Afaque Ahmad Khan, a young dynamic leader from Gaya (Bihar), has been into politics since 1974 when JP movement began to overthrow the dictatorial Congress regime of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Politics has come full circle since then and Mr. Khan has been a witness to many political upheavals during these turbulent years. Being a staunch socialist and loyalist, Mr. Khan has been consistently with the Janata Parivar in its various incarnations such as the erstwhile Lok Dal and now Janata Dal United (JDU). Staying committedly with the Janata Parivar for several decades has also put him in good stead. He has served the party diligently by shouldering responsibilities through various positions such as State General Secretary and All India Secretary of Yuva Lok Dal (during different periods), General Secretary of Yuva Janata Dal, President of Bihar State Janata Dal Minority Committee, Member of Janata Dal National Executive, and presently National Secretary and Spokesman of JDU.
Mr. Khan has also visited different countries as well during his long stint in politics. He visited France to attend meeting of International Union of Socialist Youth (1988), attended Convention of New Democratic Party in Canada (2006), attended Convention of Democratic Socialist of America in USA (2007), attended Convention of European Social Forum in Sweden (2009), attended International Neurology Conference in UAE (2013), and attended progrms of Communist Party of China as Observer (2015).
Mr. Khan, widely known for his suaveness and astuteness in political circles, is also well educated and occasionally writes in different newspapers. He has done his M.Com, LL.B., and PhD from Magadh University, Bodh Gaya. He has also done PG Diploma in Marketing Management from New Delhi. He is Author of “Trade, Liberalisation and Economic Growth in India”, which has been published by Neha Publication. Mr. Khan has also written articles on important political issues in Asli Bharat, Vish Manav, Qaumi Awaz etc.
Afaque Ahmad Khan, National Secretary and Spokesman of Janata Dal (United), recently talked to Danish Ahmad Khan, Founder-Editor, and M.J. Khan Chaudhary, Managing Editor, of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper www.IndianMuslimObserver.com in a freewheeling interview. He spoke extensively on various issues ranging from politics to Muslim community’s issues. Here are the excerpts of the Interview:
IMO: Tell us about how and why you decided to enter politics and your political journey so far.
AAK: It was 1974, as far as I remember. The entire nation was in the grip of JP Movement as people were tired of nepotism, corruption and government’s misdeeds. I, like many other youngsters, was not very much aware of the exact situation but wanted a change, at least on socio-political and economic front. Even not knowing much about JP or his Movement I became part of it.
From there on, I found myself involved in one or the other political discourse. During General Elections of 1977, I went to Balia (UP), ranbhoomi of Chandra Shekhar ji (then an important figure in the Janta Party) and joined his election campaign team. I also became an active participant in Boot Polish campaign and even unfurled the Janta Party’s flag on Railway Headquarters’ building, and that too before the declarations of results.
In 1985, I came to New Delhi and stayed with an uncle who was associated with Chaudhary Charan Singh-led Lok Dal. I became General Secretary of its youth wing.
In 1988, I joined Jan Morcha led by VP Singh. I was also assigned the responsibility of National Secretary of Janta Dal’s Minority Cell and later on became the President of Bihar Unit of its Minority Cell.
When Lalu Prasad Yadav and Sharad Yadav parted their ways, I remained with Sharad ji-led Janta Dal (U) and has ever since continued to be with Sharad ji as a diehard loyalist.
In 2007, I became National Secretary of Janta Dal (United) and have been taking care of this role till date.
IMO: You have seen many ups and downs in your several decades-long political journey. There’s a sea change in how politics is done now when compared to earlier times. How do you assess these changes?
AAK: Lots have changed since I joined politics. In a nutshell, there cannot be any comparison between the politics of 1970s-80s and present day politics. Now, it is like a commercial entity. Everything is done as an organized event. Even, rallies, protests, road blockades etc — all these are done in a way as if this is not a political event, but a commercial one.
