During and after the 2014 parliamentary elections, Narendra Modi promised Muslims that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would evolve into an inclusive party. His slogan ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (Together with all, development for all) promoted his inclusive vision. “Development is only possible when Muslim youth will hold Quran in one hand,” he had promised, “and computer in the other”. He budgeted '100 crore for madrassas and spoke against instant triple talaq, a social evil in this day and age—and his actions resonated with Muslim women.
Cut to Adilabad on November 28, when BJP national president Amit Shah lashed out against KCR administration’s minority appeasement in Telangana. Minority is a weapon that’s unleashed against Muslims though there are other social and religious groups. BJP leaders are targeting Muslims, propagating the view that there is a premium on minorities, and that the community benefits from minority appeasement. This is utter rubbish. The appeasement is of Islamic clerics, not Muslims at large.
The fact of the matter is that Hindus are recipients of the biggest appeasement. The BJP talks about minority appeasement because it helps the party build a robust Hindu vote bank. In 2017, though Yogi Adityanath gave 100 per cent subsidy for the Mansarovar Yatra, the BJP accused Muslims of getting Haj subsidy, which, in reality, went to Air India. If Muslims aren’t compelled to travel by Air India, the Haj will cost much less.
Madhya Pradesh provides subsidy for Hindu pilgrimages. Ditto for Rajasthan, Karnataka, Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat. Shah, whose party aggressively promotes majoritarianism, accuses his rivals of indulging in minority politics. But the BJP has used hot socio-political issues like nikah halala and triple talaq to consolidate its Hindu vote-bank.
In his 2017 booklet Why is BJP in Politics?, Shah wrote: “A political party’s character can become known also from its leaders.” So, let’s judge the BJP’s character from its leaders’ utterances. BJP’s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj has called for razing of Delhi’s Jama Masjid. Rajasthan minister Jaswant Yadav made a direct poll pitch during his campaign in the Assembly elections, which concluded on November 28. “If you’re a Hindu, vote for me, and if you’re a Muslim vote, for the Congress,” he said.
Union minister Giriraj Singh subscribes to a similar toxic view that the Muslims should go to Pakistan and has dubbed Deoband’s Darul Uloom as a “temple of terrorism”. BJP’s Aligarh MP Satish Gautam has accused the Aligarh Muslim University of propagating Taliban ideology. Many of these BJP members are elected lawmakers. Anti-Muslim propaganda and hate speeches have gained legitimacy and currency during the BJP rule.
Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas is the proverbial elephant’s teeth, meant to be displayed in public as an electoral rhetoric. When Modi was Gujarat chief minister, he ensured systematic exclusion of Muslims from political life. Under him, the BJP did not give a single ticket to Muslim candidates for either Lok Sabha or Assembly elections. After he became Prime Minister, the BJP persisted with a similar policy barring exceptions such as in Jammu and Kashmir.
Recently, a Jain family left a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood of Pune because their child went out with Muslim children and ate chicken. Muslims and Hindus stand deeply divided in towns across India because of entrenched societal biases. In case of Gujarat, the BJP government has forced Muslims to live in ghettos. The BJP expanded the scope of Disturbed Areas Act in towns, preventing Muslims from buying property in Hindu areas. Similarly, Hindus shun Muslim-dominated areas like the plague. In Uttar Pradesh, towns are being divided along religious lines. Exclusion equals racism. Modi appointed Yogi Adityanath as the UP chief minister despite the latter’s bigotry: “If they (Muslims) kill one Hindu, we will kill hundred.” No wonder, the cow vigilantes’ attack on Muslims is a logical culmination.
The BJP leaders have refused to unequivocally condemn the growing incidents of cow vigilantism. Both the BJP and the Congress have failed the minorities, be they Muslims, Dalits or women. Muhammadiyah, the oldest religious organisation in Indonesia, runs 177 universities and over 1,000 schools — but these don’t cater to Muslims alone.
Unless women become emirs of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, and run modern schools for all, it is criminal for Muslims to think political parties can engineer their progress.
Tufail Ahmad is a former BBC journalist and senior fellow at Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC