The uneasy silence of Muslim voters

first_img“Sab theek hai (everything is all right)” was the common refrain heard from Muslim voters at different polling stations across the sugarcane bowl of western Uttar Pradesh on Thursday during the first phase of polling. With eyes betraying the lips, they gave a cynical smile when asked about their concerns. “Muslim voter is baar gumsum hai (the Muslim voter is silent this time),” said Mohd. Anwar, the caretaker of Jama Masjid in Deoband.“This is what the BJP has taught us in the last five years — speak with a forked tongue. We are being made to feel as if we are not citizens of this country,” said Anas Siddiqui, who runs the popular Naimia Book Depot in Deoband.‘No options’“The silence is also because we have no options. We know that the SP-BSP-RLD alliance is a majboori ka gathbandhan (an alliance of desperation). And we are being asked to vote because the BJP is a bigger evil,” said Mohd Islam, 86, who has seen the days when the Muslim League lost to the Congress in Saharanpur. “I am a follower of Chaudhary Charan Singh who always talked of Muslim-Jat-Yadav unity. The Grand Alliance has been presented as a source of hope but we can’t be sure of the BSP. We are looking for a post-poll alliance between the Congress and the Grand Alliance.”Khursheed Hasan Usmani, a retired English teacher, said political parties have not been fair to Muslims. “We have not tried to build our leadership. Be it Mulayam, Akhilesh or Mayawati, we have always reposed our faith in a non-Muslim. Muslims have always lived as younger brothers of Hindus in the region. Now we are being used to create fear among the majority community. I can speak because I am sitting in Deoband. But can a Muslim living in a village of mixed population dare to speak his mind? Then they say we love to live in the ghettos.”Muslim vote bankMr. Usmani added that those who talk of Akhand Bharat forget that Pakistan was created to “neutralise the Muslim vote bank”.Md. Farooq, a local businessman, said he avoids taking meat delicacies with him during travel. “You never know when you can be flogged on charge of carrying beef. The laboratory test reports come much later.” But he also sees an opportunity in the adversity. “After the BJP started raising the issue of beef and instant triple talaq, Muslims started asking about what the Koran says on these subjects.”Dr. Aftab Alam, professor of political science at Aligarh Muslim University, said it’s not that communal flare-ups didn’t happen in earlier regimes. “But at that time things used to return to normal after the riots. Now what’s happening is something deeper. This gradual ‘otherisation’ of one community is much more dangerous.”last_img

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