Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Secularists dividing Hindus and Muslims


With BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain

Shri Syed Shahnawaz Hussain is a young two-time BJP MP with a broad, progressive outlook. He was yet to complete 32 when he became first a Minister of State and later elevated to Cabinet rank in NDA government at the Centre. Presently, he is president of BJP Minority Cell. Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed with him for Organiser. Excerpts:

What made you join BJP?
In 1984 I came to Delhi in Pusa Polytechnic from where I received a diploma. Here I came in contact with Shri Suresh Srivastava who was connected with BJP. He told me in detail about BJP. He took me to BJP leader Shri Arif Beg. I took a dig at him: How is he in BJP being a Muslim? We waited for him. As he heralded I came to know he was coming after namaz. I myself was not used to it at that time. I got impressed.

Shri Arif Beg made me understand that BJP is a big party working for the welfare of Hindus/Muslims and if more and more Muslims associated with it, the Hindu-Muslim unity will get strengthened. The misunderstanding and misconception about BJP in the Muslim mind is because of lack of communication and false propaganda by vested interests who, for their political selfishness, do not wish that Hindus and Muslims should be one. We have to act as a bridge between the two communities, he told me. From there started my association with BJP.

How did you scale up the ladder?
Then I came in contact with ABVP national president Shri Raj Kumar Bhatia and Sushri Uma Bharati. I worked in JNU. I became active in BJP Yuva Morcha. On December 4, 1997 I organised a Muslim Youth Sammelan in Delhi which impressed both Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee and Shri Lal Krishna Advani. Atalji said if Shahnawaz could enter Parliament that would be good. I was made to contest against Syed Shahabuddin from Kishanganj whose 70 per cent population is Muslim. Only Shri Sushil Modi had come for my election campaign. I was defeated by this stalwart by just six thousand votes. But I did not lose heart. I stuck to the constituency and worked hard. In 1999 Lok Sabha elections I defeated Shri Taslimuddin. My first speech in Lok Sabha was on Ayodhya. Atalji blessed me with an embrace. Advaniji and Georgeji also appreciated it.

When some ‘secular’ leaders or some of your Muslim brothers call BJP ‘communal’, what feelings does it ignite in your mind?

I only laugh at their ignorance. They are living on misconceptions and only harming the cause of the community. I can say with confidence that no party is more secular than BJP. In fact, in India we have two kinds of secularism — honest secularism and dishonest one. BJP is practising the honest secularism. It is a false propaganda that BJP is opposed to minorities. The so-called secular parties are responsible for the present plight and sufferings of the Muslim community. Post-Godhra riots in Gujarat are an aberration under BJP rule. There have been numerous communal riots in Gujarat under successive Congress governments. During the past seven years, not a single case of communal riots has taken place in Gujarat. If the opposition criticises Shri Modi for other things, it should also appreciate at least this achievement of his.

We do not make distinction between majority and minority. BJP Minority Cell shows that there is a place of honour for minorities in the party.

Did you at any time feel that you are a misfit in BJP?
No. Never. I did never feel any time that I am being discriminated against being a Muslim. In spite of my being quite young, I have always received place of honour and invited to every important party meeting, chintan bhaithaks in Goa and Mumbai.

How far, in your view, the abolition of Article 370 in the Constitution and Common Civil Code is going to adversely affect the interests of minorities, particularly Muslims?
If Article 370 had been scrapped, there would have been no Kashmir problem today. It even discriminates between a J&K Muslim and a Muslim in the rest of the country. Today people of Jammu & Kashmir can purchase property in Patna, but the people, including Muslims, of the rest of the country can't in J&K. If Article 370 is removed, I would wish to have a house in Gulmarg area. Shri Omar Abdullah says I am an Indian, but he speaks a different language in his State. Article 370 should be scrapped immediately.

