Indian Muslims’ March To Parliament

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

NEW DELHI – Taking a decisive step towards asserting their identity in India, a few Muslims met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week (March 9) and presented a 15-point charter of their demands. The Muslims who met Singh, included M.H. Jawahirullah, President, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) and S. Hyder Ali (general secretary – TMMK). The meeting was a continuation of efforts being made by TMMK (a Chennai-based organization) and its supporters demanding reservation for Muslims in wake of the Sachar Committee report having highlighted deplorable and discriminatory conditions affecting the Indian Muslims. Sachar Committee has recommended the need for uplifting their social and economic conditions.

Some of the demands listed in the charter presented to the Prime Minister were: — exclusive reservation for Muslims in jobs and education opportunities of central, state governments and in private sector; proper representation for Muslims from Panchayat to Parliament; protection of minority rights of Muslim educational institutions; special schemes to protect traditional occupations and empowerment of the Wakf Boards.

Emphasizing that it was imperative for Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to live up to its commitments for uplifting the status of Indian Muslims, TMMK organized a major rally and demonstration in the capital city (March 7). About ten thousand Muslims gathered here at Ram Lila ground, from where they marched towards Parliament. Mufti Mohammed Mukarram Ahmed, Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid (Delhi) started the procession with the waving of a flag. During his address, Ahmed laid stress on the need to adopt an action-oriented course to remove Muslims’ educational and economic backwardness.

Led by Jawahirullah and other leaders, gathered from across the country, the Muslims marched towards the Parliament shouting slogans demanding equality. Banners and posters held by participants carried messages such as: — “Down, down with discrimination, up, up with equality and brotherhood” and “We do not want charity but parity.”

The march ended with a demonstration at Parliament Street marked by various leaders giving fiery speeches demanding reservation and equality for Indian Muslims. “We want the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government to implement its program,” said Jawahirullah. Drawing attention to thousands of Muslims having gathered in the capital city, Jawahirullah emphatically said that their demand of “exclusive reservation” for Muslims should be implemented. “Let us (Muslims) grow, the nation will grow faster,” said TMMK leader S. Hyder Ali.

Brinda Karat (legislator, Communist Party of India-Marxist) began her address by saying: “Aap ko Salaam, (greetings to you all).” “Development of minorities and protection of minorities is the duty of the country,” Karat said emphasizing that this was essential for “development of the country.” Just as the country has budgetary allocations for development of tribal communities, Karat said: “We want budgetary allocations for development of Muslim community.” She asserted the need for all to unite from that very platform to strengthen “secularism” of the country and groups responsible for Gujarat-carnage. “We should all unitedly defeat forces which want to weaken the country. From this platform, we must unite,” said Karat.

“We are not begging. We are asking for the reservation that should be given to us as per the Indian Constitution,” asserted Rasheed Ahmed Chowdary (United Democratic Front-Assam).

“We are not asking for anything that is inappropriate, but only that is due to us,” S.Q.R. Ilyas (All India Muslim Personal Law Board) said. Hitting at the Congress, he said: “Sachar committee report is a mirror to what the government has done (for Muslims) during the past six decades, during which Congress was in power for the greater time.” Not sparing the Left government in West Bengal and Maharashtra government, Ilyas pointed to despicable conditions of Muslims in Murshidabad (WB) and the percentage of Muslims in Maharashtra prisons.

“Protection of Muslims is a duty of the country, not an obligation,” said Asadudeen Owaisi (legislator, Majlis-e-Ittihadul Muslimeen- Andhra Pradesh). “Give us reservation and within five years we will take the country to great heights,” asserted Owaisi. “If Muslims don’t get reservation, nobody else should get it,” he said.

Apart from emphasizing the need for reservations, the leaders laid stress that minority status of education institutions such as Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University should not be changed.

On sidelines of the demonstration, expressing satisfaction with there being a large gathering, Jawahirullah told The Muslim Observer: “The response to this demonstration has been overwhelming.” Emphasizing that people had come to participate in the demonstration at their own expense, he said: “We are not purchasing people. They have come at their own expense.” On what would be their next course of action, he said that they would present a charter of their demands to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “The government has two and a half years to implement our demands. If they don’t, they lose our support,” he asserted.

“It is the duty of the Congress to implement what it has committed itself to. If it doesn’t, the party loses our support. We have our democratic means of conveying our message,” said TMMK leader S.H. Ameeruddin.

On whether such a demonstration will have any impact, Mohd. Sahfi (Rajsthan Madaari Samaj Society, Jaipur) said: “Such a large demonstration is bound to wake up the government.” Besides, TMMK supporters pointed to participants including people from Assam, Delhi, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and other parts of the country.

Among other parties which participated in the demonstration and inked the charter presented to the Prime Minister were TMMK, Indian Union Muslim League, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Majlis-e-Ithihadul Muslimeen, United Democratic Front (Assam), Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadiths, Jamat-e-Islami Hind, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Wahadat-e-Islami, Indian Union National League, All India Milli Council and People’s Democratic (Kerala).