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Updated: February 28, 2012 11:07 IST

Believe me, Muslims are not a herd

Shahid Siddiqui
Comment (81)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

Opportunistic politicians are projecting Muslims as a monolithic ‘vote bank,' whereas the reality is of a diverse community divided along caste and theological lines.

The myth of the Muslim vote bank, though denied by sociologists and debunked by psephologists, refuses to die. It reasserts itself with new vigour at every election. Even those well aware of the diversity within the community cannot resist building their arguments on this spurious claim.

The vote bank theory has been convenient for labelling Muslims and shoving them into handy brackets. It was done in India to explain the political behaviour of Muslims across regional, linguistic, caste, class and social barriers. Today it is done globally to gloss over inconvenient and inconsistent behaviour: it is a one-size fits all formula that cuts across regions and rides over locational differences and circumstances. Whether they are Thai, Chechen, Palestinian or European, Muslims are judged unfailingly by their faith and so-called beliefs. In this foretold story, everything is pre-decided: the crime, the culprit, the cause, the evidence and the punishment.

The vote bank

The idea that there is something called a “Muslim vote bank,” which behaves uniformly across the board, suits equally the Muslim leadership and its right wing Hindu counterpart. Muslim leaders and middlemen can bargain with political parties on behalf of this “collective” vote, as if individual Muslims have no opinion of their own and can be herded together in a pre-determined direction for a price decided mutually between the politicians and the community's self-appointed spokespersons. The Muslim vote bank helps communal Hindu organisations to manufacture their own “Hindu vote bank,” and use the whipped up Muslim threat to achieve their ultimate objective: a Hindu-Muslim electoral polarisation. The secular sections too have become unwitting participants in this game. Their intention is presumably to lift Muslims out of their sense of insecurity but the constant focus has only served to perpetuate the fear and victimhood that have been the bane of the community. Experts on 24x7 TV channels habitually use the vote bank theory to offer pat explanations for Muslim behaviour and to reach pre-fabricated conclusions.

I know I will be roundly attacked for these assertions for they question the very basis on which sectarian elements on both sides have built their arguments. The Muslim Ulema refuse to accept the ground reality of Islam in India which is as much mired in caste politics as any other Indian religion. The plain truth is that Muslim society is as divided as Hindu society and along the same caste and regional lines. Caste is such a formidable Indian/Hindu institution that no ideology can escape it: Islam, Christianity, Marxism, rationalism, modernism have all floundered on the bedrock of this hard reality. Islam became acceptable in medieval Indian society as a caste group and not as a religious group. Mughals, Pathans, Turks, Sheikhs and Syeds were regarded as sub-castes, so much so that other Indian converts to Islam came to be conveniently regarded as outcasts.

Diverse and complex

It suited the Turk/Pathan/Mughal rulers to be treated as caste groups and not as a monolithic religion. Those who understand Western Uttar Pradesh Muslim society will vouch for the existence of castes such as Jhojhas, Ranghars, Gharhas which are peculiar to Muslims of this area. Then you have Muslims divided along Hindu caste lines, among them Muslim Rajputs, Mode Jaat (Muslim Jat) and Khatri, Gujjar, Tyagi and Teli Muslims. Others such as Ansaris, Qureshis, Rayanis, Sulemanis and Saifis are as divided socially as any other caste groups. Add to this the Shia-Sunni and Deobandi-Barelvi divides and a dozen other divisions based on different school of thoughts, and you have a complex and diverse community.

Before Independence these divisions were not as sharp as they are today, primarily because the British had to be fought as a common enemy. However as electoral politics came to the fore, caste and sub-caste divisions got etched in bolder relief. Caste divisions in Muslim society were never as sharp or as rigid as they are in Hindu society. With the coming of democracy they became distinct political groups, and more so since the Mandalisation of North Indian politics. Today, Muslims in rural India do not vote as a single religious group. Their caste rivalries are so strong that if, for example, the Qureshis vote for one party, the Ansaris will vote for another. And the beauty of this voting is that it is irrespective of the candidate who could be Hindu or Muslim. To be sure, there does emerge from time to time a temporary “Muslim vote,” when the community faces a common threat like the “Ram Mandir” movement, or anti-Muslim pogroms as in Gujarat, Meerut or Bhagalpur. In fact it is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which by raising the bogey of the Muslim vote bank, that turns this fragmented vote into a formidable political entity. Muslim leaders in turn play the “Indian Islam/Muslims are in danger” card in order to unite the community under one banner. Contrary to popular assumptions, the Muslim vote never goes en masse to a single party, be it the Congress, the Samajwadi Party or the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Before Independence , even the Muslim League could never get more than 50 per cent of the Muslim vote in U.P. So analysts deliberately obfuscate the truth when they talk of Muslims voting for this or that party under the sway of one fatwa or another. The voting behaviour of Muslims is as varied as that of any other religious group, based on their socio-economic, rural-urban and caste-religion divides.

Influence of global events

In the last 40 years of my active journalistic life I have always been asked this question by my friends from the media: “What will be the impact of Bangladesh or an India-Pakistan war or the situation in Iran or the death of Saddam Hussein on Indian Muslim voting behaviour? Recently it was Salman Rushdie who was thought to be able to affect Muslim voting. My reply has always been that these issues do influence the minds of a section of Muslims but they do not influence their voting behavior. They voted for Indira Gandhi despite her being responsible for the break up of Pakistan. They voted for the Janata Party in 1977 despite the presence of the Jana Sangh in that camp. They went along with V.P. Singh despite his association with the BJP. They voted by and large with the Left Front in West Bengal but moved towards Mamata Banerjee as the general mood changed in that state.

