Soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led bhoomi pujan for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya got over on 5 August, the person whose comment became the talk of the town was Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi. Just before the bhoomi pujan, the president of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen had tweeted: “#BabriMasjid thi, hai aur rahegi inshallah #BabriZindaHai”.
Owaisi gave various statements on PM Modi’s speech, but it was his Babri Masjid remark that really found favour with Muslim organisations all over India as well as several clerics.
Throughout his political career, Asaduddin Owaisi has always tried to position himself as a leader of Indian Muslims, but never before has his statement elicited such a support from the community. The AIMIM chief posted the tweet on the morning of 5 August. The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) also clarified its stand on the statement.
— All India Muslim Personal Law Board (@AIMPLB_Official) August 6, 2020
Owaisi got complete support
When the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the temple on 9 November 2019, there was no such response from Indian Muslims. If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had not turned the bhoomi pujan on 5 August and the construction of the temple into a high-profile political event, Muslims may not have reacted the way they did. But when there is an opportunity to reap electoral dividends, how could the BJP let it go?
So, on 5 August, about 17 crore Muslims of India found their voice in Owaisi. The political and social consequences of such a reaction from India’s minority will be far-reaching.
The RSS-BJP, or PM Modi himself, cannot deny what has been recorded in history. Pick any newspaper dated 7 December 1992 and you will see all front-page headline saying the same thing — that kar sevaks destroyed the Babri Masjid. India Today, a weekly magazine, featured a cover on the demolition, calling it “a nation’s shame”.
Even if the BJP and Sangh tried to, they will not be able to erase this dark chapter from India’s history. The country’s future generations will continue to ask why the Babri Masjid was demolished. Were Hindus able to present proof of the existence of a Ram temple or was the claim staked merely in the name of faith?
Congress’s dilly-dallying, Muslims at crossroads
After Owaisi’s statement, the process of brainstorming has started in the Muslim community. Muslims, who had once again started looking at the Congress with some expectations, were shocked by the statement of several party leaders, including Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, congratulating people for the Ram Mandir and calling its bhoomi pujan a historic event. The party’s former president Rahul Gandhi had been able to gain some popularity among the Muslim youth in recent times by being a rare leader who stood up to the RSS’ might and called it and BJP out on their communal, divisive agenda. But the statements made by Congress leaders on 5 August have scarred that image.
Muslim leaders of the Congress wanted the party not to say anything openly about this. It was just a one-day event that would have come and gone. Silence would have overshadowed the entire event. But the Congress did not delay in walking the path that the BJP wanted it to, with its leaders one after other issuing statements to win the hearts of Hindus. Soon, leaders such as Digvijaya Singh started justifying the Congress’ stand.
This has put Indian Muslims at the crossroads. For them, the Congress and the BJP are two sides of the same coin. They now see a saffron claw in the Congress’ flag. Owaisi’s AIMIM can benefit from this and strengthen its base in other parts of India by positioning itself as a Muslim party. The Congress may continue to label Owaisi “an agent of the BJP”, it’s unlikely to stick with Muslims anymore now.
ओवैसीजी आज का दिन हाथ से जाने नहीं देना चाहते,इन्हें घमंड हो चला है जिसके तहत कम से कम वह अपनी कौम के लोगों को यह यक़ीन दिला देना चाहते हैं कि पूरे देश में अकेले वही RSS/BJP/मोदी सरकार से लड़ सकते हैं,
हमें तो आप में भी कट्टरता कुछ कम नहीं लगती,ज़हर बराबर का ही भरा है.
जय सियाराम https://t.co/TlEKpGpsa8
— Alka Lamba – अल्का लाम्बा 🇮🇳🙏 (@LambaAlka) August 5, 2020
For Owaisi, the sequence of events before and after the 5 August bhoomi pujan ceremony can prove to be favourable with the first test coming up in the Bihar assembly election, in which the AIMIM has decided to contest on all 243 seats. Of course, this will impact the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) the most and benefit the incumbent Janata Dal (United)-BJP coalition. But the game has been spoiled. The price of the BJP’s political effort to marginalise India’s Muslims will be paid by this game where regional parties want to checkmate each other.
So what should Muslims do?
For now, there are no such opportunities for Muslims through which they can become a source of political power or compulsion for any party. There is no harm in going with Owaisi’s AIMIM or any other party, but the risk factor is high. It is a fact that Right-wing political parties have been benefiting from Owaisi’s political activities. Owaisi, too, has not been able to turn AIMIM into a national party. The current situation may bring him an opportunity, but he cannot establish his cadre in West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh so soon.
Muslims are fed up with the Congress. They taught the Congress a lesson for its role in opening the locks of the Babri Masjid and now when the community was on the verge of forgiving it for that act, the statements of Congress leaders on the bhoomi pujan have left them completely disappointed. Muslims are left with no choice but to join hands with regional parties. The choice of aligning with the Congress if forced to choose between the lesser of the two evils will always be there, anyway.
Overall, siding with any party will always be a dilemma for India’s Muslims, but until the community plays politics like a game, it will continue to hunt them. There was a time when Muslims had tried to give shape to Bahujan politics in Uttar Pradesh by joining hands with Dalits, but the way Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati continued to run the government with the support of the BJP, the possibilities of a Dalit-Muslim unity diminished over time.
Apart from the political solution, there are social solutions too. First and foremost, Muslims should desert the turncoats altogether. Then, they must start educating their kids on religious affairs. They should also emphasise on their children learning another language apart from English and Urdu-Hindi. Affluent members from the Muslim community should open schools with non-Muslim names on a large scale. Some people have taken an initiative in this direction but a lot needs to be done. Clerics and Muslim NGOs should chalk out areas and find out all those households where children are not getting any education. Once they have done so, they should make arrangements for their education.
The author is a senior journalist and political analyst. Views are personal.
This article has been translated from Hindi. Read the original here.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And have just turned three.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous and questioning journalism. Please click on the link below. Your support will define ThePrint’s future.