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‘Want to feel safe without Z security too’: Owaisi explains why he rejected Modi govt’s request

In interview to ThePrint, AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi denies allegations of being BJP's B-team, says India's Muslim community has been otherised.

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New Delhi: Hyderabad MP and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi has an answer ready when asked why he rejected the Modi government’s request for Z-category security following an alleged attempt on his life in Uttar Pradesh last week.

Speaking to ThePrint, Owaisi said he believes in being an ‘A’ class citizen in the country — someone who can feel safe even without security cover. The leader had made a similar statement in Parliament.

Two people have been arrested for allegedly opening fire on Owaisi’s car on 3 February while he was returning to Delhi after campaigning in Meerut for the UP assembly elections.

This will be Owaisi and Hyderabad-based AIMIM’s second outing in the UP assembly elections after 2017, when it contested 39 seats but won none.

This time, the party has forged an alliance with Babu Singh Kushwaha’s Jan Adhikar Party and the Bharat Mukti Morcha in UP. The alliance will contest 100 of 403 assembly seats in the state, under the banner of the Bhagidari Parivartan Morcha.

ThePrint caught up with Owaisi in a virtual interview Sunday while he was on the campaign trail.

Speaking to ThePrint, Owaisi, 52, who has come to be known as a powerful orator, had much to say about the ongoing “hijab row” involving Muslim students in Karnataka, the “radicalisation” of India, and allegations that he is the BJP’s “B-team”, entering elections just to cut the Opposition’s vote.

Also read: Women are voting more, but in UP, they are literally pushed out of campaign spaces

‘India will become another Israel if this is not stopped’

Owaisi said India has been “radicalised”, resulting in the “othering” of the Muslim community here — a culture of differentiating between people based on religion.

The Facebook page of one of the accused in the attack against Owaisi, Sachin Pandit, included a membership number of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), pictures with senior party leaders, and links to videos targeting a minority community.

“These radicalised people upload my speech against Yogi Adityanath (on social media), before shooting at me. But the right to criticise is a citizen’s fundamental right. You cannot kill someone because that person criticised the CM of Uttar Pradesh.”

He added: “Had two Muslim youth fired shots at any politicians, the entire country would have said that Muslims have always supported violence. India will become another Israel (a reference to Israel’s alleged persecution of Palestinians) if this is not stopped.”

The leader, who is often accused of being the BJP’s ‘B-Team’ — someone who is trying to hurt the prospects of stronger Opposition parties by dividing votes and therefore helping the BJP win — insisted that competition is an important part of the electoral process.

Claiming that his entry in UP elections could not hurt anyone’s prospects, as these parties “had failed to defeat the BJP even in elections in which the AIMIM didn’t participate”, Owaisi alleged, “These political parties are incompetent and they put the onus on me. Akhilesh Yadav (Samajwadi Party president and former UP CM) was in power when the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots took place.

“Muslim women were raped, Akhilesh Yadav did not even go and meet them,” he said.

He also claimed “police did not even file chargesheets in cases filed against (BJP leader and present UP CM) Yogi”.

“Akhilesh Yadav let Yogi go very easily. After all this, how can he be so audacious as to say that I am BJP’s ‘B-team’?”

Making light of the allegation, Owaisi said, “I am the B team only inside my home, because I only listen to my wife there and strictly work on her orders.”

‘Both Yogi and Akhilesh destroyed the state’

Asked who he considers to have been a better CM for Uttar Pradesh — Yogi Adityanath or Akhilesh Yadav — Owaisi said they were both two sides of the same coin.

“Yogi Adityanath and Akhilesh Yadav did not do anything for UP in their tenures. None of the governments could provide enough jobs to the youth. And both of them have suppressed Muslims. Akhilesh does it behind a facade, Yogi does it openly,” claimed the AIMIM chief.

He alleged, “Akhilesh did not do anything for the victims of Muzaffarnagar riots. Twenty-two Muslims were killed during anti-CAA protests under Yogi’s rule, Akhilesh Yadav did not even come forward to demand justice for them. I raised my voice even in Parliament. Both (Yogi and Akhilesh) have completely destroyed the state and brought no development for the marginalised people in the state.”

Talking about his party’s prospects in the UP elections and possible post-poll alliances, Owaisi said, “Our voteshare is definitely going to increase on the ground. And as far as post-poll alliance is considered, for now my topmost priority is to ensure that Yogi and BJP don’t come back to UP.”

‘Citizens should come out and stand against this dictatorship’

Talking about the ongoing “hijab row” in Karnataka, where a group of Muslim students are engaged in a legal battle for their right to wear a hijab in class, Owaisi said, “Modi ji says he ended triple talaq, he is the brother of Muslim women. Then why is he not intervening as a PM, when hundreds of women are not allowed to get their education in Karnataka because they wear hijab?

“When it serves the BJP’s agenda, they mobilise Muslim women in hijab to their election rallies to show that Muslim women support the BJP.”

He added: “Muslim women are economically weak, their literacy rate is very low. The government should welcome them and empower them in schools. Choice is a constitutional right, if women want to wear hijab, it’s their choice. Neither the BJP or nor any government in the world can deny them their education on the basis of their clothing. Citizens should come out and stand against this dictatorship. The Muslim community too should not compromise and stand their ground.”

Asked whether comments like these contribute to his image as a “hardliner”, Owaisi dismissed it as “propaganda” against him.

“If anybody has any proof that I say anything wrong or unconstitutional, please go and complain against me and get me jailed. I believe in the Constitution of India. I hate extremist views. I admit that I raise my voice for the marginalised sections and minority communities very boldly, because they need our support.”

He added: “My best friend since school is a man named Kishor. Kishor and I don’t agree on a lot of things, but we agree to disagree. We don’t kill each other for having different viewpoints and religions and I feel that’s the beauty of this country, we should keep it that way.”

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Mamata is ‘star campaigner’ for Akhilesh’s SP in UP. What does she really bring to the campaign?


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