Saturday, April 19, 2014

Being Muslim Under Narendra Modi

It is a good summary of what it is like. The author could have added a lot more.

The right wing Indians simply cannot see the problems fellow Indians face,  some of them are rather happy that Muslims are pushed around, but thank God the majority of Indians are good people.

Mike Ghouse

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AHMEDABAD, India — Late last month I bought an Indian comic book online. I hadn’t bought one since the mid-80s, when I was a boy and would walk to the bookstore in my hometown in Kashmir to pick up copies of D.C. and Marvel Comics, or Amar Chitra Katha, a series based on the lives of major contemporary, historical and mythological figures in India. My latest purchase, “Bal Narendra” (“Boy Narendra”), was styled after Amar Chitra Katha.

I turned the pages with a mixture of anticipation and foreboding. The book purports to tell stories from the childhood of Narendra Modi, the longtime chief minister of Gujarat, one of the richest states in India, and the polarizing Hindu nationalist candidate for prime minister in the ongoing election. The tales are part of Mr. Modi’s high-octane campaign effort to present himself as a bearer of good governance, growth and efficiency.

Bal Narendra, the son of a tea-seller in a small town of Gujarat, embodies many virtues: courage, wit, diligence, fairness, compassion. He sells tea at a village fair to raise money for flood victims. In devotion to the religious tradition of his village, he swims across a lake full of crocodiles and hoists a flag on top of a temple on an island. When some bullies rough up a weaker child at school, he marks them by throwing ink from his fountain pen on their shirts and denounces them to the principal.

The publishers of the comic book — available exclusively from Infibeam, an Amazon-like online retailer run by a Gujarati entrepreneur close to Mr. Modi — would have you believe that now that he is all grown up, Bal Narendra is just as brave, clever and just. If anything, however, Mr. Modi’s public record paints the picture of a leader unapologetically divisive and sectarian.

It was on his watch as chief minister that more than 1,000 people, many of them Muslims, were killed throughout Gujarat in 2002, when rioting erupted after some 60 Hindus died in a burning train in Godhra. A Human Rights Watch report that year asserted that the state government and local police officials were complicit in the carnage.

Mr. Modi has not visited the camps of the Muslims displaced by the violence or apologized for his government’s failure to protect a minority. Instead, he has described the reprisal killings of Muslims that year as a simple “reaction” to an “action,” namely the deaths of the Hindu train passengers — and has said he felt as sad about them as would a passenger in a car that accidentally ran over a puppy. His only regret, he once told a reporter for this paper, was failing to manage the media fallout.

Even as candidate for prime minister, Mr. Modi has not given up his sectarian ways. Nor has his party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Of the 449 B.J.P. candidates now running for seats in the lower house of Parliament, all but eight are Hindu. The party’s latest election manifesto reintroduces a proposal to build a temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of a medieval mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, even though the destruction of that mosque by Hindu extremists and B.J.P. supporters in 1992 devolved into violence that killed several thousand people.

Amit Shah, a former Gujarat minister and Mr. Modi’s closest aide, is awaiting trial for the murder of three people the police suspect of plotting to assassinate Mr. Modi. (Mr. Shah calls the charges a political conspiracy.) He has made speeches inciting anti-Muslim sentiment among Hindu voters, including in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India, despite an outbreak of sectarian violence there last September.

The problem isn’t just about rhetoric. Judging by the evidence in Gujarat, where Mr. Modi has been chief minister since 2001, a B.J.P. victory in the general election would increase marginalization and vulnerability among India’s 165 million Muslims.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, has become a wealthy metropolis of about six million people and three million private vehicles. Office complexes, high-rise apartments, busy markets and shopping malls have replaced the poor villages that once dotted the land. The city has a mass transit system called People’s Path, with corridors reserved for buses.

But Ahmedabad ceases to swagger in Juhapura, a southwestern neighborhood and the city’s largest Muslim ghetto, with about 400,000 people. I rode around there last week on the back of a friend’s scooter. On the dusty main street was a smattering of white and beige apartment blocks and shopping centers. A multistory building announced itself in neon signs as a community hall; a restaurant boasted of having air-conditioning. The deeper we went into the neighborhood, the narrower the streets, the shabbier the buildings, the thicker the crowds.

 The edge of the ghetto came abruptly. Just behind us was a row of tiny, single-story houses with peeling paint. Up ahead, in an empty space the size of a soccer field, children chased one another, jumping over heaps of broken bricks. “This is The Border,” my friend said. Beyond the field was a massive concrete wall topped with barbed wire and oval surveillance cameras. On the other side, we could see a neat row of beige apartment blocks with air conditioners securely attached to the windows — housing for middle-class Hindu families.

