Mahmood Madani
Jamat Ulama-i-Hind leader Mahmood Madani | ANI Photo
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Maulana Mahmood Madani’s recent remarks on Kashmir and the NRC are not at all confrontational. He is trying to carve out a space for himself as a spokesperson of India’s Muslim community in a highly polarised communal environment by invoking an outdated model of Ulema politics of the Nehru and Indira Gandhi decades.

Ironically, Madani wants to be the voice of Muslims at a time when they have chosen to remain silent on contentious issues like Kashmir and Assam’s NRC.

Madani isn’t making these statements in his official capacity as the general secretary of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) — one of most influential Muslim religious organisations in India. Instead, he appears to be positioning himself as the undisputed leader of Muslims who can speak on their behalf.


Also read: Article 370 has put us in a dilemma: Should we choose Constitution’s letter or its spirit?


The politics of Ulema politics

Last week, when Mahmood Madani said that Jammu and Kashmir is and will always remain an “integral part of India” and that Pakistan was banking on the Kashmir issue to create the impression that ‘India’s Muslims are against India’, this certainly underscored a nationalist Muslim gesture.

Similarly, his assertion that “the NRC should be conducted in the whole country as it will help in knowing how many intruders are here” goes well with the growing sentiment that there is a serious need to redefine the very notion of Indian citizenship.

Mahmood Madani’s own status as a religious elite-cum-professional politician is inextricably linked to a kind of Ulema politics that evolved out of the compulsions of electoral power play in post-colonial India.

The Constitution of India envisaged a mechanism by which a voter as a rational individual would be able to elect his or her representative to Parliament on a purely secular basis. However, the electoral politics of the 1950s in India saw the Congress continuing to rely on the colonial-era language of communal representation of religious groups, especially the Muslims.

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru tried to solve this inherent contradiction between constitutional principles and political practices in an interesting way. He opposed the idea of proportional representation based on religious lines; and yet, the pro-Congress Ulema were recognised by the party as legitimate stakeholders to reach out to Muslims, especially in northern states.


Also read: Contrary to belief, Muslims listen to Ulema but not when it comes to their election fatwas


Indispensable allies

JUH, which played a significant role in the Indian freedom movement and was known for its opposition to Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s two-nation theory in the 1940s, emerged as the natural collaborator with Congress in this endeavour. The Jamiat gave up politics in 1955 and called upon Muslims to actively participate in the nation-building project.

This apolitical pro-Congress gesture of the JUH transformed completely in the post-1967 period when its leaders started taking part in active politics as members of the Congress party. In fact, JUH leaders adapted themselves well with Indira Gandhi’s politics of religion that forced the pro-Congress religious elites to work directly for the party as committed workers.

Maulana Asad Madani’s induction in the Rajya Sabha as a Congress MP from Uttar Pradesh in 1968 must be seen in this context. Congress recognised Madani as a Muslim representative in the more formal sense of the term. In fact, his presence in Parliament was often invoked by his party to legitimise Congress’s attitude towards Muslims. This might be the reason why Madani was given two more Rajya Sabha terms by the Congress in 1980 and 1988.

The decline of the Congress did not negatively affect this trend of Ulema politics. The JUH continued to use its influence to bargain with other political parties after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The outcome was obvious. Mahmood Madani, the present chief of the JUH, was given a Rajya Sabha seat from UP by the Rashtriya Lok Dal in 2006.


Also read: Are Indian Muslims more religious than other communities?


Norms of Ulema politics

JUH’s Ulema politics, broadly speaking, follows two specific norms.

  1. Ulema as political guardian of the Muslims: It is asserted by some quarters that the Muslim political identity in India can only be understood in Islamic terms. This adherence to Islamisation helps the Ulema class to claim that only the JUH as a religious body can represent the ‘Muslim interest’ in public life

To justify this claim, JUH leaders often invoke the religious and cultural rights guaranteed to the Muslims by the Constitution. It is argued that the Ulema not merely led Muslims in their participation in the freedom struggle, but also collaborated with the nationalist leaders after Partition. The minority rights, in this schema, are presented as the outcome of the efforts of the religious elite.

Mahmood Madani’s remarks on Kashmir and the NRC correspond to this norm. His public presence as a visible Muslim alim justifies the dominant and highly misleading perception that all Muslims are deeply religious and that Madani represents their views.

We do not have any evidence that may suggest that the abrogation of Article 370 and the NRC are the Muslim issues of our current time. Although, there is certainly anxiety among the Muslims about the anti-Muslim discourse conjured up by the ruling class and the media with regard to Kashmir and the NRC. Muslimcommunities living outside Kashmir and Assam are virtually silent about them.

