2024 Polls: Indian Muslims, Like India, Must Look Towards Future, With Hopes

(Dr Shujaat Ali Quadri)

On June 4 and India will have a freshly elected Parliament. Irrespective of who will form the government, India has to look forward and build a future that will be pregnant with challenges galore. The election rhetoric, however bitter it might have been, will evaporate with supersonic speed. The new government will have to settle down to fulfil promises made to people and the nation. The task is similarly cut out for Muslims of India.

Muslims have to bury worries about their future as they have to divorce the past that they sadly have reinvented time and again. The world no longer provides the luxury of carrying the burden of yore. Present time demands a modern manifesto for Muslims, charted out by them with a blueprint suggesting its implementation.

Political discourse revolving around Muslims, depicting their victimhood, is not new. It is shaped up in new forms very frequently. Whenever a general election takes place, it becomes vibrant. Since the BJP-led government came to power in 2014, it has assumed new hues. However, it has only yielded despair and doom for the community. So, thus far, no further.

Decisive Factor: Second Majority of India

Muslims are the second majority community in India after Hindus.

India has the world’s third-highest number of Muslims — it is the country’s largest minority, forming 14.2% of its population. In electoral terms, Muslims comprise at least 20% of the population in 86 of India’s 543 Lok Sabha constituencies  In 16 such seats, that share in the population is above 50%. However, the influence of the Muslim voters remains geographically limited as these 86 seats are spread across 12 states and three Union territories (UTs), 71 in five states and one UT — UP, West Bengal, Kerala, Bihar, Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

They vote with vigour and often outnumber other sections in turning out to polling booths. It makes Muslims a notch more enthusiastic democrat than others. It also reflects their firm faith in democratic institutions of India and thus they don’t have to waver from their commitment after being victimised or only being portrayed as victims by self-serving politico-social groups.

The Muslim Factor has been in full play in Election 2024. The name of the community has been used by leaders of almost every party that benefits from courting or vilifying them. Interestingly, while secular parties claim to exhort the cause of Muslims, they have fielded the least number of Muslims as candidates this time. In fact 2014 onwards, Muslims have seen 58% decreases in their candidature. The next Lok Sabha will therefore have the lowest ever Muslim representation.

Many experts have argued that the BJP’s sweeping majority in the past two general elections had rendered Muslims’ collective voting might irrelevant. That conclusion may prove premature this time as the top four states with the highest share of Muslims in their population — UP, West Bengal, Bihar and Maharashtra — will be key in determining whether the Modi-led BJP returns to power a third consecutive time.

Empowerment, the Key to Future

One most notable and satisfying observation about Indian Muslims in this election season has been that despite provocations, they didn’t resort into reactions. Actually, the community maintained a stoic silence whenever any verbal assault was made with an aim to evince backlash. It seems the community has realised that their emotions are traded for creating communal polarisation instead of addressing their grievances.

This maturity that Muslims have shown in this election preceded an atmosphere of disquiet and a sense of alienation that the community felt in recent years. But now it has realised to take it head-on and fight this off with the same enthusiasm that it shows during voting. Muslims, as part of a33 carefully crafted plan, have been voting strategically, motivated by a general existential threat. The delivery of promises, efficient running of government schemes, honest representation and unbiased empowerment are the parameters that the community has decided to adhere to. Rest is mere election and its hazards.

Future of India, Future of Muslims

In terms of numbers, there are 200 million Muslims in India. They have been making their presence felt in every walk of life. In Sports, Cinema, Arts, Music, etc, they have been shining stars. In politics and government machinery, their number is comparatively low, yet their contribution is significant. Muslims in fact have been synonymous with any other Indian when it came to building India and its future.

There is indeed no feeling of discrimination towards religious minorities among the common people associated with Indian secular society. A section, driven by its political compulsions and ideology, has deemed Muslims as its adversaries.

However, if you browse commentaries in media, both mainstream and academic, there will be prophecies of doom for Indian Muslims. The 2024 election campaign also emboldened these doomsayers. It also consolidated the Muslim vote as was expected. But, as reports and surveys of people’s perception conducted during the election revealed, the Muslims, along with being perturbed with their communal targeting, were more vocal about issues of livelihood, education and other pressing problems of life. Similar opinions were expressed by Hindu populace all across India. People actually feel repulsed by excessive politics.

Future challenges for Muslims of India will be almost the same that will stare the country in the face. The climate crisis is already biting. Cities like New Delhi are sizzling above 52 degrees. Water scarcity is ubiquitous. The front of health is ever unhealthy and needs cooperation from the public, as it links to sanitation which is the responsibility of everyone. The generation of employment, both private and public, too needs awareness and involvement of the public. The rural distress can only be eased when all communities will come together to address problems of agriculture and new-age farming.

The success on these fronts will determine the future of India, and, with their participation, Muslims of India will be able to withstand any adverse heatwave after June 4.

(The Author is the Chairman of the Muslim Students Organisation of India)

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