Mr. Modi’s engines of growth seem to have stalled on The Border. His acclaimed bus network ends a few miles before Juhapura. The route of a planned metro rail line also stops short of the neighborhood. The same goes for the city’s gas pipelines, which are operated by a company belonging to a billionaire businessman close to Mr. Modi.

“The sun is allowed into Juhapura. The rain is allowed into Juhapura. The wind is allowed into Juhapura,” Asif Pathan, a 41-year-old resident, said with sarcasm. “I get a bill for water tax and pay it, but we don’t get piped water here.” The locals rely on bore wells, which cough up salty, insalubrious water.

Mr. Pathan has been living in Juhapura since 1988, when his father, a retired district judge, bought a house here from a Hindu man. “My father said, ‘When the storm comes, you don’t get more than 10 minutes to run,"’ Mr. Pathan explained, referring to the threat of sectarian violence. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Juhapura was a mixed Hindu-Muslim neighborhood, but with the string of sectarian clashes in Gujarat — in 1985, 1992 and 2002 — more Muslims began to move here, seeking relative safety among people like themselves. Prejudice begets riots, and riots only exacerbate prejudice, and so the population of Juhapura has almost doubled since 2002.

After the 2002 riots, Mr. Pathan, a teacher, began tutoring children in Juhapura. Then he quit his job and, with his father’s support, bought a large patch of land by the highway that runs through Juhapura. In 2008 he started his own school. Now, around 1,300 children there attend classes in both Gujarati and English in airy classrooms. “We simply have to help ourselves,” Mr. Pathan said.

But self-help only goes so far, in Juhapura, and elsewhere. A large chunk of Narol, an area on the southern edge of Ahmedabad, was once a patch of uninhabited brushland that belonged to a wealthy political family. After Mr. Modi’s government refused to help relocate victims of the 2002 riots, several secular and Islamic organizations and small-time Muslims developers got involved. They bought land, cleared it, and built tenement houses, asbestos-lined roofs and all. About 120 homes were assigned by lottery to Muslims displaced from Naroda Patia, in northeast Ahmedabad. The cluster is called Citizens’ Nagar, or Citizens’ City, and wherever you stand in the self-made neighborhood you can see, half a mile away, a big brown mountain: the largest garbage dump in Mr. Modi’s boom city.

When I walked around Citizens’ Nagar last week, the brown mountain was burning into thick gray clouds under a harsh afternoon sun. The wind pushed pungent fumes toward the tenements. I struggled to breathe and feared I would vomit.

“Every year we have lived here I feel weaker,” said Mohsin Syed, a wiry 25-year-old from Naroda Patia who now works as a carpenter in a factory nearby. “I can’t run like I used to. I don’t eat like I used to.” He complained of pain in his joints, said he needed surgery for kidney stones, and added, “This place, this pollution, takes a decade off one’s life.”

His father, Najeebudin Syed, a large man with a short beard, told me that the many petitions he has sent to local authorities describing living conditions in the area have been ignored. “Once a week, they bring garbage from the Ahmedabad hospitals — bandages, medicine, refuse of all kinds. The smell is so foul, so bitter, that we know in a minute it is from the hospitals,” he said.

Some days, the carcasses of dead animals are brought to the dump.

That evening, back in my hotel room, I read another story from the comic book “Bal Narendra.” The boy is at a camp of the National Cadet Corps — the Indian version of the Eagle Scouts — when he notices a pigeon in a tree entangled in the strings of a kite. Holding a razor blade between his teeth, he climbs up, cuts the lines and frees the injured bird. I remembered Juhapura’s putrid water and the carcasses on the brown mountain, and wondered how a Prime Minister Narendra would wield that blade.

Basharat Peer is the author of “Curfewed Night,” a memoir of the conflict in Kashmir.

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BJP vis-a-vis Indian Muslims and the elections

This article has made a sincere effort to present the current relationship between BJP vis-a-vis Muslims, although it is not complete, it has the elements that Muslim and Hindus will find agreement with. 


Mike Ghouse 

Friday, April 18, 2014

The crescent in the lotus


This article has made a sincere effort to present the current relationship between BJP vis-a-vis Muslims, although it is not complete, it has the elements that Muslim and Hindus will find agreement with.

A few Christians have a deep seated hatred for Jews, as the Christ Killers, and it erupts every now and then in the form of blatant or subtle anti-Semitism. Likewise, a few Hindus have carried hatred for Muslims from the ugly acts of Ghazni, Aurangzeb and other tyrants, who shamelessly wore the Muslim label. Both people have not taken up to understand that. We simply cannot carry this ill-will forever; we have to shed this and come together on current terms. None of the Muslims of today are related to those bad guys, nor are they beneficiaries of those tyrants.

