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HVK Archives: Clergy puts paid to Cong plan for tapping Muslim votebank

Clergy puts paid to Cong plan for tapping Muslim votebank - The Observer

Sujit Chakraborty & Shahid K Abbas ()
1 November 1997

Title: Clergy puts paid to Cong plan for tapping Muslim votebank
Author: Sujit Chakraborty & Shahid K Abbas
Publication: The Observer
Date: November 1, 1997

Congress president Sitaram Kesri's ambitious plans to reconsolidate his
party's votebank in the 136-odd Muslim-dominated Lok Sabha constituencies
may be jeopardised following a campaign launcher by a section of the Muslim
clergy rejecting the Congress' package programme for the minorities.

The Muslim clergies want guaranteed social security, representation in
security forces, uplift of Madarsa system of education, proper
rehabilitation of victims of communal riots at par with the victims of the
1984 Sikh riots, reservations in Government jobs and guarantee about the
sustenance of their personal laws, among others.

The Congress leadership is of the view that despite their total support and
various special programmes for the uplift of the minority community, the
outcome of successive elections showed there had been a major erosion of
the party's base among the Muslim electorate.

Accordingly, the leadership has decided to take certain effective measures
to send the right message to the Muslims in a bid to revive its lost ground.

However, the Muslim leaders feel that the entire community was being
ignored, barring mere Up service in order to secure their support during
elections. Last month, the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind had recounted the grim
situation facing the country following the aftermath of the communal frenzy
that the country had undergone over the past few years.

Maulana Asad Madani told The Observer of Business and Politics that only a
single apology for the demolition of the Babri mosque would not be
sufficient to heal the wounds of the Muslims. He added that neither
anything had been done for the Muslims during the past 50 years of the
country's independence nor was any political party serious about addressing
the community's real problems.

Recalling that over 22,000 communal riots had taken place in the country
from the day of Independence till the Meerut riots of 1986, where innocent
people were victims of the bullets of "infamous PAC" and the 1984 Sikh
massacre, the Maulana asserted that communal violence in the country had
left nothing but bloodshed, suffering, death, destruction and destitution
when the country should have engaged itself in the task of consolidating
national freedom and sovereignty and playing its due role of promoting
justice in international relations.

With the Babri ghost not yet exorcised, whether the recent plethora of
promises by the Congress in its draft action plan will rekindle some light
at the end of the dark tunnel of the party's falling popularity among the
Muslim community remains a big question mark.

The Congress has favoured enactment of necessary legislation for protecting
the constitutional rights of minority communities on education and culture,
while also stressing for steps to be taken to fulfill the legitimate
aspirations of the community in employment and economic development.

It was stated in the draft plan that after the expression of regret by the
party on the Babri Masjid demolition issue, it was now necessary for the
party to go ahead and focus on other problems, hopes and aspirations of the

While a section of the Muslim leadership expects the Congress to mend its
ways under Mr Kesri's leadership, a sizable section of the minority
community's opinion makers apprehend that such assurances were merely
gimmicks to exploit Muslim support during elections.

"If the Congress party wants to woo the Muslim community simply on the
basis of resolutions, then the people are no more prepared to be fooled,"
Naib Imam of Delhi's Jama Masjid Syed Ahmad Bukhari asserted.

Lamenting that the Congress was only toeing the "politics of Votes," the
Naib Imam advised the Congress to instead demonstrate its seriousness
towards the Muslims by mounting pressure on the United Front Government by
setting up time-bound deadlines to fulfill the aspirations of the minorities.

Keeping in mind the strength of the Muslim votebank, which is considered to
be a deciding factor with over 136 of the 545 Lok Sabha seats, Mr Kesri has
chalked out a prudent plan to woo the community.

Meanwhile, refusing to acknowledge that the sudden seriousness shown by the
Congress towards the minority issue could be a turning point, former Rajya
Sabha member Mohd Afzal wanted to know as to why the Muslim representation
in Parliament and the State Assemblies. had been declining gradually.

The Congress action plan also suggests that one of the AICC general
secretaries would be entrusted exclusively for the implementation of the
special package for the Muslims.


Congress Proposal
* Separate legislation for the minorities on the pattern of the Harijan Act.
* Assigning an AICC General Secretary the task of looking into minority
* Regrets for the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya.
* Proper implementation of special package for minorities to ensure their
economic upliftment.

Muslim Clergy's Reaction
* Seen as mere lip service. An explanation sought as to why Muslim
representation is declining in both Parliament and State Assemblies
* Congress has not actually touched upon the real problems while chalking
out its draft plan for the minorities.
* Regret alone is not enough. A bill demanded to claim compensation
directly from special courts.
* Social security, representation in security forces, improvement of
Madarasa system of education, reservation in Govt jobs and guarantee about
their personal laws demanded.

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