Sharique N Siddiquie
On December 6, 1992, the disputed Babri Masjid structure at Ayodhya was demolished by Kar Sevaks, led by prominent right wing organisations dealing a severe blow to pluralism and secularism of the tolerant Indian society.
At a time when communal tensions ran high and the two major communities of India were at the loggerheads, Muslims of India failed to mobilize under one banner and this failure led them to remain ‘vote banks’ forever.
When India was witnessing the rise of right-wing politics of BJP, the political wing of Sangh Parivar, the Muslim leadership was nowhere to be found. The ever trusted Congress under the then PM Narasimha Rao had let Muslims down by virtually supporting the Babri demolition leaving the Muslims ‘leaderless’.
BJP leader and former Deputy Prime Minister of India L K Advani famously argued in his memoirs, "If Muslims are entitled to an Islamic atmosphere in Mecca, and if Christians are entitled to a Christian atmosphere in the Vatican, why is it wrong for the Hindus to expect a Hindu atmosphere in Ayodhya?"
This clearly shows the mindset that gave rise to the idea of ‘Hindu Nationalism’ and ultimately led BJP to power. The BJP leaders not only attached ‘Hindu pride’ with Babri Masjid and a particular segment justified the demolition by calling it an act of historical balancing.
These justifications also helped budding leaders of the BJP like Uma Bharti to not only gain political ground, but also mobilize the masses and unsettle Congress for a decade before Sonia Gandhi ultimately took over.
At that time, the rejection of judiciary’s authority by Sangh Parivar in deciding the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute by calling it a matter of faith also helped them in strengthening their mass base.
On the other hand, the Muslim leaders failed to build mass base and got overshadowed under the leadership of regional political parties. Their lack of commitment and elitist attitude was the primary reason for their disconnect with the ordinary Muslim mass.
The existing leaders also failed to give proper representation to the Muslim voice at the national forum, which led to the alienation of Muslims from their own leadership.
Also, not a single popular face among Muslims emerged during this time and their representation was mainly under the banners of regional satraps.
AIMPLB and Babri Masjid Action Committee
All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the umbrella body dealing with Muslim affairs in the country constituted the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee to fight the legal battle in favour of the mosque.
At that time, it was headed by Muslim scholar Zafaryab Gilani and had prominent faces like ex-MP Syed Shahabuddin among others. Though the body was essentially constituted to fight for Babri Masjid, it showed a ray of hope regarding the emergence of Muslim leadership.
But sadly, after being active for a decade, the organisation and its leadership failed to make a mark, as the leadership was more interested in serving their personal agenda than fighting for the Muslim cause.
The body, currently presided by Jawed Habib, is almost defunct now and is planning a resurrection after the verdict. It remains to be seen what line they will tow in order to revive.
Refuge in regional parties
The disenchantment of Muslims with the Congress and lack of leadership greatly helped regional parties to create a base among the minority community.
This vacuum of leadership helped Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav in establishing their ‘brand’ of politics.
Lalu Yadav ruled Bihar for one and a half decade cashing in on a projected fear of Muslims from the right wing organisations. The M-Y (Muslim-Yadav) equation that helped Lalu to continue his mismanagement of the state was broadly based on providing ‘security’ to Muslims.
The mismanagement ultimately further deprived Muslims. On one hand, where Lalu continued his marathon rule, the Muslims on the other hand, continued to remain vote banks, merely voting for survival and security.
While in Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav exploited the insecurity among Muslims in his favour and very much like M-Y equation of Lalu Yadav, he too cashed in on minority votes combined with backward votes to emerge as a major political force.
The condition in the rest of India was not different with Muslim voters trying to seek refuge in the regional satraps.
Post-Babri demolition, the Muslim electorate also showed a very peculiar trend. Rather than voting for a party, they started to vote strategically against BJP. This meant that the voting patterns among Muslims not only varied from state to state but actually from constituency to constituency.
They strategically voted for the candidate who was most likely to beat the BJP candidate in the area. This was the ultimate culmination of lack of leadership in Muslims.
The road ahead
The road ahead for Muslims is not easy at all. Though Congress under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi has once again started to get back the support of Muslims, the lack of representation is still an issue for the community. The community requires progressive leadership that should come from within the community though it doesn’t seem likely in the near future.
The Muslim community is brimming with youth that aspires for growth and progress. It is coming forward in every aspect and has the potential of shrugging off age old myths and stereotypes and emerge stronger. The only requirement is a confident and honest leadership that should focus on proper representation of the community and work for its welfare and uplift.
The Muslim electorates also need to understand that it is high time they start voting for development rather than voting on communal lines.