When Narendra Modi came to power some four years ago, there were both apprehensions and hopes. Modi was in the limelight for over a decade as a divisive leader who tried to present himself as the foremost leader of the Hindu right while serving as the chief minister of Gujarat. Winning three elections in a row, one after the other, in a state as diverse as Gujarat was an unmatched accomplishment. While other citadels of the BJP tumbled, this was one that sent Modi back with increased margins after every election.
Nonetheless, given the high pitched electioneering and rebranding of Modi as a leader who meant business, there was increased hope from the new Prime Minister that while he would take the nation forward, he would take everyone along. His oft repeated slogan 'sabka sath, sabka vikas' that became the buzzword throughout the 2014 Lok Sabha election campaign strengthened this perception.
There is no denying that many people from among the Muslim community started looking forward to a rebranded Modi as a true reformer for whom religious affiliations and caste differences mattered little when it came to the overall good of the nation.
He talked of business and improved security within the country with major emphasis on ease of doing business. His outreach to Muslims was in full display when he sent his trusted lieutenant Zafar Sareshwala to different Muslim forums trying to outline his vision for a new India. Sareshwala even gatecrashed a meeting of India's top Muslim clerics under the auspice of All India Muslim Personal law Board.
Less than a year after Modi's ascent to power, Sareshwala told this writer in a top five star hotel in Delhi: "Modi is not anti-Muslim. He is pro-development and has said time and again that without Muslims riding the development plank, the nation cannot move forward. But Modi wants Muslims to avail many other schemes that are also available to general population. While under minority scholarship scheme, a student in high school gets Rs 500 scholarship. In Gujarat we have Rs 2600 scholarship for general category students at the same level. Modi wonders why Muslims don't apply under this scheme when it gets them five times more money. He asked me to bring to his notice any case in which a Muslim kid was refused scholarship meant for general category students and we found no complaint of the sort".
If that was not enough, he amazed everyone by sending a chadar to the mausoleum of Khawaja Muinuddin Chishti in Ajmer on his Urs. Modi's words were reassuring: "Khwaja had given a great message to his followers from all religions to live in harmony, keeping with the tradition of sufis and saints. That message is relevant even today".
I must admit that I was overcome with emotions when read the message sent by the nation's Prime Minister with a chadar for the twelfth century Muslim saint.
Nonetheless, as just about a year is left when the next Lok Sabha elections are due, there are telltale signs that Prime Minister hasn't been true to his promises insofar as communal harmony and 'sabka sath sabka vikas' are concerned.
Silence on violence by cow vigilante
Violence in the name of cow protection has gone up exponentially since the year 2014. It should be kept in mind that it was the same year when the BJP came to power at the center. Muslims and Dalits have been the main targets of violence centered on bovine issues. A report late last year said that Muslims comprised 86 percent of all the people killed in violence perpetrated by cow vigilantes over the last several years. The rest of the victims belonged to Dalit community. The report went on to add that as many of 97% of these attacks were reported after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government came to power in May 2014.
The year 2017 can be described as the year of hate crimes. As many as eleven people lost their lives in the mindless violence perpetrated in the name of xenophobia and hate for a particular group of people. Mohammad Afrazul's bloody murder that was also saved on camera and posted on innumerable social media sites and WhatsApp was one of the worst points. On 6 December, 2017, in Rajasthan's Rajasamand, a migrant labourer from Malda district of West Bengal was killed and set ablaze by Shambulal Regar. This criminal circulated a video footage of the murder that went viral across the nation.
The Prime Minister, instead of forcing the BJP run state government in taking stern action against such criminals and cow vigilantes, has kept a studied silence. He is yet to speak a word on killing in the name of cow protection or hate crimes.
Use of Triple talaq as a political tool
There is no denying that Muslim clerics, specially All India Muslim Personal Law Board, have behaved very irresponsibly over the issue of triple talaq, The Prime Minister and his party have tried to exploit it as a political tool to further their agenda.
Triple talaq was presented as the most pressing issue that must be addressed first at all cost to 'emancipate' Muslim women. But in its zest to outdo everyone else on the issue, the BJP government made triple talaq a criminal offense with three year jail term without provision of bail. Observers claim that this was done to make its core vote bank happy by showing that now it has power to do with the Muslims as it wished.
The same government that behaved like an ostrich with its head in the sand, oblivious to the happenings all around on the issue of killings in the name of cow protection and spiraling, hate crimes, worked round the clock to bring out a bill on triple talaq. The most laughable aspect of it all was the fact that its didn't really talk to Muslim women organisations who have been fighting triple talaq cases, before drafting the bill.
Still not too late
Prime Minister Modi is a shrewd politician and the importance of Muslim votes will not be lost on him, more so when general elections are almost a year away from now. Over the last several years, his party has been trying to fragment Muslim electorate and incite intra community squabbling. Nonetheless, after around four years of such tactics, it seems to have succeeded little. On the contrary, given the increasing incidents of hate crimes across North India and high-pitched anti-Muslim rhetoric, Muslims have realized the true intentions of the government.
Prime Minister Modi is going to Palestine and his visit to the occupied land will create admiration for him among the Muslims of the nation. Palestine is an issue that has been close to the heart of Indian Muslims. They will certainly appreciate him more if it is accompanied with some true actions on the ground in the country.
More columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
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.