should bury their petty differences and come together with the sole aim of uplifting the community as a whole. That is sure to benefit the community in the long run.
Muslims can’t carry their hurt too far. That will stunt their growth, both physical and economic. They should acquire technical skills that are much sought after in Gujarat. Gujarati entrepreneurs are moving from business to industry. But they have not invested much in creating technically sound human resource. Second, the knowledge of English language escapes a large number of Gujaratis. Muslims can become competitive by filling up these gaps.
(As told to Maqbool Ahmed Siraj)