Neither Hindus nor Muslims follow their own faith – if they understand and believe in the wisdom of Bhagvad Gita and Quran, they would look up to each other as members of the larger tent and not carry this venom.

The new generation of RSS members may not be as prejudiced as the old farts who cannot purify themselves with the hatred formed over the years, I am sure they have made sincere attempts to get mukti from their hatred for Muslims, but unfortunately they are stuck, they cannot find freedom from that bondage of hate, as it erupts now and then, and all we (Indians together) can do is pray for them to be free.

The fact of the matter is a majority of Muslims and Hindu are reflecting and struggling about it, while a few on both sides spew venom.

If BJP wants to be a genuine party of India, then it needs to act and represent all Indians, include all Indians, and abandon the idiotic idea of treating Muslims, Dalits or Christians as having lesser rights than themselves. Until the old farts die off, and their poisoned children die, things will be difficult to change, but if they raise the new generation with purity, then BJP can hope to be a national party of Indians, by Indians for Indians.

Why should any Indian support a party that will tear up India? Is it good for India in the long run? The few Muslims, who are joining BJP, must join as fully contributing members of the nation with equal stakes in party’s outcomes – and not as tokens or appeasement. If they cannot be treated as equal, they should not join and suffer the humiliation. I feel sorry for them.

Mike Ghouse

The new generation of
The crescent in the lotus
What does it mean to be a Muslim leader in the Bharatiya Janata Party? The author digs deeper to understand how they are perceived by their party and the community
Archis Mohan 
April 19, 2014 Last Updated at 00:24 IST

In early March, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, the Muslim poster boy of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was shocked out of his wits to hear that the party might field him from the Kishanganj Lok Sabha seat in Bihar. The 45-year-old former civil aviation minister soon discovered that Ashwini Kumar Choubey, another BJP leader from Bihar, had convinced the party leadership that Hussain contesting from the Muslim majority Kishanganj made more electoral sense than making him the party candidate yet again from the predominantly Hindu Bhagalpur.

Hussain, say party insiders, felt insulted. He was aghast that BJP would subject him, the party's only Muslim face in the outgoing Lok Sabha and its sitting MP from Bhagalpur, to exactly the kind of vote bank politics and appeasement of Muslims that it criticises the so-called 'secular' parties for. Hussain's argument appealed to the leadership. The engineer-turned-politician was retained as the Bhagalpur candidate of the party, while Choubey, who had eyed that seat, was asked to contest from Buxar.

But what hurt Hussain, say his confidants, was how none from the senior leadership of the party so much as rebuked Choubey for the bigoted public attack he had launched on the Muslim leader. "Choubey went around telling people how Muslims shouldn't be allowed to take over BJP, and that our (Muslim's) entry in the party should be restricted," says a close aide of Hussain. A couple of senior leaders did, however, sympathise with Hussain and apologised for Choubey's behaviour. "You journalists are quick to describe us as masks but don't try to understand how much we endure," the Hussain aide says.

A couple of weeks later, the other important Muslim face of BJP too landed in a controversy. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi publicly protested against the entry of Janata Dal (United) discard Sabir Ali in the party. "Terrorist Bhatkal friend joins BJP...soon accepting Dawood (Ibrahim)", Naqvi tweeted on March 28 within hours of party president Rajnath Singh accepting Ali in the BJP fold.

Few in the party took notice of Naqvi's tweet. Fewer still could make sense of Naqvi's opposition to Ali becoming a BJP member. None could fathom why Naqvi, a Shia from Uttar Pradesh, should have any problems with the entry of Ali, a leader of the backward and predominantly Sunni Muslim weavers of Bihar? The BJP leadership, including Singh and its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, had hoped Ali would bolster BJP's electoral chances in Bihar.

Party leaders were alarmed the next morning when Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) spokesperson Ram Madhav echoed Naqvi's statement. "Sabir Ali's induction has caused great resentment. Party leadership has been apprised of the strong views of the cadre and people against it," tweeted Madhav. Ali was thrown out of the party within 24-hours of having joined it.

The incident left the leaders, who thought they had won in Ali a valuable electoral trophy, upset with RSS. It was also evident that RSS had wanted a Muslim to oppose the entry of another lest it was, yet again, painted as anti-Muslim.

Both incidents, says a Dalit BJP leader, illustrate the tenuous relationship the Sangh Parivar has with party leaders who represent marginalised communities like the Muslims and Dalits. "Much has changed in the party's approach to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) because of the emergence of leaders like Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharati and Modi. But the party is still learning to engage with Dalits and Muslims more effectively," says the leader. He admires Modi for having initiated the process of inducting more Muslims and Dalits into the party.

