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The fast disappearing Muslim in the Indian republic

We must confront the following terrifying fact: Of the 1386 BJP MLAs now in the country, there are only four Muslims.

Written by Nissim Mannathukkaren | Updated: January 22, 2018 4:36 pm
bjp, muslims in india, dalits, muslim bjp candidates, bjp muslim MLAs, minorities in india, muslim community, hindus, majority religion, bjp saffron party, indian express We must confront the following terrifying fact: Of the 1386 BJP MLAs now in the country, there are only four Muslims. (Express Photo by Shuaib Masoodi/Representational/File)

In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority. —Edmund Burke.

As the nation celebrates the Republic’s 69th year, the one dangerous trend that is becoming solidified since 2014 is the political invisibilisation of the Muslim, by denying the significant minority any political space. This is key to the Hindutva project of Hindu majoritarianism and the othering of the Muslim in every social sphere.

While the egregious attacks against Muslims (and Dalits) in the form of lynchings/killings have garnered expected outrage, including abroad — the New York Times, for example, has written an unprecedented 16 editorials since May 2014 against the Modi government’s embrace of religious extremism, intolerance and the curbing of freedoms — what is not so obvious is the slow elimination of Muslim political representation.

Unlike physical attacks against Muslims, this political cleansing is insidious for it is executed through perfectly “legitimate” and “democratic” methods. After all, people might ask, what is democracy other than the enforcement of the will of the majority? The answer is that Hindutva’s electoral majority does not want Muslims to be politically represented.

This is what Alexis de Tocqueville called the “tyranny of majority” as early as the 19th century.

The last four years have seen a terrifying demonstration of this tyranny in action. In the 2014 elections, the BJP came to power without a single elected Muslim MP – in any case it had fielded only seven Muslims (5 in J & K and Bengal alone) out of a total of 482 candidates. The total Muslim representation in Parliament fell to 4%, the lowest since 1957.

Muslims constitute 19.2% of the Uttar Pradesh population, that is about 4.3 crore people, as big as the population of Argentina. Yet, the BJP did not field a single Muslim candidate in the 2017 Assembly elections, which it swept with 312 seats out of 403. Muslim representation drastically fell from 17.1 % to 5.9% in the UP Assembly.

In Assam, (where the Muslim population is 34.2%), the BJP has one Muslim MLA out of 61. In Bihar and Jharkhand (16.9% and 14.5% Muslim population, respectively), the BJP has no Muslim MLAs. In Maharashtra (11.54% Muslim population), the BJP won with 122 MLAs and fielded one Muslim, who lost.

Since Narendra Modi became Gujarat chief minister in 2002, the BJP has not fielded a single Muslim candidate either in the Lok Sabha or Assembly Elections. If the Muslim representation in Gujarat Assembly was 6.6% in 1980 (when the Muslim population was 9.67%), the political cleansing ensured that it is only 1.6% now. The effectiveness of the strategy is that even the Congress Party does not dare utter the word ‘Muslim’ in Gujarat.

All this leads to the following terrifying fact: Of the 1418 BJP MLAs now in the country, there are only four Muslims. That is 0.28% of the population, when the Muslim population is 14.2%. The exclusion is simply staggering. In a comparative perspective, in November 2014, non-BJP ruled states had 300 Muslim MLAs, representing 13% of the total MLA population.

The BJP’s bogey of “Muslim appeasement” is worth examining, in the armed forces, judiciary, police and civil services, as well as in politics. Muslim representation in Parliament in the Congress-dominant era of 1952-1977 ranged between 2% and 7%. The highest representation was in 1980; even then it touched only 10%, less than the overall Muslim population.

In UP, Muslim representation in the Assembly ranged between 5.9% to 9.5% in the period 1951-1977, much less than its population. Only as late as 2012 did it touch 17.1%, but again fell short of its overall population share. Even in Bihar, where the so-called “secular” Congress and Janata Dal/Rashtriya Janata Dal parties have been accused of pandering to Muslims, the highest representation was only 10.46% in 1985, when the state’s Muslim population was 16.9%.

So let us not delude ourselves that the BJP is rectifying historical injustices against the majority community by reducing the representation of Muslims. The argument that the BJP does not field Muslims because it cannot find “winning Muslim candidates” is just another devious one.

