Kolkata: When the Furfura Sharif (a venerated place for Bengali Muslims in particular) cleric Abbas Siddiqui formed the Indian Secular Front (ISF), questions were raised whether the cleric was secular or not. Some also shared videos and claimed that he is communal and a misogynist. Furthermore, when two of India’s oldest political parties, CPM and Congress, accommodated ISF and gave a good number of seats to their alliance partner, questions were raised regarding CPM and Congress’s large heartedness as well.
While these issues will remain in the public domain and be debated upon, the one thing that the ISF could have done from the word go is to bust the myth of minority or Muslim appeasement by Trinamool Congress in Bengal. Now as three phases of West Bengal polls are over, it would be interesting to see whether ISF or Abbas Siddiqui manage to come close to busting that myth or not.
Muslims have a population of 30 percent in Bengal, but the Sachchar Committee in its report had observed that Muslims in Bengal are living under the worst conditions on many socio-economic parameters.
Despite this the community faces appeasement allegations.
Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its politics has been consistent in claiming that minority get appeased in India. In states, where there is Congress government, they claim Congress does it. In other places, BJP accuses other parties of doing the same. In recent times, Trinamool Congress has been the prime target of BJP and has faced regular attacks for ‘appeasing’ Muslims in Bengal.
On Tuesday also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in Bengal and alleged that Mamata Banerjee appeases Muslims and deprives others, especially the youth from other communities.
Social activist Ujjaini Halim points out that there has never been any minority appeasement in Bengal, neither during Left rule nor under TMC. “The only example some people give is Imam Bhatta, but we all know that it comes from the Waqf Board (which is funded by Muslim individuals and organisations), and not by the State or Central government. Interestingly, BJP leaders persistently claim that Mamata Banerjee indulges in the appeasement of Muslims. To counter that the BJP has announced in their manifesto that if they are voted to power, they will give Purohit Bhatta.”
“What I have noticed is that Muslims have been deprived of many social benefits. However, whether ISF or Abbas Siddiqui have been able to answer these or bust Muslim appeasement politics myth is still unclear,” added Ujjaini.
Sabir Ahmed, another social activist, who had interviewed Abbas Siddiqui recently pointed out that the cleric has so far missed the opportunity to clear this misconception. “In our interview, Abbas Siddiqui mentioned that he had first tried to ally with the ruling TMC, but the demands of seats made by him was not accepted by the TMC. So it’s clear that he is not really opposed to the TMC.”
Sabir further said, “So far ISF has not spoken on the lines that give concrete evidence to bust the myth of Muslim appeasement in Bengal.”
However, Abdul Matin, a concerned citizen and a close observer of ISF’s activities claims that ISF is more of a movement than a political party, “ISF has taken birth for the social justice of Bengal’s Muslims, Dalits and Tribals. And if you see their campaigning in rural areas, they are raising many issues which highlight lack of government work for these communities.”
Matin mentioned that there are issues of minority status of Milli Al Ameen college for girls which is at stake, the opening of a branch of the Aliah University in North Bengal, increasing the OBC reservation in Bengal, issues of closure of Madarasa Service Commission for over 7 years (and forcing the indtitutes to operate without teachers and staff) and other everyday social justice and employment issues that need immediate attention. Instead all have become secondary now. Stopping the BJP from taking control of Bengal has become centerstage.
“Knowing the politics of BJP, it is necessary no doubt to stop them from coming to power, but how correct is it to not address the real issues of Muslims, or Dalits and tribals? That is the question whose answer concerned Muslims and secular citizens are looking for,” added Matin.