But this lack of trust leads Muslim leaders of the party to constantly feel a need to prove their allegiance to the Sangh Parivar. They feel, confessed a BJP Minority Morcha worker, that their conduct is perennially under the microscope. It further weakens their position within the party that the Muslim community doesn't give the BJP's Muslim leaders the same respect that it would accord to, say, an Azam Khan of the Samajwadi Party or a K Rehman Khan of the Congress.

"Both Muslims and Dalits need to continuously engage with the Sangh Parivar as also their own communities to change attitudes and carve out a bigger space for themselves in BJP," says the Dalit leader.

Journalist Shahid Siddiqui agrees with the assessment. "More and more Muslims need to engage with BJP. My community needs to get out of the voting ghetto that it has become for the so-called secular parties," he says. Siddiqui, who edits Urdu weekly Nai Duniya, says it was likely BJP will give representation to more Muslims if the community were to join it in larger numbers. Until now, the party has just two Muslim MPs, Naqvi and Congress discard Najma Heptullah, in the ranks of its 46 Rajya Sabha members.

Hussain was the lone Muslim among BJP's 116 MPs in the outgoing Lok Sabha. He is likely to remain the party's only MP in the next Lok Sabha as well despite the party having fielded as many as five Muslims this time. The other four are contesting from Anantnag and Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, and Tamluk and Ghatal in West Bengal - seats the party has never won and is unlikely to win this time either.

Such is the party's lack of confidence in its ability to attract Muslim voters to its side that it didn't field a single Muslim candidate in Uttar Pradesh, where many of the 80 Lok Sabha seats have a Muslim population sizeable enough to determine the result.

Over the years, both BJP and its earlier avatar, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, have struggled to find credible Muslim faces that they could accommodate in their frontline leadership. Journalists M J Akbar and Aijaz Ilmi, inducted in BJP in mid-March, are the latest entrants to the very small club of the party's Muslim leaders.

Incidentally, Ilmi is the brother-in-law of Arif Mohammed Khan, a well-known Muslim leader whose entry into BJP in 2004 was considered a coup of sorts for the party. Arif's stay in the party was shortlived and is instructive of how the saffron party treats its Muslim leaders differently when in power and when out of it.

Arif Mohammad Khan, with an impeccable image of a progressive Muslim who had quit the Rajiv Gandhi government on the issue of the latter's handling of the Shah Bano case and the decision to open the gates of Ram Janmabhoomi in 1986, had joined BJP when most expected the party to return to power on the strength of its 'India Shining' campaign.

Explaining his decision to join BJP, Khan had cited Muslim social activist Sir Syed Ahmad Khan who had come to the conclusion in 1857 that it was not possible for the Muslims to fight the British because they were much superior in all aspects. "Therefore, Sir Syed said instead of fighting, befriend them, learn, overcome your drawbacks, and then see if you can create goodwill. Likewise, today I feel the same thing after having spent so much time in Gujarat," Arif Mohammad Khan had said. He argued that the Muslims should also increase their engagement with a BJP that was growing politically stronger by the day. But BJP failed to make it to Delhi, and three years later in 2007 Arif Mohammad Khan quit the party complaining that BJP had ignored him.

Khan was possibly the tallest Muslim leader to join BJP after Sikander Bakht and Arif Baig. Bakht, a founding member of BJP when it was launched in its new avatar in April 1980 and somebody happier to stay in the shadows of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani, passed away in 2002. He was the party's pre-eminent leader in Delhi, was a cabinet minister in both the 13-day government of 1996 and then in the 1998 and 1999 governments before becoming a governor. Meanwhile, Baig had quit the socialists to join the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1973. He famously defeated Shankar Dayal Sharma as the Janata Party candidate in 1977 and was a BJP MP from Betul in 1989. When he quit the party in 1996, Baig told the media that the party was "unwilling to accept any Muslims" and only wanted people with Muslim sounding names. Baig returned to BJP in 2003 but couldn't convince his Muslim supporters to vote for the party. He was the only Muslim BJP candidate in the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections of 2013 but lost to the Congress' Arif Aqueel.

Apart from these two, the Jana Sangh had several Muslim leaders in Delhi. Urdu litterateur Imdad Sabri represented it in Delhi Metropolitan Council and became Delhi's mayor. Other local level leaders were cleric Maulana Ikhlaq Hussain Qasmi, Anwar Ali Dehelvi, Begum Khurshid Kidwai and Md Ismail. All of them represented the party from Muslim majority areas.