The Muslim religious plurality and sociological diversity actually do not allow Muslims to behave as a politically homogeneous community. But Madani wants to capitalise on this Muslim silence to transform Article 370 abrogation and the NRC into the Muslim issues.

  1. State patronage: JUH-style Ulema politics depends on direct state patronage for its survival. The manner in which Maulana Asad Madani and Mahmood Madani have been accommodated in the Rajya Sabha for more than two decades shows that the Ulema class needs state recognition for asserting its elite status in public life.

Madani, it seems, is fully aware of the fact that the BJP cannot offer Congress-style patronage to JUH. So, to get accommodated in the Hindutva-driven BJP discourse, Mahmood Madani invokes JUH’s famous thesis — the Muttahida Qaumiyat (“composite nationalism”) with some interesting modifications.

In order to legitimise his status as the ideal Muslim leader, Madani recognises the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as the representative organisation of the Hindus. He recently praised RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s openness — after he met Maulana Madani, the leader of JUH’s breakaway faction — and suggested that the dialogue between the RSS and his organisation should be strengthened to minimise the differences between Hindus and Muslims.


Also read: How to be BJP’s version of a ‘good Muslim’ – A guide by Arif Mohammad Khan


No one knows the future of this pro-Hindutva version of JUH’s composite nationalism. But one thing is certain. It will contribute to the upward political mobility of Mahmood Madani.

The author is associate professor at CSDS, and author of the new book titled Siyasi Muslims: A Story of Political Islams in India. Views are personal.

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9 Comments Share Your Views

9 COMMENTS

  1. The kind of narrative you want and expected from others is not coming from this gentleman so best way is undermine him and show him as a stooge. Good effort but no longer works.

  2. So far I have seen Maulaba Mahmood Madanu,a move in last few decades, he has proved himself a person of no honest and trustworthy stand.
    Sorry to say but its fact that he is no religious leader of Muslim community rather he acts as a politician, thus is where he has always been confused and such confused behaviour has made him ineffective.
    On the other hand, I think muslims in India, need a Muslim political leader for their well being and not a cleric as a political leader. There certain major socio-political issues among Indian public which can be understood in totality and not in aloofness reason being our most of population is secular except a very small percentage are communal. India can’t go well without its honest secular fabric and sooner or later, every class and community will understand the need of its secular need and will demolish the walls of all communal and social divisive politics of all sides.
    Politics should not mixed with religions since it can never be good for masses.

  3. India is not a Hindu country, repeat twenty times till it sinks in.
    Muslims have a right to be here, just like Hindu citizens.
    Citizenship of India is not decided on the basis of religion, as India is not a Hindu country all religions are equal.
    If some Hindus consider that India is a Hindu country, they rob the rights of Muslims.
    The 170 million Muslims, if their equal rights are stolen, will resist with all their might.
    Do we really want a second partition of India.
    The abomination which is communal politics must be resisted by all sane Indians.
    The madness of 1947 is visiting India again brought back by the same organisation.

    • Why? If Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. can be Muslim countries, and USA, UK, Australia, etc. can be Christian countries, why can’t India be a Hindu country? Christian and Hindu countries typically have equal rights for their citizens to practice their religion, which is not true about Muslim countries. Why is that so? Don’t dare talk about another partition. If you really wanted to be in a Muslim country, you (your parents, or grand parents) had the option to migrate to Pakistan.

      BTW, India being a Hindu nation is more a cultural identity; people practicing other religions are welcome and are actually embraced. In fact, other religions (Sikhs, Parsi’s, Jews, etc.) have no trouble living harmoniously, so why is it that only Muslims are having issues? Perhaps time for you to introspect.

  4. सियासी मुसलमान। हिलाल अहमद राजनैतिक इस्लाम।

    अच्छा लेख लिखा है अपनी तरफ से पर असली मुद्दे से भटक गये ।

    सबसे पहले राजनैतिक इस्लाम। इस पर टिप्पणी से शायद काफी पाठकों को अच्छा नहीं लगेगा। इसलिए केवल एक सच लिखा रहा हूं;। दुनिया की हर सभ्यता में राजनीति और धर्म हर स्तर पर रहे , दोनों ही ने एक दूसरे का पालन-पोषण किया, कुछ अच्छा हुआ होगा पर अधिकतर बुरा ही हुआ।
    आज भी संसार में अशांति का मुख्य कारण मज़हब और सियासत के ठेकेदारों के अपने अपने स्वार्थ है

