Muslims, Modi and divided India

A cross-section of Muslims share their views, as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate woos them for their votes.

Muslim voters play a decisive role in more than 100 of India's 543 parliamentary seats [File: EPA]

Narendra Modi, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, reached out to Muslims on Sunday by promising them “inclusive” economic development.

“We believe in economic development, while you play the politics of votes, letting Muslims languish in poverty,” Modi said at a rally in Uttar Pradesh state, in a jibe at rival political parties.

In a Hindu-dominated country, Muslims account for 13 percent of India’s population and play a critical role in deciding electoral outcomes in at least 100 of the 543 parliamentary seats.

With general elections less than three months away, Modi – the election frontrunner – is seeking to woo Muslim voters. In doing so, he is seeking to change popular Muslim perception of him as an anti-Muslim leader. He has already said he regrets the riots in his home state of Gujarat that killed at least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, in 2002.

But the jury is still out on whether India’s Muslims are willing to forget and forgive Modi for the deadly riots. Some of them spoke to Shaikh Azizur Rahman about what they thought about Modi and his latest sales-pitch for their votes.

Juzar S Bandukwala, retired professor of nuclear physics, Vadodara, Gujarat
Juzar S Bandukwala

Narendra Modi was the mastermind behind the riot that killed many Muslims and made 100,000 refugees. In the past 12 years he has consistently and arrogantly refused to show any remorse.

It is ridiculous that some BJP leaders are exhorting Muslims to vote for the party to turn India into a ‘riot free’ country. It is like asking the Jews to support Hitler to escape the gas chamber.

Today Modi is desperate to become the prime minister. He knows that the only big hurdle that stands on his path is India’s 200 million Muslim population. So, he and his party are seeking votes from Muslims. With the exception of a few rich and selfish Muslims, no one will support Modi.

I would rather be killed by Modi, but I shall never bow before him.

Aatef Bham, Young business entrepreneur, Mumbai

The BJP does realise the role that India’s minority might play in the coming elections and has begun addressing the issue.

Aatef Bham

Congress was given many chances, but disappointed us. I now think the time is up for Congress and the BJP should be given a chance. Politicians will play politics – it’s their job. But as a young Muslim who regards development as India’s number one priority, I have no doubts about Modi’s leadership and vision for India.

In the past 10 years, he has single-handedly transformed Gujarat into an example of development for other states. The same way, he will undoubtedly transform India into an example for other developing nations.

Until he was proven innocent, even I had held a grudge against the governance of Modi. But holding grudges against the country’s candidate for PM, who has been given a clean chit in the court, would just be a huge loss – not just for the BJP – but for us – India’s Muslims.

Zafarul-Islam Khan, Editor, (Muslim community newspaper) Milli Gazette, New Delhi

What the BJP is saying now is that it will be ready to apologise if something has hurt Muslims. This ‘if’ has no meaning. They have hurt Muslims in many ways.

Zafarul-Islam Khan

They demolished the Babri Mosque and instigated umpteen riots across the country, including the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat in which Narendra Modi was personally involved. He has also made sure that the criminals behind the riots do not get punished, the victims do not get justice and that proper reparations are not paid to them.

BJP has thwarted many schemes for the Muslim minority and no scheme has been allowed in Gujarat. Modi has polarised Gujarat on religious lines and has encouraged forces of insanity to marginalise Muslims all over the state.

Some 60,000 uprooted Muslims have still not returned to their villages. Until and unless practical steps are taken to undo the wrongs, verbal preparedness to apologise makes no sense.

Modi’s style of functioning are indicators of a fascist mindset. As the prime minister, he will be a disaster for India – just as Hitler and Mussolini were for their countries.

Aziz A Mubaraki, National Secretary, South Asia Ullema Council, Kolkata

Despite the BJP’s key role in the barbaric vandalisation of the Babri Mosque, in 1998, Muslims lent their support to the party to form the national government.

Aziz A Mubaraki

But, when the BJP-led alliance was in power, we saw the ghastly anti-Muslim riot in BJP-ruled state of Gujarat.

Then we also witnessed a dramatic increase in number of Muslims being targeted in fake encounters and fabricated terror cases.

Up to 97 percent or 98 percent of the Muslim young men who were arrested in terrorism cases across the country have now been found innocent by the courts. We must not forget that the BJP is the political wing of the Hindu right wing organisation RSS- which is rabidly anti-Muslim in nature.

