By Jehosh Paul
The Supreme Court is soon scheduled to hear a case on the issue of imputation of caste system in Islam and Christianity in order to determine whether reservation benefits can be extended to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims.
It becomes crucial to examine the previous stance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government, keeping in mind its outreach efforts towards Pasmanda Muslims as part of the BJP’s 2024 general elections preparation.
During a previous hearing, the government, in its affidavit, denied the demands of reservation to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians by submitting that Christianity and Islam do not practice untouchability and Christians or Muslims have never experienced backwardness or oppression.
The government further emphasised that the petitions seeking reservation were devoid of merit.
However, the arguments advanced by the BJP-led government are inconsistent with the BJP’s action of outreach programmes in favour of Pasmanda Muslim under which it has explicitly acknowledged the presence of caste-based stratification within the Muslim community.
During the national executive meetings of the BJP held in Delhi, in January 2023 and Hyderabad, in July 2022, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi called upon the party to reach out to the marginalised sections within minority communities.
In the words of PM Modi, “A section of their own religion (Islam) has exploited Pasmanda Muslims, something that has not been discussed in the country. Several generations have had to suffer. But the BJP works in the spirit of SabkaSaath, SabkaVikaas.”
Subsequently, an extensive outreach programme was launched by BJP President J.P. Nadda in Uttar Pradesh, aiming to engage Pasmanda Muslims and bestow them with “sammaan” (respect) and “sneh” (affection).
Jamal Siddiqui, national president of the BJP’s minority morcha, has stated that the party has identified at least 61 constituencies that have a population of more than 25 percent Muslims to carry forward the message of GaribKalyan from PM Modi to them.
Reports suggest that the BJP is planning to identify financially weaker families in these constituencies so that Pasmanda Muslim families can benefit from some of the Union government’s flagship programmes such as toilets for all; subsidised cooking gas cylinders; access to bank accounts through the Jan Dhan programme; housing for all, both in rural and urban areas; and easy loans under the Mudra scheme for women.
It is worth noting that Pasmanda Muslims, comprising approximately 85 percent of India’s Muslim population, have the potential to be major beneficiaries of welfare schemes implemented by the Modi government.
PM Modi’s Pasmanda outreach has garnered praise from individuals such as Tariq Mansoor, former vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University and a member of the legislative council in Uttar Pradesh.
Mansoor commended the BJP for exhibiting not only a better sociological understanding of the heterogeneity of Muslims but also for offering political expediency to address the void in Pasmanda politics that the non-BJP parties have failed to accommodate.
WasimRaini, the state president of All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj, has said that PM Modi is the first prime minister to openly address the problems faced by the Pasmanda Muslims and express commitment to their welfare. Raini added that the Pasmanda community now looks towards the BJP with hope.
Scholar Hilal Ahmed, an expert on political Islam, has commented that the BJP’s Pasmanda outreach not only demonstrates the party’s inclusive character but also addressed the concerns of its ‘sympathiser’ voter base, who support the BJP and accept its ‘larger agenda’, but are unhappy with certain policies of the party.
Additionally, the timing of this outreach is significant, as aggressive Hindutva politics approaches its saturation point, and the BJP needs a positive social narrative for its 2024 campaign, Ahmed has said.
However, it is crucial to recognise that true inclusivity and social justice require more than opportunistic gestures. The BJP’s Pasmanda outreach efforts ring hollow due to the party’s reluctance to support reservation benefits for Dalit Muslims (and Dalit Christians).
While welfare schemes and outreach programmes targeting the Pasmanda community are commendable, they fall short of addressing the deep-rooted systemic discrimination that reservation benefits aim to rectify.
To demonstrate genuine inclusivity and commitment to social justice, the BJP must reconcile its Pasmanda outreach with consistent support for reservation benefits for the marginalised communities, irrespective of their religion.(IPA Service)
Courtesy: The Leaflet