As the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls are drawing nearer, some social and religious groups have become active to forge Dalit and Muslim unity to consolidate the largest voting bloc in the state. Dalits (21.5%) and Muslims (19%) together make up 40.5% votes, a figure well above the winning percentage of any ruling party in the state in recent years.
Last month, the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) organised a joint conference in New Delhi with Jamiat Ulema e Hind (Mehmood Madni faction) to discuss social and political unity among Dalits and Muslims. Former Samajwadi Party leader and prominent Muslim face in New Delhi, Kamal Farooqi also took part in this conference.
Ashok Bharti of NACDOR told The Sunday Guardian that the conference was part of a long-drawn plan of forging a social unity among Muslims and Dalits. “It is imperative for both Dalits and Muslims to forge an unshakeable unity to defeat fascist forces. And the most opportune time for such a unity is right now as they are facing the most tiring time under the current government in the Centre and the government in the state,” said Ashok Bharti. But he denied that their efforts aim to benefit a Dalit-oriented party like the Bahujan Samaj Party.
Kamal Farooqi said that it is not only incumbent on Muslims to socially and politically seek friendship with Dalits, it is their religious duty. “Islam guides Muslims to abhor any kind of discriminatory behaviour towards fellow human beings. Hence, friendship with all, especially with Dalits, should be a religious mandate for Muslims. Plus, the current political scenario makes it all the more important for them to realise this,” said Farooqi.
Syed Salman Nadwi, a prominent cleric from Lucknow, had formed a front of all small parties during the 2012 UP Assembly polls to challenge the mainstream parties. That experiment didn’t succeed.
Nadwi is now, through his organisation Ekta Manch, working with Bharat Mukti Morcha of Waman Meshram, a prominent Dalit activist and president of Backward and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF). These two organisations have recently organised their programmes in West UP districts like Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Saharanpur and Moradabad.
“We have conveyed our message to society that Muslims and Dalits have to bury their differences and come together,” said Nadwi.
He denied any political project coming out of his efforts, but hinted that such a Muslim-Dalit consolidation may help the BSP in the elections.
Waman Meshram said that the “communal forces” are critically planning their moves in west UP. “In west UP, OBCs and Dalits are not playing into the hands of the communal forces, hence they have tried to rope in the Jats. In our campaign, we also plan to create awareness among the Jats along with Dalits, Muslims and OBCs,” said Meshram.
Similar efforts of Dalit-Muslim unity are being conducted by Jamiat Ulema e Hind (Arshad Madni faction), which last month organised a Dalit-Muslim unity conference in Allahabad and has planned a grand programme in New Delhi at the end of September.
Maulana Wali Rehmani, vice president of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, is also touring various parts of the country with Dalit activists to gather support for his Deen and Dastoor Bachao (Save religion and Constitution) programme.