As Shahid Siddiqui points out such block-voting has come at a great expense of economic and social backwardness- which suits both the political masters and community leaders just fine. And ironically it has not even helped in making muslims feel secure (which is the rationale for Jaziyah).
But things may change. The worm will eventually turn. Muslims will reject the false choice of security and progress. They will demand both which they are fully entitled to, as citizens of India, regardless of caste and creed. That will hopefully be the beginning of a new India.
Jaziyah is the protection tax that non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic
state have to pay to the Islamic government for their safety and
well-being. In independent India minorities, especially Muslims, have to
pay Jaziyah of a different kind. This Jaziyah is in the form of votes,
paid to so-called secular parties, especially to Congress for ensuring
protection to them, for not letting India become a Hindu nation and
keeping it secular.
Since Independence this game has been
played both covertly and overtly. Media and intellectuals have,
knowingly or unknowingly, helped these parties in extracting this
‘electoral Jaziyah’ from insecure minorities. After partition, Muslims
who remained in India were told both by Muslim and ‘secular’ leadership
that if they wanted to survive in Hindu India it was their duty to
protect secularism, which in real terms meant voting for one party,
which in return would keep India secular.
In India’s political
lexicon, thereafter, ‘secularism’ became synonymous with ‘Muslim vote
bank’. The Sangh Parivar parties used it conversely to mean ‘appeasement
of Muslims’. Indian ‘secularism’ therefore was neither ‘sarva dharma
samabhava’ (equal respect for all religions) nor the European concept of
state above religion. It meant protecting minorities from possible
violence and discrimination. In practical terms it meant verbal
appeasement of Muslims, especially before elections.
socio-economic condition of Muslims deteriorated after Independence,
riot after riot made them more insecure, their representation in
government and private services declined, they became economically more
vulnerable. They went into a shell and their sense of victimhood made
them withdraw into a social and political ghetto.
which claimed to be secular, took the service of maulanas, political
ulemas and other conservative elements instead of educated liberals to
garner Muslim votes. In other words communal leadership was imposed on
Muslims by ‘secular’ parties.
Liberal Muslim leaders demanded
economic and social rights while religious leaders were more concerned
with Muslim personal law or protection of madrassas or perceived notions
of ‘Islam in danger’. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi,
‘appeasement’ of Muslim communal leadership, at a heavy cost to the
educational and economic growth of the community, took place.
Other ‘secular’ parties followed the same path of appeasing the
religious/communal leadership to garner the Muslim vote. ‘Secular’
leaders made a beeline to get political fatwas from Madanis of Deoband,
Ali Mian of Nadwatul Ulema, Shahi Imam Bukhari of Delhi’s Jama Masjid to
Arshadul Qadri and Tauseef Raza of Barelvi school, so that Muslims were
herded like sheep to vote for saving secularism.
that these ‘secular’ parties only cared for and promoted narrow
religious leaders, even educated liberal and secular Muslim leaders
started speaking the same language. Those like Azam Khan, Syed
Shahabuddin and the Owaisis replaced others like Dr Faridi, Karim
Chhagla, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad or Arif Mohammad Khan.
have been carrying this cross of secularism on their feeble shoulders
for the last 67 years. From my student days when we campaigned for
Subhadra Joshi and D R Goyal, great crusaders for secularism, we saw
that all meetings for ‘secular democracy’ were organised only in Muslim
localities, as if only Muslims were required to be educated about
Later we realised that it was not to educate
Muslims about secularism but to create the fear of Jan Sangh and Balraj
Madhok, making Muslims vote for Congress unquestioningly. The same game
has been played over and over again and gullible Muslims as well as
their intelligentsia have carried this cross as an honour and privilege
As chairman of Congress’ Minority Cell in
1996, I was surprised to discover that all its meetings began with
recitation of Quran. I stopped this practice as I considered it a
religious activity not suitable for a secular party. However, this was
held against me by my secular colleagues in the party. Whenever i spoke
about socio-economic and educational problems faced by the community, i
was told by Congress’ highest leadership that Muslims voted out of fear
and not for development.
The same attitude prevails in other
‘secular’ parties like SP or BSP. They believe in taking the Muslim vote
for granted. Muslims had no ‘option’ but to vote for these parties if
they wanted India to remain secular.
Any group or community
without an option in a democracy is a bonded slave of certain parties
and politics. There are regional alternatives like SP, Trinamool
Congress, RJD and so on — but their attitude is the same. They all
expect Muslims to pay protection money in the form of their votes, the
secular ‘Jaziyah’ of modern democratic India.
How long and for
how many more elections will this continue? When will secularism be the
need for a modern state which treats its citizens equally, rather than a
burden to be carried by minorities of this great nation? The enemies of
secularism are not those who have opposed it but those who have
manipulated it for their electoral benefit, looking to get Muslim votes
out of fear rather than from conviction.
The writer is a former MP and editor, Nai Duniya.