BJP’s own Muslim question: A farce called Pasmanda outreach

Modi Muslims

Even as the 2024 General Elections draw closer, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is all set to roll out some new and untested tricks to retain power.

And going by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at Bhopal on June 27, the party’s outreach to Pasmanda Muslims could well be one that the party seems set to deploy in all seriousness.

Yes, it’s essentially going to be a trick and not a genuine effort by the avowedly and unabashedly pro- Hindu party to ameliorate the lot of the vast majority of backward Muslims that have come to be identified as Pasmanda Muslims.

BJP’s new-found love for backward Muslims betrays some sense of electoral urgency ahead of 2024. With various surveys and the recent Karnataka elections showing the BJP’s Modi and Hindutva appeals plateauing out, it badly appears to need Muslim votes to stay afloat.

This exigency has also been voiced by none other than BJP’s ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in an editorial last month in the organisations mouthpiece Organiser.

The exigency has been exacerbated by the seemingly strong Opposition unity-in-the-mking that has the potential to derail the BJP’s 2024 mission to return to power with comfortable majority for the third consecutive term.

For the first time, the BJP is finding itself forced to – ironical as it may sound – “appease” Muslims, to use the word it loves to throw at its “secular” opponents ad nausean.

If that’s some poetic justice, or history exacting is revenge on the Muslim-baiter eco-system of RSS, it is necessary to lay bare the trickery behind the BJP’s move lest it gets away with it without contestation.

First let’s revisit the definition of Pasmanda Muslims. According to some Muslim scholars, Muslims in India can be divided into three categories depending on their social status.

At the top are who are known as Ashrafs, believed to be upper castes or descendents of the Muslim rulers, who had come as invaders from outside. Next come the Ajlafs, supposed to be backward castes and converts and last come the Arzal, the most backward and converts.

Of these, the Ajlafs and Arzals are called Pasmandas and constitute 85 pc of the entire Muslim population in India, according to these scholars.

On the face of it, the move to help Pasmanda Muslims appears well-intentioned. But going by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s historical view of Muslims, labelled “enemy” along with Communists and Christians by none other than the most revered RSS ideologue and second chief of the militant Hindu organisation late M S Golwalkar, this sudden sympathy for the vast majority of Muslims looks deeply deceitful.

First, the RSS or the BJP have never termed Golwalkar’s demonisation of Muslims as “wrong”. In his recent speeches though, the current RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat chose to describe it as something not in tune with time (kaal susangat nahi).

The RSS had subsequently also edited the controversial portions from the literature written by Golwalkar.

By inference it means what Golwalkar had said was then in tune with time.

So, the question is: if Muslims and Christians are no more “enemical”, then what’s the purpose for which the RSS continues its mission?

The RSS might argue that its mission is no more to counter Muslims or Christians but to restore the old glory to Bharat, to make Bharat the world’s topmost (sirmor in RSS terminology) nation “once again”.

If one were to accept it, one has to presume the RSS and its political front, the BJP, were willing to take Muslims and Chtistians along in that journey to the presumptive “old glory”.

Declaration of the intention to conduct outreach to Pasmanda Muslim squares up well with the above-inferred possibility that the larger Sangh Parivar doesn’t mind taking at least the Muslims along in that journeyb if not the Christians.

But the RSS and BJP’s actions have failed to match its words.

The anti-Muslim jingoism and rhetoric, punctuated by calculated violence being witnessed over the last ten years bear testimony to the fact that the RSS and the BJP have chosen to look the other way.

On the contrary, Bhagwat is on record saying the Hindu anger must be seen in the context of centuries of subjugation. This clearly looks like rationalisation of the naked violence against Muslims by its allied organisations and ideological allies as well as the state violence against them through its administrative and enforcement wings.

The genocide calls against Muslims, lynching of Muslim men by cow vigilantes and the boycott call against Muslim traders and shop-keepers show how the Right-wing eco-system is systematically trying to rob Muslims of their rightful place in India and render them secod-class citizens.

Why Prime Minister’s Pasmanda Muslim gestures rings hollow is also because the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots under his Chief Ministership then were also overwhelmingly Pasmandas.

We haven’t yet heard from him that what had happened in Gujarat in 2002 was wrong.

Since those at the receiving end of this violence are almost entirely Pasmanda Muslims and the Sangh parivar continues to boast about it as Muslims being taught the lesson they more than deserved, there should be no mistaking the BJP’s Pasmanda intiative as genuine.

Last but not the least, the BJP and RSS’ staunch opposition to bring backward Muslims in the ambit of reservation policy clearly mails their exhibition of sympathy for Pasmanda Muslims as put-on.

What must also be noted is that the BJP does want to reach out to the Pasmandas but only as labharthis (beneficiaries of government schemes), who will depend on government largess for their survival since they will be increasingly subjected to the boycott tyranny of the government-encouraged Right- wing hooligans.

Actually, the whole idea behind the call for boycott of Muslim businessmen, labourers and shop-keepers is to drain them of their livelihood and thus make them dependent on government alms.

For its Pasmanda Muslims intiative to be seen as genuine, the BJP must do much beyond the labharthi outreach.

Therefore, Pasmanda Muslims mustn’t allow themselves to be waylaid by the Modi government’s trickery.

They must tell the BJP to accept reservation for them, tender apology for anti-Muslim riots, promise speedy justice to victims of Right-wing violence against them and, of course, end to the cult of continued physical and mental violence against them to be the pre-conditions for any support it is seeking from the community.

Vivek Deshpande is a Nagpur-based journalist.

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