The Political Dynamic
“Madam, don’t trust the Mohammedans, they will tell you one thing, vote the other way,” Kailash, who runs a small tile shop on Moradabad’s busy Prince Road, leading to the Jama Masjid, tells me. He also publishes a small newsletter which has got him a press ID which he uses to move in town when there is a curfew or red alert. “A small fight or tussle, and there is curfew here,” he says, but adding on reflection that Hindu and Muslims don’t fight “that much”. They do business together, but “we are completely separate”. And yes, the demographics of Moradabad are such that “the Mohammedans have had their way” but now Kailash is actively working for the BJP. His younger brother Hari Om nods in agreement, offers a cup of tea and says that he loves cricket and Crime Patrol on TV. He also loves Narendra Modi.
This division is also the result of the almost surreal pursuit of the Muslim vote by the non-BJP parties. In Moradabad and neighbouring Rampur (49 per cent Muslim electorate), all the other significant parties—SP, BSP and Congress—have put up Muslim candidates. In both places, there seems to be greater competition to come a nose ahead of the fellow Muslim than to defeat the BJP. In Rampur, there is the old class feud between the royal family and SP’s Azam Khan, who sees himself as the common man’s leader. In Moradabad, a theatre of sorts plays out in a little ghetto in the heart of the town where the SP and BSP candidates have addressed many rallies targeting only Muslims.
The Haji goes to lengths to explain the picture that has appeared in a local daily showing him bending his head before Mayawati, an act that can be termed un-Islamic. “I only bow my head before Allah,” he says. “Mayawati is just giving me her blessings. But look what the SP candidate has done. There are pictures of S.T. Hasan attending a havan and wearing a tilak. That is certainly against Islam.” These are the sort of fulminations that the self-appointed guardians of the Muslim community are engaged in. Both sides are distributing pamphlets of the other candidate engaging in un-Islamic activity. Yes, every now and then they do remember to target Modi.
Meanwhile, for all of the Haji’s proclamations about being a purist Muslim, liquor is being distributed in the BSP office. A worker says that it’s intended to keep the Dalits happy as “Haji is campaigning mostly among Muslims”. But the fallout of this is visible in the Mustafabad Dalit basti which has about 1,400 voters. Some of the young Dalits say they like Modi’s image and “why not try him as he has come up the hard way”. Old-timers remain loyal to the BSP but admit that some of the younger voters are straining to vote BJP in the Lok Sabha election because they do not like the local candidate taking them for granted. An argument breaks out between young men on bikes till Banwarilal, a former pradhan, puts an end to it: “They are all talking nonsense. No Muslim troubles us as much as Jats, Rajputs and Brahmins. What were we before Babasaheb and Behenji?” Even the youngsters qualify that in an assembly election they’d vote BSP, but may give Modi a shot this time.
Azam Khan himself has no movie career to look forward to though he is great at theatre of a certain sort. He makes much of being banned from speaking at public rallies after his rhetoric that said Muslims won the Kargil war for India. He hands out a CD that shows RLD leader Ajit Singh making an even stronger statement about Muslims sacrificing their lives during the war. “I will not accept the stigma of being called an anti-national terrorist. Those who call us gaddars must prove it....” The rhetoric is thunderous and is no doubt intended to both perpetuate and feed off a sense of Muslim victimhood. Indeed, many residents say it’s working and Azam has won sympathy from the local population for being silenced by the EC. “What is wrong in talking of Muslim contribution to the nation?” they ask.
Does Azam Khan not think that the SP has created the conditions for the rise of the BJP in UP, with so many riots and intemperate utterances? “What can we do before the fascists? We fought for this country. Our intent is always good, they are after us to prove we are anti-national because we do a few things for Muslims. This country would not have been partitioned if it were not for the false secularism of the Congress.” Then he delivers a little nugget: “Joshi’s murli has been left in Varanasi and Uma Bharti came to me because she wanted to join the SP.” Why does he get into controversy over everything, including his buffaloes? “What a sad fate for my buffaloes.... Modi is jealous because I am the owner of buffaloes and not a charanewala (grazer). Zulm pe zulm hai (injustice on injustice).”
