Hon’ble Prime Minister
Government of India
Sub: Pasmanda Muslims
It was a pleasant surprise to hear you talk about “Pasmanda”, but the Pasmanda Muslims want “sam-maan” (equality and dignity), not “sneh” (affection). The term “sneh” has a specific connotation: That the Pasmanda Muslims need “sneh” denotes that they are an inferior lot requiring patronage from the ones who are superior.
How can any party or government be superior to the people of the country? As early as 22 years ago, I authored a book titled “Masawat ki Jung”, which means “struggle for equality”. We are not fighting to achieve “dominance” of any kind over any other group or groups inside or outside the Muslim society. Our fight is for equality.
Has the sudden move to take out “Sneh Yatra” for the Pasmanda community something to do with vote-bank politics? Isn’t it aimed at pitting one Muslim against another? Pasmanda Muslims do not support any party blindly. No party should take them “for granted”.
Our fight is not against any caste, creed or community; we are demanding from the government and the political elite our due that is commensurate with our population so that we can stand on an equal footing with non-Pasmanda people. Our fight is peaceful and within the constitutional framework. It’s not that we, as Pasmanda Muslims, are asking for something special, separately; rather we are demanding that the government stop discrimination against us just because we happen to be Muslims. We have the same demand with respect to our Christian Dalits. They are also being punished for being Christian.
We have been of the firm belief since the very beginning that the Pasmanda Muslims alone cannot win this battle. We can succeed only with the help of Pasmanda and Dalits of all religions and other progressive and justice-loving people.
In 1998, we formed a social organization called Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz because the term ‘Pasmanda’ is religion- and caste-neutral. There is no caste or religion by the name of Pasmanda. All the communities – Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and others – have people from Pasmanda, Dalit and Adivasi sections. Not only do we have the pain and suffering in common, but our DNA is also the same. We have put the word “Pasmanda” before the word “Muslim” in our organization’s name, for, historically we are Pasmanda first, Muslims later. We have converted to Islam for “masawat” (equality). We, Pasmanda Muslims, are the original inhabitants of our country, India. Hardly one or two per cent of Muslims have come to India from Arabia, Iran and Iraq. We are not “Aqliyat” (minority); we are “Aksariyat” (Bahujan). “Pasmanda” is an Urdu-Farsi word which means people who have been left behind or oppressed. We don’t want to continue as “Pasmanda”; we aspire to become “Peshmanda” (the one who leads from the front).
Mr Prime Minister, you have asked your partymen to take out a “Sneh Yatra” for the Pasmanda Muslims. This will prove effective only when communal harmony is maintained in society. What’s the point in taking out a “Sneh Yatra” if hate statements and bulldozing also go on at the same time? Pasmanda Muslims have been the worst affected by all the campaigns going on since 2014, be it mob-lynching in the name of cow protection, ghar-wapsi, love jihad, Tablighi jihad during the Corona pandemic or any temple-mosque conflict. Those killed, burnt, maimed, framed in police cases and jailed due to such incidents have been mostly Pasmanda Muslims.
Even if we leave alone the BJP MPs and MLAs, don’t your ministers and chief ministers say on record that Muslims should be “buried alive” or “sent to Pakistan”? Didn’t Home Minister Amit Shah ji call upon the people, at the time of Delhi Assembly elections – when a peaceful movement of Muslim women against NRC and CAA was also going on – to “press the button so hard that Shaheen Bagh gets an electric shock”? Mr Prime Minister, does it suit a person of as high a stature as yours to say that you recognize people by their sartorial preferences?
While Muslims did not succumb to provocation, aren’t their prayers now being disrupted, aren’t their mosques being attacked and isn’t their Prophet being blasphemed against? Even as our country’s image continues to be tarnished all over the world because of this, you have not spoken a single word against it to date. On the contrary, the Muslims, intellectuals, journalists and civil society activists, who raise their voice against it, are being put behind bars.
