The BJP government has worked to empower the Pasmanda backward class of Muslims at every step.
NEW DELHI: Ever since India got independence, the Western media have painted a negative picture of the country. Indeed, many did not expect India to last long as a nation. There are countries that are failed states and countries which are engulfed in civil wars, but they do not get much of a mention from British and other Western media. A recent example is a BBC documentary on India with biased anti-India content and attacks on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This week, the BBC aired the first part of a two-part documentary, “India: The Modi Question”, focusing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and his then-state government’s response to the 2002 Gujarat riots. UK-based Indian origin organisations and the Indian government called it a “propaganda piece”, which lacked “objectivity” and reflected a “colonial mindset”.
On the other hand, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in British Parliament that he does not agree with the “characterisation” made by Imran Hussain, the Pakistan-origin British MP who raised the question about Modi’s role and alleged complicity calling the riots “ethnic cleansing”.
Independent observers have raised doubt about the timing of the release of this documentary. At present, there is stability in Indian government, and the economy is also in a better condition compared to most western countries, along with Indian leadership in G-20 nations, and above all, peaceful elections in different states, amid preparations for the Lok Sabha election. Since long, anti-India lobbies and agencies have worked to defame Indian democracy and tried to destabilise and even help separatist forces and pump money for propaganda against India. Raising issues of minorities is part of the dirty game.
On the contrary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been very careful on this sensitive issue. It was June 2015—just after one year of power in central government and Lok Sabha election was far away after four years. At that time, PM Modi assured a delegation of Muslim leaders that he would be available to address their issues even “at 12 in the night”. Interacting with 30 Muslim leaders, the PM said he neither believes in politics which seeks to divide people into communal lines, nor will he ever speak the communal language. Then why is anyone surprised when PM Modi gives advice to reach out to Muslims? In a national executive meeting of the BJP, Modi said many from the Muslim community want to stay connected with the BJP and the leaders should do an outreach towards the community. “There are traders in the Muslim community who want to connect with the BJP. They look towards us and we should be receptive,” the PM said, adding that “while we have a duty towards Pasmandas and Bora Muslims, who are backward in their own community, whether they vote for us or not, the party should also reach out to educated Muslims”.
Earlier, PM Modi talked about the integration of Pasmanda Muslims with the BJP in the Hyderabad Executive. He advised them to attract them through positive programmes. It is believed that the BJP got some benefit in Gujarat and Delhi Municipal Corporation elections, and some votes of the Muslim community came to the BJP’s account. But even after the PM’s appeal, some BJP leaders made objectionable statements about Muslims and their religious symbols. This created a tense atmosphere in the country. For this reason, the BJP suspended two of its senior leaders from the party. Therefore, Modi has strongly instructed his party leaders to stop making derogatory statements about the people of the community. He said leaders need to work with people and serve them irrespective of whether they vote for the BJP or not, even as he mentioned that only 400 days are left for the elections. A day after PM Modi asking the BJP cadre to reach out to the Pasmanda Muslim and Bohra communities, the party has started working in the direction, ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
The Pasmanda community, lagging in terms of development compared to non-Pasmanda Muslims, comprises 70-80% of the total Muslims in India. They are largely present in UP, Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand, MP, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra. “The BJP is finalising the strategy with experts after conducting research on their economic and educational conditions. The programme will make them aware of their rights and the government’s schemes formulated for their uplift,” said a source in the BJP. “PM has asked us to reach out to them without having poll considerations. We would make them aware of BJP’s policies, which are not against them at all,” said a BJP leader. “To win the trust of marginalised groups, we need to meet their prominent members and know their issues and expectations from the government. Our programme will focus on that,” he added. The party will also reach out to the Bohras in Gujarat.
Uttar Pradesh Minister of State for Minority Welfare Danish Azad Ansari accused the opposition parties of distorting the stand of the BJP and RSS on Muslims and claimed that the minority community considers PM Modi as their well-wisher. Ansari, the only Muslim minister in Uttar Pradesh, said opposition parties are spreading falsehood that the BJP is against Muslims as they want to restrict the community members to a vote bank. He said, “The Pasmanda (backward) class of Muslims is a very large section. The progress of the Muslim community cannot be imagined without empowering them. The BJP government has worked to empower the Pasmanda community at every step.”
One can recall in 2018 the PM not only took time out to personally call on Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, the spiritual head of the Bohras, in Indore. He let the world know of his appreciation for the Ismaili Shia sect. Modi walked the premises adjoining the Saifi mosque bare feet, declaring during his address later that his “fond association and the community’s support had drawn him to Indore”.
Keeping 2024 general elections in mind, new political equations are being introduced involving Pasmanda Muslims. The arguments being used to support these equations (especially in light of the results of the Azamgarh and Rampur by-elections) do not match with the ground reality.
It is not that Pasmanda politics is being closely watched by the BJP for the first time either. To show Hindus in a poor light, or to make them fight in the name of caste, it is often mentioned that Muslims have no caste or caste-based discrimination.
This is a complete lie. Consider some castes among Muslims, Kunjre (Raeen), Julaha (Ansari), Dhuniya (Mansoori), Kasai (Qureshi), Hajjam (Salmani), Carpenter (Saifi), Manihar (Siddiqui), Tailor (Idrisi). The common thing among all these castes of Muslims is that they are Pasmandas.
The Ministry of Minority Affairs focuses on matters relating to notified minority communities, namely, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis, and Jains. The mandate of the Ministry is to formulate a comprehensive policy for the benefit of minority communities and to review the programme on planning, coordination, evaluation, regulatory framework, and development. As many as 20 lakh more minority students received education scholarships under the Modi government’s first term than during the tenure of the second Congress-led UPA administration. Several Muslim women beneficiaries of various government schemes, in their letters, have written how they have benefited under the BJP and Modiji. Free ration, scrapping of instant divorce practice, free Covid vaccination, Ujjawala free cooking gas connections and free houses are benefiting them as much as anyone else.
The writer is the Editorial Director of ITV Network-India News and Daily Aaj Samaj.