Updated: April 24, 2022 4:23:34 pm
Hyderabad MP and All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi speaks to The Indian Express about recent incidents of communal violence across the country, the BJP, and Opposition parties such as the AAP and the Congress.
There have been reports of communal flare-ups in the country this month. How do you see these incidents?
Owaisi: The BJP, wherever they are in power, there is no pretence left. They are openly claiming that they will be biased against the Muslim community. They have declared a war on the Muslim community. Secondly, because of the competing politics of who is a bigger Hindu between the Congress, the AAP, and the Shiv Sena, you see all these issues have cropped up. What happened in Karauli in Rajasthan, what happened in Jharkhand, and what is happening with regard to the controversies in Maharashtra — it is a never-ending cycle now. Because every other political party has no ideological moorings left anymore. So, they are trying to say that we are a bigger and better party to practise the politics of Hindutva. Thirdly, what is going on and reported in many far-flung areas, in semi-rural areas where Muslims are in a minority? You are seeing these incidents of oppression, incidents of beating, incidents and instances of social boycott, those videos have come out. What has happened in Sendhwa in Madhya Pradesh? Unfortunately, the media has not reported the ground reality. It is far worse than what happened in Khargone. There are Muslim families who have not eaten for three to four days because their houses have been demolished on the suspicion that stones were pelted from those particular houses. So, the BJP in Madhya Pradesh and what happened in Delhi are clear-cut examples that they do not believe in rule of law and principles of natural justice. When people like me challenge them and ask the pointed question as to under what law have you demolished the houses in Khargone and Sendhwa, they say there are videos available of them throwing stones. In Delhi, you have seen the Delhi BJP chief wrote a letter on April 20 calling for the removal of illegal encroachment by rioters. Now, who are you to decide who is a rioter or not? There are courts of law. The BJP is now indulging in what I call vigilante justice and this will ultimately weaken the rule of law. The whole edifice of rule of law and fundamental freedoms, which are guaranteed in the Constitution, is at stake. We are seeing that blatantly you decide whose house should be demolished because you become the judge, the jury, and the executioner.
You also visited Jahangirpuri on April 20, the day the demolitions happened…
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Owaisi: In Jahangirpuri, the authorities violated the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957, Section 343, and Delhi Development Authority Act, 1947. Then, your newspaper reported that a woman named Mansura was stuck on the second floor because the staircase was demolished. Your report itself says there is a valid electricity meter. Now, if the BJP is so hellbent on demolishing all encroachments, in 2019, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development said there were 1,797 unauthorised colonies in Delhi. I challenge the BJP government. Will you go and demolish Sainik farms, Vasant Kunj enclave, Chhattarpur enclave, and Saidulajab extension? Go and demolish. The economic survey of the Delhi Assembly in 2008-’09 says 23.7 per cent of the city’s population lives in planned colonies. Will you go and demolish the rest? And what have you demolished? You have demolished the gate of a Masjid using a bulldozer. But the bulldozer does not go and demolish the so-called unauthorised encroachments of a temple in the same area. You allow the temple to remove its encroachment. Then you demolish a Muslim grave and right opposite that grave there is a temple standing. Nothing was touched. You arrest 24 people and of them 14-15 are Muslims and the NSA is applied to five Muslims. Then, your police commissioner says we did not give them permission to organise the rally on April 16. But those people came armed with swords, carrying countrymade pistols right under your nose. Then they erect a flag at the Masjid with provocative songs. Remember, this is the capital of our country and not some far-flung or mofussil area. It is controlled by the Union Home Minister. You have not learnt lessons. This is the fourth violent incident that has happened under the auspices of Amit Shah – the first was the lawyers’ agitation, the second was the December 22 pogrom, then the farmers’ agitation, and now this. You do not even serve a notice, you do not even ask for an explanation. You go and demolish everything.
What about the stance taken by other parties?
