Welcome, Jamat-e-Hind, to the mainstream!

[Disclaimer: Today's papers reported the Jamat-e-Islami (Hind)'s views on co-education, sex outside marriage and other such regressive measures to 'protect' women. My views below on the organisation were posted yesterday and although it is clear that I am discussing the formation of a political party, I would like to in strong terms oppose the Jamat's stand regarding women. My opinions expressed here, however, remain unchanged in the larger context of a political discourse.]

While I dislike the idea of a religion-based political party, I am not as dismissive about the launching of the Welfare Party of India (WPI) that is supposedly a part of the Jamat-e-Islami (Hind), described as a “fundamentalist Muslim movement”.

Here are a few reasons for my grudging acceptance:

There is often a question raised about ‘Muslim leadership’ and why no proper political party contests elections. From a report in the TOI it seems to be making just such an effort:

Having established units of WPI in eight states — West Bengal, UP, Assam, Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan, AP and TN – it will soon launch its unit in Maharashtra.

Though WPI’s name doesn’t suggest its link with the Jamaat, and some of its senior functionaries are non-Muslims, it remains primarily a Muslim political party guided by the Jamaat-e-Islami ideology. “It is true that Jamaat took the initiative to form this party and spared some of its members to launch it in different states; it is a broadbased party which will work for the marginalized minorities, dalits and tribals who have been betrayed by the so-called secular parties,” claims Qasim Rasool Ilyas, WPI’s general secretary and a Jamaat member.

There will be an element of opportunism, but there is genuine discontent with mainstream secular parties that have used the Muslim vote without making any difference to the lives of the ordinary Muslim. In fact, by treating them as a consolidated group, these parties have encouraged the mentality of cowering and waiting for scraps to be thrown their way. Perhaps a Muslim party might be able to see, through its own pigeon-hole, that there are different kinds of Muslims. That is where its leadership will be tested. It is easy to include Dalits and tribals – who are disadvantaged, but outsiders – and quite a tough task facing the hierarchy within.

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) had remained largely confined to a few constituencies in Hyderabad. Despite its attempts to moderanise education and make Muslims self-reliant, it has got more importance due to the hot-blooded speeches by MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi. (It is my view that he ought to be arrested, or not be given importance at all. There are those who think this might sound like tacit approval. It shows just how much they like to milk a controversial cow.)

If the BJP that promotes Hindutva as nationalism can become a nationalist party, why not any other? It unabashedly wants a revival of Ram Rajya, which amounts to turning the clock back and is no different from, say, the Saudi model that it derides for backwardness.

Besides, regional parties already have a huge stake and push their agenda, whether it is Tamil Nadu, Punjab or the North East states. There are Hindu, Sikh, Christian, tribal, Muslim concerns that they address. It is necessary to be cynical about the motives of the leaders, but the intent cannot be brushed aside because of this. The WPI may cater to a small section of people, which will be a win-win situation. It will reveal that Muslims do not vote en bloc and yet make the complacent parties rethink about taking them for granted.

Javed Anand of Muslims for Secular Democracy, representing the mandatory liberal voice, says:

“Since Jamat-e-Islami’s appeal among Muslims was limited, it has changed its strategy and wants to enroll Muslim support through a political outfit. It will fragment Muslim votes, help Hindutva parties to further polarise Hindu votes and weaken secularism.”

This is so typical. I’d see this statement from a positive perspective. The JI’s appeal is limited, which means that Muslims have not bought into the narrow religious political view as yet. The new party will need to have larger appeal, and in a democracy it has every right to. I do not see how liberal or fundamentalist voices can try to nip it before it has even been sown. Why should Muslim votes not be fragmented? This thinking is not much different from any ghetto one.

How will it help polarise Hindu votes? We have a large number of parties, and it is unlikely that Hindus will clamour to join this one. I am amazed at the confusion. How will this help Hindutva parties? The BJP’s allies in the NDA were not all Hindutva groups. Once upon a time not long ago, in the land that causes the greatest heartburn, Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference was its partner. It has managed alliances in the South, too.

