uslims in India are at the horns of dilemma. In the given circumstances Muslims have three broad political choices; vote for Secular parties, vote for Hindutva or vote for Muslim first. In the adult franchise and secret ballot, each voter is free to exercise its mandate. Nonetheless, Muslims have to choose from these three options and each has its own narrative built around it to entice the Muslim voters.
Vote for secular parties
There are many who argue that Muslims have no other option but to vote for the secular parties even if it means no betterment for them. The argument runs that voting for a communal party will polarize the Hindu votes and this will give the RSS- BJP a permanent majority in India. It will solidify BJP’s base permanently in the democratic system of governance in India.
Those arguing for voting the secular parties’ seem to be convinced that all is well for Muslims in India. Even it means; lynching of the Muslims by cow vigilantes, Asifa rape and murder, assault on the Muslim personal law, SC judgment on the Babari Masjid, robbing of Muslim majority status to J&K, vilification of Tabligi Jamat members and Muslims, shaving of a Muslim’s beard in railway station, making the Muslim drink cow urine in public view, cutting a Muslims hand that had Allah tattoo, conversion law, and Citizenship laws etc. They feel there are non-issues having any implication on the Muslims of India.
Those arguing for voting the secular parties’ tooth and nail oppose the political party that’s ask to vote for Muslim first political parties. The backers of vote for secular parties tell that Muslims will be doing political hara-kiri, if they choose the communal path of politics. To them secular parties are the best bet for the Muslims in India.
Vote for Hindutva
There are some Muslims who like to argue to vote for the Hindutva party. This is to buy peace if Muslims want to live peacefully in India. They are of the view that Muslims should willingly accept the ideology of Hindutva and vote the BJP- RSS combine and permanently get rid of communal polarization in India.
The vote for Hindutva protagonists feel that Muslims interests will be best served by merging their identity with the Hindutva ideology that sees every Indian as a Hindu. In order to trade for peace, Muslims only have to change their name, dress habits, food habits, culture, language, etc. This would satisfy the invincible Hindutva bandwagon who may refrain from constant vilification, subjugation, humiliation of Muslims in this country. The argument runs, if this happens so, there will be no more communal riots in the country and Muslims will get liberated from the current siege mentality. The argument further runs that under the Hindutva rule Muslims will see a new dawn for the community and will get thumbs up.
Those who argue for Muslim first political strategy come up with the fact that Muslims with a population of 200 million are about 14% but have only 27 seats in the current Parliament that has of 543 members. The ratio of Muslim representation in the state assemblies is even more embarrassing. These Muslim representatives cannot talk about their community issues. The interest of their political parties runs contrary to Muslim issues and they do not allow their Muslim leaders to voice their community interests because they belong to a secular party.
According to Muslim first political strategists; Muslims consistent support to the Congress and other caste based parties has brought them down to the level described in the 2005 Sachar Committee report. Since then Muslims condition has worsened and not improved even a bit though they are voting the secular political parties. The protagonists of Muslims First argue that Muslims have been tricked into supporting “pseudo secular” parties with the allurement that these parties will protect them and make their condition conducive for their betterment. But did that really happen? The Muslim first protagonists argue.
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They explain that the so called secular parties seek Muslim support not to defeat the BJP but to enlarge their power base and end up doing nothing for the Muslims. What worse situations can Muslim face that is created by the BJP rule in India?
The solution that Muslim first apologists dish out that suppose if these 27 Muslim MPs may have belonged to one political party that espouses Muslims first, it certainly may have made some difference on the national scene.
Therefore Indian Muslims are on the horns of dilemma, caught between these three different shades of political choices. If they vote for the secular political parties there is hardly going to be any change. If they vote for Hindutva, thumhari dastan bhi na hogi dastano mein (their story will not be in the stories). If they vote for Muslim first political party, they have to make a choice between rock and the hard surface.
This is a very tough choice for the Indian Muslims to make. They are caught in a tussle between majoritarian Hindutva politics and minority identity politics. The majoritarian Hindutva politics pursued by the current regime is hegemonic in nature, wrapped in the toxic ideology of Hindutva that preaches racial supremacy of the Hindus.
In contrast, the Muslim minority identity politics is the desire for their proportional representation in the mainstream democratic politics. The minority identity politics is a quest towards social justice, equality and democratic way of life. The ultimate destination for minority identity politics is their amalgamation into the larger liberal secular polity with more democratic representation.
This is a brand new republic where there is no place to accommodate “Eshwar- Allah tero naam,” kind of diversity in India anymore. The Hindutva politics has moved far from its own ‘Jai Sea Ram’ to ‘Jai Shree Ram.’.
The other objective is to flatten the federal humps of India categorized in the linguistic, cultural and other specificities. The Hinduvta politics aspires to establish the supremacy of the Hindi – Hindu – Hindustan identity over all these identities of India. Any resistance to this can be tamed in a muscular way as done to J&K, with one ‘vidhan’ one ‘nishan’ argument.
The problem is with Muslim politics as it is ignorant to deal with the current political situation in India. Some think that voting the secular party will maintain their status quo. Others think that voting for the BJP alone can ensure their safety and protection in the country. However, those pursuing Muslim first strategy say that Muslims should come out from their ivory towers. Its minority identity politics that alone can safeguard their interest in the country. Their separate identity alone can defeat the forces inimical to them. United we stand, divided we fall goes the argument.
This is a sanguine story that is unfolding in India. There cannot be a photo finish to this story. Let the democracy with its entire vicissitudes give its verdict on this tale of India.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com