Muslims in the country are finding themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea. With Parliamentary elections 2014 round the corner, the community seems to be under immense pressure to decide as to whom to support. But this year it seems a tough decision indeed.
The Congress Party that has used the community as a vote back for much of the 67 years since Independence, is trying once again to attract the Muslims to vote for it in the elections. Its ministers, especially the Muslim office holders, are enumerating the 'gigantic' work that the Congress-led UPA government has done for the community in the last five years. Just the other day, Ministry of Minority Affairs released a lengthy report elaborating its 'yeomen' services for the cause of minorities, read Muslims.
The government has also been releasing full page ad insertions in leading Urdu and other regional newspapers for months now trying to impress upon the Muslims to feel indebted to the party for its life and livelihood in India.
In the latest press release, the government claimed that in the past seven years it has spent Rs. 11544.01 crore on minority centric schemes across the country. The statement added that the government's Multi-sectoral Development Programme (MsDP) was bearing fruits and went on to explain how 710 MCBs and 66 Minority Concentration Towns (MCTs) have been transformed by this initiative.
Community activists working on the ground give an altogether different picture. They suggest that most of these schemes have been 'implemented' merely on paper and have failed to make any impact.
This is not a new phenomenon.
The party that was once headed by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Abul Kalam Azad has tried to take credit for the development of minorities, particularly those of Muslims in the country. It has always done so trying to project itself as the saviour of the community in the country.
Congress before every election has tried to convey to the Muslims across the nation that it should be indebted to it for its survival. It has also talked of TINA (There is no alternative) factor.
Talk to any Congress leader and the issue of Gujarat riots will unmistakably come into discussion. Somehow or the other the Congress leaders, be it Rahul Gandhi, his mother Sonia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or any other big or small leader, the issue of Gujarat riots somehow or the other will be brought into discussion. This will give an impression that during the last 67 years after Independence there was just a single riot that took place in the length and breadth of country and that the nation never witnessed any other riot.
But there have been riots and pogroms far bigger than the Gujarat carnage under Congress governments. The post-Partition riots in Delhi particularly have no precedent at all. Then we all know as to what happened in Hyderabad in the wake of Operation Polo.
The Operation Polo must have been the biggest organized programme of Muslims in the country before or after the Independence and the people behind the carnage were never brought to courts and punished. I don't want to go into details of it but the government of India never published the report that was commissioned by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Nellie massacre in 1983 Assam under the then Congress government of Hiteswar Saikia was a blot on the face of the nation. Thousands of people were killed on the fateful day of 18 February. The carnage was done merely a year before the historic 1984 massacre of Sikh community.
The Tiwari Commission report that was presented to the state government in the year 1984 has not been made public so far and no compensation has been paid to the victims. Perpetrators are yet to be punished for the massacre that took place in Nellie 31 years ago.
Then there were regular recurrence of riots in most parts of the nation including Meerut, Malyana, Moradabad and in many other places.
This is not to make the Gujarat riots look rather small in comparison to the other episodes of religion oriented violence. The 2002 riots were a blot on the face of India and the fact that those were allowed to continue for weeks, without the state government trying to contain its spread was the most horrific part of it.
The officials who allowed the riots to spread and gave free hands to rioters, and even connived with them, are still to be punished. But the good part in this whole Gujarat riots is the fact that the criminals are being hounded by law from local courts, High Courts and the Supreme Courts and monetary compensation has been paid to most victims. Though it cannot compensate for the loss of near and dear ones and being displaced from their ancestral places, the criminals are on the run and the victims are back to their old homes.
The age of riots and massacres are gone in India now. The economic development in India will force the government, whoever is in power, to stop it with brute force of the law.
The TINA factor has become redundant in the changed scenario and 'There is No Alternative' has been replaced by the fact that there are many alternatives.
The Third Front seems to be in the making and there are indications that this front may be able to emerge stronger than the Congress-led UPA that is expected to be decimated in the forthcoming elections. This Third Front will be as strong if not stronger numerically than BJP-led NDA and Muslims may be voting for Third Front parties in large numbers.
BJP, for many Muslims in some states, has not remained untouchable as it used to be in the past. In the last assembly elections, many Muslims voted for the BJP in states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, but it is not certain if the trend will continue in the General Elections too.
Then there is another shining star on the political horizon, Arvind Kejrival and his Aam Admi Party. The anti-corruption crusader and very charismatic Kejriwal has impressed the whole nation with his down to earth attitude and his conviction. His party is also emerging as a good alternative in many places. Though it is still doubtful if the crusader and AAP will be able to replicate their success in Delhi assembly elections, they are certain to attract considerable number of voters in many parts of the country, especially from metros.
Congress' loss will be huge gain for Aam Admi Party in the next Lok Sabha elections.
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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. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org