The point I am making is that Muslims don't generally vote against the trend in their State. Even when they vote for a particular party it is never as a single, undifferentiated block. The media and analysts should stop looking at Muslim voters through the prism of a “vote bank” and start treating them as individuals and groups. The subconscious contempt we have for the “other” (read Muslims) leads us to believe that they somehow behave irrationally, as a herd led by their fanatic leaders. The legend of the Muslim vote bank is strong and will be used and reused in this election as in the previous ones. However, for a better understanding of Indian politics it is best that we think beyond the vote bank.

(Shahid Siddiqui is a former Member of Parliament, editor of Nai Duniya and currently a member of the Samajwadi Party.)

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I came from a sunni background. The hujur in our madarassa was a islamic scholar from Allahabad. Some times back when Budha statue was smashed in Afghanistan this 'scholar" made us 8 years old talibs to bring the school history book, tear off the budhha photo and dance on the peices of the paper!I was too small to see the absurdness of his act then.After some years there was a news of Ashura bombings in Karbala,Iraq with many hundred dead. 'Allah's punishment' was the reaction of the same learned scholar.So guys get this straight that as a muslim my ex community will vote en block as along as we are a minority in non muslim country. In muslim majority country we will slaughter each other.

from:  Azad Murtad
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 20:50 IST

The author has put his argument in very nice way. However, i didn't see any scientific explanation. I think the author has given his own perception rather than the fact.

from:  baba
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 18:23 IST

i am from tamil nadu.. for the past two assembly elections., two major groups of muslim organization., aligned with two regional tops.. then how do you (the commentor) think that, the muslim votes are goes to one party according to their imam/ mulla's of their mosque..

from:  sayeed
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 18:23 IST

In Karnataka, where I live, my Muslim friends and neighbours when they refer to another Muslim call him or her as "from our caste" and as written by the author in this article there are various regional hues in Muslims too in that there are Tamil Muslims, Malayalee Muslims and Kannada Muslims and often these Muslims have voted differently in Loksabha elections in each southern state and have a subconscious but an active "linguistic identity" and often spat over matters concerning their states and their own regional (i.e. South Indian) languages. Thus a Muslim like any other Indian indivudal is a makeup of multiple identities and interests.

from:  Ganesh Shenoy
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 18:16 IST

Quiet an "interesting" article from a member of a party that has never to my best knowledge ever used the development plank, but always relied on casteist and communal politics. If Mr. Siddiqui believes that Muslims do not vote en bloc, can he explain (among many other things) the controversial speeches made by his party's General Secretary, Mr. Sanjay Dutt during the campaining for the last Lok Sabha elections provoking Muslims (Mr. Dutt claimed in the speeches that he was beaten up in police custody after his arrest for illegaly posseing arms because his mother was a muslim). It is one thing to write high-sounding articles. The truth comes out when it comes to practice!

from:  Vaibhav
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 14:07 IST

Yes author has written and brought domestic and international Muslim behavior and current position but since Author himself a Muslim he left his narrative incomplete without corrective point and recovery plan. Author perhaps know why Indian Muslim or Muslim as a whole lagging on respective platform,either in India Muslim are far behind in entire field why, The Hindu has published some days ago one article
on Rushdie perspective and written by Mr.Praveen Swami where he had thrown light on Muslim graduate ratio,and he shown poor performance of Muslim in certain decade, of course Muslim are backward in many front and system wants to keep them backward in India, moreover Muslim of India is also much responsible for their ride but system is more 200% responsible for Muslim backwardness. 1.6 BL APPROX Muslim are living in this world but no one is asking about their views why? Muslim nation are rich in minerals ores and oil but why they are in receiving end Muslim as whole need to introspect.

from:  Rehan
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 11:20 IST

We gather in groups for our worship where we pray for the elections because it is mentioned in the Bible that we need to pray for the rulers of our country / state. But I haven't come across anyone telling in the church that we need to vote for a particular party. The only thing they say is that to live a peaceful and happy living in the country forget not to vote. We see people have their own will to vote to any party, because it is the fundamental rights of every individual.

from:  Hazel James
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 10:53 IST

This article although appears to be nice and present some facts about muslim voting behaviour is not well researched.Althoug muslims do have castes but it is not caste_based society.it is only due to socio-economic conditions and neo-liberal influences that muslim society appears to be divided,a paradox!the fact is that there are different schools of thought who are concomitant and assimilative of each other.However factions like barailwe muslims,qaadiyanis and shias sound contradictory to ulemas and here muslims will sound divided society.but as a fact of belief they are all united.A single blasphemy remark or sacrilegious step would unite the entire muslim world.what i want to say is that religiously they are united and will gloss over any difference but politicaly they might be divided depending on their own conviction.

from:  Ab Rehman
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 10:17 IST

government has made its policies to divide every community caste, and
religion for petty gains.muslims in india are decendents of hindus who
turned to islam due to many reasons and caste was the top among
all.This enigma is persistent mainly in the subcontinent and
liberation of bangladesh ,kashmir upset,punjab-baloch struggle in
pak,concept of muhagir etc are its examples.According to The HOLY
QURAN anyone who makes division in islam is an infidal,and gov't has done the same. caste based reservations has divided this country as well muslims also .i think that the voting behaviour of any person depends upon ones level and it varies even in familes and muslims too are rising to there consience level .SO politicians don't ever think to exploit more .!we all indians should rise above to think what these politicians are doing for the nation.

from:  asif khan
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 09:34 IST

Siddiqui saheb didn't mentioned driving force for indira downfall after emergency ? Not to mention role of Bukari. Most of time local political situation drives to whom to vote or not to vote. If person is from same community thats driving factor to vote . Most of people from hyd knows owasi didn't help much them in hyd locally still they vote him to delhi reason whole community feels he brings issues related to minority loud and clear in the parliament. That's one reason kept him winning till his death .It’s a shame we don’t have any reflecting owasi today .

