With the Bihar caste survey revealing the Muslim population figure at 17.7 per cent of the State’s population, the plight of Pasmanda Muslims takes centre stage again. Ali Anwar Ansari, former Rajya Sabha MP and head of the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (AIPMM), is seeking affirmative action for Pasmandas, who he says have lagged behind in development just like their Hindu OBC/SC counterparts. Speaking to Frontline, he said Muslims were not a monolithic community and that the conditions of Ashraf (privileged castes), Ajlaf (backward Muslims), and Arjal (Dalit Muslims) were different. Excerpts:
Is the Bihar caste survey an eye-opener for Pasmanda politics?
The survey has demolished the myth that Muslims are a monolithic and homogeneous community. In the survey, Muslims have recorded their caste. Many are Pasmanda [literally, left behind] Muslims. All of them have been listed as extremely backward castes; their representation in services is very low and they have little access to resources.
Why did this not come up earlier if there is such divergence in the community?
The politics of portraying Muslims as one bloc has deprived the needy and disadvantaged castes in the community, although these groups did attract attention in the Kaka Kalelkar Commission report in 1953, and then in the Rajinder Sachar Committee report in 2006, and the Ranganath Mishra Commission report in 2007. Even as per the Mandal Commission report, minorities constitute 8.4 per cent of the total OBC population. All these pointed to the status of the Pasmandas among Muslims, but their interests were ignored.
The BJP has reached out to Pasmanda Muslims with a few appointments. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also talked about Pasmandas in the party national executive. Will it pay off?
The good thing is someone is at least talking about Pasmandas. The BJP recently held a meeting with Pasmanda Muslims in Lucknow and took out a Pasmanda Sneh Yatra in Uttar Pradesh. But what Pasmanda Muslims need is samman [respect], not sneh [affection].
I have serious doubts that the majority of Pasmandas will fall for such gimmicks, given the BJP’s poor record with regard to communal riots, cow vigilantism and lynching, and its bulldozer politics.
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What is your expectation from the non-BJP parties?
The time has come for secular parties to show how much they care for needy Muslims. Some 80 per cent of Muslims are Pasmandas and they have not got their due. All Pasmandas will not wait endlessly. In the UP civic body elections, the BJP fielded Pasmanda candidates and tasted success. Secular parties should not take the Pasmandas for granted. We must get reservation in jobs and representation in politics as per our population.