I stand for a Common Civil Code. Actually, it involves reforms only in marriage laws. Today Hindus and Muslims wear the same clothes; they have common food habits. India presents a picture of unity in diversity. Actually, some people are misleading the Muslims saying that if this is done, Muslims will have to don dhoti and instead of visiting a graveyard (kabristan) they will have to go to Hindu cremation grounds. This is all non-sense, unfortunate.

What have you so far done to dispel the misgivings about BJP among minorities?
I have been assigned the duty to connect more and more minorities with the BJP. It is as difficult matter as it is easy. It is a challenge too. Reason: Since the days of Nehru, a sustained campaign has been continuing to paint Jan Sangh and now BJP as anti-minority. This impression is now getting obliterated. We organised a Muslim Yuva Sammelan in 1997. Advaniji’s speech was very much appreciated there. We wish to turn the injustice that is being perpetrated against Muslims since the days of Congress into justice. Recently, we organised a rally at Kota (Rajasthan) where 20,000 Muslims participated. Morcha organised rallies against terrorism all over the country.

Terrorism is a great threat to the country. This must be curbed at all costs. On this account, Muslims of the country, as a whole, should not be seen as suspects. They love the country and are patriots.

What should the majority and minority communities do to obliterate the distinction between the two to make India acquire one identity of Indians and Indians alone?
In the Muslim Yuva Sammelan we passed a resolution that cow-slaughter should be banned. Media ignored it. Darul Uloom has also demanded this ban. Muslims need to come forward on this issue. Ram Mandir issue too should be solved amicably through understanding between the two communities.

We want that Afzal Guru should be hanged as per the verdict of the Supreme Court. The only problem is that we look at him as a terrorist and Congress-Lalu-Mulayam look at him as a Muslim. They look at terrorism through the prism of religion. It is the Congress and its friends who have put a question mark on the patriotism of Muslims. POTA should be revived. Section 302 IPC too is misused, should it also be abolished?

To what extent has the rise of terrorism, particularly the cross-border terrorism, impacted the life of Muslims in India?

I wish to make it clear that Pakistan is the enemy of Indian Muslims. Muslims in India are thriving unhindered. They have made the country proud with having Presidents, Chief Justices, Vice-Presidents, Governors, and made their name in every sphere including cricket and films. This Pakistan cannot digest. That is why it is conspiring against India. It is Pakistan and not Hindus who are enemies of Muslims. ISI is the mother of all troubles. If Pakistan had not been created, Hindus and Muslims would have progressed shoulder to shoulder. Although I accept the reality of Pakistan, yet as an Indian I stand for the concept of Akhand Bharat. If the Berlin Wall can fall leading to unification of East and West Germany, India and Pakistan can also be one day united into one country.

What are the main reasons for the backwardness of Muslim community, particularly women?
Congress which ruled over the country for about 50 years since Independence is responsible for all the ills and problems facing the minorities, particularly Muslims. They have not allowed Muslims to join the national mainstream just to exploit them for votes.

How much weightage would you give to the fatwas of Deoband?

Day-today fatwas have no meaning. These should be issued only when they are necessary and should be for the benefit and progress of the community.

What are the BJP Minority Morcha’s immediate plans, particularly in view of the year-end elections in five State assemblies and then Lok Sabha elections in 2009?
The Muslim community is angry with Congress Party for all the ills facing it. It feels cheated. Muslims are making the country proud in every field. If Israel and Palestine could be at peace; if Sushri Mayawati can have friendship with Brahmins, why can’t BJP earn the faith and confidence of Muslims when it is their real benefactor? It is not something impossible.

We will mobilise the minority community by organising large demonstrations, rallies and conferences. Three times in the past Shri Rajnath Singh has come to our conferences. Shri Advaniji too blessed our programmes. Shri Atalji is also with us.

Muslims have great faith in the clean and honest image of Advaniji. Under his leadership BJP will form a government at the Centre. This government will usher in all-round prosperity and progress of the minorities.

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