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From Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh, Muslim leadership under fire
Tuesday June 4, 2013 6:25 PM, Aleem Faizee, ummid.com

Performance of Muslim ministers and lawmakers has rarely been under scanner. The community always chose to ignore their non-performance and never tried to hold them accountable for their failures. However, the conspicuous silence of the Muslim ministers and lawmakers in Uttar Pradesh on the death of Khalid Mujahid in mysterious condition, and the ignorant attitude of their counterparts in Maharashtra towards the Malegaon to Mumbai paidal-march demanding reservation have resulted in an unexpected, but utterly necessary impact – something which the analysts are terming a welcome change.

Clearly noticeable is the strong wave of anger and a kind of rage against the Muslim ministers and lawmakers of Uttar Pradesh especially the high profile, Azam Khan, for their failure to reach out to the community when it needed them after the tragic death of Khalid Mujahid. There can be difference of opinion on how he died, and nothing can be said for sure till the ongoing probe is over. But, one cannot disregard the fact that the circumstances under which he died were highly suspicious. That the Nimesh Commission had almost exonerated him of all charges in its report and a process was underway by the state government to withdraw the cases against him, further make Khalid Mujahid's death a serious issue. In fact, the Nimesh Commission Report puts a big question mark on the very arrest of the man who died in such a tragic manner.

Against this backdrop, the protest staged in different parts of the state and outside, and the concerns expressed by a large number of people from all across the country and abroad were something which should have been taken note of by the state government immediately. But it did not happen. Instead, the government behaved in the same manner for which its earlier tenure and various other governments post independence are notorious for. However, what angered the community most is the total failure of the Muslim leaders to lead in crucial time. They failed to understand what stopped Azam Khan, and other ministers and Muslim lawmakers from showing solidarity with the grief-struck and shaken community?

Similar is the case in Maharashtra. The demand for reservation to the Muslims is being raised through different platforms since decades. If we talk of political parties and look at their manifestos, they have won the elections on this issue. But, it has now become certain that the political parties, of whichever color they are, are not serious on the issue and do not show the needed commitment and political will. Asif Shaikh Rasheed is the president of Congress party's Malegaon unit. The reluctance to join his movement shown by some leaders in the beginning is hence understandable. Initially, there were also questions on his exact motives. But, as he criss-crossed the state and a strong campaign built up, there was a positive change in his approach - the political mileage he must have expected from the movement notwithstanding.

And, when he finally started marching from Malegaon to Mumbai for the historic 300-km march, his campaign was already converted into a popular movement. There was enthusiasm all through the 300-km stretch. Supports poured from all across and people cutting across the party line greeted the marchers wherever they went. There were eager elders to join the march, children to extend support and women to shower flowers. Everyone was there except for the Muslim ministers and lawmakers. They, especially Arif Naseem Khan, who claim to be undisputed leader of the Maharashtra Muslims after Abdur Rehman Antulay, chose to remain confined to their safe havens. Worst, some of them even tried to sabotage the popular campaign and indulged in unfound allegations. This angered the Muslims in Maharashtra and they felt betrayed by the Muslim ministers and lawmakers.

But the anger and reactions that followed were different this time. The vigour and power that are normally missing when Muslims take any stand were there in full display. Good, they were laced with uncompromising tone. Abu Asim Azmi is normally spared of criticism thanks to his fight against the communal forces in Maharashtra. But, even he was at the receiving end when he defended the Uttar Pradesh government on Khalid Mujahid's death. Sample this: "I could only read part of the statement by Abu Asim Azmi. How amazing! He is the person who claims to be fighting against injustice and discrimination and he comes from Azamgarh. I mean, I cannot say with authority how Khalid Mujahid died but certainly the circumstances are extremely suspicious. The State Govt. itself has ordered an enquiry and also suspended the policemen who were accompanying him. So it is certainly not a cut and dried case. Just goes to show that apni sarkar ho to balle balle, doosri ki ho to zalim! It is shocking...." Subhashini Ali wrote about Azmi.

In Maharashtra, Asif Shaikh went a step ahead to show his displeasure. He was invited by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan for a meeting after he reached Mumbai to finish the 300-km long march. But, to the shock of everyone present, Asif declined to meet the chief minister when he saw Arif Naseem Khan sitting next to him.

Only time will show what lesson the Congress-led government in Maharashtra has learnt from this change in the Muslim community. But, the acceptance of the Nimesh Commission report by the Samajwadi Party (SP) government in Uttar Pradesh gives a clear indication that it is feeling the undercurrents. For the Muslim ministers and lawmakers too the message is loud and clear: Perform now or perish.

The writer is Chief Editor of http://ummid.com and CEO of Awaz Multimedia & Publications

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