Almost two months after an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — in which he thanked him for using the word “Pasmanda (those left behind)” but asked for “samman (dignity)” instead of “sneh (affection)” — former Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar on Sunday wrote to all the Opposition parties, calling on them to unite against the BJP’s “divide and rule” policy before “it is too late”.
He told the parties not to be “afraid of using the word Pasmanda” and reminded them that “Pasmanda is not just a vote bank but a part of the fight for social justice and equality”.
Anwar who heads the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (AIPMM) said the BJP-led Centre might be refusing to conduct a caste census because of “the issue of granting Scheduled Caste (SC) status to Dalit Muslims and Christians”. Those shepherding the fight for the rights of Pasmandas say that they make up 80 to 85 per cent of the Muslim population in India.
The former MP said Muslims do not want “tokenism” from the Central government. As in the letter to the PM, Anwar reiterated that Pasmandas want “samman” and not “sneh”. At the BJP national executive meeting in July, Modi had proposed that the BJP conduct a “sneh yatra” to win over Pasmanda Muslims.
“Opposition governments are being brought down,” Anwar wrote in a letter to all the Opposition parties, including the Congress, the Left, the Trinamool Congress and the Left. “Parties are being broken up. Veteran leaders of the Opposition are being harassed through the ED (Enforcement Directorate), CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), and the Income-Tax departments.”
Wondering what stopped these parties from forming “united resistance and coming out with a strong agenda against the anti-poor and pro-capitalist policies of the NDA government”, the former JD(U) MP said, “Paying lip service and criticising their policies is not enough. If the present onslaught against values enshrined in our Constitution goes on without a proper rebuttal, the day is not far when our country will land in a situation similar to that of Sri Lanka where people have driven out politicians. Unfortunately, there is no leader to challenge the government …”
The former MP asked the Opposition to take up the cause of Muslims, writing, “They (Muslims) are being beaten not only for selling chicken, vegetables and fruits but also for begging. Most of the people killed and looted for being Muslims are Pasmanda Muslims. These unfortunate people are not demanding anything based on religion. Rather, they are demanding the end of the discrimination being perpetrated in the name of religion in every field.”
Anwar said in his 12-point letter that the Opposition should forge a united stand against all forms of communalism. The former parliamentarian said the Pasmanda issue was “about class and not caste”. He added, “With the empowerment of Pasmanda Muslims, conservatism among Muslims will also be addressed…Perception is being created abroad that Muslims in India are facing discrimination. Such misperception will be shattered.”
Questioning the delay in conducting a caste census, Anwar said, “The issue of SC status to Dalit Muslims and Christians could be one possible reason. The Opposition parties should announce that if voted to power at the Centre, they will conduct a socio-economic census of all SCs at the national level. If Dalit Muslims and Christians are included in it by increasing the quota, then it will be a historic step.”
He added, “If the Opposition parties desist from BJP-type tokenism, Pasmandas will get represented … according to their population, and then the BJP’s policy of divide and rule will collapse.”