from:  rahim
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 03:09 IST

It is really a news that there are so many castes and sects among Muslims and that they do not vote enbloc normally. However, they being living in identifiable clusters and generally not being well educated, makes them easy targets for unscruplous politicians to treat them as vote banks. Sadly many a time vote bank politicians are proved correct when the the results are in the expected pattern. There is lesson for the BJP, that whenever they raise issues like Rammandir it has the effect of creating muslim vote bank. And it can be easily stated that no corresponding Hindu vote bank is created, otherwise they would have majority in most of elections. There is a crying need for an alternative to Congress now which BJP can hope to capture only if it can prove personal integrity of its leadership in every State and capacity to deliver justice to one and all irrespective of caste and creed according to the constitution. The Karnataka episode is a big blot which they cannot wash off easily.

from:  Narayana Sambarapu
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 00:46 IST

A Good Insightful article. This is a shame that we use to treat Muslims as a homogenized community in politics, culture and public policy. Whether it is Vote Bank Policy or the Counter-Terrorism Policy or for that matter the Reservation policy, the overwhelming stereotyping is prevalent. I personally feel under-privileged Muslims should be recognized on the basis of their socioeconomic and development status and must be accorded due reservation in education, financial inclusion and jobs.

from:  Kamala Kanta Dash
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 00:36 IST

So the muslims vote for muslim party or congress party or RJD or
communist parties. So they aclaim any party but not BJP! That is it.
So Hindus should not vote any body the muslims vote! So what does the
author wants to say to intellectuals. Hindus all are not united
against hindu religious sentiments notably congress. Even this Hindu.
is more anti hindu than Hindu the name mast of this paper and also
supports congress stand in saBhano Case. I have yet to see muslims
critising in letters the intolerance of muslims towards their personal
laws or religious tenents , unlike Hindu. Do not think I am anti
muslim. I like them and respect their religions in many aspects, but
cannot stand these psuedo writings. When will this author critise
negative points of this religion and educate his fellow muslims like
we criticise the Hindu groups? Remember Hindus pray for Shiva or
Vishnu or both in equal measure. This diversity and democracy is in
the religious thought of Hindus.

from:  UB Jayanthi
Posted on: Feb 7, 2012 at 00:04 IST

A balanced article, close to reality. However, one thing is incorrect, general elections were held in March,1971, before crisis in former East Pakistan present day Bangladesh.Question of Muslims voting for Congress despite break-up of Pakistan which happened in December, 1971 is therefore not true.

from:  M Ali
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 21:29 IST

Mr. Siddiqui's dissertation on Muslin ‘vote bank’, that the Muslim
community is also 'caste' and 'class ridden, is not any revelation.
In an election scenario, the preferential quotas and sops offered, do
influence Muslim community as a whole to vote in favour of a party
forgetting their ‘social/hierarchical status. He states that “common
threats like the Ram Mandir movement, or anti-Muslim pogroms as in
Gujarat, Meerut or Bhagalpur, bring the Muslim community together. By
the same count, the behavior of the community will be no different
when windfall sops and opportunities are thrown at them. The ‘vote
bank’ politics is not a myth, as he labors to put across.

from:  M.R.Sampath
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 21:10 IST

In India region wise representatives are elected and the voters of that region are educated enough to understand the development values of their region and the issues of security of their belief or faith. So regional entropy matters more for the behaviour of muslims vote to be collective or non collective.
When a threat comes to all section of any particular community a collective measure will be taken by them in terms of vote bank or other. It will be a natural phenomena.

from:  Layeeque
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 20:45 IST

A balanced article, close to reality. However, one thing is incorrect, general elections were held in March,1971, before crisis in former East Pakistan present day Bangladesh.Question of Muslims voting for Congress despite break-up of Pakistan which happened in December, 1971 is therefore not true.

from:  M Ali
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 19:52 IST

Does the author have any statistical data to substantiate his claims,if
yes he could have included that too in the article.The author must also
answer the reason for a 20% equivalent reservation poll claim by his own
party.If there is no vote bank,then why the candidates are all from a
single religion in areas where that religion is a majority?

from:  Noble T Padiyara
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 18:51 IST

Hindus are also caste based vote bank. Bengalis are left-right oriented vote bank

from:  Sudipta Guha
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 17:58 IST

A fine piece, however I strongly believe its a handful of opportunist politicians who have brought the nation to this shame of vote bank politics. The latest episode of Salman Rushdie was clearly one of them. The rural muslim voter in UP/Bihar doesn't even know who Salman Rushdie is. They are influenced more by their local leaders who preach all sorts of nonsense for votes. BJP fielded a Muslim candidate from Bgagalpur LS seat and winning the seat is now like a piece of cake for them. So what happened to the right winged part stuff here? Muslims voted for the candidate ignoring the party. So it again the same bottom line, unless the educated and intellectual of the community takes the responsibilty of educating their masses of the right and wrong, we will always have these sections of socity looked upon as heards, be it muslims, be it harijans.

from:  K V Dev
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 17:56 IST

I agree with the author's view points which is further explained by Mr. Ramganesh. Politicians in all the states try to psychologically influence the deciding community in that region,by deleberately bring up / creating some communal issues from time to time and keep that alive. They try to utilise the influence of relegious institutions like mosque / church / community organisation.In political vocabulary you can frequently hear the word "X vote bank", X can be Muslim, Hindu, christian, Scheduled Caste, Latin Catholics, what else. Another favourite vocabulary is "Women trafficking". The sad thing is sometimes they hit at the aim. Once they hit the aim they forget the issue conveniently till the time of next election.Probably India is the only country in which the caste should be filled up in Officail records. That should be stopped first, for ensuring equal treatment for all sect of people.Caste and religion should be kept as a private issue,and there should be mutual respect.

from:  Neena
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 17:02 IST

If what the author says is true, we should welcome the change in the Muslim mindset. However, what is being done to increase literacy among the Muslim masses? Not much. Perhaps a section of Muslim leaders have vested interest in poverty and lack of education of the Muslims at large. When would this change?