BJP has continued the trend of giving Muslims representation at the municipal level. Currently, there are 100 Muslims representing the party in urban bodies across Madhya Pradesh. There are four Muslim MLAs in Rajasthan. In Gujarat, between 2009 and 2013, the party nominated 297 Muslims for local body elections, of whom 142 (48 per cent) won. Surprisingly, the party denied tickets to Muslims in the assembly elections of 2012.

Many, like party's in-house psephologist GVL Narasimha Rao, have argued in the past that BJP shouldn't bother with the Muslims. In 2012, Rao pointed out how the party bagged 52 of Uttar Pradesh's 85 seats in 1996 and 57 seats in 1998 on the strength of a consolidated Hindu vote. He claimed the party won despite the vehement opposition from the Muslims and their tactical voting against the party. But a year later, the party's tally dipped to 29 seats in the 1999 elections, exposing the limits of its vote catching abilities in times of religious calm.

Muslims like Nai Duniya editor Siddiqui believe it is in times of such calm that more and more of his co-religionists should engage with BJP. He says neither the party nor the Muslims should wait for the other to make the first move. "It is like a chicken and egg situation. BJP feels why give tickets to Muslims when the community doesn't vote for the party. The Muslims think they would rather not give their votes to a party that doesn't represent them or talk of their interests," says Siddiqui. "Muslims engaging with BJP will be healthy for a secular democracy." BJP, he adds, also needs to take a few more steps to win the hearts and minds of the Muslims.

Mumbai-based social activist Pheroze Mithiborewalla, however, disagrees with both Siddiqui and Khan. He says Muslims continue to suffer in Gujarat and are denied democratic freedoms like holding public rallies. "These Muslim BJP leaders and that party's outreach to the community aren't to get Muslim votes, but to fool centrist and secular Hindus into believing that BJP has changed. Unfortunately, it cannot change its anti-Muslim core," he avers, adding that BJP's Muslim faces were mostly seen as opportunists within the community.

Zafar-ul-Islam Khan, editor of the Milli Gazette, says the Muslims would be willing to support the saffron party and its Muslim faces if only it showed sensitivity to Muslim concerns. He cites how the Gujarat government is yet to give compensation to the victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat, the absence of a minority commission in that state and the Gujarat government's refusal to allow scholarship scheme for minorities as examples that BJP remained unchanged in its stance. "Our community," says Khan, "is not their enemy. Let them show us that that they have our interest at heart."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Muslim Vote Could Impact Outcome in Indian Elections

I have been screaming it out loud for a long time, and the exact same words are repeated by Analyst Yashwant Deshmukh, "Despite their ability to fairly impact the election outcome, Muslims in India should not be looked at as a monolithic body because they do not decide in unison which party to vote for." Indeed, this is the view of Most Muslims.  Muslims value individuality, I always remember - My mother and father voted differently in the elections, and did not raise an eyebrow over the difference, that is a value I have come to cherish and is a part of my pluralistic being.

It is downright stupidity for a few members of BJP and Congress to claim that Hindus or Muslims are with them, they are not.  I read non-sense like 800 Million Indians will vote for Modi… where were these folks born? It is dead wrong to assume that Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Dalits are monolithic.  - There is something missing with such thinking - on an average neither BJP nor INC will have 50% of support from either Hindus or Muslims. People vote as individuals, but the birds of the same feather flock together creating false impressions.

Thank you Deshmukh Saheb for beefing it up, "“Based on our research, voters, both Hindu and Muslim, vote for the candidate they think will serve them best rather than voting along the communal or ethnic lines,” Deshmukh said.

Who is not playing a vote bank?  The politicians are equal opportunity cheaters! The BJP appeals to the fundamentalist Hindus about Ram Mandir to garner their votes as a vote bank, the Congress does its own game and others do theirs. It is part of the politics.  Muslims do not vote en-masse exclusively, just as Hindus, Sikhs or Christians don't - they all vote for the candidate that is less flawed and perceived to be just and fair.  In the US elections - 85% of Indians voted for Obama, similar trends were with most minorities or immigrants. Indians are not a vote bank, they are smart voters like Muslims in India - they vote for the best.  Right now, Muslims are in a dilemma who to vote for, and as the interviews with street vendors to political analysts, they will make up their mind.

We need to grow up and accept the verdict of the people, whatever they decide we have to honor their vote, and I urge this to hard core BJP-ites and Congress-ites.

Mike Ghouse

Muslim Vote Could Impact Outcome in Indian Elections

— As India's multi-phase election continues, the country’s Muslim minority could have a significant impact on the outcome of the vote in the biggest democratic election in world history.

Muslims are uneasy about the popularity of the prime ministerial candidate of the Hindu nationalist, Bharatiya Janata Party, Narendra Modi.

