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Leaderless Anti-CAA Protests Underscore Muslim Political Orphanhood

Who ensures the well-being of Muslims in the political space? Who articulates their voice and bargains on their behalf? Why does India's second largest religious demographic go unrepresented?

Leaderless Anti-CAA Protests Underscore Muslim Political Orphanhood
Nation-Building Partnership |
Leaderless Anti-CAA Protests Underscore Muslim Political Orphanhood
outlookindia.com
2020-02-08T10:59:22+05:30

A stark fact. It’s the world’s largest democracy, one-fifth of the planet’s population. And one-fifth of that—India’s largest minority, the Muslims—have never had a collective political platform that directly represents them in independent India. The fact relates, in a way, to the very fitness of Indian democracy. The burden of ensuring their well-being has always been outsourced to ‘secular’ parties (who have borne it with very indifferent success). Why? Because the idea of Muslim political representation has a risky, dangerous past. After all, the fear of under-representation is what bought support for the Muslim League, eventually leading to Partition and its infinite madness. Any loud, visible Muslim assertion thus stokes those subterranean fears. Its bequest: a stark political vacuum.

And so, the first towering Muslim leader with a pan-India acceptance across communities—Maulana Abul Kalam Azad—is perhaps also the last one who answers to that description. The erudite Azad, India’s first education minister, leaves behind a template that’s almost inconceivable now. And invites the question. Can’t a Muslim leader be not just ‘only for Muslims’?

A potential answer to that comes from the streets. Look at the ongoing ­anti-CAA agitations. They possess one striking facet: they are leaderless. There is no group or political party or leader who or that is, or claims to be, the one propelling them. At one level, that frames the political orphanhood of Muslims. But also, very saliently, the ­agitation is turning a whole battery of notions on their head. Yes, it’s an ­agitation that has the Muslim ­community at its centre—a natural ­consequence of how the CAA/NRC ­process is seen to leave them singularly and most vulnerable. But...

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