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 16:57 IST

Perfect analysis of north Indian muslim politics. I am not denying that there is a caste system among the north Indian muslims, which cannot be seen in south India. However, it is true that Muslim have never united on common ground, except few cases on whihc clerics were united.

from:  Shareef
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 16:56 IST

Well written article, but a small mistake I would like to point out
is that, the article does not seem to be fit for the entire Muslim
community. The educated people from both Hindu & Muslim community in
southern India has never bothered about religion and have never
imparted such thoughts to younger generations. As a matter of fact,
in the world famous Sri Padmanabha Temple of Trivandrum, where literacy rate has been very high even under the then King of Travancore , even now Islamic flag is carried over elephants in front of the almighty Hindu God which speaks of religious tolerance to Muslims of the place unlike Northern parts of India where fanatic rulers always played a game of suppression based on religion which led to intolerance and education was given least importance. Hence history & education contributes much more than political pranks for election. This could be a reason why our dons keep a chunk of people uneducated and under BPL,even after 65 years of independence.

from:  Sriram Padmanabhan
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 16:37 IST

Agree 100% with the author. It is to be noted that the %vote data for different parties are available with Election Commission and other relevant Government Departments. It would have been very nice if the author could have brought that data into this article. Even in recent TN elections, when I checked the data, so called Thevars who support AIADMK, Mudaliar who support DMK, Muslims who support DMK/Congress is split with only 60%approx votes going to their so called favaourite party or vote bank of respective parties.
The data and trend of muslim vote is in line with other communities in all parts of India... may be for exception of BJP. And the only reason is because of their anti-brotherly treatment to muslims though all Indians are brothers & sisters.

from:  Roshan
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 16:17 IST

One thing author has clearly failed to mention that as Muslims are becoming more literate and aware and they are investigating current practices vis a vis righteousness or gaining knowledge of Islam through self-study of Quraan,they increasingly have realised that casteism is Indian sub-continent phenomenon which is abhorred in Islam.And now even though caste nomenclature might exist(lure of being Muslim Dalits etc.) there are no differences or any bias amongst each other on the basis of caste. It remains only as the vestige of our Indian heritage and doesn't matter socially but only politicians or people who might benefit from such things are interested in bringing up the caste issue in Muslims(including Shahid Siddiqui).

from:  Aabid
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 16:16 IST

Well written! It is indeed tragic that we tend to fall easily into the habit of
stereotyping. We are all individual pursuing our own goals first, and then come the various categories into which we may want to fit ourselves in. As a child growing in a military cantonment, I had friends from every religious group. Our Muslim neighbours were as much our friends and we celebrated Diwali and Id with them, although that was admittedly in the pre-Babri-Masjid era when things were more tranquil. Now that my parents live in a civilian, Hindu neighbourhood, they view all Muslims with suspicion.
Unless people from different groups interact with each other on a daily basis, there is always this risk of stereotyping the others. The government and society at large need to ensure such a mixing. What the BJP has been doing the last two decades is truly unfortunate and unworthy of a national party!

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 16:00 IST

Although Siddiqui gave clear distinguish between voting behaviour and the way of thinking by normal muslims, one should not forget that non muslims are much cared about the muslim society than muslims itself.We should happy that political party are bringing the problems of muslims in forefront keeping the eyes on muslim votes. But so called muslim politicians are failed to do the same.

from:  Mohammed Fakrudeen
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 15:27 IST

Author has expressed ground realities. The main reason behind any particular cluster of population lagging behind is the lack of education. It is the reason behind most problems. Empowerment of any community is completely dependant on how much it is educated. The leaders from the Muslim communities to fall to politicians' promises or they might prefer their own ambitions over the community's cause. The politicians for sure lack will to act however it is just like "God help them those who help themselves". Government has to do a lot for everybody, without govt the task is herculean.

from:  Ashutosh Vichore
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 15:26 IST

If you are trying to imply that our politicians are foolish to think the muslims(by and large) are voting for them...and still they are successful, tell me who is foolish?? I don't support classifying the muslims as a vote bank as it doesn't help solving the issue. But the fact remains that muslims do vote on communal preferances more than any other community.
Perhaps the author has seen a different rural India. I agree they may vote to a Hindu as long as he/she belongs to a so called "secular" party. If Congress still stands a chance of making a come-back...whom do you think they are "Bank-ing" upon???
What I am not trying to say is all muslims are hard-liners. But we can't yet say that they aren't being 'used' by our politicians as . Though I am not saying that they are the only ones who vote on communal lines, but the fact that they are much smaller in number (read: Minority), yet the political parties find them lucrative as a 'vote-bank' must mean something.....

from:  Pranav Singh
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 15:14 IST

In India heritage is the vote bank. 80% of the voters are following their family politics, It means my grand father followed a political party, my father, mother, and my two brother are same party. Why they are not changing, even if their party candidate are not qualified, they vote for him. It is the heritage made by wise politicians, they make communal issues and ordinary people will compel to see their friends, neighbor through his political party eyes, In india major economical decisions made considering vote bank. That is why political parties cannot take a strong decision on controlling the population. India should follow what China did in their population control programs. At the time of Babary Masjid demolished Indian prime minister Nara Sigh Rao was silent on doing nothing, because, that was an issue between Muslim voters and Hindu voters, otherwise the mosque can be saved at any cost, and the benefit gone to BJP. Heritage politics must be stopped and minimum qualifications should be decided. See our major political leaders are making ticket for their relatives, avoiding those who are working long time for the party.

