Where the Muslim leadership erred
(Asad Mirza is a Delhi-based senior political and international affairs commentator. The views expressed in this article are personal.)
The manner in which the Rajiv Gandhi-led government bowed to the pressure of the Muslim Personal Law Board and reversed the secular judgement of the Supreme Court of 1985 by passing the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, set the ball in motion to get the locks of the Babri Masjid unlocked in 1986.
New Delhi: The unravelling of the Mandir-Masjid controversy over the years has exposed the amateur and impulsive handling of the issue by the Muslim leadership. Had they acted wisely earlier, then it would not have been such a cakewalk for the Hindu chauvinists.
Modern politics is not a game of chance, but agenda setting and narrative building most often lead to it. These two essential components of any political party’s strategy often translate into success for it.
In India, the most obvious example of a political party using these techniques is the present-day ruling party. The party is not new to agenda setting and narrative building, and in this exercise, it is often helped by leading corporate consultants, who help it devise a plan that could help it gain power.
In its case, the party has reaped huge benefits in electoral terms using these techniques, increasing its parliamentary tally from just 2 in 1984 to finally 304 in 2014.
The party, which was led by the Vajpayee-Advani duo from 1984 to 2009, was not so savvy at using these techniques, but it was very adept at exploiting the emotional feelings of the large Hindu community.
From 2009 onwards, under Modi’s leadership, these techniques were turned into finesse, and every technique to reap maximum results was deployed, including those that could counter the Muslim leaders emotionally and push them into a corner. On the other hand, the so-called Muslim leaders of the community have always indulged in knee-jerk reactions and pursued a form of politics that only ensures power for a select few and does not allow the benefits of progress to trickle down to the masses.
In fact, what we saw on January 22, 2024, in Ayodhya is the culmination of a campaign that had its roots in the Shah Bano case of 1985. The manner in which the Rajiv Gandhi-led government bowed to the pressure of the Muslim Personal Law Board and reversed the secular judgement of the Supreme Court of 1985 by passing the Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce Act), 1986, set the ball in motion to get the locks of the Babri Masjid unlocked in 1986.
Afterwards, the manner in which the Muslim leadership, both political and religious, manoeuvred the Babri Masjid case reeks of their complete disconnect with reality. I really wonder how many of these so-called Muslim leaders, who were spearheading the Babri Masjid case, had ever visited Ayodhya or the disputed site to get a first-hand impression of the ground reality.
Even the lawyers who were representing the Muslim community were not competent enough to handle such a nuanced case, but irrespective of their professional competence, they reaped huge monetary gains and moved on from bicycles to plush cars and palatial bungalows. Those who were really aware of the legal and constitutional aspects of the case were slowly shunted out and replaced by lawyers who had carried out only the routine clerical jobs in a court. What to say about appearing before the Supreme Court?
On the other hand, the leaders, both political and religious, who were heading the two Babri Masjid Action Committees were interested in only collecting donations in the name of fighting the court case for the Babri Masjid. Most of their statements and stands were often knee-jerk and adamant, without any logical or argumentative basis, and lacked any long-term strategy or vision.
Beginning January 2024, there were some advisories issued by the so-called Muslim leaders, who were so far not even involved in any manner with the Babri Masjid case. Such advisories and messages reminded me of the emotional rather than logical aspect and further showed the siege mentality of the Muslims since 1947.
It would have been better if the Muslim leaders had seen the writing on the wall earlier, and instead of rooting for a confrontation with the majority community, they had tried for a reconciliatory approach, which might have delivered different results for the community as a whole.
Additionally, in the last year, to counter the BJP’s push to convert the Pran Pratishtha ceremony of Lord Ram at Ayodhya to a religiously-couched political campaign, it would have helped them better if they had joined hands with those Hindu seers who were opposing the ceremony on various religious technicalities. The social media is full of many Hindu seers, historians, and academics criticising the whole show.
They should have understood right from the beginning that it was the ruling party’s and its supremo’s grand design to convert this religious ceremony into a vote-grabbing political campaign. To counter it, you had to adopt the same techniques. But alas, we can’t expect this from the so-called Muslim leaders, who have led the community since 1947 in a completely slapdash and amateurish manner, whether on religious issues or political issues. The main plank of their campaign should have been to counter the claim that the new Ram temple has been built at the same spot at which the Babri Masjid stood.
The reality is that the sanctum sanctorum of the new Ram temple lies about 3 km away from the central dome of the Babri Masjid, and so far it has been claimed that the birthplace of Lord Ram was below the central dome or the pulpit of the masjid. Even the new structure touches only the outer wall of the erstwhile Babri Masjid’s structure. So this means that the claim to build Ram Temple at the same spot as that of Babri Masjid is a hoax, and the promise has still not been carried out.
If the Muslim leaders had raised this point, then they would have taken the wind out of the sails of the self-proclaimed Ram Bhakts for having achieved what was unthinkable even a few decades ago.
But for this, they would have had to visit the Babri Masjid to know the real situation, which none of them did, and this shows their complete inaptitude and unworthiness to lead the community.
It is high time the young generation took over the Muslim community’s leadership, as they don’t carry the partition baggage with them and are more realistic and open about charting new paths. If the present leadership continues, then it may lead to further isolation of the community.
What we need now is a complete new approach to get the Muslims what they deserve and also highlight the gains the community has made during the last 77 years of independence based on its efforts. It takes a long time to change a community’s fortunes, but Indian Muslims, courtesy of their leaders, have fallen into a morass. Instead of looking at the government of the day with a begging bowl for some privileges, these so-called Muslim leaders should have led the community by establishing an ecosystem, which might have propelled it to greater achievements in every domain, like other minority communities in India. But these leaders harp on the backwardness of the community instead of collating its success stories and achievements, as they know that if they start highlighting the community’s achievements, then they might become redundant, as whatever the Muslim community has achieved during the last 77 years is mostly based on individuals who never proclaimed themselves to be the self-proclaimed leaders of the community. (IANS)