Wooed during elections, and forgotten thereafter

Uttar Pradesh's Muslims are a disillusioned lot today, and nowhere is this sentiment more evident than in Azamgarh district and neighbouring Mau. They resent being looked upon only as a ‘vote bank,' wooed during the elections, and forgotten thereafter.

“Muslims are with all the mainstream political parties barring the Bharatiya Janata Party and yet it is strange to find the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party turning a blind eye to the rights guaranteed to the Muslims by the Constitution,” says Maulana Umair-us-Siddiq, the senior ‘Rafique' (Fellow) and Joint Editor of Ma'arif, a monthly news magazine published by Darul Musannefin Shibli Academy in Azamgarh. Ma'arif

Muslim anger is all the more after Azamgarh was dubbed “aatankgarh” (nursery of terrorism) in the wake of the Batla House encounter in New Delhi in September 2008. Many parents, concerned about possible harassment of their children by the police, stopped them from pursuing their education in the capital. “Azamgarh in fact is a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity and the seat of nationalists and eminent literary figures such as Allama Mohammed Shibli Nomani, who founded the National School in 1883, which later became the Shibli National College, and Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi, Rahul Sanskriteyan and Hariodh Singh Upadhyaya,” says Salman Sultan, an associate professor at Shibli National. With many Muslim youths, mostly from Sanjarpur village in Nizamabad constituency languishing in jail, the minority community is upset that the demand for a judicial probe has not been conceded by the Central government.

But this has not deterred political parties from wooing them ahead of the elections. Several Muslim-based parties have also sprung up: the Rashtriya Ulema Council (RUC) of Maulana Aamir Rashadi, earlier known as the Ulema Council of India, founded after the Batla House encounter, the Peace Party of Mohammed Ayyub Ansari, the Quami Ekta Dal founded by alleged mafia don, Mukhtar Ansari and his brother, Afzal Ansari.

Tahir Madani, Rashtriya Ulema Council general secretary and candidate from Nizamabad, says the party was contesting the elections on a development plank, as Azamgarh was one of the most backward districts in Purvanchal. The Peace Party has fielded Dr. Ayyub's son, Mohammed Irfan from Mubarakpur with an eye on the weavers' and most backward Muslims' vote; Mukhtar Ansari, sitting MLA from Mau, is contesting from the same seat on a Quami Ekta Dal ticket. His brother, Sibghatullah Ansari, a Samajwadi Party MLA from Mohammadabad before he left the party, is contesting from the same seat, but as a QED nominee. This party too is banking mainly on Muslim support, and those of the Bhumihars.

The moot point here is how these will affect the prospects of the SP, BSP and the Congress, which is hoping its promise of 4.5 per cent reservation for the backward Muslims will fetch votes. Abdus Salam Ansari of the Congress (Mubarakpur constituency) concedes that the smaller parties will dent the Muslim support base of the big parties. This may benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has always thrived on the division in Muslim votes.

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