The BJP strongly protested against Imam Bukhari of the Jama Masjid calling upon the Muslim community to vote of Congress in order to defeat the communal forces in the country. Imam Bukhari’s dabbling into politics is highly undesirable and should be condemned by all those who respect democracy and secular values. Imam Bukhari’s writ does not run outside the premises of Jama Masjid many say and it is proved as well. The Imam opposed Shoaib Iqbal in Matiya Mahal Assembly Constituency in the Jama Masjid area. However, Shoaib Iqbal won thrice despite the fatwas against him. When Imam Bukhari appealed to Muslims to vote for BSP in the 2007 UP Assembly and 2009 Lok Sabha elections, most Muslim candidates of BSP did not win. Then Imam Bukhari appealed to vote SP in the 2012 UP Assembly elections. The Imam’s son-in-law Umar Ali Khan had been given ticket by the SP. Khan lost though he was the only Muslim candidate in Behat which has 80% Muslim constituency! Other SP candidates won despite the Imam’s appeal. Then the Imam asked Rajya Sabha seat for his brother and ministerial berth for Khan, which was refused. Hence the fall out between the SP and the Imam.
The father of the present Shahi Imam – Syed Abdullah Bkhari first came to limelight when he dared to oppose demolition of the slums of Turkman Gate on Sanjay Gandhi’s intervention during emergency. When Janata Party was formed, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Chandrashekhar went to meet the Imam and bless the party. The Imam obliged and addressed several meetings along with Atal Behar Vajpayee in the 1977 general elections asking Muslims to vote for Janata Party. Muslims did, because the mood in the country was anti-Congress. The Imam thereafter deftly tried to maintain his brand image and driving hard bargains from political parties. The Imam also appealed to Muslims to vote for the BJP in the 2004 elections! The BJP did not protest then.
Identity politics and the NDA:
Political parties of all ideologies are appealing to various ethnic, linguistic and interest groups as well as castes and religious communities to poll committed votes. The BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is also endeavouring to do the same and appealing to different interest groups and people belonging to varied identities in the language they want to hear and offering solutions and policy interventions they want. These promises are insincere. However, one interest group that Modi professedly would not cater to is that of Muslims. He wears all kinds of head gears but refused to wear skull cap offered to him in one of his Sadbhavana Mission. Though he does not want any targeted interventions to ameliorate the legitimate grievances of one of the most backward community in India – Muslims, he is not shying away from targeting the community for their votes. In his Rajasthan election rally, Modi’s men were busy distributing veils and skull caps to demonstrate before the media that Muslims too were supporting him. Rajnath Singh, President of the BJP met Muslim leaders and apologized for any “mistakes” they may have made without acknowledging that they made any mistakes. Such a meeting was obviously an attempt to garner some votes of the Muslim community.
The BJP never protests if any political party appeals to or endeavours to mobilize committed votes of any caste or linguistic groups other than Muslims. In Maharashtra, their ally Shiv Sena has spread hatred against the North Indians in order to mobilize committed votes of Marathi speaking without any whisper of protest by the BJP. Akali Dal, a NDA ally in Punjab appeals to identity issues and specific interests of the Sikh community with approval from the BJP. The BJP and other front organization from the Sangh Parivar themselves take up partisan and religious issues of the Hindu community. Their attempt is to progressively transform the diverse religious community into a homogenous political community to establish a Hindu cultural state. To achieve their objective, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar has taken assistance from and defended various “godmen”, some of them even wayward. When in power, they make the resources of the state available at the feet of the godmen supporting them to promote conservatism and Hindu nationalism.
BJP and the godmen:
Godmen like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Ramdev have always courted the BJP, though Sri Sri does so more subtly than Ramdev. Modi hugged Ramdev and allowed himself to be photographed in that posture. Ramdev has endorsed Modi for Prime Ministership. How is it different from Imam Bukhari’s appeal to vote for Congress? Sri Sri is often seen in the company of BJP leaders releasing the autobiography of L K Advani, but also compilation of speeches of Nitin Gadkari! He appealed to the voters to vote for ‘morally upright’ leaders (going by the company he keeps, it would be clear to his followers who are they). He further appealed not to elect khichadi sarkar (so the third front is out) and opined that people had lost hope in AAP. The only party left is the BJP! He condemned Sonia Gandhi for meeting religious leader of only one religion for vote banks.
In MP, Shivraj Chouhan has protected and promoted scores of self-styled godmen who enjoy enormous political clout. After the Assembly polls, Chouhan and his wife sought the blessings of Sant Shri Rawatpura Sarkar – an influential religious who enjoys special status under the BJP rule. Rawatpura has several commercial interests and has registered himself as ‘A-type’ contractor with the MP PWD. Similarly, Sant Sadhvi Maa Kankeshwari Devi and Bhaiyyu Maharaj has Shivraj Chouhan and and his minister – Kailash Vijayvargiya among his followers. Some of these godmen face criminal charges which include land grabbing, rape etc. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur was arrested from Indore for bomb blasts in Malegaon and was defended by Rajnath Singh, the BJP President alleging that Hindu religious leaders were being targeted.
