Uttar pradesh

Muslims in U.P. ‘adapt to times’

Representational image

Representational image | Photo Credit: AP

“Every time I take her to mate, I take a letter from Kaptaan sahib [Superintendent of Police] to that effect,” said Mazahir Hussain, a retired head constable, one of the very Muslims who keep a cow in Dhakiya Chaman, a tiny hamlet in Amroha, alongside Delhi-Moradabad expressway. “For if I don’t,” said Mr. Hussain, there was every possibility that he was stopped by some lumpen elements who would either ask for a cut or make his derriere swell by at least two inches. Mr. Hussain gestures with his fingers the size of the potential swelling. “I passed her on to a Gurjar farmer but he failed to feed her properly. So, I brought her back,” he said.

In Budhana, Muzaffarnagar, an aged ironsmith Karimuddin said Muslims in villages in the region had stopped lifting even dead cows. “Now ‘they’ suffer,” he chuckled.

In the ongoing Assembly polls, one thing is clear that Muslims across rural Uttar Pradesh have learnt to live with the BJP. They are diplomatic, less vocal and the sense of fear that used to prevail among them has given way to a quiet, pragmatic approach and a realisation that their projection as the adversary in the election campaign should be minimised on the ground.

Unlike the Jatavs, Muslim respondents start by praising the BJP rule for providing regular ration and better law and order situations. It is only when you spend time with them that they talk about how the everyday hate that is being injected is worse than the periodic riots that used to happen earlier. But in the same vein, they would say hateful messages had become hackneyed in this election.

Role of pandemic

In Titwai village of Muzaffarnagar, an aged farmer Kamre Alam said the pandemic had played a role. “People knew everybody had to go to the same resting place but the deaths in the second wave refreshed the teachings. In villages, people attend each other’s funerals. When you have to go to a burial and cremation ground every day, differences also get buried.”

Observers said its impact could be seen from the way the BJP has been forced to import the ‘Muslim issue’ from other States and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who held very few rallies in the first two phases has finally addressed the issue of stray cattle.

Modi’s promise

The day Mr. Modi linked the Samajwadi Party’s cycle symbol with terror, he also, for the first time, admitted that stray cattle were a real problem. In Unnao public meeting, he said that after March 10 a comprehensive plan will be prepared to get rid of the “ chhutta pashu” (cattle on the loose), which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath loves to call nirashrit (shelterless). He repeated it on Tuesday in Baharaich.

The Muslim youth laugh at the ruling party’s predicament and often ask what does the BJP expects of them. When they put on the skull caps and hijab, they are branded as too conservative, a threat to the modern, secular India. And when they give themselves secular pet names or use religion-neutral names for their business installations, they are told to wear their Muslim identity.

“It seems the BJP knows more about the issues that can hit the soft spot in Muslims than the real issues. The youth is funding the BJP by paying examination fees of tests whose papers are leaked or whose results don’t pass judicial scrutiny,” said Faizi Usmani, a graduate in Deoband, seeking a government job.

The young deputy sheher qazi Syed Azfar Husain said the community should look within as well. “Educational spaces like Darul Uloom could have done more to reach out to non Muslims to correct the skewed perception of Islam presented by the BJP,” he said.

“When you beat one of your children too much without a valid reason, he becomes kind of immune,” said Rashid Ali, a journalist in Muzaffarnagar. “The Muslim businessmen and the lower bureaucracy and police have realised they are mutually beneficial. One is ready to pay up to get the job done quickly and the other is eager to accept without any dilemmas.”

Loyalty towards Jats

By voting heavily for the Rashtriya Lok Dal in the previous election, Mr Ali said, Muslims had already proved their loyalty towards the Jats, the only community that could stop a Muslim midway and beat him up in the region. “After the farmers’ agitation, as the trust factor has improved further, he feels even more secure.” This, he said, had baffled the BJP and was one of the reasons behind repeated attempts to woo RLD chief Jayant Singh.

Aftab Alam, Chairman of the Department of Strategic and Security Studies, Aligarh Muslim University said if Muslims become apolitical for some time, the BJP would lose its bite. If they become nonreactive, nonvocal, the BJP’s narrative would not gain traction. “After all, not far back the slogan, Mile Mulayam, Kanshiram, Hare Jai Shri Ram, echoed in the region.”

Prof. Alam said the BJP consciously chose the SP as its rival in the election because it could be easily dubbed as a Muslim party. “It also means a message could be sent to the Jatavs that the Bahujan Samaj Party is not in the race and they could shift to whom they consider lesser evil.”

Lacking ideological commitment, observers feel that the SP, under Akhilesh Yadav, is in a shape-shifting stage and is reacting to the BJP’s charges. In the previous election, when it was called a goonda party, Mr. Yadav dumped his uncle Shivpal Yadav. Now that it is being dubbed as a 'Namazwaadi party' in WhatsApp groups, so Mr. Yadav is keeping an arm’s length from contentious Muslim issues. “We know both the BJP and the SP are venomous for us. The difference is the SP’s poison works at a slow pace,” said Haji Munsad, a veteran SP supporter in Amroha. Is AIMIM an option in the long run? “No, not at all. Who will go to Hyderabad to get the job done?” he laughed. Mr. Ali said the general sense that Muslims were waiting for the Congress to get its act together.

However, Mohd. Zaheerudin, a seasoned social activist from Khurja said the BJP had mastered what the Congress used to do sporadically. “In the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, I was in Maldah (West Bengal) when a slogan, Gau hamari Mata hai, Abdul Ghani Khan Chaudhary ise khata hai (cow is our mother and Ghani Khan Chaudhary eats it) was echoing in the Muslim dominated constituency. It was believed that Mr. Chaudhary used to pay people to raise them to polarise the electorate."

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 3:32:37 am | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/uttar-pradesh-assembly/muslims-across-rural-up-have-turned-pragmatic/article65075018.ece