Originally Published 2011-11-19 00:00:00 Published on Nov 19, 2011
A popular conclusion drawn by many in the Pakistan media is that Imran Khan has arrived. His Lahore meeting, which was a great success, should alarm the other political players of Pakistan.
Winds of change sweeping Muslim minds
MUSLIMS constitute around 15 per cent of India's population of over 121 crores. The 2001 census put the figure at 138 million while the US believes that the Muslims in India number much more, closer to 180 million. Whatever may be the exact number of Muslims in India, the community as a whole deserves some positive steps by the Centre and the states to improve its lot - increased opportunities for education, employment, etc.

Two major enquiry commissions, one headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra (retd) and the other by Justice Rajindar Sachar (retd), have gone into the state of affairs of the community and made many recommendations. Most of the recommendations are almost on similar lines. The important recommendations speak of a provision for providing opportunities for securing admissions to colleges, appointments in various sectors of the government and private establishments, etc. Regrettably, action in this regard has been unduly delayed.

However, on October 31, the Minister for Minority Affairs and Law and Justice, Mr Salman Khurshid, announced in Lucknow that the government would introduce a quota within a quota for Muslims. The details were being worked out by his ministry and these would be implemented after clearance by the Cabinet. The community will, no doubt, appreciate the enormous significance of the announcement the minister made at Lucknow.

Significantly, the announcement was made at Unity College in Lucknow where only a day earlier RSS chief K. Sudarshan and Shia cleric Kalbe Sadiq met and made a joint appeal to the people not to vote by religion but vote for people who were honest and known for their good character. Kalbe Sadiq went on to say that in the elections, a Muslim voter should vote for a Hindu candidate if the latter was better than any Muslim candidate and, likewise, a Hindu should also vote for a Muslim candidate if he was honest.

The joint declaration by the RSS Chief and the Shia cleric has enormous significance for the Muslim community in the entire country. It also has equal importance for the Hindu community as well who should realise that the Muslim mind is undergoing a change in India.

We are indeed living in dynamic times. Only a few days before the joint declaration by the RSS chief and the Shia cleric in Lucknow, Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kichhauchhavi, General Secretary of the All-India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB), declared before a mahapanchayat of Sufis at Moradabad that they rejected the religious and political leadership of Wahabis. The Maulana told the Muslims that if anyone knocked at their door with the message of extremism, he should be handed over to the nearest police station. This elicited a response from Darul-Uloom, Deoband. The Mohtamin (Vice-Chancellor) of Darul Uloom hurriedly called a Press conference and countered the charge of Wahabi extremism.

Maulana Ashraf Kichhauchhavi, who also represents many other institutions such as the Sufi Khanquah of Ajmer Sharif, Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin and Bareily Sharif, accused the Deobandis of having usurped key institutions like the Waqf Boards and madarsas besides acquiring enormous political clout. He also alleged that the Deobandis were under the influence of Saudi petro-dollars.

The Darul Uloom Rector, Maulana Nomani, came out with a series of arguments in his defence. Faizur Rahman, Secretary-General of the Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought among Muslims, expressed his own independent views when he said that the activities of Darul Uloom did not justify the Sufi Maulana's charges. He, however, pointed out that the Sufis had done a great service by setting the stage for a debate on extremism.

Chief Minister Mayawati of Uttar Pradesh had recently written to the Prime Minister asking for reservation for Muslims in educational institutions as well as in jobs at the Centre and in the states. Not to be left behind, Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief of the Samajwadi Party (SP), who has been assiduously wooing the Muslim community for votes for his party, demanded in a recent speech at Lucknow the implementation of the Sachar and Ranganath Mishra committee reports in toto and without delay. One of his party leaders also announced that the SP would launch an agitation in this regard and also raise the issue in the winter session of Parliament. The announcement by the Minority Affairs Minister had, therefore, come in time, he added.

Javed Anand, General Secretary of an organisation called the Muslims for Secular Democracy, writes that on the sunny side of the Muslim street today one can notice discussions on the need for Muslim empowerment and a meaningful initiative to pull the community out of its state of helplessness. At the same time, one can meet young Muslim professionals who are not only doing well for themselves but are also actively engaged in lighting the path for others.

Read the writing on the wall, continues Javed Anand, "Padho aur badho (Get educated, grab opportunities)". In their moment of introspection, Muslims recall a verse from the Quran that says, "Allah never changes the destiny of a community that is unconcerned about its own lot."

The winds of change in the Muslim thinking seem to have travelled to Pakistan as well. Imran Khan, who heads the Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, addressed a huge crowd at Lahore on October 30 and appealed for support to his ideas whenever elections were held in Pakistan. He said if his party became successful there would be a real tsunami in Pakistan politics.

Imran represents a liberal brand of political Islam and harks back to the political theory of poet Mohammad Iqbal. His party does not disown religion, yet it talks of liberalism and secularism. The real test, as well- known commentator Ayesha Siddiqa says, for the cricketer-turned-politician lies in how far he succeeds in ensuring that his socio-political agenda remains inclusive rather than exclusive.

A popular conclusion drawn by many in the Pakistan media is that Imran Khan has arrived. His Lahore meeting, which was a great success, should alarm the other political players of Pakistan.

(The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal. He is now an Advisor to Observer Research Foundation)

Courtesy: The Tribune

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.