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‘Some journalists are self-saffronised’

Quamar Ashraf | Updated :

Navaid Hamid, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e- Mushawarat (AIMMM) ~ the umbrella body of over a dozen leading Muslim organisations in the country ~ has brought many changes to the AIMMM after becoming its chief in 2016.

For the first time since the AIMMM’s inception in 1964, a woman was elected to the 20-member Markazi Majlis-e-Amla (Central Working Committee) ~ the apex panel of the AIMMM ~ during Hamid’s tenure. Many members hailed him for effecting these changes, but some also assailed him, accusing him of “deviating from the path” the body was meant to follow to build consensus among various Muslim organisations in order to protect and promote the interests of the Muslim community. In an interview to QUAMAR ASHRAF, Hamid candidly spoke on a range of burning issues. Excerpts:

Q: The AIMMM has failed to build consensus among Muslim organisations on major issues, which was the main purpose of its formation. For instance, there are differences among Muslim organisations on the Babri Masjid issue or the triple talaq matter.

A: The AIMMM, which is a platform of over a dozen divergent Muslim bodies, tries to create consensus on contentious issues. So far, you cannot say there is any dissension or differences of opinion on any contentious issues you referred to.

Yes, the AIMMM, during the tenure of late Syed Shahabuddin, remained in the forefront to put across Muslims’ point of view, but incidentally the gentleman (Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, currently chairman of the Delhi Commission for Minorities) who succeeded him did not raise any issues concerning the community, including Babri Masjid.

Q: As regards the Babri Masjid issue, what strategy have you worked out to counter the Sangh Parivar’s threat of launching an early 1990s-type Ayodhya agitation?

A: The whole and sole agenda of the Sangh Parivar is to divide society on communal lines with an aim to extract political benefits. This issue was bound to come. Nine months ago, I happened to meet an influential BJP parliamentarian who asked me to guess his party’s agenda in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

I replied that it will be Ram Mandir. He nodded in agreement, saying “you got it right”. It is obvious that the BJP is bound to rake up the Ram temple issue as all figures on the development front indict the Narendra Modi government. The people who voted for Modi in 2014 are feeling cheated.

Q: What’s the Muslims’ response to it?

A: Where do Muslims come into the scene? We have repeatedly asserted that we will abide by the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Babri Masjid issue. Period.

Q: Are you unfazed by these developments?

A: We are not unfazed. We are concerned. They are challenging the system, so the onus lies on the government. I know people from saffron bodies and a dominant section of the media are desperately looking for sharp reaction from the Muslim side, but they are not going to get it.

We know their designs. Polarise or play victim are the two basic tactics of the BJP. Muslim bodies should refrain from reacting to provocations being created by saffron organisations.

Q: But the Ayodhya issue may benefit the BJP in 2019 general election.

A: You are living in a fools’ paradise, like many in the media. People are no longer going to be trapped in the temple politics anymore.

Q: Are you doing anything to help anti-BJP parties in setting an alternative narrative?

A: We don’t have animosity with the BJP per se. We are opposed to the people and parties challenging the plural ethos of the country. We will definitely educate voters of the marginalised communities to stand together to defeat all such forces ~ the BJP in this case ~ which pose threat to secular democracy. We are opposed to the politics of hate propagated by the Sangh Parivar against minorities, against Constitution. They are demolishing the idea of India.

Q: But why should another party care for the Muslim community whose votes are claimed to be reserved unconditionally for the Congress anyway?

A: You too are swayed by the dominant media narrative. Where do the Muslims vote for Congress? Muslims are not the vote bank of any single political party. They vote for non- Congress and non-BJP entities in UP, Bihar, West Bengal and other belts. Muslims do have serious reservations regarding the Congress. Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid had once admitted that his party had “good RSS people”.

The Congress has to reconcile with the point that “hard Hindutva section” is not going to vote for it. Instead of succumbing to the “appeasement propaganda” spread by Hindutva groups ~ and now the majority of media houses ~ the Congress leaders should see the actual socio-economic condition of the Muslim community on various development parameters ~ and documents like the Sachar Committee report.

Q: But this has also exposed the failure of the entire Muslim leadership.

A: Indeed, the Muslim leadership has not delivered on the expected lines ~ for which various factors are responsible ~ yet you cannot deny the biased approach of bureaucracy and other implementing agencies towards Muslims. Muslims deserve to be treated as citizens. The attempt to patronise them, as the Sangh Parivar does, is unacceptable.

After all, you cannot disconnect this vast community from its glorious past, from its identities and cultures spread over one thousand years in our country. The Sangh Parivar suffers from identity complex. As a result, BJP governments in many states are on a mission to change Muslim-sounding names to build some archaic identity. Do you think these moves will erase the Muslim identities from across the country?

Q: But these moves are distorting the image of Muslim rule in India.

A: Media should be blamed for it. A section of dominant corporate-driven media has been on a mission to distort the Muslim image. It is unique to see the working of the Indian media. Here the media puts Opposition parties in the dock for everything. Instead of questioning the powers-that-be, the media here questions the Opposition. I don’t blame only corporate houses for such deplorable standards of our media. Some journalists are self-saffronised ~ they are voluntarily offering their services to the Sangh Parivar