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Facing 2019 elections, Muslim community's puzzle: Collective vote casting for a "secure" future

By Dr Syed Mohammad Raghib*
A week ago, an eight-year-old madrasa student Mohammad Azeem became the most recent victim of hate crime in Malaviya Nagar, South Delhi. Clearly, the hate culture continues to take new shapes. The lynching mayhem, continuing for the last four-and-a-half years in the name of ‘cow protection’, began with the murder of Akhlaque, and followed with the killing of Pahlu Khan, Junaid, Alimuddin, and Tauheed Ansari.
In Manipur, a 26-year-old MBA student, Mohammad Farooque Khan, was killed by a mob on September 14 in front of the police. In Uttar Pradesh, a series of encounters have been going on. More recently, two boy, aged 17 and 21, were gunned down in Aligarh. In Madhya Pradesh, where eight SIMI prisoners killed in a fake encounter, the government blamed them for fleeing from the jail.
Such incidents have increased manifold. They are a telling commentary on the weak law and order situation across the country. Police officers, politician and even criminals who are behind such gruesome incidents are promoted.
There is no doubt that India is a secular-democratic country, one of the peaceful places on the earth where multi-religious, multi-ethnic communities have flourished since long. Islam entered here by two routes, one from the north, Sindh, when Mohammad Bin Qasim came to India. It flourished through the Sufi tradition of the likes of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti.
Islam also came to India via the sea route, when Arab traders reached south Indian coasts, especially Kerala. Malik Dinar is one of the first known Muslims to have come to India via this route. Muslims have thrived here and coexisted with other religions and cultures and have never felt threated from the majority community at any point in time.
Over the last few years, right-wing communal forces have badly damaged the secular-democratic identity of the country for their electoral gain. Yet, majority and minority boundings are very sturdy, thanks to high level of tolerance between them. This tolerance continues despite communal violence rocking North and Central India. On an average, according to the National Crime Bureau data, on an average, 600 incidents of communal violence took place between 2014 and 2017.
The Constitution of India has given equal opportunity to every citizen of the country to lead a life with dignity and respect. The constitution has also given the right to practice religion, to run educational institutions and to have their personal laws across the country.
It is against this backdrop that the 2019 elections are seen as a significant factor for the development of Muslims. Their electoral calculations can go awry if the community votes are divided. This is what happened during the 2014 elections. The community couldn’t ensure a single Muslim candidate to the Lok Sabha from UP.
Things couldn’t turn any better during the UP state assembly elections, which took place in 2017. Though UP has a 19 percent Muslim population, 25 MLAs from the community could win, down from 68 in 2012. The community votes are divided between three or four parties such as Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress and so on.
Since the last Lok Sabha elections, the community has the lowest-ever number of Muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The percentage of the Muslim population as per the government census 2011 was 14.2, but in terms of representation, there are just 23 MPs Muslims, which comes to a measly 4.2 percent of the total Lok Sabha strength, 543.
A major problem for this is, the Indian Muslim political leadership lacks vision of the type one saw during the fight for India’s independence. They have failed to continue with the tradition of opening new educational institutes such as Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Ashrafia, Deoband, Falah, Nadwatul Ulema and Jamiatul Salah.
Meanwhile, the adversaries of the community have successfully engaged it in fatwas, ISI, IM, triple talaq, halala, love jihad, ghar wapsi, lynching, Muslim ghettos, National Register of Citizens, damaging its dignity and pride. Due to the false reporting and media propaganda, these adversaries achieve their target to defame Muslims. Little do they realize that in the process they are defaming our country’s reputation, weakening the root of our democratic institutions and collective culture.
The type venom the media indulges in is well known to all. Whether it is Aligarh Muslim University, whose Jinnah portrait was made a big issue, or the Alauddin Khiji-Padmavati issue across Rajasthan, every effort is made to divert the mind from real developmental issues of the ordinary people.
It is time the Muslim community across the country, forming 14.2 percent of the population, understands the importance of collective vote casting. It can help in power sharing in any government formation, even as taking care of the safety and security of the current and future generation.
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*Post-doc student at the Centre for West Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

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