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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 35-36 August 26 & September 2, 2023

The bogey of BJP’s new constituency: Pasmanda and Muslim women | Faraz Ahmad

Friday 25 August 2023, by Faraz Ahmad


In the run up to the next round of assembly elections followed immediately thereafter by the countrywide Lok Sabha polls, scheduled for early next year, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) taking a cue from its unchallenged supremo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started drumming up the bogey of wooing Pasmanda Muslims and Muslim women.

Some time back addressing a rally in Bhopal Modi publicly beat his breast on the “exploitation of Pasmanda Muslims” by the upper caste Muslims and Muslim women by all Muslims in the form of triple talaq. Addressing the NDA MPs on August 1, the Prime Minister directed the MPs to go across with their followers to tie rakhis to Muslim women on Raksha Bandhan day, due on August 30.

He had recently coopeted former Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) as a member of the UP Legislative Council along with appointing him the national vice president of the BJP. All ostensibly to send a signal to ‘Pasmanda Muslims’ passing off Mansoor as one. Not much is known about Dr Mansoor’s caste background, but coming from an upwardly mobile Aligarh family in the early 1970s there is reason to wonder whether he actually belongs to the Pasmanda class of Muslims.

Be that as it may, the hype of BJP trying to woo Pasmanda Manda Muslims appears as bogus as its equally fake desire to woo Muslim women for supposedly liberating them from ‘teen talaq’.

Most of us have lost count of the number of lynchings of poor Muslims by para troopers of RSS belonging to its various affiliates or sub affiliated armies, like the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan of Southern USA determined to kill, maim or humiliate the coloured African-Americans. Except for the latest killing of three Muslims and one OBC RPF officer his senior by RPF constable Chetan Singh, whose Muslim victims appeared to belong to be upper caste. Apart from that the victims of most of public lynchings have been Pasmanda Muslims.

The latest issue of the Caravan magazine has carried a long story of how all Muslims are being chased out of Uttarakhand by Sanghi outfits evidently with the patronage of chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, anointed in spite of losing his election. There are hardly any Muslims left in Purola, Naogaon and Barkot villages from where the Sanghis have evicted families living for generations there. But the bulk of those facing the brunt are the poor fruit and vegetable vendors, selling their wares on carts or cycle rickshaws, masons, painters, barbers and such other daily wager migrant labour, almost all of them belong to the Pasmanda category of Muslims. These poor people did odd jobs for a living in Uttarakhand. But Sangh leaders are proudly announcing that there is no place for Muslims in ‘Dev Bhoomi.’

It is another thing that the economic and social gap between the upper caste Muslims, loosely described as Ashrafs and the Pasmanda, even though it is there, is not so wide and glaring as in a Hindu society and therefore Modi’s contention of Pasmanda suffering from upper caste exploitation sounds hollow in this background. Chriostophe Jaffrelot and Kalayarasan A in their latest piece in the Indian Express contested the thesis of any wide gap between the pasmanda and upper caste Muslims citing All India Debit and Investment Survey and Periodic Labour Force Survey stating that the “percentage of upper caste Muslim youth attending higher educational institutions was the same in 2021-22 as the Pasmanda: 19.8 per cent.”

The write up further revealed that in UP in fact the “Muslim upper caste is experiencing negative growth in educational attendance. As a result, their enrolment came down to 12 per cent in 2021-22 as against 14 per cent in 2011-12---an unprecedented development in the history of India so far s we know… Muslims’ lower access to education gets reflected in access to regular jobs. The percentage of salaried workers among Muslims is 19.3 per cent…there is no difference between Muslim upper caste and Pasmanda.”

Most Muslims facing the bulldozer demolition in Uttar Pradesh including the illegal encounter wiping out of the entire family of Atiq Ahmad was all aimed at the upwardly mobile Pasmanda Muslims. So, Modi’s apparent concern is not simply misplaced but lacks sincerity and therefore suspect.

As for Muslim women, even if we close our eyes to how the convicted rapists of Bilkis Bano, are being feted by Sanghi outfits of Gujarat, the target of bulldozer demolitions in Nuh-Mewat earlier this month following the deliberately provoked riots were the women folk of Mewat. These Mewatis, living there for centuries played a big role in India’s freedom struggle, as described in Pakistani novelist Abdullah Husain’s Urdu novel, ‘Udas Naslen’ (sad generations). Husain originally from Mewat lamented the partition of India and described how even though Mewati Muslims are Rajput converts, but they are also fond of raring and breeding cows. Today their cows are being taken away or they are being lynched for their love of cows.

About 135 families of Nai Basti in Mathura, according to the latest Hindu report, have been rendered homeless following a demolition drive by the Railways to evict them for a proposed Railway expansion project. These poor women and children living in pucca houses with municipal water and electricity connections, all Pasmanda Muslims, have nowhere to go. The report quoting a Railway official said that while there is a policy in the Railways to rehabilitate slum dwellers displaced and affected by rail projects “there is no relief provided in most cases.”

Is it imaginable for these poor Pasmanda Muslims and Muslim women directly affected by the tyranny of successive BJP governments in their states and the Centre to rush to the polling booth and vote for Modi? No. In fact after the way Modi and his party misbehaved with the women wrestlers, none a Muslim, would any respectable woman want to vote Modi? Never. Then why this charade? For that, we should go back to Sabyasachi Das’ research paper which talks of specific targeting of constituencies and polling stations in Muslim majority areas, manipulating the voting pattern there by several means, including preventing them from casting their votes and presumably with the help of pliable polling officers secure their votes through bogus voting. The Godi media will go to town interviewing chosen tankhiya Muslims like Dr Tariq Mansoor or one of the BJP’s Muslim woman leaders to claim how Muslims have gone over to the BJP for the impending 2024 parliamentary elections. But current facts disprove this claim.

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