India

Pasmanda Muslim leaders weigh PM Modi’s call

Among the foremost Pasmanda leaders, Ali Anwar Ansari feels mere words are not sufficient. File.

Among the foremost Pasmanda leaders, Ali Anwar Ansari feels mere words are not sufficient. File. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to the BJP cadre to work for the uplift of the marginalised or Pasmanda Muslims has set off hectic activity among the community’s leaders. Many Pasmanda leaders are willing to give the BJP a chance though some want the Prime Minister’s words to be backed up by action. Door-to-door campaigns, padayatras across Uttar Pradesh-Bihar districts and seminars are all being used as tools for possible amelioration.

Hoping for better employment opportunities and social mobility for those lagging behind among the Muslim community, the Pasmanda leaders feel Mr. Modi’s call to embrace low caste Muslims should be taken seriously. Stressing that though there is no caste system in Islam, there is definite caste differentiation among Indian Muslims, they want the benefits of development to percolate down to “the poorest of the poor” in the community.

Silent churning

Many Pasmanda leaders of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand have taken to door-to-door campaigns to create awareness among the community. A silent churning is going on in the region. Says Sabir Ali, former JD(U) MP whose first alliance with the BJP in 2014 lasted merely 24 hours, “More than 40 Pasmanda communities live in Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. For four generations, their economic condition has not improved. The challenge is to create awareness among them about the opportunities coming their way.”

Mr. Ali plans to cover 137 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar-Jharkhand over the next year, meeting Pasmanda Muslims. “I am not holding any rallies. That is a political thing. I am making friendship with fellow Pasmanda brothers, having door-to-door interaction with them. I have been to 26 districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar already.”

‘Against discrimination’

Another seasoned Pasmanda leader Ali Anwar Ansari is busy doing likewise. “I did not start my awareness campaign after the Prime Minister’s call. I have been doing it since 1998. I believe it is not sufficient for Pasmanda Muslims alone to speak up. All Pasmanda (economically backward) people cutting across religions suffer from the same problems. That is why, I gave the slogan, ‘ Dalit Pichhada ek saman, Hindu ho ya Musalman’ (Dalit-Backward are alike, be they Hindu or Muslim). We do not follow Owaisi’s policies. We are against all communalism and discrimination.”

Mr. Ansari has already addressed conferences on the subject in Patna and Mumbai. “I organised a meeting in Patna. After that, the Prime Minister talked of taking the Pasmanda Muslims along. We held a meeting in Madhepura too where Hindu and Muslim backward communities came on the same platform. We plan similar meets in Lucknow and Delhi.” Mr. Ansari is also writing to the Opposition leaders, asking them to state “their stand on the subject”.

Among the foremost Pasmanda leaders, Mr. Ansari feels mere words are not sufficient. “If the Prime Minister is serious, then he should put a full stop to lynching of Muslim men. Most victims are Pasmanda. All the attacks in the name of gauraksha should stop. Love Jehad attacks should stop. And attacks on namaz in the open should stop. A well-off Muslim does not pray in the park or road. It is the poor, the Pasmanda who pray in the park and are attacked there. Until these things stop, the Prime Minister’s remarks will appear to be a mere ruse to divide the Muslim community.”

He feels the problems of Ashraf (higher caste) and Ajlaf (backward caste) Muslims can be settled within the community. “The Koran does not talk of caste. There is no varna system in Islam. At the same time, the caste is a reality in the Indian Muslim society. We have to tackle it. It cannot be sorted out with a statement or a law.”

Taking note of the churning within the community, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind plans to establish a think tank of Pasmanda community members and also invite them to present their views with the Jamiat’s working committee members. It is alleged that most members of the prominent Muslim bodies like the Jamiat and Jamaat-e-Islami are from the Ashraf or upper castes with negligible representation of the Ajlaf or Arzal (lowest castes) communities. As Mr. Ali puts it, “The poorest of the poor have to be taken along.”


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Printable version | Sep 5, 2022 11:17:36 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pasmanda-muslim-leaders-warm-up-to-pm-modis-proposal/article65725640.ece