Four months before the Uttar Pradesh election results sent Muslims in India reeling in shock. Former Rajya Sabha MP Mohammed Adeeb delivered a speech in Lucknow, which, in hindsight, might be called prescient.
“If Muslims don’t wish to have the status of slaves, if they don’t want India to become a Hindu rashtra, they will have to keep away from electoral politics for a while and, instead, concentrate on education,” Adeeb told an audience comprising mostly members of the Aligarh Muslim University’s Old Boys Association.
It doesn’t mean that Adeeb wanted Muslims to keep away from voting. His aim was to have Muslim intellectuals rethink the idea of contesting elections.
That is contrary to popular wisdom, had his audience gasping. This prompted him to explain his suggestion in greater detail.
“We Muslims chose in 1947 not to live in the Muslim rashtra of Pakistan,” he said. “It is now the turn of Hindus to decide whether they want India to become a Hindu rashtra or remain secular. Muslims should understand that their very presence in the electoral fray leads to a communal polarisation. Why?”
“A segment of Hindus hates the very sight of Muslims,” he said. “Their icon is Narendra Modi. But 75% of Hindus are secular. Let them fight out over the kind of India they want. Muslim candidates have become a red rag to even secular Hindus who rally behind the Bharatiya Janata Party, turning every election into a Hindu-Muslim one.”
Later in the day, Adeeb met Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was in Lucknow. To Adeeb, Azad asked, “Why did you deliver such a speech?”
Sample how different villages voted along communal lines.
In the Rajput-dominated Hiranwada, the Bahujan Samaj Party bagged 14 votes, the Rashtriya Lok Dal not a single vote, the Samajwadi Party seven, and the Bharatiya Janata Party a whopping 790.
In Bhandoda, a village where the Brahmins are landowners and also dominate its demography, followed by Dalits, the Bahujan Samaj Party secured 156 votes, the Rashtriya Lok Dal zero, the Samajwadi Party nine, and the Bharatiya Janata Party 570.
In the Muslim-dominated Jalalabad, the Bahujan Samaj Party received 453 votes, the Rashtriya Lok Dal 15, the Samajwadi Party six and the Bharatiya Janata Party 23.
In Pindora, where Jats are 35% and Muslims around 30% of the population, the Bahujan Samaj Party polled 33 votes. The Rashtriya Lok Dal 482, the Samajwadi Party 33, and the Bharatiya Janata Party 278, most of which is said to have come from the lower economically backward castes.
In Devipura, where the Kashyaps are numerous, the Bahujan Samaj Party got 86 votes, the Rashtriya Lok Dal 42, the Samajwadi Party one and the Bharatiya Janata Party 433.
Poet Ameer Imam, who teaches in a college in the Muslim-dominated Sambhal constituency said. “Moulanas have been told that their services are required in masjids not in politics”. When Muslims applaud their rabble rousers, can they complain against those in the BJP?”
To this, add another question: When Mayawati spoke of Dalit-Muslim unity, didn’t Muslims think it would invite a Hindu backlash?