By Danish Ahmad Khan and Mohammad Aleem
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam is an erudite Islamic Economist and Social Scientist. He has been associated with Institute of Objective Studies (IOS) as its Chairman for over 25 years now. Dr. Manzoor Alam, a Ph.D. in Economics from Aligarh Muslim University, has held various high-ranking positions in many international organizations such as Economic Advisor in the Ministry of Finance and National Economy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Associate Professor Deptt. of Islamic Economics, University of Imam Mohammad-bin-Saud, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Chief Coordinator for the Translation of Meaning of the Holy Quran in different languages of the world at King Fahd Holy Quran Printing Complex, Madinah Munawwarah, Saudi Arabia; Chief Representative of International Islamic University, Malaysia (IIUM) in India; Member of the General Committee of the IDB Scholarship Program for Muslim Communities in Non-Member Countries, Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, K.S.A.; Consultant of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, USA in India; Founder Member of International Islamic Charitable Organisation, Kuwait; and Member, Steering Committee, Istanbul Talks, Civil Solidarity Platform, Istanbul, Turkey.
Dr. Manzoor Alam holds membership on the board of many international journals as well. He is Member of the Advisory Board of MEDAD, published from the KSA; Member of the International Advisory Board of American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, published from the USA; and Member of the Advisory Board of Awqaf, published from Kuwait.
In India, apart from being Chairman of Institute of Objective Studies (IOS), Dr. Manzoor Alam is ably guiding the Indian Muslim community with his vast experience by serving in different capacities such as General Secretary, All India Milli Council, New Delhi; President, Indo-Arab Economic Cooperation Forum, New Delhi; President, Indian Association of Muslim Social Scientists, New Delhi; and Member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
Under his stewardship, Dr. Manzoor Alam has successfully transformed the Institute of Objective Studies to being India’s foremost, pioneering and only organization in the country engaged in generating knowledge in Islamic Perspective, Educational development of Indian Muslims, Research, holding Conferences, seminars and workshops on vital issues, Publications and Advocacy for Muslims and other weaker sections’ causes.
Dr. Manzoor Alam, who himself contributes articles in national newspapers/magazines on issues relevant to Islam and Muslims in particular and humanity in general, recently talked to Danish Ahmad Khan, Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper IndianMuslimObserver.com, and Mohammad Aleem, Managing Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com in a hearty, free-wheeling interview. He spoke and gave his frank observations on a wide range of issues confronting Indian Muslims and the nation after landslide victory of BJP and Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister of India. Dr. Alam spoke candidly on the role of RSS, secular political parties, Muslim organizations et al. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Q: The general election has just ended and the new government at the center is at the helm of affairs now. What are your views and how do you see the whole thing in perspective?
Ans: I do see the things quite differently. This election has been conducted by Election Commission, which is a constitutional autonomous body of our country. So, I consider it is within the constitutional framework. It was the mandate of general people of India and we must accept this. However, they have got only 33 percent votes and the rest of the two third votes got distributed among the other secular and regional parties. Since the votes have been divided, its responsibility also wholly lies on those people who have done so. So, we can’t say that this government represents only a minority share of the votes. And in every democratic country, it depends also that how you manipulate or maneuver the whole process. RSS workers have done this maneuvering task well during the last four years quite sincerely. And their every effort to sensationalize the people of majority community gone well and they did succeed in their task. Their main target were Muslims. They have used or misused the constitutional framework grossly. They did so by attacking hard on the previous government of UPA. So, we should accept that the result of this election is within the constitutional framework and the mandate to rule has been given by the people.
Then, came the much awaited, counting day. The result made the RSS and BJP cadres and sympathizers quite jubilant in a big way across the country. And all those so-called secular-minded political parties and organizations who were waiting for the opposite result, felt extremely sad and dismayed.
When we analyzed their maneuvering, they played quite calculated steps. First, they took more than 90 percent corporate world into their confidence. And, they also brought more than 95 percent of the media to their side. And, these two played such a decisive role in making the general opinion of the people that if they said that it was night in the day, they were ready to accept that. And, it showed its result in the casting of the votes also. People say that the EVM machines were tampered or votes were manipulated by them, but until we have sufficient proof to the claim or the honorable court pronounces such verdict, we can’t say anything. Such allegations had been made during the last general election also. But, it is the duty of the government to initiate a thorough probe into such claims.
