A take on Muslim politicians and politics in India

I knew Late Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi since my AMU days. I was a dwarf activist then who had participated for the movement of ‘Minority Character of Aligarh Muslim University’ along with the taller Student’s Union leaders like Jawed Habeeb, Qaiser Mehmood, Arif Mohammad Khan and Akhtarul Wasey.

Aligarh Muslim University A Square Peg in the Round Hole


In those days, I was lucky to meet with many Muslim leaders in Delhi, Aligarh and other places. Dr. Fareedi, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullaah, Ebraheem Suleman Seth, Justice Kalbe Abbas, Justice Basheer Ahmed Sayeed and Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi were the few names that bestrode the political domain of Indian Muslim politics like a colossus in those days. Most of these leaders were hailed as the iconic trail blazers in their profession domains. In presence of these ebullient politicians it was not easy for the ‘powers at centre’ to toss the interests of Muslim community recklessly upward, upside down and just for change whirl frantically around by the RSS minded politicians. The period enveloped 1968 – 73.

Everyone admired the oratory skills of Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah and poetic magic of Allama Eqbal embellished in the rhetoric of Ebraheem Suleman Seth, the Muslim League MP from Kerala. However, my favourite speaker was Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi (14 February 1931 – 29 September 2008), a politician from the city of Hyderabad who had served as the Member of Parliament from Hyderabad for six consecutive terms until stepping down in 2004 in favour of his elder son Asaduddin Owaisi.

Asaduddin Owaisi A Square Peg in the Round Hole


Asaduddin Owaisi

His second son, Akbaruddin Owaisi is a member of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly from the Chandrayangutta Assembly constituency. Sultan’s father, Abdul Wahed Owaisi was the president of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen till his death. In 1976, Salahuddin Owaisi took over the presidency of the Majlis after his father’s death. In Hyderabad, Salahuddin Owaisi was called “Salar-e-Millat” by his dotting followers.

A genuine charismatic speaker and leader, is always self-confident, lively, energetic and knowledgeable. He should have a stage presence. Good speaker speaks without stumbling, using full sentences and correct grammar. He should be positive in outlook, inspiring, cheerful, sober, and organized. Salahuddin Owaisi had imbibed these qualities in abundance. His audience would be kept spellbound as long as he was with the mike.

Sultan Salauddin Owaisi had seen the last days of ‘Saltanat-e-Usmania’ the State of Nizam of Hyderabad and was always nostalgic about the lost glory of this great last Indian Muslim empire. Like most of the Muslims of Hyderabad, he had also accepted with grace and compromised with the fait accompli but he had always reminded his audiences that the Indian state had “abandoned” the Muslims to their fate and now “Muslims should stand on their own feet, rather than look to the State for help.‘’

Sultan Salauddin Owaisi A Square Peg in the Round Hole


Sultan Salauddin Owaisi

He was the strongest politician of Hyderabad and capable to tilt the Muslim vote bank in Andhra Pradesh to whichever Party he felt like supporting. Both of his children are talented speakers. I won’t speak about Akbar’s politics as his case is prejudiced. However, Asaduddin Owaisi is a true replica in almost all the domains he had inherited from his father.

He is a clear thinker, wonderful speaker, excellent debater and never ever he takes part in any discussion without great homework. He is bold, brave, realistic and a fine organizer. He is never afraid to speak his mind. He had always demanded that action must be taken against all those who took part in killing of innocents whether in Mumbai or Gujarat or anywhere no matter how powerful the culprits might be. He had loudly called for the action against Zakiur Rehaman, Hafiz Saeed and other ogres. He has always maintained that the enemies of the country are enemies of Muslims. He says all things that are politically correct.

But, that is a liability in north and not an asset. Asaduddin Owaisi graduated from the Nizam College, Osmania University. He later went to London, where he studied L.L.B and Barrister-at-Law (Lincolns Inn), England. He is often referred to as Naqeeb-e-Millat (“Leader of the community”) by his supporters. He was honoured with ‘Sansad Ratna Award’ for overall best performance in 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.

Asaduddin Owaisi Quote A Square Peg in the Round Hole

Asaduddin Owaisi is asking the new generation of Muslims to try its metal in the election politics ‘now’. I don’t agree with him in the north Indian situation. The Muslim Youth need not swim in politics. They are still immature for these dark waters; they are green horn; they need to work on education, self development and excellence. A Muslim politician can’t be a successfully elected politician at this stage. The Muslim politics in the north is like weak freshly fledgling grass. Even a soft stomp would destroy the sapling in the meadow.