The Imam of New Delhi’s Grand Mosque, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, urged Muslims to vote for the Congress Party, that currently is the ruling party in India.

Polling began this week in the first phase of voting that will continue over the next five weeks.

Muslims make up about 13 percent of the Indian population and in some constituencies the Muslim vote can play a key role in deciding the winner, analysts say.

Recent interviews with Muslims near the Grand Mosque showed division among voters.

Muhammad Anis, who sells fruit on a hand-drawn cart, said he will see who he likes before deciding who to back.

Another vendor, who gave his name as Haji, said that while he has a lot of respect for the Imam, he will – like most people – vote for the candidate he thinks is the best.

Analyst Hilal Ahmad researches voting trends among Muslims in India.

“It is impossible to even think that 180 million people make a unanimous decision and vote along the same lines,” said Hilal Ahmad, who researches voting trends among Muslims in India for the Center for Developing Societies of New Delhi.

Analyst Yashwant Deshmukh said there are about 35 constituencies where Muslims make up approximately 30 percent of the electorate.

“Then there are another 150 constituencies where Muslim population is close to 10 percent of the total voters,” said Deshmukh, the founder of a company called CVoter.  “Which means, in the House of 543 seats, there are about 200 seats where Muslim vote can somewhat affect the outcome.”

But Deshmukh said that despite their ability to fairly impact the election outcome, Muslims in India should not be looked at as a monolithic body because they do not decide in unison which party to vote for.

“Based on our research, voters, both Hindu and Muslim, vote for the candidate they think will serve them best rather than voting along the communal or ethnic lines,” Deshmukh said,

He added that surveys have proven that Muslims cannot be swayed by anyone to vote for any particular party.

Researcher Ahmad said his institute found in previous surveys that 96 percent of Muslims considered poverty, unemployment and education as their major issues.

But experts say it is difficult to find a pattern of voting among Indian Muslims.

In the last elections in the state of Gujarat, four in 10 Muslims voted for Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Modi is viewed by many in India as a controversial figure because of what happened during one of the worst sectarian riots in country’s history in 2002, when hundreds of Muslims were killed in the state of Gujarat.  Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat then and critics say he did little or nothing to stop the violence.

Deshmukh said the fact that Modi received significant Muslim votes in Gujarat shows however that Muslims will vote for who they think can best serve their constituency despite the violent past.

Still, analysts say it will be hard for Modi’s party, BJP, which has emerged as the biggest challenger to the ruling Congress Party, to woo Muslim voters nationwide.

Throughout the campaign Modi has campaigned on the economy and development and has tried to distance himself from the riots.

# # #

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rahul Gandhi failed to defend his party’s governance.

Current Indian Government is unduly criticized over growth, it is a shame that the Prime Minister and the Prime Ministerial candidates are not defending.

Yes, India's growth rate dropped from 10% to 5% in the last three years.  Indeed, that is the case with all economies in the world with a few exceptions, India is interconnected with the world economies, and is going to rise and fall with the world economies. 

Indeed it is the congress party that took India to 10% growth and it should defend both the rise and fall. It is predicted to recover this year to 5.7% and move up from there.

UK’s economic growth is marked at 2.9% while the US is at 2.6%

We brag about India being the world economy, but unwilling to see the effect of interconnectedness.

Blaming the Indian government should always be there, but must be reasonable. I am surprised Congress is not defending it. 

I urge the economists to write about it.


Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism
, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at He believes in Standing up for others and a book with the same title is coming up. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site indexes all his work through many links.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Could Modi be a development disaster? By Ashish Kothari

Modi sounds more and more like Bush, bullying others into making decisions. If he wins, the only hope to save India would be a stronger opposition, who would have the balls to oppose frivilous bills in the interests of the common good. Sadly in America, the first and supposedly mature democracy, the senators and congresspersons were cowards and betrayed America by not standing up to the bully and going to war and destroying America and its economy. Could this happen in India? I hope not.

Continued -

Mike Ghouse

Courtesy - India Together

Could Modi be a development disaster? By Ashish Kothari

Perhaps those who will cheer most if Modi becomes PM are the corporate sector and a part of the upwardly mobile middle classes. To them, people's struggles for justice, movements by the poor to resist displacement and land acquisition, and environmental activism are all 'hurdles' to the profits and prosperity they dream of.

According to Prajapati and Shah, Gujarat today has 30 per cent of India's major "accident hazard" industries and over 4500 hazardous chemical factories. Moreover, Anklesaria and Vapi in Gujarat have topped India's 'critical polluted areas' list in 2009, 2011 and 2013.Yet, as the duo found out from information generated using the RTI Act, there is as yet no disaster emergency plan, and the Gujarat State Disaster Management Agency (which has the Chief Minister as chairman) does not even have consolidated information on the industries. So much for Modi's much-touted efficient governance!

