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Muslim leaders promote paranoia - The Pioneer

Sultan Shahin ()
31 January 1997

Title : Muslim leaders promote paranoia
Author : Sultan Shahin
Publication : The Pioneer
Date : January 31, 1997

Well-versed in the law of the land and trained by the Indian
Foreign Service, Syed Shahabuddin has perhaps never said or done
anything anti-national or unconstitutional. Even his threat to
boycott the official Republic Day functions that became such a big
issue was in no way an unconstitutional method of protest.

The problem with the Syed is substantially the same as was with
Mohammad Ali Jinnah. These worthies became leaders of the Indian
Muslims without ever being an Indian Muslim. They both belonged to
a minority other than the Indian Muslim: the minority of elitists
who have no appreciation whatsoever of the situation on the ground.
Syed Shahabuddin did not realise that while burning the national
flag may be a routine way of protest for Jharkhandis or others, it
is not the same thing when a Muslim leader declares a boycott of
the Republic Day.

That he has not learnt anything from the sufferings various
movements launched by him and his colleagues in the Mushawarat have
inflicted on the Muslim community, is clear front his article in
The Pioneer (December 31) where he calls for the "third
liberation". It is not the same thing if a Dalit or a Muslim leader
talks about caste divisions and untouchability rampant in Indian
society. Syed saheb's analyses are bound to be misconstrued and

There was nothing wrong, constitutionally or technically, in taking
up issues like Babri Masjid or before that of AMU's minority
character by other leaders. The. problem was that the Muslim
leadership blew them out of all proportions merely to play with the
sentiments of the community, without bothering about their likely
impact on other communities. They never bothered to put these
problems in their proper perspective. They never articulated the
gratitude an average Muslim feels for the positive aspects of' our
secular and democratic way of life, despite obvious flaws.

All that the Muslim leadership does is promote paranoia. Among all
the Muslim leaders, Shahabuddin has elevated the practice of
complaining to an art form. He continues to articulate the
grievances of a class of Muslims a la Jinnah with the same
thoughtless fervour. In the above-mentioned article itself, for
instance, he says: "Fifty years after Independence they (Muslims)
continue to pay the price of Partition, though 90 per cent of them
were horn in free India and have never known Pakistan except as yet
another Muslim country. Today, they have virtually no
representation in the power structures. Once the beneficiary of
separate electorate and reservation in legislatures, both abolished
in 1950, they are practically disenfranchised. You may call it
political genocide."

This is populism at its worst. One wonders if this is the picture
of India which Shahabuddin used to project in his diplomatic
assignments abroad. He should feel intensely grateful that he was
allowed to gracefully resign (with pension) rather than be sacked
from the Foreign Service. But perhaps the Foreign Service trained
him to lie abroad. As politics has now trained him well to lie
inside the country.

This trend of articulating complaints and grievances resulted in
the partition of India. The Muslims of divided India are still in
the best situation. After Partition, any far-sighted leadership
would have advised Muslims to try and rebuild that same trust and
goodwill that existed until the first decades of this century.

One had expected Syed Shahabuddin, in particular, with his innate
brilliance and wide experience of the world, to play the role of a
statesman. He merely joined hands with rabble rousers. While
seeking to protect the Babri Masjid, Muslim leaders could have also
articulated the Muslim's appreciation and gratitude for the fact
that he is allowed to run millions of mosques and living in a
country where despite a minority status, he has no difficulty in
establishing other million of mosques. In neighbouring Pakistan,
some Muslims are not even allowed to call their prayer-halls

Similarly, the Muslim appreciates that India is one of the very few
non-Muslim-majority country which allow them a Personal Law. The
same is true of the AMU's minority character.

In contrast with paranoia, gratitude is the best gift one can give
oneself. It is the best antidote against self-pity. It is for the
Muslims to choose between gratitude and paranoia. There is a
school of thought according to which by feeling grateful, we become
second class citizens.

A competition of sorts is going on: If Hindus can boycott the
Republic Day why can Muslims not do the same? Negative ego. It is
something like the arms race between starving Indians and
Pakistanis. If you can buy a weapon even if you have to eat grass,
why can't we too eat grass and buy the same weapon.

The Babri imbroglio was the biggest test Muslims and their
leadership faced in recent days. Had a single Muslim leader been
killed seeking to protect the Babri mosque, one would have thought
they were sincerely, though foolishly, worked up about the
situation. Even today, Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi is getting common
Muslims killed in Hyderabad protesting against the demolition. It
is not Owaisi's, Shahi Imam's or Syed saheb's kith and kin who get
hurt or killed. The Indian Muslim too has gradually come to realise
the fruitless exercise. Precisely the reason wily Syed Shahabuddin,
along with other leaders of the same fervour, are fast losing their
base among Muslim masses.

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