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'Muslims still can't trust BJP'
Ehtasham Khan in New Delhi |
March 03, 2004 22:51 IST
Mohammad Adil saw Lal Kishenchand Advani for the first time in 1990. But that image is still fresh in his mind.
Those were the heady days of the Ayodhya movement. Advani was on a nation-wide rath yatra to generate support for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya on the spot where the historic Babri Masjid then stood.
There was fear in the air as Adil watched Advani's rath yatra wind its way past his house. He remembers the community elders kept a watch on the youngsters to make sure there was no provocation from their side.
A lot has changed since. Advani's Bharatiya Janata Party is at the head of the ruling coalition at the Centre. He himself is the deputy prime minister. Babri Masjid no longer exists -- it was demolished by Hindu zealots on December 2, 1992. A makeshift temple stands in its place, out of bounds for devotees, guarded by barbed wires and paramilitary forces round-the-clock.
Adil, then a Class VIII student in Bihar's Siwan district, is now 28 and works as a marketing executive in New Delhi.
Watching television in his rented accommodation in Muslim-dominated Okhla in Delhi, Adil is not bothered by the news of Advani latest yatra which will begin in Kanyakumari on March 10.
"That [1990s] era is over. Now they [BJP leaders] are talking of development and India shining," he says. "Everybody would like to listen if he [Advani] talks about development and the country's growth."
But he suspects Advani's intentions, his speeches on development and his party's attempts to attract Muslims.
"No Muslim can trust them. It is all to grab power," he says.
That statement sums up the Muslim mood in the country -- it's good the BJP has toned down its Ayodhya rhetoric, but they still can't be trusted.
Advani's promise that his Bharat Uday Yatra will concentrate only on development and peace does not mean much to the Muslims. "He may raise emotive issues in places where he find it useful, but will change his tone when he is addressing a mixed population," Adil says.
Adil, though is glad that Advani's latest yatra is not being viewed with fear. "Now there is no fear because BJP is looking at elections and they are wooing Muslims. So they will not do anything mischievous."
He also feels that the BJP has been under pressure from its coalition partners since the Gujarat riots of 2002, that left over 1000 people dead.
"The BJP is facing difficulties due to Gujarat and I don't think they will win in other parts of the country on their anti-Muslim agenda," he says.
The Gujarat government's failure to provide justice to the riot victims has been criticised by the Supreme Court.
Seraj Ahmed, 28, a school teacher in Muslim-dominated town of Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, says Advani's Ram temple campaign was the worst phase for Muslims in the history of independent India.
"I was in school that time and I remember how my Hindu classmates' minds were poisoned. They used to openly speak against Muslims. We had to tolerate a lot that time," he says.
Ahmed was a resident of Kasia village in Kushi Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh.
"The chariot [Advani's rath] went past our village. All shops were closed for 10 days. Police used to pick up anybody
who went out late in the night. I pray that we don't see such time again."
Umayma Haram, 24, a call centre executive, says the issue of development has pushed the temple-mosque row to the background now. But she is not sure how long this will remain so.
"The BJP's real agenda is Hindutva because it is essentially a right-wing party. It is trying its luck by raising the issue of development. If it succeeds, it will return to power and continue with the anti-minority policies. But if it fails, then it will go back to its original agenda and remove the mask," says Haram, a resident of Chandni Chowk in old Delhi. "After Gujarat, I can never trust them, no matter what."
She witnessed a minor scuffle between two mobs during Advani's Ram temple campaign in 1990. "Those days were very dangerous. There was tension all around. Now everything is going well. I don't see people talking about Hindu-Muslim tension these days. I hope this continues after the general election."
Tea-vendor Abdul Bari does not understand politics. He hardly watches television. But he gets to hear the news when his customers read Urdu newspapers at his makeshift shop close to the historic Jama Masjid in old Delhi.
"The situation is again hot as elections are approaching. All I know is that Advani and BJP are not good. That is what people say," says Bari, 45.
He is not sure if he will vote this time. "I will see if I get time. I am busy with my work. I am not interested. It hardly matters to me who wins the election. No party is good for poor people. All politicians work for themselves. I just pray there is no communal trouble."
One of Bari's customers, Zameer Ahmed Khan, owns a bookstall just opposite the Jama Masjid.
"Muslims have been deeply shaken by the Gujarat violence. Muslims are still living in fear in Gujarat. And no BJP leader has ever criticised what happened in the state. The prime minister will say something at one place and then change his statement somewhere else," Khan, 52, says.
"How can we trust them? I fear that the situation will become worse for Muslims if BJP returns to power."
The community does not see much hope in the recent entry of some known Muslim leaders into the BJP fold.
Says 30-year-old Faizan-ul Haque: "It is good that they [the Muslim leaders] have been exposed. They are all opportunists. A handful of so-called Muslim leaders joining BJP does not mean that Muslims will start supporting the party. The character of the party remains the same." Haque works with a private bank in Delhi.
Mohammad Sajjad who teaches history in Aligarh Muslim University feels that the younger Muslim generation understands the political undercurrents and looks forward to a progressive and secular leadership.
"Just two days back Javed Habib came to the campus to address students on some local issues. He is known for his proximity to the BJP. He was hounded out of the campus. Students didn't allow him to speak though he is a former president of the students' union.
"Muslims cannot accept BJP because Hindutva is in its core. And Muslims are convinced about it. Vajpayee's soft
words are not going to help. Media has played a role in creating awareness," he said.
Sajjad says Arif Mohammad Khan's entry into BJP came as a shock, but Rajya Sabha Deputy Speaker
Najma Heptullah's leaning towards BJP did not matter as she had little contact with the Muslim masses.
Sajjad believes that though hate mongering which was at the core of Advani's 1990 campaign will be absent this time, the Bharat Uday Yatra in some ways is a replica of his 1990 rath yatra.
"This chariot is symbolic to his earlier campaign. He is trying to attract both the sections. When he will speak on
development, he will look at liberal classes and when he will say Ram temple will be constructed one day, he will look
at the other section," he says.