Our organization has always campaigned among the Pasmanda Muslims to follow the path of peace and harmony, act wisely and look forward. We tell them not to become aggressive under any circumstances, not to take the law into their own hands. Barring a few exceptions, our people have generally displayed patience and tolerance. We have always been against all forms of communalism and religious mobilization. Our forefathers like Abdul Quyyum Ansari and Maulana Ali Hussain Asim Bihari along with forty thousand people gathered under the banner of the Momin Conference at the India Gate in Delhi in 1940, opposing Jinnah’s two-nation theory and Savarkar’s “Hindu Rashtra” concept. The same path was followed by Maulana Atiqur Rahman Mansoori, Mian Abdul Malik Raini and others. All these leaders were from the Pasmanda community, weren’t they?
A journalist and writer from Champaran, Pir Mohammad Moonis had prolifically written in Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi’s newspaper Pratap and informed Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi about the exploitation and atrocities at the hands of the ‘Nilahe’ landlords in Champaran. When Gandhi came to Champaran and an attempt was made to kill him by poisoning his food and water, it was a Batak Mian who saved his life. We are not the killers, but the protectors of Gandhi. Jharkhand’s revolutionary warrior Sheikh Bhikhari was caught and instantly hanged in 1857. The British considered him so dangerous to their rule that they did not think it wise to waste time on his trial and straightaway convicted him. Each of these above-mentioned three people was also a Pasmanda Muslim.
When Pakistan attacked India with American Patton tanks in 1965, Hawaldar Abdul Hamid destroyed the tanks and was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously. He was also a Pasmanda Muslim. Bharat Ratna awardee Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan and legendary cine-actor Dilip Kumar alias Yusuf Khan were also from the Pasmanda community. The nation has been proud of them.
Even in the present times, our organization has always been raising a voice against communal polarization engineered by the BJP-RSS or the likes of AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi. Both these types of people work to strengthen each other. One’s ideology is “Manuwadi”, the other’s is “Ibliswadi”. We believe that the cure for all the diseases arising from religious mobilizations lies in the Pasmanda movement.
Mr Prime Minister, even if the BJP is extending a friendly hand towards Pasmandas for their votes, could you at least take these few steps immediately? There are about a dozen castes within the Pasmanda Muslims such as Halalkhor (scavenger, Bhangi), Muslim washerman, Muslim cobbler, Bhatiyara, Gadhedi, etc for whom the Sachar Committee and the Ranganath Mishra Commission have recommended Scheduled Caste status. Has your government, in response to a query of the Supreme Court last year, said that it will not accept this recommendation? Will you end this religion-based discrimination by increasing the quota of Schedule Caste? Will the nomadic tribes like Mewati, Van Gujjar, Sapera, Madari, etc, who were called criminal tribes during the British period, be included among the Scheduled Tribes? If not, nothing fruitful is going to come out of the drum-beating by some greedy people.
Will you stop the hate campaign that has been going on unchecked against Muslims? Will you help the artisan castes who were devastated by your edicts like demonetisation, GST and complete lockdown during pandemic? Will you help them revive their business by procuring their produce and providing them cheap electricity and raw materials? Will some immediate steps be taken to give relief to those whose lives are being devastated by the high inflation rate? Will a countrywide census be conducted to know the exact population and socio-economic status of the Pasmandas and Dalits of all religions? Your present government has increasingly made reservation redundant by handing over the public sector institutions to private players. Will you implement the quota system in the private sector too? If not, then how and why would Pasmandas trust “aap ki sarkar”?
Muslims in general and Pasmanda Muslims in particular have been politically boycotted in terms of their representation in Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies. The process of their economic boycott has also begun. Would you like to reverse these moves? What is going to change if one or two ‘fards’ (persons) from the BJP background are made ministers or governors? Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, M.J. Akbar, Najma Heptullah and Arif Mohammad Khan have been seen supporting many controversial policies and decisions of your government – arguably more so than other BJP leaders. However, there is a big difference between being a Muslim and being a leader of Muslims who can empathize with them.
It is hoped that you would take a call on our above-mentioned demands and suggestions soon.
Ali Anwar Ansari
July 15, 2022
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