Owaisi: The AAP supported the demolition that happened because the PWD (Public Works Department) comes under the Delhi government. The hypocrisy of the AAP is they are fighting a case in the Supreme Court saying the Union government has taken away their (Delhi government’s) rights. This would have been a proper example or platform for them to say that we will not cooperate. Our PWD will not cooperate. But they cooperated. Over and above that, your spokespersons call Jahangirpuri a hotbed of the Rohingya and Bangladeshis. They (AAP) are competing with the BJP in showing who is bigger in implementing the Hindutva ideology. As Shyam Saran has rightly written in an article in The Tribune, what will happen if a small number of Muslims are radicalised? This is coming not from Asaduddin Owaisi but from a person who has served this country for years and years, who has seen this country grow, and seen what has happened in the world. He is basing his argument on his experiences. But no, you want to have competitive Hindutva politics and, at the end of the day, it is Muslims and Christians who are suffering.
What is the choice before minority communities?
Owaisi: What is the choice? We will have to fight it out in a democratic way. We cannot blink, we cannot act as cowards or be afraid of such hate politics. Yes, people have lost their homes, their source of livelihood has been snatched by governments. We have to fight back in a democratic way, we have to stand up. It is for the Muslim community to realise that whether Ansar works for the BJP or the AAP, he is still an Ansar. That is the lesson we should learn. So, we have to democratically fight back, we have to take our cases to courts of law, and we will have to stand firm. We cannot hide and close our doors and windows. This is the time to democratically fight back. And when history is written it will mention that there were a few people who stood up to autocratic and fascist governments.
Are Muslims losing faith in the secular parties?
Owaisi: Where were they when demolition was taking place? The AAP has over 60 MLAs and even Muslims have voted for them. You have a chief minister who is on a maun vrat (vow of silence). He does not open his mouth. When the 2020 riots and pogrom were taking place, the chief minister went and sat at Gandhi samadhi. Why don’t you open your mouth? Because you are competing with the BJP on Hindutva politics. And that is why they are saying Jahangirpuri is the hotbed of Bangladeshis and the Rohingya. Just because the people living there speak Bengali does not make them Bangladeshis or Rohingya. Shamelessly, they are saying this. Where is the right to dignity that is enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution? And what about the Congress? You wake up after I go over there. You have ruled Delhi for years and years. You had MPs from that area. But you do not even react on that day. You don’t even have the courage to go that day itself.
How do you see the statement by 13 senior Opposition leaders condemning the rising incidents of communal strife?
Owaisi: It is just lip service that is not relevant on the ground. The Congress, the AAP and the so-called secular parties that are in power in Maharashtra are indulging in competitive Hindutva.
Various leaders have time and again given calls, asking all secular parties to come together to take on the BJP.
Owaisi: What is this call? Some smart Alec prepares a statement and then three people run around to take consent. This name is added, that name is added. But what is happening on the ground? I will give an example. Sharad Pawar goes and meets the prime minister and talks about why the ED raided Sanjay Raut. Why didn’t he talk about his own party’s minister Nawab Malik? You don’t talk about it. Why didn’t he talk about the Nawab Malik case?
Do you mean to say because he is Muslim?
Owaisi: Exactly, because Sanjay Raut is very important for Pawar for obvious reasons. He (Pawar) is the president of a party, a member of which is languishing in jail. And that too on an Act that was applied to him retrospectively. This is a fit case to show how the BJP is acting in an illegal and unconstitutional way. But you talk about Sanjay Raut. Whatever transactions Malik is blamed for happened in 1999-2000. The PMLA Act came three to four years after that. So how can you book a person under an Act that was not prevalent when an alleged offence took place? And what about Karauli in Rajasthan? A minister in the Gehlot government says 73 shops of Muslims have been burnt. Why don’t you extend financial help to them? In fact, to everyone, Hindus and Muslims…Why can’t the chief minister go and visit the place? Because you are indulging in competitive Hindutva.
Where does all this leave a party like you, a leader like you?
Owaisi: Where does that leave me? I don’t know where it leaves me. I am discharging my duty as an Indian MP and I will continue to fight using the Constitution, I will continue to raise my voice. That is the only weapon I have. We cannot keep quiet at this time
And you are often called the ‘B team’ of the BJP.
Owaisi: It doesn’t matter. You can use more adjectives, expletives, and allegations, whatever the English language allows you to use. The fact of the matter is where is the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh? In Khargone and Sendhwa, you are not there. You are not there in Karauli. In Jharkhand, you are sharing power but you are not to be seen. In Delhi, where the people gave you power for three terms, you are not there on the ground. Anyway, these issues which we have discussed are more important than electoral politics.
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