With such buffets on offer, pluralism can be channelised. The ‘this will weaken secularism’ argument sounds lame and exposes how liberals are willing to get moulded into a pre-formulated shape. They know that they will lose their right to speak for secular values in a democracy. They just might cease to be the sole voices of moderate Muslims.

This is not 1947 where the polarity was limited and we were still basking with our trust with destiny.

I am, therefore, disconcerted by the fears expressed. To suggest that Jamaat-e-Islami in India should learn from its co-ideologues in Pakistan makes no sense. JI has started a party that will have to work within the framework of the Indian Constitution. It will have to shape up or ship out. More importantly, it has to take the high moral ground and not follow the Hindutva prototype.

For those talking about its baggage, what is the history of the BJP, of Communist parties, of the Congress? No one was born yesterday. And it is time for the so-called voices of Indian Muslims to stop assuming the ignorance of the community. Do I have to keep repeating that Imam Bukhari of Jama Masjid lost the elections in a Muslim-dominated area? It will also be interesting to watch the token Hindus in the Muslim party.

We all love secularism, don’t we? Now stuff this.

End note:

While we are discussing communal groups, tributes were paid to the assassins of Indira Gandhi yesterday by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in the presence of Jathedar of the Akal Takht.

Beant Singh and Satwant Singh had assassinated Indira Gandhi her at her residence on October 31, 1984. Beant was shot dead while Satwant and another conspirator, Kehar Singh, were hanged on January 6, 1989.

Besides SGPC officials, leaders of radical Sikh organization Dal Khalsa and the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) were also present on the occasion. Sources said Jathedar of Akal Takht Giani Gurbachan Singh honoured Tarlok Singh, father of Satwant Singh and Bhupinder Singh, brother of Harjinder Singh Jinda, one of the assassins of Gen Vaidya.

There are no straight answers. No straight reasons. 

(c) Farzana Versey


  1. From a purely economic theory viewpoint increase in choices is considered a good thing. The assumption being that people are rational and they will make their choices based on their utility function what ever that function is. I guess we could say the same thing about political parties when voters have a lot of choices between different parties it could lead to a lot more voices to be heard that were originally muted because they did not know how to voice them or were too afraid to voice them or there was no one to amplify it for them. I am looking forward to the day when a lot more parties will come into being with ideas and solutions that might be more interesting than the current ones being offered. Competition among these parties may make things seem chaotic but some good things are bound to happen too.

  2. FV,

    JI-promoted party (like many other recently launched Islamic parties) will be hamstrung by the coalition compulsions as much as BJP was. The rise of these parties will expose the hollowness of the sekulaarism of so-called Grand Old Party, the media and the Hindu-hating cabal of NGO-lings. All that is required is one more issue like Taslima or Rushdie or the Prophet movie.

    Perhaps, this would also help the BJP broad-base its influence across Hindu community and other non-Muslim sections of Indian voters.

    The future is exciting!!

  3. I would comment on the first and the last part , first why sex outside marriage is regressive to you? It is proscribed in our religion and that is why JI have maintained that line.

    The press and the hindutvabadi are quiet on the last part, honoring the assassins of Mrs Indira Gandhi and why the BJP supports it, is it extreme hatred for congress party or subliminal love for the akalis?

    Rest of it is your belief and I cannot comment on it, but JI , I reckon won't be winning in elections anytime soon so your right in your reasoning that muslims don't vote as a block but they do vote in large numbers and this is the way it should be

  4. A point about the Disclaimer:

    I would like to state categorically that I could have used 'Update' and it might have worked just as well. But I wanted to have nothing to do with the JI's position re women. It has nothing to do with the rest of the post. Anyone who has been around of is aware of my work down the years would know that I do not pussy-foot.