They also used very prudently a tricky card, and which was governance and development. This slogan confused the Muslim community also. And they also employed some trusted Muslim faces to help in this task of opinion building within the people of the community. It resulted in many types of confusing and diverse statements from the religious heads of our community. It rather confused the community more instead of helping them to reach a positive conclusion.
So, I would like to conclude in this way that this government has come into existence with the mandate of people and this government represents every citizen of India. They used every tool to polarize communally a large number of people from the majority community by raising contentious issues, but, at the same time I want to say with full emphasis that not everyone from the majority community has got swayed by this polarization effort. They have just erred in judgment, but did not fall prey to polarization machinations.
Q: You have used the word, the so-called secular parties, but, why are you using this term for the other political parties or people?
Ans: I do say on these arguments that the foundation of these parties is based on secularism, but as they grew over the period of time, they could not keep it straight and intact. Since, their foundation is strong, so, it doesn’t need to get it dismantled, but, these parties failed in delivering the justice to the people in a great way. And as the bureaucrats, policemen and officials arrested Muslim boys just on the basis of concocted suspicions and put behind bars, dragged in the courts endlessly without bringing out proper chargesheet against them, and they did not even try to learn or get lessons with the release of 97 percent boys by the honorable Supreme Court of India because there was no sufficient evidence against those victims. And, even state governments acted in haste. They just established fast track courts to expedite these cases, but they did not deliver well. Even, if we take example of the developmental schemes or policies which were brought out for Muslims, not more than 35 percent could be implemented. And, I do think that bureaucrats are more responsible than the government, because 85 percent bureaucrats subscribe to RSS philosophy. And, the government did not evolve such mechanism that if anyone did not do his or her work well, he or she would be punished accordingly or anybody has done good thing, he or she should be properly rewarded also. This impacted negatively on the government. Bureaucrats had nothing to lose.
Q: There are many Muslim organizations which have been doing good work in popularizing the government schemes to the people such as the Institute of Objective Studies. But, most of the Muslim political parties are doing nothing substantial in this regard. Their roles seem quite confusing and they have failed the community on several fronts. What is your opinion about this?
Ans: Your question has two parts. One is Muslim-led organizations and the other is about Muslim-led political parties. Let me explain it in detail. The Muslim organizations which are non-political in nature have their own strength and limitations. They can put their views from different platforms. And, I can’t say it with full confidence that they have succeeded in this task cent percent. But, they have tried to express their views always genuinely. Take an example of Women Bill in which the talk of Muslims quota has also come up or the sporadic arrests of Muslim youths in the name of terrorist activities. All India Milli Council had organized a very big program at Mavlankar Hall in New Delhi on these issues. In that program, three retired Supreme Court Judges had participated, including Justice Katju, and Justice Ahmadi sahib etc. I want to quote Rajender Sachar sahib’s words here. On that occasion, a book named the “Scapegoat” was also released. He had said then “I have never seen such a massive program in this hall in the past.” And after that, a series of programs were organized by different organizations. They also made many promises. But, those promises could never be implemented. It shows their limitation. They went to their height, but could avail nothing much rewarding.
As far as the Muslim political parties are concerned, I do think, there are three dimensions here. And, we should understand them closely. The first point is that during the last 15 years many Muslim political parties have come up on the surface. It raises a very pertinent question. Why? I do think there are two dimensions behind it. First reason for their coming up is that they were unhappy with the performance of the so-called national and regional secular parties. And they thought that if they launch their own parties, it will help them in realizing the goal which they envisage to achieve. It is their fundamental right to do so and nobody should raise any objection regarding it.
Second, they succeeded in forming their own political parties, but they could not bring such policies and schemes which could lure the masses and, they could also not sustain those efforts prudently.
Third and very important point is that we have been getting disempowered day-by-day, and we are not in a position to take any firm decisions, but we want to reach to that position where we could be heard easily and effectively.
We should give emphasis that how our votes should be organized or should we go to the process of disorganization.