IMO: Can you tell us what was the real reason of Janata Dal (United) getting into alliance with BJP and the decision to break up finally?
AAK: It was more than 15 years ago when Janata Dal (United) had entered into an alliance with BJP. You can say, it was the need of the hour, for us as well as for them too. The political situation of that time was such that you had to be part of one of the major group (alliance) — one led by the BJP and another by Congress. That time we had thought the BJP less troublemaker and manipulative party than the Congress, which used to dictate smaller parties.
And, our core objections were easily adjusted by the BJP leadership. It happily removed controversial issues like Article 370, Babri Masjid and Uniform Civil Code from the agenda of National Democratic Alliance (NDA). We had been given an assurance in writing, so there was no question of any misunderstanding or misconception about this. George Fernandes ji was elected as Convenor of NDA, and later Sharad Yadav ji shouldered that responsibility. Both were our party head at some or the other. Sharad ji still our party President.
As far as the question of break up from the alliance is concerned, it was BJP’s decision to make Narendra Modi its election campaign in-charge and the de-facto candidate for Prime Ministership, which we had strongly objected for a long time. We had told the BJP leadership categorically that we would not be part of any coalition led by Narendra Modi.
IMO: How do you analyse the recent election results of Bihar?
AAK: Youngsters, women, and especially Muslims, need to be appreciated for their political maturity. They not only stopped the arrogant BJP and the RSS-VHP indirectly but taught them a hard lesson as well. Message of the verdict is loud and clear– politics of communalism cannot take you very long, you cannot make people fool twice, you cannot take them for granted, and if you don’t deliver on your promises people will dump you without giving you another chance.
I think that in less than two years the people got so much annoyed and hopeless with the Modi Sarkar (as it fondly likes to call itself) that they handed its leaders, led by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, a befitting reply.
This verdict has a clear message for the whole nation that there should not be any compromise on secularism and plural ethos of the nation. Rhetoric of teaching Pakistan a lesson, sending Muslims over to Pakistan, unnecessary controversy over beef eating etc. are passé now and people will no longer buy such idiotic rhetoric like “BJP ki haar per Pakistan mein patakha phootega” (If BJP loses there will be celebrations in Pakistan).
Another message of this verdict is that people of Bihar very much like Nitish Kumar ji and his inclusive growth and development model. They don’t support a Prime Minister who behaves as if he is the leader of only his own party and men. This is also a verdict against Narendra Modi’s leadership and his government’s work.
IMO: Why the BJP is still anti-minority, despite being the ruling party at the Centre?
AAK: Anti-minoritism, especially opposition to Muslims, is BJP’s bread and butter. It is in its DNA. This party is nothing but a tool of the RSS and VHP. Since, it is now a ruling party at the Centre it should have changed its policies, but the major problem with this party is that it is too much dependent on the RSS. So, if it does not follow dictates of the RSS, its parent organization, then it will stop supporting the party. BJP knows too well that without the support of the RSS it can hardly do anything.
IMO: Your comment on PM’s statements on reservation and communalism during Bihar elections.
AAK: Unfortunately our Prime Minister behaved as if he was only a BJP leader. He should have given a thought before making any statement. Not only India, the whole world took notice of his words and his deeds. So, almost all international media termed this verdict as a personal defeat of Narendra Modi and rejection of his policies. In fact, Modi ji showed himself in a bad light and disgraced the exalted the position of Prime Ministership.
Had he not been a PM we would have thought to file a case against him for his controversial speeches, which were directed against a particular community (read Muslims). We just respected the post of the PM and decided not to pursue any case over this. His statement on reservation was against a particular community (Muslims) which was tantamount to the oath he has taken to treat all Indians equally without any bias or favouritism on the basis of religion, region or caste.
IMO: Are you satisfied with Muslim representation in the newly elected Bihar Assembly?
AAK: Not at all. But, I am quite happy that after a very long time the numbers of Muslim legislators have increased with the election of 24 Muslim MLAs from different political parties.
