Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is a political party that began functioning during the Nizam era in Hyderabad. It was AIMIM supremo Salahuddin Owaisi who represented Hyderabad in parliament on a regular basis. His descendants, his two children, Asaduddin Owaisi and Akbaruddin Owaisi took the reins of the party after him. Asaduddin who went to England and got a barrister degree is a lawyer, an accomplished orator in English and Urdu language and is a clever organizer too.
The Owaisis succeeded in waging a war of attrition with Amanullah and his tribe who came up with the movement "Majlis Bachao" against the corruption and family domination in the Majlis which the Owaisis considered as their heritage.
The Majlis, which has seven seats as 'fixed deposit' in the Telangana legislative assembly, tried their fortune in Maharashtra and won one seat in its legislative assembly as well. It is not the first time that AIMIM is contesting in the Bihar Assembly elections. However, Asaduddin Owaisi has become a centre of discussion at the national level after his party won five seats in the Muslim majority region of Seemanchal. Although they contested as a third coalition with Devendra Yadav's Samajwadi Samta Party and Upendra Kushwaha's Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, it was only the Majlis that benefited from it. The results indicate that out of the four crore-strong electorate in Bihar, five lakhs voted for Majlis.
Several secular-Muslim entities have criticised that if the RJD-Congress-Communist had received these many votes, the NDA would have had to sit in opposition, the gist of the criticism being that the Congress party's number of seats got reduced from 27 to 19 and the whole Grand Alliance had to be in the opposition because of the Muslims'(the traditional vote bank of the Congress) thought differently this time. Well-wishers from within and outside the Muslim community raise the argument that the BJP-led alliance can be kept out of power only if the minority Muslims stop organizing themselves politically.
The essence of their argument further points out that not just in Bihar, but they can prevent the BJP from coming to power in Bengal also, where assembly elections are imminent, if they support the secular parties. Owaisi has a clear answer to this theory. To date, the Muslims have stood with the Congress and other parties that claim to be secular. Muslims have played a crucial role in bringing them to power too. But, what did they get in return? He cites Bihar itself as an example. Seemanchal is an area near the border of Bangladesh andNepal. BJP is threatening that a lot of infiltrators have come to this region from these countries, and that it will use NRC (National Register of Citizens) and CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) to expel these illegal migrants.
But the Congress or RJD has not consoled Muslims even with words, for they are so frightened of BJP. This is not a racial issue but an issue that questions the whole structure of our constitution, says Owaisi. He claims that his party is addressing it and that they are at the forefront for the past five years. He says that they are constantly working for the rehabilitation of the people suffering from the flood and the spread of COVID. We are doing everything possible for those who are returning from other states. Women are supporting us the most, he asserts.
Even barring the exaggeration in these claims, the question that begs an answer is what the Congress has done so far the Muslim minority who had been supporting the Congress. It is undeniable that the extreme saffronised view that even delivering drinking water in the minority inhabited places is an appeasement of Muslims, has made many secular parties apprehensive. So much so that the Congress is afraid of speaking up on issues faced by Muslims in Gujarat or their basic rights during their campaigns. The SP and BSP who posed as their saviours are still terrified to speak against the witch hunt of Muslims. SP, founded by 'Maulana' Mulayam Singh and Mayavati have observed eloquent silence during the Supreme Court's decision to release Babri Masjid to Hindus and later the Lucknow CBI court acquitting those who were found guilty by the Liberhan Commission in the destruction of the Masjid. As for the Congress, it welcomed the Supreme Court ruling. Not only did these parties fail to support the victims who protested against the CAA, but they are also silent even now when these victims are hunted and jailed with UAPA charges under the cover of the Covid pandemic.
There is another aspect that needs to be pointed out. While a few fear that BJP will harvest a huge number of secular votes if Owaisi comes to West Bengal with his party, and rightly so, they also hide truth that the CPM and Congress are uniting against the secular party Trinamool. The Trinamool-CPM-Congress can hold out against the BJP only if they decide to stay united. Here in Kerala, the Communist party government is more enthusiastic than the central government to implement economic reservation for the forward classes. Despite knowing that it will affect the reservations of the backward community, nether the Pinarayi government and the main opposition party, Congress, has reacted to it. The reason is obvious. They fear the loss of votes of the non-backward communities.
Those who speak out against this injustice are the communal extremists' in the eyes of the CPI (M)! In their eyes, the dangerous deviation is even Muslim League standing by the backward communities. In such a situation, Owaisis will enter the picture, make capital out of it, and even divide the secular class. It is not possible to silence or suppress them with purely one-sided false accusations. The secular entities should show the minimum concession to not brand as communal extremists those who peacefully fight for the rights promised to religious minorities.
Instead of shouting over and over that the solution for everything lies in falling in line under their banner , they should be ready to show its fulfilment in practice. It's a truth, and absolute truth, that those who kneel in front of majoritarianism cannot accept this.
(This article published in Madhyamam Daily was translated here by Fathima Shareef )