Caste cracks in Muslim monolith

Arun Srivastava

Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal may be banking on its tested MYD (Muslim-Yadav-Dalit) combination but for the first time, there are rumblings in the M.

Backward Muslims, angry with the way upper-caste Muslims have treated them, have come up with their own slogan: Vote hamara raj tumhara nahi chalega. (You can not rule on our vote).

Contrary to the perception that they vote as a monolith, Muslims in Bihar are divided. According to Lok Sabha results, from 1952 to 1996, 37 Muslims were elected from Bihar. Of them, 26 belonged to upper caste, only 11 to backward castes like Ansari and Kubiayah.

With a 2 crore Muslim population, 80 per cent of them backward, this could very well be a crucial factor during the elections. The Amarat-e-Ahle Ansar, a pro-backward Muslim group floated a couple of years ago, has said it will not follow the "diktat" of the established upper-caste leadership.

Ansar's founder Ejaj Ali has published and circulated a booklet pointing out what he calls thediscriminatory attitude of the Laloo-Rabri government in favour of upper-caste Muslims.

According to him, out of the 58 coveted posts that have been offered to Muslims by the state government, only 11 have gone to backward Muslims. There is no Dalit Muslim. Interestingly, Akhtar Hussain, a product of the Jaiprakash Narain movement, and companion of Laloo Prasad has been ignored completely.

Ansar also accuses Laloo of pursuing the same old Congress line on the Muslims. Just like the Congress, which kept Muslims with it by raising the issue of security, Laloo's refrain, Ali says, has always been: "Muslims need security more than becoming MLAs or MLCs."

Ansar says that Laloo's MY alliance is essentially an alliance between upper-caste Muslims and Yadavs. "During his seven-year rule, he could find only two backward Muslims for the job of ministers," says Ali.

Laloo isn't the only one accused. The Congress too has given most of its minority tickets to upper castes. Of its 24 Muslim nominees, the SamataParty has given tickets to 18 upper-caste candidates. The BJP which has for the first time nominated a Muslim candidate has also chosen one from the upper caste.

Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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