The BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is trying to bridge the gap with Muslims by instituting awards for the minority and introducing other welfare schemes

The Bharatiya Janata Party seems to be writing a different script in Madhya Pradesh and the effort has not gone unnoticed, especially among a section of influential Muslims in the State. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has instituted three awards for Muslims in various fields — basically symbolic in nature and a first-of-its-kind in the State and in the country.

The initiative has earned widespread appreciation in the State, so much so that it has actually started getting converted into votes, though at the local level only at the moment, but a trend that could translate on a larger scale.

The three awards, named after Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan, Shaheed Hamid Khan (soldier) and Maulana Abul Qalam Azad, were instituted in 2011 in the fields of public service, bravery and education, culture and literature. The awards were presented to the recipients in April this year at a function in Bhopal.

The first Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan Award has been given to Dr. Abdul Rasheed Patel, a dental surgeon by profession from Badwani. Dr. Patel, who retired as chief medical officer from Badwani in 2005, is a well-known figure in Madhya Pradesh for his work for the welfare of Muslims children, especially helping them getting the benefit of government schemes like scholarships and training programmes among others.

The first Shaheed Hamid Khan Award for bravery was received by Maulana Mohammad Mahmud Ahmad Qadri of Jabalpur. A renowned hakim from Jabalpur, Mr. Qadri is a respected name for his contribution towards communal harmony as well.

The Maulana Abul Qalam Azad award for education, culture, and literature has been conferred on Dr. Razia Hamid, a respected litterateur from Bhopal, who has many books and short stories to her credit. The awards carry Rs. one lakh in cash and a citation.

Even staunch critics of the Chauhan government are all in praises for him for the enterprise. Dr. Ishrat Ali, the Shahr Qazi of Indore, is one of them. “This has been done for the first time ever by any government in this country. Not even the Congress governments have done it in the last so many years. Even though it is only symbolic in nature, it is still a good gesture,” he says. Dr. Patel, the recipient of Ashfaqullah Khan Award, says it felt nice to be honoured by the government. “This initiative has been appreciated by people on a large scale. At least the Madhya Pradesh government is trying to show that it cares for us. And this has reflected in the fact that even Muslims have voted for the BJP in the just-concluded civic body elections in Badwani,” he says. Twenty one of the total 24 wards in Badwani, which are Muslim majority areas, have been won by the BJP for the first time, he points out.

There is, however, a sense of apprehension. Though too small an indicator at the moment, but if the trend continues it could even reflect at the larger scale, fears Dr. Ali. According to him, such gestures are essentially cosmetic in nature but people get fooled into being bought over by such gestures. “This is like throwing a bone to a dog…Basic issues of livelihood and deprivation continue to plague a large section of the community for which the government is doing nothing,” he says.

He, however, gives credit to the Chief Minister for maintaining communal harmony in his second tenure and providing financial assistance to Muslim families for the marriage of their daughters among other things. But as far as symbolic gestures are concerned, Shivraj Singh Chauhan has actually managed it well. This year he got a substantial number of Muslim women to tie a rakhi on his wrist.

More In: Delhi