Muslim Representation in 2019 India

Written by Basant Rawat, Kausharali Saiyed, Sandeep Pandey | Published on: July 10, 2019
Indian Muslims are a deprived community with very low participation in the functioning of the world's largest parliamentary democracy. This despite the fact that followers of Islam in India are the single largest minority- they're about 17.22 crores, i.e., 14.2 % of total population of the country, according to the 2011 census figures.

Indian Muslims
Image Courtesy: TRTWorld

For any functioning democracy, equal political rights and active participation of its citizens, irrespective of their religious affiliation, should be a given. But the status of Indian Muslims today is nothing more than that of second class citizens.
 
Thankfully, Musilms and other minorities can still exercise their right to vote, perhaps the only sign that they're still citizens. Evidently, the Muslim vote bank is much sought after during election time, but it seems, the members of this community do not deserve to be elected. And thus, they're merely reduced to mute witnesses of their marginalisation process.
 
The situation today is such that the ruling party, which has the highest number of MPs - 303 - elected in the just concluded parliamentary elections in 2019, claims and pretends that it is the party most interested in the welfare of the Muslim community, And yet, barring a lone Muslim MP, Saumitra Khan, from West Bengal, it does not have Muslim MPs. In fact, It just put up 6 Muslim candidates in all - a mere 1.1% of the capacity of the lower house. Is that how much the BharatiyaJanata Party thinks is due to the Musilms?
 
It is most likely that,in keeping with its political ideology, preference and leaning, the party, which secured a huge mandate to rule the country for another five years, consciously chose not to field a single Muslim candidate in important states like Kerala, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims are in substantial numbers. In 2014, the BJP created a situation where there was not a single Muslim MP from UP, which usually sends the largest contingent of Muslim MPs. Even Muslim candidates representing the other parties in UP could not make it to the 2014 LokSabha. This contagious thinking of treating Muslims as pariahs is now affecting other parties too, including those of secular hue, which do not want to be seen so pro-Muslim that their Hindu voters drift away. Fortunately, in 2019, there are six Muslim MPs from UP and 27 overall, a slight improvement (by 5 seats) over the 2014 LokSabha. However, it is still a mere 4.97% of the total strength of the LokSabha, much below their proportion in the general population. The women in comparison are 14.36%, also way below their share in the general population.
 
The political exclusion of Muslims should be an eye-opener for all. Muslims need to shed their apathy, lethargy and defensive mindset to stake their rightful claim in the democratic process of this country by actively participating in shaping the future
 
This is the only way out, the only option. Or else, honestly speaking, they will have to sit quiet and accept the status of second class citizens. And never ever complain about it.This, we believe, should be unacceptable to any dignified person or community that believes in the virtues of a true democracy.
 
So clearly, at this crucial juncture, it is time for Muslims to introspect and proactively become stakeholders in the "sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic”. The preamble of the Constitution talks about justice, which includes not only "social and economic," but also “'political'' rights.
 
The last, i.e. political rights, is an important precondition, without which any community, not just Muslims, may end up as the 'new political untouchables'.
 
So what needs to be done and what could be the possible road map ahead?
 
First of all, Muslims should free themselves from the guilt of being somehow responsible for the country’s partition, which took place more than seven decades ago. Those Muslims, who wanted to live in Pakistan, have left. Only the ones, who chose this country as their abode, have remained here.
 
Secondly, they know it but must make others realise that they have not been the beneficiaries of any alleged appeasement policies. If indeed they had been so, they would not be only slightly better that SC/STs in terms of various social indices. In fact, in some areas, like literacy and representation in government jobs, they do worse that SC/STs. This reality is captured succinctly in Sachar Committee report for everyone to see.
 
Thirdly, Muslims have to convince fellow citizens that they have been unfairly targeted in terror related incidents. A number of Muslim youth, who were arrested on charges of being involved in terrorist activities, have been either acquitted or are languishing in jail for want of evidence required for their conviction. Hence, most of those arrested were innocent. Muslims, along with Dalits and tribals, are present in a higher proportions in jails as compared to their proportion in the general population. Similarly, the victims of most mob lynching incidents were innocents and were handed out punishments out of proportion to what is prescribed by the law of land.
 
Lastly, they have to decide to proactively get involved in the democratic process of our country to ensure their political representation. It couldrange from launching an advocacy campaign or a new political agitation. They will have to do all that is  required to reclaim their citizenship as Indians with equal political rights to manage the affairs of the country which belongs to all "we the people," including Muslims.
 
Let the Muslims be heard now. They have a right to express their "Mann Ki Baat" too.