We are aware of the fact that all parties have their own fixed spaces, and they have to do the work within those spaces. And as a result, in such circumstances, the division of votes is a natural phenomenon. But, if you see the pattern of voting, you will find that in the most places, most of the Muslim voters ignored or rejected the Muslim political parties.
If we see the result, there are four reasons I see behind it. Any country where the majority community is in a position to dominate and rule, they spread rumors and making others scapegoat. I do think that minority community, howsoever they may be united, but can’t influence the result.
RSS used this aspect prudently. They influenced the masses in the name of religion and whipped up sentiments against the Muslims. And. it resulted in huge turnouts and the better result from their own point of view. There Muslims could do nothing much, though they tried to do so.
Some people say that Muslims also voted in favor of BJP, but it isn’t surprising. It is natural to get some votes swing in the favor of them also. We can’t put brakes on the swings of the mood of the people. It is also a stark fact that wherever BJP rules, the issue of survival of Muslims is always a big question to be pondered. In all those places, Muslims voted just to save their own lives. And, those places where BJP was not in power, the incidents like Muzaffar Nagar happened. Muslims also voted them for out of fear and safety. Secular political parties always failed in doing their best for the uplift and safeguard of Muslims. They could only offer promises and dreams to them.
Q: Here, a pertinent question comes to mind that Prime Minister Narender Modi always spoke in favor of 150 crore of Indian people. In those circumstances, should not Muslims also see a hope that he will not ignore them?
Ans: You will have to analyze it differently. When he was the CM, he was hero in his own state among his own people. He is the role model of general Hindus in Gujarat. So, the cadres of secular parties also supported him indirectly. I would also like to add that Congress Party has seen the defeat because of its own people. They have fallen because of their own lusts and narrow mindedness. They did not think better to reach out to the general people of India.
Now, after becoming PM, Narender Modi has to face many types of new challenges. He has mainly focused on good governance and development. Will he accept the selective development process or inclusive development and not ignore the Muslims? Will he give equal opportunities to all raising himself above the caste and religion boundaries?
What we have seen in the past, we do feel now, that he will repeat the Gujarat way of governance, but, in today’s situation, my mind says that he will not go that way fully. He will take a broadminded approach. What is our ethos now? India is trying to get its identity as emerging global power. If we adopted the method of selective development, then, this dream of becoming a world power could never be achieved. We can say that despite of all our misgivings and suspicions, he will do well. If he fails to do his work better, the next general election will be a great challenge for him to win. We can’t do anything within these five years, but to wait and watch. We will have definitely a power to use our voice after that.
Q: They are raising contentious issues like Uniform Civil Code and Article 370. Recently, Minister of Minority Affairs Dr. Najma Heptuallah said that Muslims are not a minority group now. They don’t need any reservation. They should face competitions. What do you think about all that?
Ans: Here, it comes to my mind that whatever minority community is enjoying the privilege at the moment is given by them or are these are given by our constitution. As long as we regard our constitution, the Muslims continue to be part of the minority groups. What they are saying, there may be two intentions behind it. The intention of BJP and RSS is quite clear. On many issues, they just want to provoke the people. They have promised in their manifesto that they will create crores of new jobs and make the life of people much better, but, if they fail in fulfilling these promises, and I would say that they have not magic wand in their hands to fulfill in a day or two, then, they will use the emotional and religious issues and they will keep it alive so that they can last for five more years. They have twin objectives before them. But, my wisdom says, we should be well informed about the every political development and we should not react in haste. We will have to follow an action oriented path.
I want to say them that if you want to reduce poverty from this country, remove the clause of discrimination. Any such move from anyone should be severely dealt with irrespective of their power and position. If they want to prove it practically, we can even wait for a longer period of time. We have been fighting for reservation and still doing that, but, we can leave it behind for some time and see what they do. If it came to surface that they really want to remove poverty, not eliminate the poor Muslims, then, it will be acceptable and no any Muslim will oppose it.
We are lagging in the field of education and all records substantiate this claim. They should open good schools where Muslims reside. Muslims are unable to send their children to the best schools because they come under the restrictions of five kilometer radius which is applied in Delhi.