    - - -


    The rise of these parties will expose the hollowness of the sekulaarism of so-called Grand Old Party, the media and the Hindu-hating cabal of NGO-lings. All that is required is one more issue like Taslima or Rushdie or the Prophet movie.

    I already said it would expose secular credentials. You spell it differently, that's all. As you have agreed that coalitions have affected the BJP too, one more offensive painting of Hindu deities, or celebration of Valentine's Day, or women working outside or carrying mobile phones or wearing jeans might really help Hindus to make the right choice, eh?

    Good to know that one Muslim party coming out of its hole can broadbase the BJP's influence.

    Forget the future. It's always exciting for the Mussalman. Subhan'Allah!

  5. Sai:

    I understand your analogy about competitiveness bringing about possible solutions, but I doubt it would work in politics. Here you aren't marketing a specific product, and once chosen the people have to live with it for the next few years.

    However, the fact is that it would be more transparent. As coalition politics have come to stay, you at least might know that you are voting for the party most likely to tango with which one, rather than later horse-trading.

  6. Rizwan:

    Everything I write here is my opinion, except when I quote reports, so you are commenting on my opinion!

    Now to your two points:

    Anyone dictating from a public platform, esp in the context and garb of women's protection is reprehensible and regressive to me. The JI statement came out at the same time as the Asaram Bapu and the rest.

    There are many things proscribed by religions, and if we have issues with them in political terms, we might have issues with them in socially-sanctioned behaviour as well.

    An organisation that wishes to contest elections cannot decide upon how people live. I apply this to all political parties and their satellites.

    I have noticed that there is no discussion about how the memorial service was held inside the Golden Temple for Indira Gandhi's assassins.

  7. FV, All religions are worthless. Time to stop pretending one pile of horsemanure smells nicer than others. Regressive behavior driven by Islam the religion is there for all to see...ditto for other religions. Anyone who pretends otherwise is not helping matters.


  8. Hi FV, I guess my comment was not really relevant to your post, which is mostly political analysis. Sorry, but I just encountered more boneheaded religious behavior in my own family (not muslims) and I had 30 minutes of sheer fantasy about inventing a pill that would cure the world of religion...and then reality bit hard again...oh well.


    PS: Apologies if I grated your religious sentiments, not my intent. I used to think religion is okay as long as it is personal, but never ever stays personal, does it? It is all social activity + ritual at some point. Anyway, sorry for distracting from the actual point of your post. I will find some hapless religious person in my vicinity to annoy and leave you alone. :-)

  9. Al:

    I don't have any religious sentiments to hurt! Your comment was not about the post, but in a tangential way it is about the 'religious' politicisation, so you are not trampling the grass...

    And as long as your statement "Anyone who pretends otherwise is not helping matters" regarding regressiveness does not refer to the contents here, I'll leave you alone:-)

  10. FV:"And as long as your statement "Anyone who pretends otherwise is not helping matters" regarding regressiveness does not refer to the contents here, I'll leave you alone:-) "

    Hi FV,
    Hee hee :-) No, I did read this post a little more carefully than the one on the 3 AM phone call. I think your main point here is that extreme politics and religious fundamentalism usually gets moderated when such people actually enter competitive politics that are issue based. There, see, I was not talking about your post.


  11. Very good analysis.Jamaate Islami do have regressive elements inside it and also progressive elements.From my experience, I will say that the positive elements are more and a positive atitude has got the upper hand inside the organization.

    When Welfare Party starts spreading , I hope the good factors and practical values of the public will be reaching inside Jamaat and Jamaat can outsourse its virtues to the public.

    Democracy opens the windows of Cadre organizations.At the same time they can get distanced from the cheap populism.

    Welfare Party may not help BJP.Gujarat, Karnataka , MP , Rajastan are under the clutches of Hindutwa Fascism not due to the presence of Muslim political parties.And, at least in Kerala , nearly 40% of the workers are said to be non-Muslims.


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