Army chief, General Bipin Rawat ‘s comment on AIUDF, a political party in Assam and ‘perceived’ popularity of perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal’s political venture was shocking to say the least. To many it was a bolt from the blue, as it came merely two weeks after the Army called on Owaisi and others not to communalise Indian Armed forces. Last month Owaise had tried to counter negative portrayal of Muslims by telling the media that five of the seven soldiers who died in terrorist attack in Kashmir were Muslims. He was snubbed by the Army top brass, and for good reasons.
General Rawat made the comments while speaking at a high-profile seminar on the “North East Region of India – Bridging gaps and Securing Borders”. The seminar that was meant for military professionals was organized by the Centre for Warfare Studies and the Integrated Headquarters of the Defence ministry.
General Rawat who spoke rather well about threat that the nation faced from Pakistan and China and their efforts to change the demography of Assam, his comment on a major political party of Assam was rather shocking.
What the General said?
While speaking at the seminar General Bipin Rawat said "Migration from Bangladesh is due to two reasons. One, they are running out of space. Large areas get flooded during the monsoon and they have constricted area to stay. So, people will continue coming into our place... The other issue is a planned immigration that is taking place because of our western neighbour. They will always try and ensure that this area is taken over through proxy warfare. This proxy game is being very well played by our western neighbour and supported by our northern neighbour.
The second part of the comment has been the bone of contention ever since the general spoke at the venue. "There is a party called AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front). They have grown in a faster time-frame than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) grew over the years. When we talk of Jan Sangh with two MPs and where they have reached, AIUDF is moving at a faster pace in the state of Assam."
There is no denying that government should take strict measures in fighting the menace of unchecked immigration of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. There is need to strengthen the vigilance at the border and improve the security measure there to defeat the designs of both Pakistan and China.
Nonetheless, including the name of AIUDF was rather unwarranted on the part of the Army chief and the Assam based political party is justified in criticising him and seeking clarification from the general.
Which party grew faster in Assam?
Muslims in Assam constitute close to thirty five percent of the population. If the community has its own political outfit, no one should have any objection, the same way no one should have any objection at Sikhs in Punjab voting for Akali Dal.
The notion that the AIUDF grew too fast and too soon in Assam is misplaced. Aam Aadmi Party of Arvind Kejriwal defied every logic and precedent when it went on to win 67 out of 70 seats in Delhi assembly, within a few years of its formation.
On the contrary, Badruddin Ajmal’s political outfit grew much slowly and has faced shocking defeats too, including the ignominious defeat of the perfume baron himself in the last assembly election. In assembly elections held in the year 2011, AIUDF had won 18 seats. Its tally nose dived in the last assembly election and it was restricted to merely 13 assembly seats.
In contrast, BJP’s rise in the state has been more phenomenal and astounding. In the assembly elections held in the year 2011 the saffron party had won merely five seats, five seats less than what it commanded in the previous assembly. From just five seats, the party went to win absolute majority in the state, winning as many as 60 seats on its own.
Badruddin Ajmal, while criticising the general in a tweet said, “Gen Bipin Rawat has made a political statement, shocking! Why is it a concern for the Army Chief that a political party, based on democratic & secular values, is rising faster than BJP? Alternative parties like AIUDF, AAP have grown because of the misgovernance of big parties.”
Is AIUDF an exclusive Muslim Party?
AIUDF is not an exclusive Muslim party. Radhey Shyam represents Karimgunj Lok Sabha constituency on AIUDF ticket. The other two MPs elected on AIUDF from the state are Ajmal brothers including Maulana Badruddin Ajmal and his brother Sirajuddin Ajmal. In the last assembly, there were several non-Muslim MLAs elected on AIUDF ticket. Even in the 2016 assembly elections there were many non Muslim candidates who fought on its tickets and one of them won.
Badruddin Ajmal is a shrewd politician and has used people’s disenchantment with Congress party in Assam dexterously to improve its chances in the state. Tarun Gogoi’s disdain for Muslims and his disregard for Muslim issues in a state with one third Muslim population cost the Congress dearly. Ajmal’s deep pockets have helped his cause immensely, besides the fact that he is running the largest chain of charity organizations in the state. His orphanages, schools, seminaries, colleges and hospitals can be found in almost every part of the state. People who benefit from his charitable ventures, in areas where even government has failed to provide succour, are infinitely thankful to him for coming to their rescue.
One part of General’s remark needs attention
While the general is being criticized for his rather political comment, he must be commended for highlighting the fact that the Muslims came to the state as early as 13th century. General Bipin Rawat, while addressing the seminar said that Muslims in Assam arrived in the early 13th century.
Apolitical nature of Indian armed forces
Armed forces in the country have been kept at arm’s length from politics. This has been done very carefully by the Indian political establishment. Despite all efforts to the contrary, these efforts have not succeeded. There is no denying that an apolitical, non-partisan military has been the hallmark of Indian democracy and a trait of Indian military professionalism.
Major General (Retd) S.G.Vombatkere, while writing a few years ago, emphasized the same fact in the following words, “An army can have no place in politics. It is the paid servant of the people, and is at the disposal of the Government of the day, whatever may be the political complexion of that Government. Once there is any suspicion that an Army, or any part of it, is biased politically, from that moment the Army has lost the full confidence of the nation who pays for it”.
More columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
Will Congress return to power in Karnataka?
Muslim Law Board shocked by top cleric's views on Babri
Narendra Modi: Why Muslims are losing hope
Why Muslims are not mourning withdrawal of Haj subsidy
Owaisi expands his appeal thanks to talaq bill
Will Indian Muslims take a break from too much focus on electoral politics?
Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.