from:  Suresh
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 15:04 IST

Insightfully written and very balanced article that deflates certain well established falsehoods

from:  V Chakraborty
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:59 IST

Well written.. The facts are equally applicable in south India. I don't know if the author is an expert in the political-relegious-caste systems in Kerala. Though it has 24% Muslims and 19% Christians, they never vote as a herd. Muslim league did't enjoy victory alwayz in the muslim majority areas. Same is the case of Kerala Congress in Christian majority areas.

from:  Ameen San Sebastian.
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:48 IST

Muslims may not vote as a group till now but if we continue to look at them as just an irrational herd voters, they might start becoming one. Also I do not think that there are any Muslims who support BJP and that is not because that some leader is saying not to support BJP or because they want to against the trend in the state. That is because the stupidity of BJP. And because of this they can not be called irrational.

from:  Abhishek Sharma
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:37 IST

I am pleased with the writer that he try to awake the mind of young Indian Muslim.He has highlighted some points which needs to focus .I think the need of hour is to have political national party which will represent MUSLIM and their interest.The so-called secular party fails to upliftment the muslim community.so we appeal the like minded people Muslim of india to make a creation of a party who will represent muslims at national level

from:  javed ahmad
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:10 IST

Its very much fact that even today Muslims do vote it bulk. May not be 100% but they do take instruction at religious centers and try to vote collectively. Whereas there is no such tendency can be associates with any community other than who vote for quota. Till the time they will keep deciding collectively at their religious centers there will people who use it and those abuse use. The problem has become chronic now and will remain main factor to divide the society in this country till the time people of Muslim keep on voting on religious lines.

from:  Hitesh
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 14:01 IST

A good article. Most of the time, the Hindu-Muslim or Hindu-Christian dialog is subdued and hushed, thereby giving rise to and perpetuation of steriotypes. A constant, friendly and open dialog about interfaith issues, as well as secular issues where members of different faiths take sides on and debate about secular issues - both are critical to better understanding, and thereby peace. So, in that sense, we may see this article as a beginning, and not defining or conclusive in any way. Hope The Hindu keeps up the dialog. Necessarily, opposing points of view will emerge, and they must be tackled on the basis of intellectual openness and honesty.

from:  Vishwamitra T
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 13:35 IST

I believe that there is a shift in Muslim attitudes and behaviours. This is directly linked to the coming of age of the Muslim middle class. The fundamental question to which the answer has changed, and therefore the shift, is 'Are you an Indian Muslim or Are you a Muslim Indian?'. Clearly, the days of Muslim Indian are gone and we are slowly but definitely moving towards the Indian Muslim. If this happens completely, then the treatment of muslims as vote banks will surely be a thing of the past.

from:  Madhava
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 13:32 IST

Mr. Shahid Siddiqui himself is a product of "vote bank politics". Being a media person, he could play a positive role but he did nothing except exploiting Muslim centiments. Here, his audience is different and so is his tone and approach. When he wrties in Urdu, his approach is entirely different and he emotionally blackmails Muslims. His political career SP-BSP-SP is evidence that he works only for personal gains and has no ideology. He is totally clueless about Muslim issues.

from:  Parvez Alvi
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 13:25 IST

This is very biased, not a ture and artificially created article to
counter the Shri.Gurumurthy's article wrote few weeks before in New
Indian Express. The Whole India and Indian knew that Muslims vote en
block to a political party un-like Hindu. The anti Hindu news paper
called THE HINDU allowing to write such article is known to readers of
India. Day will come very few will read The Hindu and they have to close
their business shop

from:  LAKSHMI NARASIMHACHARI KRISHNAN
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 13:10 IST

Nicely written, many thanks for this. Everyone of us knows this truth, but many of us refuse to accept it or believe it for one or other reason. I completely agree with the author that people (not just Muslims, but also people with any sort of community identity) should first be seen as individuals and groups, and I would say that any generalization of their collectivities, without taking into account the multiple aspects, purposes and realities of life in their collective actions such as voting, will lead to problems. The only group that benefits from reiterating this notion persistently is the one aspiring for power not only in political realm but in other fields as well.

from:  Muthuraj S.
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:48 IST

Minorities are always portrayed as vote banks, be it Muslims or Christians in India. The right wing politics reap benefit from this by polarization. Our society is losing secular voices like the above author. Any change should come from within the concerned society it self. So it is nice to here from you.

from:  Anoop
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:46 IST

The author is echoing the words of Mr. Narendra Modi. Every one of
his sadbhavana yatra speeches contain this same issue. Fight vote-
bank politics. Although the author asserts that Muslims vote
individually, this is but a recent development, one seen due to
increase in their involvement in regular education. However, in
states like UP, the dogma still remains. It will be a great day for
India when every citizen votes based in the merit of the candidate
and the entire manifesto he promises to uphold. But we are not there
yet, not with muslims or caste based. Despicable as it may be,
political parties have not matured enough to realize this; not the
left (Kerala) and neither the grand old party the INC (UP and
elsewhere) nor others BJP (MP,KA), BSP,SP,JD. It will set a great
example if the muslims of UP prove this in the upcoming elections.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:40 IST

It's a fact what has been written by author.Muslims have been treated
as herd of voters who vote as a community as considered by political
parties.But I myself as Muslim voter I consider various factor while
voting and all these things like wooing by political parties
diminishes at the time of voting.We Muslims tend to be treated as
alien by politicians but we are aware of the facts.Actually in real
sense there's no caste/sub caste in Muslim society but created by so
called mentors.I hope in coming years with the improvement in literacy
rates and socio economic factor things would go in a right way.