    सारी बीमारियो की जड़ फोकट की चौधराहट है, जिस पर गौर से देखने पर पता लगता है,कि जिसे देखिये वहीं मुस्लिम समुदाय का रहनुमा और बड़ा लीडर बना बैठा है । पुराने समय मैं चौधरी साहब दस बीस लठेतौ से घिरे हर मामले और फटे में टांग अड़ाने से बाज नहीं आते थे ,हर मुकदमे की दलाली पर दोनों तरफ से मलाई खाते ।यही हाल आज के इन नये मजहबी ठेकेदारों और सेल्फ स्टाइल चौधरीयो का है। बीस पच्चीस गाड़ियों का काफिला ,तीस चालीस हथियार बंद (लीगल इल्लीगल) बाउंसर ,जगह जगह भड़काऊ राजनैतिक तकरीर ,।हम है,,, के ,,दम पर राजनैतिक उलटफेर के दावे ।

    कसर किसी राज्य में नहीं है, बंगाल में लाल बत्ती वाले इमाम,यूं पी में,, ज उ हिन्द ,,ए,,असरफ,,,,एम,,, महमूद दोनों ही मदनी, दिल्ली में , जामा मस्जिद के बुखारी और उनके दामाद, फतहपुरी मस्जिद के इमाम ,और बड़ी लम्बी लिस्ट है खास और आम मजहबी चौधरी साहबान की । मसला ज्यादातर लोक सभा या राज्यसभा के सांसद,नहीं तो एम एल ए वगैराह वगैराह।

    देश का समाज हिन्दू मुसलमान सिक्ख ईसाई दलित आदिवासी और न जाने कितने हिस्से में बांट डाला है इन सेल्फ स्टाइल सियायी और मजहबी ठेकेदारों ने।आज की माग इन सब से उपर उठ कर केवल और केवल भारतीय बनने और बनाने की है ।अगर समझ आयेगा तो।

  5. In my view, generally, Hindus if they would like to come to India, we should have a policy of accepting them and providing permanent resident status as this being origin of Hindus, Buddists, Sikhs and Jains who are native to this region. On there other faith holders, can decide whether they want to live. They are free to live in India, if they agree to follow Indian constitutions and Indian laws and have legally entered this country. Anyone illegally entering this country should be deported to their respective countries. For example, if Hindus, Sikhs, Jains or Buddists, who have problems in Pakistan and would like to settle in India, there should be policy of providing them permanent resident status. However, they need to enter legally. There is nothing wrong is identifying illegal foreigners and deporting them back. I have seen that most of the muslims in India would like stay in India and be part of main stream. However, few radicals wanted their rights to practice their own laws, which should not be allowed. Nehru tried is pseudo secularism, which lead to only appeasement politics and it failed miserably.

    • For all practical social purposes the Hindu religion is not so much a biological phenomenon as a social myth. The myth of ‘Hinduism as a religion – denying it is a bunch of beliefs, within a social structure called caste has created an enormous amount of human and social damage.
      India has a myriad of religious beliefs, classified by outsiders as Hinduism.
      In recent years it has taken a heavy toll in human lives and caused untold suffering. It still prevents the normal development of millions of human beings and deprives Indian of the effective co-operation of productive minds.
      This has happened because the Indian government in successive years has misspent and squandered the nations wealth, and has not put enough emphasis on education of its population.
      Hindutva is a peculiar manifestation of fascism and has nothing to do with religious belief.

  6. For a long time, Indian Muslims were not too deeply troubled by events in Kashmir. So long as the xenophobia in the north east was directed against all foreigners / outsiders, perhaps Assam too may not have bothered them. However, that is bound to change. The CAB has altered the discourse on deporting people of one religious persuasion alone. With incidents of hate crime in several parts of the country and a growing sense of insecurity, Kashmir would also be seen in a different light. A harmonious outreach to Muslims would be an act of statesmanship.

    • “With incidents of hate crime in several parts of the country and a growing sense of insecurity,”
      Stop the FUD. The growing sense of insecurity is a propaganda by the Left and Congress. Conflict between Hindus and Muslims have always existed and it is not increasing as you propagandists make out to be.

      “A harmonious outreach to Muslims would be an act of statesmanship.”
      Why should anyone reach out to Muslims specifically? How are they special? I have always thought the idea of secularism was to treat everyone equally irrespective of the religion they practice, when did that change to Muslim appeasement?

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