To add to this is the evidence of the poor state of health and education in the midst of the so-called Gujarat miracle. It has abysmally high school dropout rates (58 per cent), especially amongst adivasis (78 per cent) and Dalits (65 per cent), and it scores low on a number of health indicators. That is not surprising perhaps, given that its expenditure on education and health is significantly below the national average.

Full Report:

As real as the fears of Narendra Modi being a socially divisive Prime Minister are the dangers of his brand of development. In a recent campaign speech in Goa, Modi declared that if he becomes PM, he will ensure that mining is re-opened in the state; never mind the fact that it is the Supreme Court that has stayed it, due to its severe impacts on water, environment, and people's livelihoods.

In fact, Modi's tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister has been marked by a spate of such decisions with scant regard for either nature or for the poor, and a disdain of democracy. His penchant for mega-follies, such as the Rs. 2063-crore statue of Patel that he is getting installed by the Narmada river, only make the prospects of his taking over the country's reins that much more scary.

The UPA's record is not particularly positive, what with nearly 2.5 lakh hectares of forest land having been diverted in just a decade for such projects and continued forcible acquisition of land resulting in dispossession of farmers, adivasis, fisherfolk and others. Communities, people's movements and NGOs are up in arms over the rapidity with which the Union Environment minister, Mr. Moily, has given environmental and forest clearances to mining, industrial and infrastructural projects. But even this vast scale of social and ecological disruption could be overshadowed if Modinomics is given free rein.

If anyone still has doubts that sacrificing the environment for so-called development is justified for a country like India, look no further than a recent report by that most aggressive promoter of the current model of development, the World Bank. It estimates that the environmental damages India is subjected to, such as disease caused by air pollution, knocks 5.7 percentage points off its economic growth.

Given that growth in the last few years has not been much above this, and that the Bank report accounts for only some of the many kinds of damage, it is more than likely that even by measures of conventional GDP indicators, the economy is on decline. Not to mention that hidden in these figures is the horrifying and incalculable socio-cultural impact of displacement, dispossession, disease, premature death, malnutrition, and loss of employment that such damage entails.

The Gujarat model is a classic example of all this. In a recent report, labour and environmental activists Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah have laid bare the ecological and social impacts of Modinomics. To be sure, they have been outspoken critics of the excesses of past regimes too. Their analysis of the government's own records show seriously inflated figures of new employment creation, chronic underpayment, deliberate dispossession of farmers to create a mass of cheap labour for industries and coercive land acquisition. Both Prajapati and Shah are based in Vadodara, Gujarat, and members of the organisation Radical Socialist.

According to Prajapati and Shah, Gujarat today has 30 per cent of India's major "accident hazard" industries and over 4500 hazardous chemical factories. Moreover, Anklesaria and Vapi in Gujarat have topped India's 'critical polluted areas' list in 2009, 2011 and 2013.Yet, as the duo found out from information generated using the RTI Act, there is as yet no disaster emergency plan, and the Gujarat State Disaster Management Agency (which has the Chief Minister as chairman) does not even have consolidated information on the industries. So much for Modi's much-touted efficient governance!

To add to this is the evidence of the poor state of health and education in the midst of the so-called Gujarat miracle. It has abysmally high school dropout rates (58 per cent), especially amongst adivasis (78 per cent) and Dalits (65 per cent), and it scores low on a number of health indicators. That is not surprising perhaps, given that its expenditure on education and health is significantly below the national average.

There is a serious neglect of the poorer or socially marginalised regions of the state (with northern Gujarat and tribal areas being the most neglected) and of already marginalised sections like Muslims. This does not even factor in the ill-health being caused by chemical and other forms of pollution. The fact that Modinomics has been particularly iniquitous and socially disruptive is laid out in great detail by a number of analysts in the book Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat, edited by Atul Sood.

Modi's developmental paradigm includes sidestepping all norms to make land and water available to corporates such as the Adanis, Reliance and Tatas, including environmental clearances based on flimsy impact assessment, hugely subsidised land and resource allocations, and forcible land acquisition. It also has more than a touch of megalomania.

His plans for the Patel statue are symptomatic; envisioned as the world's largest (and possibly the costliest too), the tourism associated with it will take away lands, water and other resources of 70 villages. A substantial part of this is adivasi agricultural land, and the state government has created a Kevadia Area Development Authority with special powers to acquire such land or declare it non-agricultural.

Then there is the Kalpasar project, in which Modi wants to dam the Gulf of Khambhat to create the world's largest freshwater reservoir, purportedly to fulfil the state's water needs. Apart from the colossal social and ecological costs of such a project, this completely ignores much cheaper, more sustainable, and more democratically managed alternatives to water security such as those demonstrated by civil society groups in Kachchh and Saurashtra.

