It suits some Hindu leaders in India to abuse the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to get the support of Muslims to advance their political agenda. According to the Urdu daily Roznama Inquilab of October 4, Shrimant Shivaji Kokate of the Maratha Seva Sangh (MSS) told Muslims: "The biggest threat to the country is from the RSS and Brahmanism. An effort is made that 75 percent Hindus are frightened of 15 percent Muslims." Yet, Kokate was doing the same: Frightening Muslims.
Kokate made the statement on 3 October at an event organised by the Maulana Azad Vichar Manch at the Haj House in Mumbai. While some extremist Hindus are believed to be involved in some terror attacks not carried out by Muslims, he specifically accused the RSS of carrying out bomb blasts. Seeking to exploit Muslim sentiments, Kokate added: "Those who say that Muslims came to India through the power of the sword are misleading... We have a blood relationship with Muslims. Indian Muslims did not come from outside. Therefore, they too should get reservation."
So, Kokate's line of argument is this: Muslims should get reservation because they did not come from outside. If this is the reason, all Indians must get quota. Leaders like Kokate cannot advance their politics or win elections without creating the fear of RSS in the minds of Muslims. They constitute a type, among Indian politicians, who do not demand food security, 24x7 electricity, jobs for all, roads-to-doorsteps and free education for all children below 18 years of age.
For such politicians, the RSS and Muslims are political tools. Such leaders include the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who has been in news headlines for saying that the "RSS people" killed Mahatma Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi is not interested in history, or the truth. He is cultivating the same identity politics which divided India in 1947. Even an MPhil degree in Development Studies from the Trinity College has not enabled him to discard religion-based politics.
For studied reasons, Hindu leaders like Kokate as well as the Islamist leaders of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) do not tell their Muslim audiences that Muslim communities of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) already get reservation in jobs and educational institutions. They demand quota for Muslims, for all those who believe in Islam, not just for the OBCs among Muslims.
At the Haj House meeting, Congress lawmaker Hussain Dalwai, who is the president of Maulana Azad Vichar Manch, declared: "We have only one mission and that is Muslim reservation." Noted social activist Sushila Tai, who also spoke, backed quota for Muslims, exhorting them: "If Muslims are an alive nation, they should rise up and snatch their rights." For her, India is not the nation. Muslims are the nation. For such Hindu leaders, the criterion of their politics is Islam. To them, every person who believes in Islam should get reservation.
Such leaders are practically Hindu Islamists because their politics is designed to advance the cause of Islam, not the progress of Muslims. Exactly for the similar reason, Mahatma Gandhi supported the Khilafat Movement of the 1920s. The 'khilafat' politics continues even today. Especially in Maharashtra, Urdu newspapers are nowadays full of reports which advocate reservation for Muslims, not for just the Muslim OBCs.
Islamic scholars tell us that Islam teaches equality. But Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is emerging as a leading communal organisation in India. Over the past few years, its leaders in Maharashtra have attracted news headlines for demanding reservation for Muslims or justice for innocent Muslims in prison. If Islam teaches equality, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind should have been seeking justice for all innocent prisoners and quota for all, not just for Muslims. This type of politics led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is leading to mini-Partitions in Indian society.
The Roznama Inquilab of October 4 carried another six-column report on quota politics. As per it, a meeting was held in the courtyard of Jama Markaz Masjid at Dhule of social activists and clerics of all schools of Islamic thought led by religious scholar Mufti Syed Muhammad Qasim Jilani. At the meet, community leaders Muzaffar Hussein and Gopal Ansari declared that "a movement will be launched for Muslim reservation under the leadership of Islamic scholars." It is unfortunate that Muslims are led by Islamic clerics who cannot even pass a matriculation examination.
The interesting point about the Dhule meeting is that legal expert Nisar Tamboli and Prof. Khalil Ansari, an academic, advised that the Indian constitution provides for reservation based, not on religion, but social, economic and educational backwardness. Nevertheless, the meeting favoured quota based on religion. In Maharashtra, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has been leading a movement for Muslim reservation for long. Its politics is now galvanised after pro-quota marches by Marathas.
According to a four-column report in the Urdu Times daily of 4 October, Maulana Nadim Siddiqui, the president of the Maharashtra chapter of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, has directed all units of his organisation in the state to launch protests for Muslim quota from October 18. Maulana Muhammad Zakir Qasmi, another Jamiat leader, accused chief minister Devendra Fadnavis of "enmity against Muslims" by staying silent on Muslim quota while supporting it for Marathas.
A plan has also been chalked out by milli (religious) organisations of Muslims in Malegaon and other towns of Nashik district to take out silent processions on 7 October to press their demand for the Muslim quota, according to a report in Roznama Inquilab of 30 September. The interesting point is that the day for this march is a Friday, which seems to be a religiously chosen day for Muslims to protest, whether in Kashmir or in Malegaon.
As per a report in Roznama Inquilab of 2 October, two Muslim organisations of Mumbra (part of the greater Mumbai region) – Kul Jamaati Committee and Muslim Kranti Moarcha – decided to launch a movement for Muslim quota. Similar reports have regularly appeared in Urdu newspapers of Maharashtra over the past few years demanding quota for Muslims. These leaders will not tell Muslims that the number of central government employees was 47 lakh in 2014, including 14 lakh armed forces. Even if all the jobs are given to Muslims, it will not end Muslim backwardness.
Progress of people is a function of new ideas. A real change can begin when Muslims do two things: One, shun Muslim leaders who cultivate victimhood and reject the Hindu leaders who instill the fear of RSS. Two, launch a movement for eliminating burqa, thereby empowering Muslim girls who are half the population. In short, learn from Sikhs and Parsis who spend their energy on entrepreneurship, new ideas and education, not on government handouts for their progress. This country was divided in the name of religion. We are headed in the same direction again.
Former BBC journalist Tufail Ahmad is a contributing editor at Firstpost, and executive director of the Open Source Institute, New Delhi. He tweets @tufailelif