Monday, Aug 15, 2022

AMU Centenary: Why Muslim Youth Must Debate Good Governance-led Politics vs Symbols of the Past

The future of India is incomplete without equal participation from the Muslims.

In the seven years of the Narendra Modi government, we have often heard the slogan “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”. This is BJP’s answer, in conjunction with its thrust on “India First,” to questions on secularism or its commitment to the minority groups in the country. In the Atal-Advani era, the BJP slogan was: “Justice for all; appeasement of none”. The most elegant exposition of the Modi government’s “sabka saath, sabka vikas” philosophy was laid out in the Prime Minister’s address to the AMU community on December 22, marking the centenary celebrations of the historic university.

Among the important takeaways from the PM’s speech was the oft-quoted example on how there has been no discrimination as the country saw the opening of 40 crore bank accounts for the poor; construction of more than 2 crore pucca houses; disbursal of more than 8 crore gas connections to poor women; and availing of Ayushman healthcare scheme by around 50 crore people in the Modi regime. The BJP has often said that good governance is ideology-neutral -- it’s all about enhancing the quality of lives and ease of living.

More important, however, was the PM’s point on how the school dropout rate of Muslim daughters had come down to around 30 per cent from the earlier figure of more than 70 per cent due to lack of toilets, and how the Swachh Bharat Mission had made a difference.

It’s the girls and women who will lead the change. Greater access to education and a greater say in matters like marriage and divorce will empower the Muslim girls, students, youth and women towards a better future.

That the BJP is not really known to get Muslim votes is well known. That other mainstream parties like the Congress, too, have steadily lost Muslim votes is well-chronicled. That the Muslims have been uneasy, and, perhaps, even felt alienated is a fact that gets discussed in the media. It’s precisely for this reason that the significance of the PM’s reaching out to the AMU, and by implication to the Muslim intelligentsia, youth, boys and girls cannot be overstated.

When the Indian Muslim community is in a churn, the government needs allies who can act as catalysts in mainstreaming the Muslims and their concerns. Political parties, as explained earlier, have not really been up to the job. There are, however, interesting examples of serving Muslim officers in the government – in the bureaucracy, in the police services, also active on social media or in the mainstream media, who can act as agents of change.

While a section of the bureaucracy has still not come to terms with a Modi regime (but then this holds true for other walks of life as well), I can think of some fine police officers from the Muslim community, incidentally from my alma mater, JNU, and who have been campaigning for progressive change and a moderate politics. Through their writings and articulations, they call for a better, inclusive India in which the Muslims are equal, enthusiastic partners, and not a community with perpetual grievances and grudges.

The government, perhaps, needs to identify such officers and use them to engage with the community and complement its efforts. When a large section of the Muslims continues to be poor and uneducated, services – especially the police services – hold a huge aspirational value. The government needs to tap them and all those who can persuade the largest minority group towards education, entrepreneurship, and new-age ideas in New India.

 The Muslims, especially the Muslims youth, would do well to compare the current thrust on non-discriminatory good governance, shorn of any symbolism with the symbols of yore – when iftar and topi politics used to define then-in-vogue secularism.

The future of India is incomplete without equal participation from the Muslims. New India is as much theirs as anyone else’s. Universal brotherhood and amity, the cornerstones of our civilization, will always define us as a people and as a nation.


(The author, a JNU alumnus, is a former journalist. Views are personal, and do not necessarily reflect those of Outlook Magazine.)