from:  SSM
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:40 IST

When the so called 'Leaders of the Muslim' go on to say that all of the community are going to vote for a single party (The vote bank),they show that they themself have a very low opinion of the community. The muslim today is just like any other religious community because the God we believe in has very less to do with what we want from life in this modern era. Muslims also want education, health sevices, jobs and eradication of corruption. The reason being they are also effected in the same way as the Hindus(or any other religious people) when any of the problems come. I acknowledge that the average muslim population is less educated than the national average. This has obvious relation with the highest population growth rate they have and also with the dismal performance of our education system which has not been able to provide jobs in the way it was needed. They need a leader who can improve all this and not someone who has senseless politics to play.

from:  Rohit
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:39 IST

The author is right in predicting attacks for his "assertions". The article seems a little contradictory and of course in full denial of reality. First of all the author thinks that BJP can use an "imagined" muslim vote bank to create an actual Hindu vote bank... What? Muslims are impervious to herd behaviour. Does not the muslim populace have anything in common? Do they not have any agendas that can be exploited by the parties? Fine... There maybe be subcastes in Islam... But come on... you dont need much to elicit a feeling of solidarity from any particular religion or caste. The party that will win power at the centre does not depend on any one single party the muslims might vote for, but a coaltion of these elected pro muslim parties. And since Muslims will not vote BJP (this is a educated guess), they wont come to power... and thats all that matters right? You dont really need Muslims to vote for your party as long as they vote for maybe the UPA.

from:  Nitin Nair
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:35 IST

While the author has described the situation elaborately and quite
objectively, it is interesting to note that he is a former MP and
present member of Samajwadi Party. What does he have to say about the
fact that his party has always been accused of playing vote bank
politics of Muslims? Also while I would pray that I be wrong totally,
it APPEARS that there are more hardliners among the Muslim community
vis-a-vis others.
Just like two humans are not alike, so is the case with communities.
Mathematically/Statistically this seems to be very logical and
obvious. However we would always want to bridge this gap but for our
short-sightedness and our falling into the trap of the wicked
(politicos?).

from:  Anan Dixit
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:30 IST

Well said They (Muslims) are not herds. But Jinnah proved successful to create a state of Pakistan for the 'herds'. These Herds when they get majority, are successful in driving out the minorities from their own land like the Pandits of Kashmir. Please note that the secularist parties will not for a moment support these groups, if the herd mentality is not to be seen. Hence, herd mentality is there and is being exploited by the politicians.

from:  K Kannan
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:30 IST

I am writing in response to the comments of Snbala Posted on: Feb 6,
2012 at 09:36 IST. Dear friend U are confused. It is a fact every true
Muslim has to offer collective prayers five times in a day in a
mosque. Besides the noon prayers on Every Friday has to be offered
collectively in Mosque. These are mandatory. It is also a fact that
the IMAM delivers a SERMON, hearing of which is again mandatory. My
Dear the SERMON delivered is not poisonous as U perceive it to be. It
is always healthy and constructive as it is based on HOLY QURAN [Which
is book containing best things for all humanity] and sayings of
Prophet MUHAMMED [pbuh]. No politics is discussed but problems faced
by the respective community are occasionally referred.
Let me assure that no IMAM, worth his name, wiil ask Muslims to vote
for any candidate from the pulpit of Mosque. He may do so outside
mosque where he may be exercising his right to speak.

from:  kirmani Manzoor Ahmed
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:25 IST

It is a perfect analysis of Muslim society in India and their voting behaviour by Mr Shahid Siddiqui. In today's world, what people
aspire for is a good governance, who-so-ever provides it. Muslims in
India including those in Kashmir vote for development, better wages, electricity, water etc. Even in a single family, father & son vote
for two different parties. So the myth of 'Vote Bank' should
evaporate from the India political discourse. Individuals, irrespective of religious identities are guided by their self
interest so long their existence is not being threatened by some
exclusivist ideology. In Kashmir, in the last Assembly elections,
PDP tries to play along narrow sectarian/regional lines, but people
have voted for NC and Congress for their secular credentials.

from:  Sajad Padder
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:16 IST

Of course all Muslims don't vote as a single bloc on all issues. All
people, muslims included, have several identities. An individual
might be man or woman, doctor or businessman, rich or poor or middle
class, capitalist or communist and when deciding on any issue, they
vote based on the identity that is most relevant to that issue.
Which is why when economics and development is promoted as the main
election issue, many Muslims vote based on their class and economic
condition and not on their identity as a muslim. However, when the
issue is social or moral, the muslim identity tends to play a role
and some muslims seem to choose the words of their imam over that of
their constitution. This is a problem. And it is a problem,
increasingly, with Hindus as well. But, hearteningly, communal
parties have not been able to get the Hindu masses to vote based
solely on their religious identity. If they could, BJP would win
every time.

from:  Raamganesh
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:06 IST

@SnBala - The very reason Muslim gather in Masjid (Five times a day
and not just friday) is because salaah (commonly knownere as namaz) is
ordained as most important pillar of Islaam after unity in worship of
Allaah. Since you doesn't seem to be a Muslim, its not binding on you.

Most of the public lectures in the masjid are related to theology,
history and learning best of manners to implement in our life from
Qur'aan and the life example of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be
peace) and his companions. We shun terrorism and also shun bias in the
media about creating fear of Muslims as the other ones.

Thank you The Hindu for publishing it and Congatulation to the author
for writing it.

Article 25 of Indian constitution allows Indians to practice and
preach their faith.

from:  Mirza
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:02 IST

I always feel that there should be only one Caste and one Religion. People should feel that way as well. Politicians take advantages otherwise. All the above spat is because of the religion.

let there be one religion "Humanity". And i agree that people are diversified in their view irrespective of caste, creed and religion. they know which is good for them and they will go ahead with it.