The issues he is raising are taboo at the time of voting. Everyone knows the plight of Muslims but the RSS / BJP is going to color this discussion to fire the communal feelings. The hard facts he is exposing would be manipulated by BJP to intensify the communal hatred instead of correction about them. The liberal politicians would be pushed into corner as pro-Muslim and BJP would call it appeasement of minorities. Asad is giving them this opportunity on a platter.

There are few Muslim politicians and fewer administrators here in north. They are not there in business as their reach is not higher than of some taller grass fronds of power. Trees and wood of prosperity is only a dream till date. They are farmers, cart-pullers, rickshaw-pullers, painters, fruit-sellers, carpenters, masons, puncture repairers, butchers, barbers and labourers. Leaving aside some exceptions of engineers, doctors and white collar jobs they are still in search of evening bread and their identity.

india election ayodhya A Square Peg in the Round Hole


Are there any Muslim entrepreneurs of comparable wealth and influence? No sir! They are massively under-represented in the rest of important professions and spheres of country’s life.

So, the Muslim voter has taken full refuge in religion.Many professional religio-socio-political outfits have held him ransom in the name of beliefs and tenets, and he is there enjoying accepting it as his fate. True, the new generation is working hard to rise above this quagmire but it will take time and a long hard struggle. ‘Hunuz Dehli Door Ast.’ The destination of prosperity is still far away. If anything, the recent RSS successes has already put a lot of new challenges and life has got harder over time for him.

Any isolated success is going to change nothing. It will create more thorns than roses. Leave this field of election politics where you can’t win, to level headed broad minded politicians of majority. They would take care of your interests than your so-called Muslim representative. How many Muslim members of Parliament of Congress party did resign when the Unguarded Babri Masjid was demolished by fanatics?

Today, far from being ‘dominant’ or hegemonic, most Muslims are poor farmers, labourers, artisans, and traders in north India. The proportion of Muslim parliamentarians and of Muslim civil servants has been steadily declining over time. One reason there is no substantial Muslim middle class is the creation of Pakistan and the two new nations theory. The migration of a large chunk of the Muslim middle class to Pakistan did not work out well for Indian Muslims. The Muslims left behind in this country lack an enlightened and educated leadership.

Babri Masjid A Square Peg in the Round Hole

Today, there is no room for religious and reactionary Muslim politics. Despite the onslaught of fanatic forces the Muslims have no choice but take the shelter in the shadow of liberal and secular umbrella. Let me recall our beloved Prime Minister Nehru who had sought to cultivate the modern Muslim society and leaders. Unfortunately, the Congress of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv, and Sonia Gandhi has consistently favoured the conservative sections of the Muslim community. When one of the M.P’s, Arif Mohammed Khan, was willing to bat in public for the reform of Muslim personal laws, Rajiv dumped him in favour of the mullahs.

There is no enlightened Muslim leadership in north India. Even the previous Congress UPA government, likewise went to offer subsidies and sops to Muslim religious institutions rather than encourage them to engage with the modern world.

I’m not blaming the Indian Muslims for their predicament. They have helplessly fallen at cracks of history. But in the absence of a credible enlightened liberal leadership their marginalization would not disappear. The Congress, after Nehru had always exploited them and the BJP chooses to demonize them ideologically.

Today, we have to remember Sir Syed Ahmed Khan who had never advised Muslims to rush into active politics. As a responsible citizen they should take part in voting. Rest of the time is to be spent in improving their skills in every field, to achieve excellence in the set-up available to them.

I know Asaduddin Owaisi is honest, sincere and dedicated but his medicine won’t work in the north. I would advise him to help Muslims to improve their lot in educational, social and business life. Please don’t drag them in stormy waters of active fight of elections.

Charcoal Sketch A Square Peg in the Round Hole

Naim Naqvi presenting a charcoal sketch to Janab Badruddin Tyabji (one of the famous diplomats and the most popular Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University), the son of Badruddin Tyabji (Tyab Ali) (1844–1906) who was the third President of Indian National Congress

To me, his major problem is that he is still ignorant of the political equations of India North. The politics of Hyderabad is not the politics of Lucknow and Patna. The Congress Party had already taken meticulous care in the early days of formation of constituencies and there are few constituencies left where Muslims vote bank could use its dictates. They are mere catalysts in victory or defeat of an individual or party but not the decisive force. And nothing is going to change the situation in times to come.

By Naim Naqvi 

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