By Abbas Muzaffar
Sitaram Yechuri of CPI (M) who was denied entry into Srinagar after the lockdown had to appeal to the Supreme Court of India to be allowed to meet and help his party colleague Yousuf Tarigami who was detained there ahead of August 5 abrogation of Article 370.
The apex court condescended to allow him but with riders strictly forbidding him from any political activity. The apex court conceded Sitaram’s fundamental right to help his party colleague stuck in the Kashmir civil lockdown. This was about a political leader wanting to find out the well being of another politician.
There are approximately 80 lakh Muslims in Kashmir valley locked down in their homes for almost two months now. But it is worth pondering why no Muslim religious or religio-political leader tried or wanted to go to Kashmir to find out about the welfare of people there? Even most vocal of them all, the All India Majlise-Ittehdul Muslimeen (AMIM) leader and Hyderabad MP, the articulate and assertive Asaduddin Owaisi, who now claims to lead the entire Muslim population in India, did not make any effort towards this end. How come he is not moved by what is happening to the people of Kashmir when in Parliament he was very vocal against the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A? Doesn’t he represent the 80 lakh Muslim population of Kashmir? What has prevented Owaisi from going to Kashmir to see the pitiable situation of the people there, and offer or attempt to offer a helping hand to the people under a prolonged lockdown? Why did not Barrister Owaisi approach the Supreme Court to seek permission to visit Kashmir? He had a much stronger case than Sitaram Yechuri?
Next is Azam Khan, again a qualified lawyer and a strong Muslim votary from Samajwadi Party. His legal batteries are fighting 81 cases lodged against him. It was just a matter of moving one extra application in the apex court to seek permission to visit Kashmir. What stopped him and his legal teams to do so?
During the swearing in ceremony of the MP’s of the current 17th Lok Sabha, there was a lot of hue and cry over MP’s using religious mantras. In the case of 27 Muslim MP’s many were adamant in using Islamic terminology while swearing in to assert their Muslim identity. But none of them approached the Supreme Court with a request to visit Kashmir, why? Do these Muslim MP’s not represent the 80 lakh Muslims of Kashmir? Ghulam Nabi Azad could be an exception because he is a Kashmiri himself.
Most prominent leader of majority Sunni Muslims in India, Moulana Mehmood Madani of Deoband and general secretary of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind besides his uncle Arshad Madani, the president of the same council claim to represent the largest part of Muslim population of India. Deoband seminary led by Madanis formulate and pass edicts or fatwas for millions of Muslim followers in India and even abroad. In their annual general meeting on 12th September 2019, they passed a resolution in support of the government’s move on the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A from Kashmir. But then despite this visible move to get in the ruling party’s good books made no effort to reach out to the 80 lakh Muslim population of Kashmir and help out in this purely humanitarian crisis? Why is not a single plea gone from Madanis in Deoband to the Supreme Court to visit Kashmir to oversee the plight of their fellow community brethren?
Arshad Madani even went to meet RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat in Delhi reportedly in the first week of September when Kashmir lockdown had entered its 4th week. In his interview to the Quint on 4th September 2019 he didn’t divulge much about the meeting. However the headlines quoted him saying that RSS may shun it’s Hindu Rashtra or Hindu Nation demand. Once staunch opponents of RSS ideology, Deoband and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind now seemed comfortable in doing business with it. Just about a week after meeting Mohan Bhagwat, came the resolution by Madani’s in their Deoband seminary on 12th of September 2019. This resolution was in support of Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Kashmir, Triple Talaq bill and a nationwide NRC. The grapevine has it that their foreign funds, primarily from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries were being scrutinized by Government agencies, alongside some alleged illegal construction and encroachment of land. The dots are there for everyone to connect. The other leaders like Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Ahmad Bukhari, Aala Hazrat or supreme leader of Bareily seminary too have made no effort to approach the Supreme Court to visit Kashmir and get a first-hand account of the plight of their co-religionists.
Likewise the biggest Shia Muslim leader in Uttar Pradesh, Kalbe Jawad too supported the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Kashmir. Interestingly the justification he gave for his endorsement as quoted by Siasat.com on 6th August 2019 echoes that of BJP. He says “people of Kashmir will now get equal rights enjoyed by people of other states”, implying that it is now good for them. Notwithstanding this patently BJP logic, Kalbe Jawad too made no effort to seek the Supreme Court’s intervention to visit Kashmir, or to see and help his community members, who account for 25 to 30% of the population of 8 million Kashmiris. Like Azam Khan, Kalbe Jawad also has FIRs against him. There are allegations levelled against him for accumulating unaccounted foreign funds coming as charity from middle eastern countries for the welfare of Shia community in India. The recent allegation came from his one-time confidante turned foe the chairman of Shia Waqf board Waseem Rizvi of using foreign charity for anti-national activities. Interestingly Waseem Rizvi was appointed as the Chairman of the Shia Waqf board on Kalbe Jawad’s recommendations. That was during their days of bonhomie and camaraderie. Today they are arch rivals and Kalbe Jawad had recently termed Waseem an enemy of Islam. Similarly Waseem too has hurled corruption charges against Kalbe, including, land grabbing and illegal sale of Shia Waqf properties. Before 2017 when the Samajwadi Party was in power Waseem Rizvi was close to Samajwadi Party, but with changing times he switched loyalty and thus transgressed into Jawad’s domain who thrived thanks to his camaraderie with top BJP leadership. Unlike Kalbe Jawad, Waseem Rizvi has no a mass following among the Shia community, and he is no religious leader either. On the other hand Kalbe Jawad, not only has all the means to move the Supreme Court to visit Kashmir, but his visit can easily be facilitated by the Government due to his close ties with BJP leaders.
Let’s now turn to the so-called secular intellectual Muslims like Javed Akhtar, Saeed Naqvi, Arif Mohammad Khan, Shabana Azmi. Remember Javed Akhtar and Shabana voluntarily went to campaign for Kanhaiya Kumar in Begusarai and there appealed to Muslim voters to vote for Kumar in the interest of people. Unfortunately we are yet to see any request by Muslim leadership to the apex court to see their solidarity with the Muslims of Kashmir.
So the question is, if there is any leadership of Muslims left in India? A leadership that genuinely cares for the community? Will the 18 crore Muslims of India remain only a vote bank to be used by their religious and political leaders? Will they ever see through the facade around this leadership that is deep down concerned with its own vested interests? The Kashmir human crisis could be an opportunity in adversity.
The writer is an electronic and digital media practitioner, a documentary filmmaker and a TV producer who has worked with National Geographic and BBC besides other prominent national and International media groups.