As the Pasmanda Muslim movement gains traction, the community's leaders have urged Opposition parties to step forward to support their demand for Dalit Muslims to be given the status of Scheduled Caste, and the benefits of reservation like their counterparts from the Hindu community. They also seek a caste census for all, including Muslims. “This will reveal the exact percentage of the Pasmanda community. So far, the Ashrafs have a strong grip on the resources of the community,” a Pasmanda leader said in New Delhi.
In a letter addressed to leading Opposition parties, including the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Samajwadi Party (SP), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), the Pasmanda leadership has asked the parties to clearly state their stand on the issue of Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Muslims. “The parties which claim to be secular and get the Muslim vote in huge numbers are not ready to state their stand on Pasmanda Muslims. The Muslim community in general is poor and backward. Accordingly, Pasmanda Muslims are the worst off. Yet, we don’t hear any political party from the Opposition speaking for them,” a Pasmanda leader said on the eve of a day-long meet in New Delhi.
Engaging the Opposition parties via the letter is an initiative of noted Pasmanda leader Ali Anwar Ansari, president of the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz. “The Opposition is fighting a defensive war. They need to wage an aggressive war. Nobody wins a defensive war,” is the community’s refrain to the Opposition, urging non-BJP political parties to overcome their reluctance in speaking about the minorities. The Pasmanda Muslims are disappointed that “whenever there is any instance of lynching, usually, a Pasmanda Muslim is killed, like in the case of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri in 2015 or Tabreiz Ansari in 2019. Yet, opposition leaders don’t speak up.”
The aggrieved leadership points out, “During the time of elections, they take the Muslim vote for granted. Then forget about them. In fact, during election campaign, they follow soft Hindutva. The leaders of the so-called secular parties do not use words like ‘Muslim’ or ‘secular’ in their speeches anymore.”
Pasmanda Muslims have gained in voice and media presence after Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the national conclave of the BJP in Hyderabad asked his party’s cadre to work among the backward and marginalised sections of non-Hindu communities. Since then, demands have been made for seat reservation in Aligarh Muslim University, Jamia Millia Islamia and Jamia Hamdard, besides urging members of the community to speak up in case of any incident of caste-based discrimination. The opposition, meanwhile, has maintained a studied silence.
“Dalit Muslims have suffered like their Hindu counterparts. They need to be given Scheduled Caste status. It will help them gain economic and educational mobility,” a Pasmanda leader stated, adding, “We have non-Muslim Pasmanda members, academics from Delhi University and a number of Muslim Pasmanda members from U.P., Jharkhand and Bihar with us in this engagement with the Opposition parties. We do not discriminate on the basis of religion. Our slogan for more than 20 years has been, ‘Dalit pichhda ek saman, Hindu ho ya Musalman’ (Dalits, Backwards are the same, whether Hindus or Muslims),” a Pasmanda activist said, adding, “I have come to Delhi specially for the Pasmanda meet this Sunday.”