Debating India

ELECTIONS 2004

BJP earnest towards Muslims

Sakina Yusuf KHAN

Sunday 21 March 2004, by KHAN*Sakina Yusuf

NEW DELHI: Arif Mohammad Khan, the firebrand Muslim leader of the 80’s, who took a progressive stand on the Shah Bano case and resigned from Rajiv Gandhi’s Cabinet for pandering to Muslim fundamentalists, has come a long way from his liberal days.

After being in political wilderness, he seems to have unlearnt his progressivism.

The man who in an interview to a national daily after the Gujarat riots had said, "Despite what has happened, I haven’t lost hope. People will see to it that BJP is relegated to the status of a Parliament leper (sic)", has joined its ranks and has no compunctions about dealing with Hindu fundamentalists like the RSS.

What made you join BJP?

Communalism has reached alarming proportions today. We need to change tactics and strategy to fight communalism.

How can your joining BJP fight communalism?

Arif is not such an important person, Arif has been sitting at home for 16 years.

How does Muslims’ supporting BJP fight communalism?

I’m not asking Muslims to support BJP. The day I see Muslims as a community move to BJP, I will be a sad man. The uneasiness in our relationship with BJP and Sangh Parivar is because they feel Muslims support Congress only to defeat BJP. And it creates a sense of animosity. Muslims should be in a position where they are wooed by various parties and nobody takes them for granted. They should vote as citizens, not Muslims, and their decision shouldn’t be based on the single agenda of th-eir security or protection of religious identity.

After Gujarat, how can you feel comfortable in BJP?

Just as other Muslims politicians have felt comfortable being in parties which were in power at the time of the Bhagalpur, Maliana and Meerut riots.

Are they comparable?

If 20 people are killed, is it a lesser crime than if 2,000 people are killed? Muslim leaders say you’ve done great harm to the community by joining BJP and giving it legitimacy. These very leaders have all along said I have no clout in the community. How can such a person’s joining give BJP any legitimacy?

You were once quoted as saying "BJP will be relegated to the status of a parliamentary leper.’ You’ve joined the leper?

I never said that. (On being shown the interview, he fumbles). This isn’t the kind of language I use, reporters often change the language).

But you didn’t deny it?

Mein kahan tak parhta rahoon aur deny karta rahoon?

In the same interview, you said "... the Sangh Parivar is a serious threat to the magnificent entity that is India? Do you still hold that view?

I’ve said worse things. I’ve written one of the harshest letters to Vajpayee. But my experience in Gujarat has convinced me that that it is only with their help that the communal divide that exists in society can be bridged.

Is your logic ’if you can’t beat them, join them’?

BJP’s image of being anti-Muslim is media-made. I see an earnest desire on their part to reach out.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Sunday, March 21, 2004.

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