More deceptive is the claim the BJP is duty-bound to protect the interests of Muslim women who voted for it in large numbers in the UP elections, a claim which is not factual. (A question: if the BJP is the champion of Muslim women, why does it not field them in elections?)

In order to deepen democracy, it is imperative that the most marginalized and oppressed get representation. The first step then would be to recognize that there are no monolithic majorities and minorities.

The raison d’être of the Hindutva project is to deny the oppressive and hideous reality of caste and class and build a monolithic Hindu community which is deeply iniquitous in practice. Recent events from Una to Bhima Koregaon demonstrate that. Although unlike towards the Muslim, the BJP is willing to make some symbolic gestures towards Dalits.

Truth is, the Muslim community is itself deeply riven by caste and class. Thus, the Ashrafs (the forward castes among Muslims, who constitute only 15-20% of the population) have been the overwhelming beneficiary of communal politics and its small gains at the expense of the Pasmandas (backward and Dalit Muslim castes). In the UP Assembly of the last two decades, as Gilles Verniers shows, the Ashrafs cornered 70% of MLA positions.

The BJP is ruling 19 of the 29 states at the present, but has Muslim representatives in only three states. It has made “Congress Mukt Bharat” its rallying cry. But what is immediately manifest is the march towards a “Muslim Mukt Bharat.” The terrifying denouement of this will be especially catastrophic for the Pasmanda Muslim, who is subject to the “double-bind” of religious as well as caste discrimination, and who continues to remain on the margins of the nation’s socio-economic and cultural life.

A democracy will become brittle when its minorities are systematically subject to a political apartheid and denied political representation. Certainly, no democracy can be a real democracy when its oppressed castes and classes are pitted against each other on the basis of religion.

Nissim Mannathukkaren is Chair in the Department of International Development Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

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  1. M
    Jan 29, 2018 at 11:04 am
    Why picture of Kashmiri in the article, Kashmiris have nothing to do with india!
    1. S
      Sumit Bose
      Feb 21, 2018 at 6:35 am
      Yeah Yeah, nothing to do, but every thing to do to take 80 percent of their state's expenses, killing our soldiers and looting and ransacking all the Hindus from their midst !
    2. H
      Jan 25, 2018 at 1:48 pm
      it is good that the musalmans are receding from the frontiers. their culture and violent religious beliefs across the world has destroyed many cultures. this is time for them to introspect.
      1. Shakil Ahmed
        Jan 24, 2018 at 9:07 pm
        Every one Loves peace. Peace begets peace.water makes own way. Good thing can come up. Nature of Justice is there. None can be befooled.
        1. S
          saiful haque
          Jan 24, 2018 at 8:00 pm
          As a muslim I do not agree your analysis.You have cleverly tried to protect the Congress Party.Muslim have just begining to vote for BJP as Congress had always tried to use muslims as vote bank without giving anything in return.After Sonia Gandhi took over muslims are completely ignored in preference to Christians.During UPA ,3 Christian CM made in hindu maj. state. I take BJP in positive light that even though BJP has no muslim MP in Lok Sabha still it made 2 muslim Central minister.If muslims had come out of BJP paranoia and voted for BJP then muslims would have much better represent.The actual drop in muslim representation happened during UPA regime. Also sharpest drop in muslim representation in police happened during 10 years UPA rule. So many hate muslim incident had happened earlier also in Congress regime but never reached newspaper headline.Now each incident is given so much mileage so as to create fear and panic among the muslims and thus actually worsening the envior
          1. Saumya Purkayastha
            Jan 24, 2018 at 2:10 am
            This Islamist publication forgets to cleverly mention that the Hindus are fast disappearing from the Indian subcontinent whereas the Muslims have only temporarily reduced in number from the parliament. Hindu Population has decreased from 89 in 1950 to 79 in 2010 and maybe even lesser now in India. Muslim population has increased from 9 in 1950 to around 18 in 2010 and maybe even more now. Muslims might be more than 20 at this date which is the reason the Government is scared to publish religion numbers because there will be insecurity among Hindus due to rapidly increasing numbers of Muslims and the decreasing number of Hindus since last 70 years! Same thing has happened in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistan (West Pakistan before 1972) which once had around 2-3 of Hindus today have a small fraction of a percent of Hindus who are converted, raped and killed on a regular basis. In Bangladesh Hindus have come down from around 20 to 5 ! And still the Islamist propaganda exists!
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