Patna (19 October, 2015): Gulam Rasool Balyawi is General Secretary of Janata Dal (United) and President of the Markazi Edara-e- Sharia. In recognition of his influence over Muslims, the party sent him to Rajya Sabha in 2014. In the ongoing Bihar Assembly Elections, the forty-three year old Maulana Balyawi is busy addressing public rallies one after the other. Out of his hectic schedule, he found time on last Friday evening at his residence in Patna and spoke to Milli Gazette on a whole range of issues, including strategies and options available to the Muslim community in the ongoing Bihar polls. Following are excerpts of the interview:

What are the responses of Muslims in the Bihar Assembly Elections? Do you see any possibility of a split in Muslim votes as there are many contenders for their votes in the field?

The propaganda that Muslim votes may split in the ongoing Bihar polls is spread by RSS-funded media. The BJP — which earlier cheated the Supreme Court by failing to keep its promise about protecting the Babri Masjid — can cheat anyone. Yet another strategy of the BJP is to play majoritarian politics by othering Muslims. The real purpose of the BJP is to divert attention from real issues (asli mudde). But unlike the BJP’s claim, there is a strong wave sweeping the state in favour of the Grand Alliance and people from all sections are backing up Nitish Kumar.

But some allege that the issues of Muslims have not been addressed by the twenty-five year old rule of Lalu and Nitish.

Under Nitish rule, roads were constructed.  Are they going to benefit only a particular caste or religion? Thus, Nitish Government led to development of the state, and not to development of any particular caste or community. Similarly, people’s interests, not personal interests, were fulfilled.

Yet, Muslims remain a backward community.

The benefit to Muslims was the result of the implementation of the Mandal Commission’s recommendations. In state police, Nitish provided Muslim youth with coaching facility so that they could qualify. Similarly, students, who were enrolled at madrasas affiliated to the Bihar Madrasa Education Board, were given cycles. As illiteracy is high among Muslims, Nitish took initiatives to open a branch of Aligarh Muslim University in Kishanganj and purchased land from the state but since the Modi Government came to power, it remains determined to destroy (tabah) the minority institutions. Besides, the schemes related to minorities, which were being implemented during the UPA-II, have now been made much more complicated by the new Government. It is unfortunate that the budget allocated by the Modi Government for minorities is so small that not more than one rupee would go to a person of minority communities.

What about decline in Muslim representation in legislative bodies?

Muslims of this country are secular and they do not need certificates from anyone. And to protect and save secularism from an assault, both Hindus and Muslims have to work together. It is unfortunate that when a Muslim candidate is fielded, supporters of the same party do not vote for him on the pretext that if Muslims win, then another Pakistan would come into being (Pakistanban jayega). Muslims, therefore, do not need to attend the workshop of secularism. Let me reiterate that Muslims are by birth secular.  Thus, the onus is on each and every secular party and they should give Muslim representation as per their ratio in the population.

But Nitish Kumar has given only seven seats to Muslims which is much below their legitimate share.

The question of representation is not a bigger issue now than the security (suraksha) of this country which is being threatened by those who play politics in the name of religion. Muslims have earlier sacrificed their interests and are now making sacrifices (qurbani). But to say that such a sacrifice is the result of Muslims’ helplessness is to miss the long-term vision (dur andeshi) involved in this process.

But after elections, Muslims might be forgotten by political parties once again. What will you do to ensure the legitimate share of Muslims?

The main reason for the decline in the representation of Muslims in the state and central services is discrimination (pakshapt) in the process of selection, particularly at the interview level. I brought this issue to the attention of Najma Heptulla [Union Minister of Minority Affairs] and said that the identity of a candidate should not be disclosed in an interview. Just as roll-code is used in written exams, roll-codes should also be used during interviews. If discrimination ends at interview level and justice is ensured to Muslims, the low representation of Muslims would be a thing of the past. But instead of addressing the core issue, the propaganda is being spread that the intellect level among Muslims is low. This kind of propaganda aims at damaging the reputation of the cream [best talent] among Muslims.

Will this demand get accepted if your own government is re-elected in Bihar?

This will be my first proposal to Nitish Kumar-led Government. Moreover, if budget for education is increased and sufficient attention is paid to it, all sections of society, including Muslims, will get the fruits of development.

Nitish Kumar was a long-term ally of the BJP, which is affiliated to the RSS.

Much before Nitish Kumar, the BJP was part of the VP Singh Government. One should keep in mind that VP Singh took the support of the BJP only when it gave assurance that controversial issues including Babri Masjid-Ram Temple would be put on the backburner. But when the BJP backtracked on its promise, VP parted ways with the BJP and his Government fell. Afterwards, there were further divisions of the Janata Party and the BJP benefited from this process and the number of its seats went up. Even in Bihar, the BJP gained only when it joined hands with Nitish Kumar. But when the BJP took up its controversial issue (vivadit mudda), Nitish snapped ties with the BJP without compromising with principle (usool).

In hind-sight, do you think that Nitish made a mistake by aligning with the BJP?

Ours is a sacred civilisation. The BJP, which had made a commitment not to take up controversial issues, did not keep its promises. Given that, Nitish had to divorce (talaq) the BJP.

(First published in Milli Gazette)

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