It is unlikely that Modi will change his developmental outlook should he take the seat in Delhi. He will instruct the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to carry on Mr. Moily's good work of clearing every project that comes its way and if some of the environmental laws that people fought to get in the 1980s and 1990s seem to be in the way, he will initiate measures to dilute them. This has in any case been the trend since economic globalisation was introduced into India and Modi will take it much further.

It is also possible that some of the progressive rights-based legislation and programmes that the UPA brought in, largely due to civil society initiatives it was open to, will be modified. Activists in Gujarat report that there is an atmosphere of intolerance and authoritarianism that discourages ay form of dissent. A fifth of the murders of RTI activists in the country in recent times, have taken place in Gujarat; one of these was of environmental and social activist Amit Jethwa, who had exposed the links of BJP MP Dinu Solanki with illegal mining near Gir forest.

According to Prajapati and Shah, when villagers and activists announced a peaceful protest against Modi's visit to the Narmada river to 'break the ground' for the Patel statue on 31 October 2013, they were detained and told that no-one should speak out when the CM is there.

Earlier in 2013, a public hearing for a proposed nuclear power station in Bhavnagar district was held under heavy police bandobast, in an atmosphere of repression and fear. Protests by fisherfolk, farmers, adivasis, marginalised people in villages and cities who are being displaced or whose lands are being taken away to be given at a pittance to private companies have been ignored or ruthlessly quelled.

Across India, many of the struggles for rights-based laws, such as the Right to Information Act, have been driven by citizens asking for greater voice and more direct democracy. If Gujarat's record is an indication, it is likely that such struggles will be dealt with harshly by Modi as PM.

In respect of all the above, particularly the model of globalised 'development', Modi and the BJP are no different from other mainstream political leaders and parties. They perpetuate a longer history of appropriation and centralised control of land and natural resources (which saw the biggest thrust during colonial times) and build on the blind adoption of the western model of development by our leaders since independence. But Modi's combination of undemocratic functioning, megalomania, faith in big private corporations, and social divisiveness could take the destructive model to new heights.

Modi will also accentuate further the utter disregard for alternative forms of well-being that have characterised previous regimes. India has thousands of on-ground practical alternatives, such as sustainable agriculture and forestry, rural and urban small scale manufacturing, crafts-based jobs, artisanal fisheries, localised service sector employment, decentralised water harvesting and energy production in villages and cities, direct self-governance by gram sabhas and struggles for social justice for women, Dalits and others, among many more. Several of these are in Gujarat, and a small sample can be seen at

Perhaps those who will cheer most if Modi becomes PM are the corporate sector and a part of the upwardly mobile middle classes. To them, people's struggles for justice, movements by the poor to resist displacement and land acquisition, and environmental activism are all 'hurdles' to the profits and prosperity they dream of.

Some of UPA's rights-based legislations, the revision of the Land Acquisition Act, or moves by individual ministers, such as the conscientious current Minister for Tribal Affairs, have also alarmed these sections. These are seen as brakes on India's ascendance to global superpower status.

It is of little consequence to these supporters of the globalised growth model that it has created almost no net growth in employment in the formal sector, has left well over half the country's population in poverty and ill-health and that it is undermining the prospects of healthy, decent living of future generations. This has been analysed in great detail in Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India (Viking/Penguin 2012).

Unfortunately, it is possible that large parts of even other classes will vote for Modi, dreaming of reaching the same status as the 10 per cent of Indians who own 53 per cent of its wealth today. That will be a colossal folly, for in such a model of development, these dreams will only become nightmares, just as they have wherever it has been imposed by whichever party in power.

And so, the final question: who then does one vote for? The UPA has unfortunately not shown itself to be particularly respectful of ecological issues, social and economic equity, or the needs of dignified employment (though one must not deny their contribution to rights-based legislation and programmes). The Aam Aadmi Party shows some promise of a different kind of politics and economic strategies that may benefit the 'common' person, but with no policy statement or manifesto till now, it is difficult to gauge.

Separately, I have written how all this makes it imperative to make national elections far less consequential than they are now. But that's in the long run, and one needs to decide on the upcoming elections. All I can say is that most constituencies are likely to have at least one person who is known to be honest, has worked his or her way up through social causes, and is upfront in defending sustainability, social justice and secularism. Let us hope that enough such people enter Parliament, so that irrespective of which party forms the government and who becomes the Prime Minister, no one shall have the free rein to ruin the country through short-sighted policies and sell-out to corporations.

—(Courtesy: India Together)