And if they don’t open good schools and also depriving of reservation, then, it will be considered that they are attacking from all side.
Q: We see good schools in the areas of majority community people, but we lack such thing in our areas. What are the reasons behind it?
Ans: All private schools have availed the benefits from the government also, like, getting land and other things. We are also not comparable to them money wise. Only a few Muslims are in a position to invest such money in this sector. But, there are millions of other problems before them to fight, and which I say that these are all man-made problems. For example, in case of communal violence, it creates a whole new set of problems. If the people of majority community build schools of standard in any Muslim dominated areas, they will welcome wholeheartedly and they will also not fear that it will be burnt down by creating communal violence. But, because of their mindset, they don’t want to come to us and they also don’t want to take our children in their schools. We blame only RSS for creating such nefarious environment against Muslims. They don’t want to see Muslim highly educated because they fear that they will come near them in the process of development.
Q: We blame RSS that they used media for their own purposes profusely, but why we did not create our own such platforms where we could raise our voices also? What is your opinion regarding this?
Ans: In 1997, when I K Gurjal was the Prime Minster, he announced in the Parliament that we should start the second freedom struggle. All India Mill Council adopted this slogan. We started two caravans from south to north, from the tomb of Sirujjuddawla and Tipu Sultan, because, both were freedom fighters. It was covered in 50 days, and we suitably named it Carvan-e-Azadi. When we concluded that ambitious project, and called the news conference to highlight our work, we could not get any representation in any national newspaper and channels. Only Urdu newspapers carried this news. We raised our voice against corruption also. Anna Hazare picked that issue later on and got due coverage in all print and electronic medias. Had they created their own media to highlight their work? But all media houses projected it that they are the first person who has raised this issue.
We can’t create alternative media in all places. We can’t. We have neither such resources nor such environment. The government will also not support us.
Q: Do you think that Buddhist, Jain and Sikh, which are off-shoot of Sanatan Dharma, should be removed from the list of religious minorities because they are well-off, highly educated, and most of their rituals and practices are similar to Hindus? This is important for Dalits, backwards and minorities such as Christians, Muslims and Parsis could get better benefits. What is your opinion?
Ans: We should see the things within the framework of our constitution. We should not try to analyze it sentimentally. When we talk within the constitutional framework, it will be reasonable and effective. You can’t bring Dalit into the fold of minority category. They have already their fundamental and constitutional rights under the schedule caste and schedule tribe laws. I have already emphasized that if the government remove all kinds of discrimination in education, employment and other such areas, then, all minority groups will equally benefit.
We should accept it as a gospel truth that we are far behind educationally from Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains. We should use our own resources to boost the education among all our groups of people including women. We should also try to build good schools. We should improve our competitiveness.
Q: We often talk about the lack of effective leadership in our community? What are the reasons behind it?
Ans: This shows our defeatist mentality. At the time of freedom struggle, we had many charismatic leaders to lead us. But, after the partition, situation changed. They went away to Pakistan. And, we adopted other’s viewpoint that we have now no such leadership. It is a fact that during the 1950s, we faced such leadership crunch. But, during the agitation of Babri Masjid, this slogan was spread far and wide with all force, just to show that we are mentally weak and unable to develop a good and effective leadership.
Muslims, as a whole, lack in analyzing power. I also include myself into that category. You can understand it with an allegory. If, in any place, there is a fire, everybody runs towards it to douse it. But, if there is no fire and you are asking people to come, then, it is not a wise step. Animals believe on their leaders, but, Muslims do otherwise. They raise questions on their leaders. We usually attach leadership with only political leadership. Narender Modi is a political leader, but there was a group and force to project him as their leader and a lot of people believed in him. We need collective leadership. It is the need of the hour. We should learn to trust others and put faith in them. Only political leadership is not a leadership. Until we develop the sense of non-political leadership, we can’t achieve our goals. We should create a wide political forum on which all Muslim political parties could come and integrate. We should come out from our own narrow mindedness and petty interests. This model will also be beneficial for our country also.
[Danish Ahmad Khan is Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper IndianMuslimObserver.com. Mohammad Aleem is Managing Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com]