Death by Exile

The headline said it all: ‘Divided, the Muslim Vote Withers.’ And it was a fact. For the first time since 1947, the state of Uttar Pradesh, home to over 50 million Muslims, and the seat of Muslim power dating back almost six centuries, would not be sending a Muslim Member of Parliament (MP) to New Delhi. Technically, if you consider that less than 8 per cent of Muslims voted for the winning party, it would mean that close to 45 million Muslims from Uttar Pradesh do not have a representative of theirs in the Parliament. A sad fact indeed. This eventuality was predicted long ago by the members of the Muslim League.

In October 1905, a much publicised meeting took place between the ‘members of the Musalmans of British India,’ and the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, in Shimla, that would lay the foundations of the concept of a ‘Separate Electorate’ for Muslims. It would also lay the foundations of the All India Muslim League that would, in turn, propose and form the state of Pakistan.

A similar feeling of disenfranchisement has spread across the Muslims of India. The man who was at the helm of affairs when the worst-ever post-Partition anti-Muslim riots took place now holds the highest elected office of India. Muslims, especially in the Northern Gangetic Plains, who prided themselves on being the ‘deciding factor’ in elections, have suddenly realised the paucity of their numbers and have been made to eat humble pie. All naysayers who claimed that India was a land of ‘secular thought’ and that Modi ‘would even lose Gujarat if he tried to become Prime Minister,’ have been made to eat their own words. The inept, inefficient, and lazy Congress party needs to be given some credit for pushing Modi across the finishing line.

The result is despair and disillusionment amongst most Indian Muslims.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A crisis is always an opportunity.

Indian Muslims have only recently come out of the rut that they have intentionally been left in since 1857. A spate of riots in the 1980s, the razing of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the Bombay Blasts of 1993, and the Indian Mujahideen-led blasts in the last decade have seen many challenges put forth. The response has been exemplary so far. Rather than be led into the depths of the endless cycle of poverty and violence, much as the minority Blacks have in America, the Muslims have gradually, surely, found their feet in modern India. Maybe not in terms of power and influence, but surely in terms of survival.

The current crisis deserves nothing less than imaginative and visionary leadership. The current crop of Muslim leaders is inept, sold-out and grossly insecure, and is hoisting such feelings upon its own people. The voting patterns of most Muslim communities reflect this. Although still at the margins, Muslims need to work harder, stronger and faster to outpace other communities if they are to claim their rightful place in modern India. A compromise is not needed, and neither is a detente. What is needed is the simple directive: if you are to survive in India, you need education, vision, and leadership.

The opposite is simple to understand: marginalisation, ghettoisation and ultimate domination.

Even though the future direction of this administration is hard to predict, it can be safely said that the judiciary and military, excluding Kashmir, have been fairly objective in their performance. (The same cannot be said about State Police departments, though.) Land ownership remains unthreatened. Property can be insured. Schools, Colleges and Universities in the country admit students on merit. So do many government agencies and multi-national companies. Passports are issued for those willing to work abroad to send money back home. (More than 4.5 million Indian Muslims work in the Arabian Peninsula, which sends 45 per cent of all remittances to India) Such money has been channelled back to the community to construct housing colonies, schools, and fund education, and ultimately break the poverty cycle.

What remains is the ability of Indian Muslims to realise that despite his Hindutva background, despite his open loathing for Muslims, Modi is at heart a Gujarati businessman. For the Gujarati businessman, wealth creation, jobs, and development are the tools of life. It matters little where you pray. The lesson: be important, indispensable for India’s economy, and India will never let you down. Be at the fringes, living off subsidies, and you will forever remain with a begging bowl.