It is still only 10% of the total seats but I do hope that from next elections all parties will field more Muslim candidates, which will enable them to win more seats.
But, it is now up to these Muslim MLAs to work hard and fulfill aspirations and expectations of their constituencies so that parties could show their faith not only in them but also in other Muslim leaders and give them tickets.
IMO: What are the expectations of Muslims, including you, from Nitish Kumar-led Mahagathbandhan Government?
AAK: Muslims and I too have lots of expectations from Nitish ji and his government. Seeing the way Muslims have voted for this alliance, Janata Dal (United) feels much more responsibilities as a party leading the government. We will try our best to fulfill their expectations.
Muslims need special attention. They are far behind in every aspect —education, employment and business. We will try to work on the recommendations of Sachar Committee.
IMO: What are your comments on Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad Yadav combination? Will the same chemistry work in future as well?
AAK: Their coming together was the need of the hour, not only for Bihar but for the country as well. This is an alliance for the present and for the future.
Ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre the atmosphere across the nation has changed dramatically. People’s fear of hate campaign and rise in intolerance has become a reality. A campaign has started to push minorities, especially Muslims, to the wall. Muslims have been harassed at every drop of the hat. They have been beaten and thrashed in the broad daylight across the nation and even lynched at a distance of only a few kilometers from India’s capital, at Dadri in Noida. Many BJP leaders including central ministers are supporting the perpetrators, who are indulging in such incidents while our PM is a mute spectator. He speaks on every issue under the sun but not on these incidents. The intolerance has risen to such a level that writers, academicians and even scientists have returned their awards.
This is a deadly combination in which Nitish’s suaveness, inclusiveness and a clean image of a leader who delivers on his promises together with hardcore constituencies of Lalu ji can easily beat any other political combination. This is vindicated from Bihar election result.
Had Lalu ji and Nitish ji not come together then BJP might not have been beaten and in that scenario there would have been much more incidents like Dadri lynching and burning of Dalits in Haryana.
As far as skepticism regarding Lalu ji’s Jangle Raj is concerned, I am very much sure that performance of this government will outdo all these perceptions. Lalu ji is very serious this time. He has no qualms regarding the abilities of Nitish ji and has not put any conditions before him. Nitish ji will keep leading this government as per his thoughts and vision with the consultations of Lalu ji and Congress leadership.
IMO: Your say on Muslim community’s issues. What are your suggestions on how to deal with the problems confronting Indian Muslims?
AAK: We, as a Muslim, need to work seriously on the education for our children and youngsters. We also need to move with the time. Our madarsa education system needs a drastic change. Madarsas’ reform is essential but not by force or any pressure from government or any external forces. Its syllabus should be reformed and inculcating the modern education is highly needed. Science, computer and other such modern teaching must be part of madarsas’ curriculum.
IMO: Demand for reforms in Muslim Personal Law board has been growing day by day. People like Tahir Mehmood (Former Chairman of National Minority Commission) have even asked for abolition of AIMPLB altogether. What are your comments and suggestions?
AAK: Abolition of All India Muslim Personal Law Board is not the solution. Tahir Mehmood sahib should have given an alternative to this board, if he wanted its abolition. Even if this board is doing little, at least it is doing something. What will the community gain if it is abolished altogether? Kisi cheez ko bilkul khatm ker dena masley ka hal nahi hai. Kuchh kami ho to door ki jani chahiye (Abolition of something in existence is not a right solution of any issue. If there are loopholes then those should be fixed).
IMO: Do you foresee any Muslim leadership in near future?
AAK: It will take time. I can’t say or specify a particular time for this.
[Danish Ahmad Khan is Founder-Editor of India’s First Onine Muslim Newspaper “IndianMuslimObserver.com”. M.J. Khan Chaudhry is Managing Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com. Emails can be sent at firstname.lastname@example.org]