Why Ramlila surge worries minorities and those on margins
Seema Chishti Posted: Aug 25, 2011 at 0216 hrs
New Delhi In the unseen and unheard margins of Team Anna's Ramlila
Surge, there's a growing sense of disquiet —especially among minority
and marginalised groups.
Despite carefully choreographed images of Muslim children publicly
breaking their Ramzaan fast with Anna Hazare, prominent Dalit, Muslim
and Christian leaders are deeply suspicious of the faces on display
and the voices emanating from the crowds.
They argue that Anna's ends — fighting corruption — is undoubtedly
justified, they condemn his arrest and the decision to send him to
Tihar Jail. But behind his cause, they see a clear disdain for the
very institutions crucial in safeguarding democratic freedom and
rights. In Team Anna's contemptuous indictment of Parliament, they see
a tarring of representative politics and, in effect, an indictment of
the vital safeguards of minorities.
In fact, so strong is the suspicion that even Prashant Bhushan's
left-liberal credentials as one who played a proactive role in the
Gujarat riots cases isn't dispelling these fears. Varun Gandhi's
much-hyped appearance at Ramlila today only reinforced these — in his
hate-Muslim election speech in 2009, he had threatened to "cut the
hand" of anyone who "raises a finger at the Hindus."
Says Akhtar-ul Wasey, Director, Institute of Islamic Studies, Jamia
Millia Islamia: "The issue of corruption is such that there's
tremendous pressure to join the crowd. Because if we oppose this
particular movement, they will say we are corrupt. Price rise,
corruption and unemployment have given a fillip to such forces.
Corruption ki aarh mein, (in the garb of corruption) they want to push
all kinds of defeated and empty slogans and agendas. Now the
government's timidity in the face of a crowd is fanning this
instability. Muslims, of course, want corruption to end but don't want
to make common cause with elements that want to rock the system, the
only preserve of our rights and freedoms."
No wonder that Deoband's new Mohtamim, Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, has
said that they have not supported this movement: "The movement is
basically suspect. The security and protection of Parliament and (to
honour the) glory of democracy is the duty of every citizen."
Mahmud Madani, MP and a leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, the only
prominent Muslim face among the 20 founders of India Against
Corruption — Team Anna's virtual platform — is now in Saharanpur and
practically in communicado. Zafaryab Jilani, member of All India
Muslim Personal Law Board, has made it clear that the Board has
nothing to do with this agitation. Says Maulana Ahmed Khizar Shah
Kashmiri of the Tanzeem Ulema-e-Hind: "The idea behind this campaign
is to weaken Parliamentary system and democracy and this is a blow to
Maulana Umer Ilyasi of the India Imam Organisation has called the
campaign a "political conspiracy" saying: "There is no question of any
one person being above the country's Constitution and Parliament.
There is no question of Muslims being part and parcel of this."
This chorus is heard the Urdu press as well. The Mumbai, Kanpur,
Bareilly, Lucknow and Delhi-based Inquilab on August 17 interviewed
several prominent community leaders, including chief of the
Jamat-e-Islami, Maulana Jalaluddin Umri. Their refrain: We agree with
the need for a strong Lokpal but not with the method of pushing it
Critics are also wary of those who have clambered aboard the Anna
bandwagon. Ramdev may have stepped back but there are questions about
the more urbane Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his Art of Living and youth
factions who shared the stage with the anti-reservation Youth for
Equality. Less than 10 days ago, they took part in the Hindu Unity
Day, in Texas. Also present was Subramaniam Swamy, most recently in
the news for writing that Muslims should be denied voting rights if
they do not accept their "Hindu legacy."
Indeed, reflecting this unease, Dalit activists and writers including
Udit Raj, Kancha Ilaiah, John Dayal and Joseph D'Souza, have argued
for reservation in the Lokpal set-up for SC/STs, OBCs and minorities
"to ensure that there is no injustice done to the backward and
The politics of Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi may be fuzzy but their
association with certain "causes" has raised questions, too. Last
year, Kejriwal and Bedi herself led the drive to target the Chief
Information Commissioner and insist that Bedi be made the CIC. In
fact, when then CIC Wajahat Habibullah resigned last year and there
was a chance that M M Ansari (now Kashmir interlocutor) would take
over, Kejriwal lobbied with Leader of Opposition L K Advani keen to
ensure that his name not be accepted.
Kejriwal and Bedi have also shared platforms put up by Youth for
Equality and Art of Living. On March 1 in 2009, for example, Kejriwal
and Bedi addressed the Youth for Equality and talked of both terrorism
and corruption. Youth for Equality has blamed reservation for
Archbishop of Delhi Father Vincent Concessao, a founder-member of the
IAC, is nowhere to be seen. Contacted, he told The Indian Express:
"This is pressure and a fast unto death is suicidal...there is no way
we will allow for our established Parliamentary practices to be
bypassed. We are with the issue but not with the means. How can they
say only one particular version of the Bill is to be followed?"
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