Coming out on the streets for a few hours of mayhem is the worst possible way for Muslims to have their problems addressed. It only makes things worse, confirms the worst perceptions about them and hands power over their lives to goons and small-time clerics. Sadly, members of the intelligentsia, particularly from the community, try hard to justify this ‘outrage’, instead of emphasising that the best possible way to deal with grievances is by strengthening the rule of law, placing trust in the Constitution and the courts. For this, it is important that governments are elected not for their supposed partiality towards Muslims but their ability to function according to the law.
Tactically, members of the community must make a couple of changes in their approach. It is ridiculous not to be open to voting for the BJP merely because they are put off by street-level louts belonging to saffron outfits only remotely affiliated to the Hindutva cause. This policy of exclusion makes Muslims captives of the so-called secular parties that only exploit their self-enforced compulsion. Secondly, Muslims must realise that their votes do matter even if the parties they support do not win, because it does nudge society and the system in the right direction, even if very gradually.
The ongoing ‘disillusionment’ of the Muslims with the Samajwadi Party in UP is an example of the continuing wrong expectations. By no means is former minister Azam Khan a standard-bearer of Muslims’ rightful aspirations. Instead, he represents the desire of the Muslims and Yadavs to achieve ‘dominance’ rather than the opportunity to serve. Khan (not the community) is seeking to negotiate a better deal with persons other than long term ally Akhilesh Yadav, so that he can somehow get out of his legal entanglements. Why should the community feel compelled to follow him into further damaging alliances? There is certainly nothing to be gained by providing a polarised political climate on a plate to the BJP.
It is worth repeating for the nth time that Muslims have interests other than just those centred on religious belief. Do they not want good schools, hospitals, a bustling economy, jobs, recreation, etc., like their fellow citizens? Why should they not judge politicians on the basis of these parameters? And why should they differ with others on making this judgement? If they make their expectations known, the politicians will be forced to perform better instead of snaring them through the age-old scare tactics. Give it a try!