The only point i would like to make is the Politicians take a hell lot of advantage and as said they will segregate the people like some flock and they make the entire system to follow in their footsteps. The entire thinking of it as a whole should be changed. And every citizen of India should slap and tell the politicos that don't give reservation or anything good to one particular community. Do it to all, then only we will vote.

from:  sai
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:01 IST

Its an eye opener for those who blindly believe islamic community as a single entity. As the author has said the media has to look into the realities before entering any conclusion.. Well said article..

from:  Preetha
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 12:00 IST

Dear Mr. Siddique,
That was indeed an excellent piece of writing about the concept of Muslim Vote Bank Myth. Looking at some of the points such as Vajpayee being elected continuously from Lucknow despite being the head of BJP, it shows that Muslim Vote Banks does not work always. Having said that, I see small sects of Muslims in rural India do vote according to the fatwas by their Mullas in the respective Mosque. They do believe in their Mullas more than anything. Thus every time the politicians use Muslim Vote bank politics, fulfilling their propaganda.

from:  Manish Sharma
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 11:58 IST

its very well organised article.
logically presented by the author with facts and instances.
hope he will come again with such articles..

from:  ABHISHEK
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 11:13 IST

Would Mr.Siddiqui-with his position of influence as a Member of Parliament- initiate a study on the Beneficiaries of the Reservations
and Other Benefits awarded under Various Schemes.

This is a Must since the bar of "Creamy Layer"has been Raised to Rs.450,000 per annum -excluding Agrculture Income.
STILL the Politicians and Pressure Groups are demanding this raised to
Rs.800,000.per annum.
Can any one believe that the persons whose income is Rs.449,999.IS
BACKWARD in a Country -according to the Dy.Chairman of Planning Commission Rs.25/ day for rural and Rs.32/day is to be considered ABOVE POVERTY LINES.

from:  ajithkumar
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 11:11 IST

Excellent article. The article has placed facts to demystify the muslim vote. Thanks for bringing to the fore the caste/faith/region complexities of the muslim vote. Fly in the ointment is the author takes this opportunity to whip the Gujarat government of 'pograms' against muslims. That was below the belt.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 10:50 IST

That's a really well written article... Although these things are there in the back of the mind of every Indian, even the educated section is sometimes misled or tend to overlook them.... As you stated the main reason is the political parties trying to exploit the Hindu vote bank.. I'm sure the society needs a constant reminding so that the Muslim community is not alienated...

from:  Rahul
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 10:16 IST

When a political party promises benefits to the Muslim community
(e.g., reservations, Haj assistance) the entire Muslim community
votes for that party, irrespective of the party's other policies.
That's why their votes went to parties with opposing views in
successive elections.
Politicians understand this, concede the programs, get the votes. This
is how democracy works anywhere, though it is disparaged as "vote
bank" politics. Every community (Dalits, OBCs, Sikhs, Jhats, whatever)
does the same - and more power to them! However, Muslims tend not
voice dissent or protest volubly on issues they perceive as their
"internal issues" (e.g. Shah Bano case or the Salman Rushdie incident)
irrespective of what the majority may consider to be “fair” or
“progressive”. This group-think gives rise to the prevalent
perception that Muslims are "monolithic".

from:  MUKUNDAGIRI SADAGOPAN
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 10:13 IST

I agree that they do not vote en mass in favour of any Party, but one
thing is sure that they do not vote in favor of BJP for sure which has
shown its recurring allergy towards Muslims. Here the herd mentality
works. UP is an example.

from:  Asma Rizwan
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 10:13 IST

The author is 200% correct.....

from:  Venkataramanan Ramasethu
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 10:11 IST

I think the author first needs to convince his own party leadership
about this. They themselves and congress are going ahead with an
assumption that is exactly opposite to the authors claims.
They are also indulging in the worst form of communal politics
relative to which, even extreme right fringes of Indian society would
look like minnows. Collectively they are playing with the nations
security, without due regard to the 1000 years of ethnic cleansing
this country has endured.

from:  Ganesh
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 10:04 IST

Thank you Mr.Siddiqui for your courage in writing this article and thanks to the Hindu for publishing it.Caste system exists from time immemorial.Even Israel-being a new Nation -exhorted all sons and daughters of the religion to the Promised Land from all corners of the world Could Not escape this tragic bracketing-all migrated are treated differently.
IT IS HIGH TIME that the "Myth"of Politicians being the God Fathers of
a community exposed and each person irrespective of his caste or creed NEED to be identified as a Responsible Citizen of the Country having own beliefs and convictions.We gloat having a State which is
Secular in all aspects.Still we-especially Politicians including Cabinet Ministers make references and speeches referring the sections of Society by its Religious beliefs.IS it not a Crime especially during an election campaign.SOME are MORE EQUAL than OTHERS.
HOPE MORE LIKE MR.SIDDIQUI WILL VOICE THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE STATE
OF THE DIVIDE

from:  arackal Narayanan
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 10:01 IST

Well written article! Political parties are under the illusion that people vote in "blocks" -- be it any diversity dimension caste/religion/regional/linguistic -- it may be possible to occasionally polarize the vote. But, there are no permanent "vote banks". Anyone playing "vote bank" card is bound to get disappointed.

from:  Sundar
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 09:57 IST

Prejudice against any minority, harassment of ‘outsider/foreigner’, oppression as a tool to subdue/enslave a section of society ‘under any pretext’ (wealth/class, religion, race, birth-country, colour, cultural practices of ancient tribes, sex, sexuality, appearance – jewish payot, sikh dastar, etc) is so common place throughout history, world over – EVEN TODAY – as to make any thinking human weep.

