Pasmanda Muslims, part of OBC, are largely the victims of Sangh’s hate politics. Now, BJP is aiming to reach out to them, the ‘deprived section’ among minorities, reflecting the party’s cynicism and arrogance
The BJP changed tack following Modi’s remark that party workers should reach out to “deprived” sections among the minorities, “such as Pasmanda Muslims”. Pic/Twitter
It is hypocritical of the Bharatiya Janata Party to suddenly demonstrate its concern for the Pasmandas, a term which means “those left behind” and refers to Muslims belonging to the Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Castes. It is hypocritical because Pasmanda Muslims are largely the victims of hate politics patented by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliates, including the BJP, and sundry Hindu rightwing groups.
Take Bilkis Bano, who has been in the news because of the state government setting free the 11 who were convicted of gang-raping her and killing her family members during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Bilkis is Ghanchi by caste, as is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both the Hindu and Muslims are counted among the OBCs. It is bewildering that the convicts were granted remission of their sentence even as the BJP began courting the Pasmandas.
Bilkis was targeted not on account of her caste but because of her Muslimness. In fact, during the 2002 Gujarat riots, Muslims were killed across the class-caste divide. Nafees Mujahid, convenor, Gujarat Minority Coordination Committee, identified the castes of the 54 Muslims who perished in the Naroda Patiya massacre. Only 10 out of them were Pasmanda. The 2002 riots were an exception to the rule that the Pasmandas suffer the most during communal conflicts, Mujahid said, pointing out that the Muslims of Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad were attacked in order to ruin their businesses and drive them out of the locality.
Next, I requested activist-writer Harsh Mander to provide me the names of the hate crime victims whose families he had visited with his iconic Karwan-e-Mohabbat. His colleague Mohd Amir Khan sent me a list of 55 victims to whose loved ones Mander’s Aman Biradari Trust provides monetary and legal assistance. The trust’s state coordinators identified the castes of the victims, and I then checked whether their castes were mentioned in the state and/or Central lists of OBCs.
Eight out of the 55 belonged to either Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes. Out of the 47 Muslims on the list, 40 or 85.10 per cent were Pasmanda. The intent of the assailants was to kill, for only nine out of the 55 survived the assaults. Mander did not have a priori knowledge of the castes of Muslim victims whom he visited. The list can, therefore, qualify as what statisticians call random selection—and is broadly representative of who among Muslims are most likely to be the victims of hate crimes.
They are, for sure, Pasmanda. Call it the lynch-and-woo Pasmanda policy!
Hindutva assailants are unlikely to be aware of the caste identity of Muslims caught in their crosshairs. It is possible the Pasmandas get targeted because of the jobs they take, including those not connected with their traditional occupations. Or because they are far more numerous than the upper caste Muslims. Or because they dominate the slums ravaged during riots.
Yet, the scenario is fuzzy. In Jharkhand, assailants waylaid Majlum Ansari, a Pasmanda, and Imtiyaz Khan, a 15-year-old upper caste, who were taking cattle to a fair. They were lynched and hanged. Tabrez Ansari, who worked as a daily wage labourer in Pune, was caught while returning on a bike to his village from Jamshedpur, accused of thieving, thrashed and compelled to chant, “Jai Shri Ram” before he died. He was an OBC.
In Bihar, Amir Hanzala, an upper caste, was stabbed to death as he was fleeing from a march against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act that had been stoned. In west Uttar Pradesh, Kasim, a Pasmanda, traded in goats. He was walking from one village to another when he was apprehended and accused of hustling cows for slaughter houses. When cow protectionists began pummelling him, Saimuddin, an upper caste farmer, interceded—and was also mercilessly beaten up. Kasim died; Saimuddin lived to tell the tale.
In Karnataka, Dayanath Khan, an OBC, was lynched just because he had uploaded as his WhatsApp display photo an Islamic flag on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday. Haryana’s Meo Muslims are said to be Rajput converts—and are on the OBC list. Hasim, a Meo, was driving the mini-truck of a company which employed him. Cow protectionists accosted him on the suspicion that he was ferrying cattle. Hasim survived the attack.
Of the 15 Muslims booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for conspiring to foment the 2020 Delhi riots, 40 per cent are Pasmanda and 60 per cent upper caste. Hany Babu is the only Muslim among the accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. He is an OBC. The state has been ruthless with Muslims, whether Pasmanda or otherwise.
The above narrative shows that for Hindutva foot soldiers, religion, not caste, is the principal identity of Muslims. The BJP changed tack following Modi’s remark, in July, that the party workers should reach out to “deprived and downtrodden” sections among the minorities, “such as Pasmanda Muslims”. No apology or regret for the killing of Pasmandas, no warning to lynch mobs. The BJP’s Pasmanda card is designed to fragment the Muslim community, as it has done with the OBCs and Dalits. Cynicism and arrogance aptly describe the BJP’s show of concern for the Pasmandas, after terrorising them.
The writer is a senior journalist.
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