The Sangh Parivar has promoted the so called Dharma Sansad and the task has been allocated to the VHP from the Parivar. The aim is mobilize the godmen from varied traditions of Hindu community for the political project of Hindutva. The First Dharma Sansad was organized in Vigyan Bhavan on 7-8 April 1984 and presided by Shankaracharya Shantanand Maharaj and the keynote address was given by Chinmayanada Maharaj. 558 Dharmacharyas belonging to 76 Panths of Hindu community participated. Among their demands were to create indispensable place for Dharmic education within the present education and to establish Sanskrit language as the national language and developing it as a language for daily ordinary conversations. The next resolution is even more political and direct: “To foil by every means the conspiratorial attempts of by the adherents of alien faiths to reduce the Hindu population and by forcing the administration to have commitment to the Hindu interests.” (emphasis supplied). The last words italicized are directly against the Indian Constitution wherein state is required to treat all its citizens equally irrespective of their religion and all persons enjoy freedom to practice, profess and propagate their religion. Among other political demands, the Sansad also demands that Ramjanmabhoomi, Kashi Vishwanth and Krishnajanmasthan be returned to Hindus (in violation of the law that mandates that status-quo pertaining to religious institutions as it existed in 1947 be maintained).
In the 4th Dharma Sansad, 4,000 sants attended immediately after the demolition of Babri Masjid. This Dharma Sansad is rumoured to have proposed constitution of Hindu Rashtra – a totalitarian and expansionist sate. The Sansad demanded that Janmabhoomi be handed over to Shriram Janmabhoomi Nyas and Hindus were called upon to vote such a government that would do so (i.e. the BJP) and the Hindus were warned to beware of country-wide ‘Muslim plans’ of annihilation of Hindus against countrywide goondaism to protect honour of Hindu womenfolk. The Sansad is self congratulatory in its achievement of getting people of Hindutva ideology elected.
Mahant Avaidyanath Maharaj presided over the 10th Dharma Sansad held in February 2003 and keynote address was given by Ashok Singhal, President, VHP. Avaidyanath is also President of Shriram Janmabhoomi Mandir Andolan. 9,000 Sants from all over the country participated in the Sansad. The Sansad resolved to “re-establish” Hindu Rashtra. The position therefore is that India was always a Hindu Rashtra to be “re-established”. The pre-independence Indian society was based on birth based hierarchies of privileges based on caste, gender and religion disadvantageous to the OBCs, dalits and women who were required to serve the minority of upper-caste landlords and elite. The 10th Sansad of godmen convened by the Sangh Parivar with active involvement of all front organisations, including the BJP is therefore directly in conflict with the Constitutional values of equality and inclusive citizenship. It also resolves to establish Akhand Bharat on the basis of Savarkarian formula of pitrubhu-punyabhu. Akhand Bharat is usually a call for forcible undoing of partition and annexing other sovereign nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Afghanistan and certain territories of China. It further calls upon to ban Madrasas, including Islamic institutions like Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband which it calls as breeding ground of terrorism! Needless to say that Dar-ul-Ulom produced many freedom fighters. Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, an organization formed of Ulemas of Deoband actively opposed Partition of the country and propagated composite nationalism. However, blinded by hate, they chose to ignore history. They demanded death penalty for Jihad – a highly contested term for sufis too undertook jihad to control their desires. For lack of space we are not going into all the resolutions passed by the Sansad, but they also in a very aggressive and offensive language asking training camps in Pakistan and Bangladesh be “smashed”, deportation of “3 crore “Bangladeshis infiltrators”, dismissal of West Bengal Govt. (without specifying any grounds for their dismissal) and demanding conversions to be made serious offence (all conversions, even those undertaken voluntarily without coercion, inducement or fraud)
The 1994 Dharma Sansad attended by 30,000 sadhus even demanded that the Govt. not sign Dunkel proposal on international trade!! That Sansad was attended by Murli Manohar Joshi who briefed them on Dunkel proposals. Sahib Singh Verma, then a minister in Delhi, rushed to attend the Sansad to seek their blessings for the anti-cow slaughter legislation of Delhi Govt. The sadhus became so politically ambitious that RSS had to ask them to refrain from seeking tickets the coming elections! BJP has always distributed tickets to sadhus and sought their help in electoral campaigns.
In the last Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad in 2013, the RSS and BJP leaders rushed to seek endorsement for Modi in the 2014 elections! The sadhus did the needful!
BJP has double standards. While it actively seeks blessing of the Hindu religious leaders for its political and electoral campaigns, they condemn other parties doing so, particularly from Muslim religious leaders. They stigmatize it as anti-secular, minority appeasement and vote bank politics. That comes from the perspective of Hinduism is national religion whereas Islam and Christianity are foreign religions, a distinction that our Constitution does not make and no democratic nation should. Though we condemn Congress for visiting Imam Bukhari to seek Muslim votes, the justification provided by both – the Imam and Sonia Gandhi were at least sought to be on Constitutional value of secularism – to prevent split in secular votes. That ground is spurious as why split only in Muslim votes should be termed as split in secular votes? However BJP is actively seeking patronage of sadhus to wreck the Constitutional principles and the make them take up various anti-Constitutional demands like Hindu Rashtra and Akhand Bharat.