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 09:46 IST

The fact that every Muslim gathers for Friday prayers and listens to their Mullahs irrespective of their position in the society has made the Muslims as a vote bank in the minds of the politicians. Muslims consider their Koranic statements as more important than the law of the land and are willing to gather to fight anyone whom they presume has insulted their Koranic truths is another reason for all Muslims being considered as a vote bank.

from:  Snbala
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 09:36 IST

Nice article, but the author categorically debunks the Muslim vote bank, it may be true in most cases, but in India it is pronounced in many places. I am from Hyderabad, this constituency has always produced a Majlis MP and MLAs with a majority so high that many parties have not even fielded candidates facing imminent loss. What is wrong with classifying such population as having a single agenda. Muslims are patriots when it comes to India but the truth is sometimes their voting pattern is based on what a Imam or a deobandi fatwa says.

from:  N Suresh Kumar
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 09:04 IST

Dear Shahid Siddiqui I beg to differ with you on certain points that you made in this intresting article.But the most important is on 'Vote Banks'- I am from a south Indian state and by and large I see minority religious institutions playing a very important role in voting patterns. After the meeting during the elections they vote en masse, to whomsoever they are told to. So the divisions and individuality you portrayed in the article and the ground realities are incompatible, with or without polarisation. It is sad that this control is extended by these institutions by 'internalisation' of external problems and fear mongering, leading to further marginalisations and prevents any internal reforms.

from:  S THEJHAS
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 08:56 IST

Excellent article, sir! I have been reading your articles recently, in various news-papers, particularly with respect to the Rushdie affair and I find lot of merits in your various points. Pieces like these, certainly help non-muslims understand muslims as peoples and as voting groups better. I would only urge that you continue this in a more organized manner with lot more like-minded individuals and I am certain you will do a lot of good to the country in the long run. I also feel, like for any other group, education is the only tool for liberation and the means to wipe out prejudices and entrenched views about any groups of people

from:  Sankara Narayanan
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 07:21 IST

Yes,there is,there is a strong MUSLIM VOTE BANK in UP.
Always they vote negatively,to defeat,usually someone,BJP.

from:  Sadath Nedumangad
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 05:23 IST

there is nothing to substantiate the cental claim of this article.

from:  raj
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 05:20 IST

Impressive piece. But until 1984 elections, for Parliamentary Elections, around 70
percentage of Muslim votes went to Congress;1977 may have been a slight exception. After
that there was a shift to Janata Party and then at state level in UP and Bihar for a
considerable period to the Yadav based parties. This is changing and the Muslim votes
have become less clearly identified with any Party, though preference for Congress remains
strong at General Elections.

from:  Desh Gupta
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 04:55 IST

It is a well crafted,story, that is fiction. The writer's party has promised a 18 per cent
reservation for Muslims in UP in the ongoing elections. If it does not consider them as vote
banks, do you think that this would have been a poll promise?
The Muslim league and none else wins(others set up only Muslim candidates, who of
course lose badly)in Malappuram. Ditto is the case with Hyderabad in a part which is
Muslim dominated where the MIM only wins.
It is a fact that despite the internal differences, the Muslims in India vote as a united lot where they are a countable minority or a majority.

from:  S Srinivasan
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 04:42 IST

After a long time we are able to read a good and truthful article on
Islamic people of India. No doubt it is true that Indian Muslims are
much more divided on caste lines. It is also a true that the entire
community is united on hatred towards Hindus and other Nationalists
forces.

from:  Chandra
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 04:20 IST

The article points out many self evident truths on the existence of caste divisions within the Muslim Community. The question is Mr. Siddique, should our Republics objective be to exacerbate the chasm between communities (upper caste muslim/ lower caste muslim ; upper caste hindu'/ 'lower caste hindu'; muslim/hindu) or to finally begin the process of assimilating a national identity based on norms of citizenship? Under the garb of leveling the playing field, as it were, your party (with others) in fact represents the perpetuation of feudal structures within Indian Society. Why else would your leader begin campaigning in state elections with a pledge to deliver a 18% quota for Muslims living in the state? Further, as a Muslim women, I can firmly say: your party offers nothing for our advancement. It is frankly much easier for you to stand up to Hindu Hardliners than to the hardliners at Deoband and ask us- Muslim women- to join the 21st Century.

from:  Hassina
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 03:54 IST

Mr. Siddiqui points his finger at "Hindu Groups", "Secular Groups" and experts on 24 TV as perpetuating a myth of one unified muslim grouping. However, he might have just missed the single most important group- the muslim 'Ulema' itself. Whilst he may be right to point out the caste divisions within Indian Muslims, this smacks of attempts to soften the ground for converting the constitutionally approved system of reservation for 'lower caste' Hindu's into into a faith based system of reservation- thereby allowing his party to campaign on the highly politicized system of quotas. One cannot forget, his party has just called for reservations in UP on proportion to the Muslim population (ie ~20%). If he truly wishes for others not to see Muslim voters as acting as one bloc, perhaps he and his party might start by not 'baiting' them as one bloc in their attempts to seize power.

from:  Sopie
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 03:18 IST

The story of castes, maybe its true in UP.. In the south esp Kerala, we
don't have castes or any such second names.. Indeed we have different
school of thoughts and that as you mentioned takes the vote to different
parties.. we have significant number of voters in both the congress
alliance and with the left..

from:  Shazin Shafi Ahamed
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 03:10 IST

While the author makes certain valid points, How many muslims,
despite their various differences, do not take offence at blasphemy? Any
cartoon will unite the muslim world. Look at the number of comments in
any article on Salman Rushdie. Very few have decried the fatwa. The fact
is that muslims are more united than their hindu counterparts. It has
both good and bad aspects.

from:  Siva Bhaskaran
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 02:56 IST

Very apt ! We all need an ideological upheavel. Is the media willing to
shoulder the responsibility?

from:  Rohit Srivastava
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 02:52 IST

Another opinion passing off as a trend. I would like to see some data and analysis to support the views here. Aren't there any sociologists or political scientists studying these questions with well constructed research studies?

from:  I.C.Nito
Posted on: Feb 6, 2012 at 00:21 IST
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