Now, in the context of Modi, it’s our decision that we do not want to see him as the prime minister of this country.

Modi is living in a fool’s paradise if he thinks that the Muslim community would vote for him.

D Abul Fazal, professor of history, Vaniyambadi, Tamil Nadu

If the BJP really comes through with an apology in the near future, it will not mean anything to me. Shedding crocodile tears at the time of elections shows their insincerity towards the Muslims. Indian politics has reached a stage where the common man values action rather than any empty rhetoric. 

D Abul Fazal

From 1992, there has not been any action from the side of BJP which can instill confidence among Muslims. Rather, every action and statement of the party has created an aversion in us towards the BJP.

As soon as Narendra Modi was named the prime ministerial candidate and his chief lieutenant, the riot-tainted Amit Shah, was chosen the person in charge for the party in Uttar Pradesh, the Muzaffarnagar killings took place. Their agenda is clear.

Fielding Modi as the prime ministerial candidate reveals the party’s mala fide intentions. I must make it clear that it does not mean that I would have supported the BJP if they had chosen any other leader.

They want Modi as the prime minister to lead the process to divide India the way he did in Gujarat. The BJP wants to extend this experiment on a national basis now. I want India to remain united. I cannot support the BJP and I don’t want to see him as the PM of India.”

Md Shah Noorur Rahman, history professor, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

It is difficult for Muslims and the secular citizens to forget the Gujarat riots and the demolition of the Babri Mosque.

Md Shah Noorur Rahman

Modi cannot deny his moral responsibility for the Gujarat riots being the chief minister of the state. He is identified by the Muslims as well as non-Muslim secularists as a hardcore communalist.

Possibly, Modi has brought about material development in his state. But we cannot count this as development in a complete term. During the time of Hitler, Germany made very good progress economically. But, finally it was Hitler who was responsible for the World War II and his country’s miserable defeat in that war.

If Modi cannot convince us that he is really remorseful for the 2002 riots, there is no question to vote for him or his party.

Aziz Mollah, Imam of a village mosque, South 24 Paraganas, West Bengal

History of independent India is replete with communal riots. But the riots in Gujarat was unique since it was a state sponsored organised massacre of Muslims.

Aziz Mollah

We have no doubt that Modi was the chief architect of the Gujarat riots. 

After the Gujarat riots, Modi personally did not go to the riot victims to beg apology in clear terms for the murder of their near and dear ones. He took no concrete steps to rehabilitate the Muslim riot victims.

I foresee more attacks on Muslims and increased miseries for the community if the BJP comes to power.

I cannot vote for his party.

I have spoken to many anti-Modi and anti-BJP Muslims who feel that the party is fundamentally anti-Muslim and that it will never take the minority’s view into consideration.

Zafar Sareshwala, businessman, Ahmedabad, Gujarat

There are two major political blocs in the country. One is the Congress-led alliance of UPA and the other is BJP-headed NDA. If the Muslims do not want to go with the UPA, they have to support the NDA.

Zafar Sareshwala

There was a time when the BJP leaders used to say proudly that they did not need Muslim votes. Now the same party says that they need Muslim votes. We as Muslims should view it as a positive step by a powerful party and welcome it.

We cannot deny the fact that the BJP is the main opposition party in the parliament and is ruling in six or seven states. It was in power at the centre in the past and soon it may come to power again.

I think there is no harm in giving the BJP a chance because the post-2002 governance of Modi has been remarkable. In the last few years the Muslim community in Gujarat has prospered more than they had done in the previous 40 years or so.

Gujarat did not witness riots for the first time in 2002. There had been many riots in the past. In those riots, police and other officials were involved. But they did not face punishment then. But many perpetrators of the 2002 riots have been punished. 

At least 63 Hindus have been given life sentences and 460 Hindus have been convicted. And, in terms of fake encounters Gujarat is not the only state where fake encounters are taking place. But in Gujarat today more than 13 IPS officers have been in jail for the past seven years because of fake encounters and other cases. So, you have to give some credit to the Gujarat administration.

Modi is quite popular among young Muslims today. In fact many Muslims in India will vote for the BJP for the first time just because Modi is the party’s prime ministerial candidate. Apart from Modi, there are only two other contenders for the post – Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal. But none except Modi has the excellent track record of performance. So, he is my obvious choice as prime minister.

Source: Al Jazeera