A somewhat different Hindu-Muslim dynamic exists in Bareilly that has been won by the BJP’s Santosh Gangwar six times since 1989. The Congress’s Praveen Aron won in 2009 but he’s very much an underdog against Gangwar this time. “The media has been bought off and has created the conditions for this election,” says Aron. But the equations here too are determined to some extent by Hindu vs Muslim mobilisations. Bareilly has a smaller Muslim population of about 30 per cent of the electorate but it’s significant as the headquarters of the Bareilly School of Islam. Indeed, with the competing Deoband seminary not too far away in Saharanpur district, in this swathe of western UP, the maulanas are sought by all political parties. And some of them do have the clout to make a small section of the Muslim community vote in a particular way. Among them is Maulana Tauqeer Reza Khan, from the family that controls the Bareilly silsila. The narrow lanes leading to the Dargah Allah Hazrat are packed with devotees, bystanders and shopkeepers, many of whom say they’ll vote the way the maulana indicates.
The Maulana had in 2009 issued an appeal for Aron and is believed to have contributed to his victory. But they fell out in 2010 when there were riots followed by three months of curfew in Bareilly. Now the Maulana is backing the BSP candidate and former vice-chancellor Umesh Gautam, because he argues that a Brahmin can cut into the BJP’s upper-caste vote, get the Dalits because of its BSP base, while he would try and deliver a chunk of the Muslim votes. The maulana positions himself as a “moderate” and says that the kind of speeches made by Akbaruddin Owaisi in Hyderabad or even Yaqub Qureshi in neighbouring Moradabad, damage the community and add to the power of the BJP. “We are looking for a non-BJP, non-Congress political alternative. Let me tell you that Muslims are so angry with the Congress that if Modi had not been the PM candidate many would have supported the BJP also.” Does he think maulanas should dabble in politics? “We did not take part in politics in the way the Deobandis did. But we have been forced to enter now as they were not doing things properly.”
Humayun Qadir, a former mayor of Moradabad from the SP, says that “every election here is about both Hindus and Muslims getting their numbers together, and one side wins. Last time Azharuddin united the Muslim votes. This time there is some division that we hope will end.” But that may not happen when people are not driven by an overwhelming fear of Modi. They have also dealt with the BJP before. They have heard so much about what Modi can do to them that they have developed a certain kind of immunity. As two young men seated outside Dargah Allah Hazrat in Bareilly put it, “What is there for us to be afraid of? We are used to living under curfew. This time there was curfew throughout Ramzan after a scuffle with Kavadias who passed a mosque during namaz and raised slogans. What can Modi do to us now? Muzaffarnagar is over, madam. They organise riots when they want to come to power, not when they are in power. You don’t worry please. We will be just fine.”
It’s surprising your article It’s Muslim vs Muslim Out Here (Apr 28) does not mention the Sunni-Shia schism. Are we to believe it does not exist in UP?
[[But as a professional hate merchant you are a close relative of Qadir Rana.]]
The Jihadi is engaging in what is called in Arabic as Taquiya. Use falsehoods if it furthers the cause of Islam.
So any Muslim caught out making inflammatory statements is immediately disowned by individual Muslims as a one-off aberration and how the larger community disapproves of such statements/actions. And yet when election time comes, Muslim bodies like the Jamait-ul-Ulema issue fatwas asking Muslims to vote for these very characters, these very individual Muslims go and faithfully vote as commanded.
Its a win-win situation. On the one hand, condemn people making these statements to look good to Hindus, go and vote these characters to further Islam's cause.
>> " me a private citizen, have never threatened violence"
But as a professional hate merchant you are a close relative of Qadir Rana.
There are so many people/parties desperate for some bit of power/fame that they stand candidates who will get a few thousand votes, rather than allowing people to unite behind a single strong anti-communal party in each constituency. UP is particularly complicated, making it hard to know even the best way to vote tactically. The best hope is that secular people come out in large numbers.
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