By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHIâ€”Notwithstanding the hard reality that the controversial Indo-US civilian nuclear deal can from no angle be viewed as a religious issue, it has assumed this nature in Indian circles. This is marked by it being projected as an â€œanti-Muslimâ€ deal. A survey conducted by an Urdu weekly newspaper states that 70 percent of Indian Muslims are against the deal. Undeniably, Muslims across the country are apprehensive about India coming too close to United States. This feeling has gained ground among Muslims following United Statesâ€™ stance towards Iraq and its support for Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Leading Muslim clerics have termed the nuclear deal as â€œanti-nationalâ€ and â€œanti-Muslim.â€ â€œAny alignment with US imperialism to impose unipolarity will dissolve Indiaâ€™s distinctiveness in world politics. This is precisely what the Muslim clerics seek to prevent in the interests of India and its people,â€ they have said. The clerics, including Maulana Syed Mukarram Ahmed (Fatehpuri Mosque, Delhi) and leading Shia cleric Maulana Syed Kalbe Sadiq, vice chairman, All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) are against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) moving ahead with the deal.
Keen on strengthening support for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)â€™s from Muslims, the party chief, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati held a meeting with a delegation of leading Muslim clerics in Lucknow (July 2). The preceding day Mayawati had stated that UPAâ€™s decision to go ahead with the nuclear deal had angered Muslims. The delegation thanked Mayawati for her stand on the deal and also urged her to prevent the UPA from pursuing it.
The delegation included eminent Muslim clerics, Sadiq, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali (cleric of Lucknowâ€™s Aishbagh Idgah and AIMPLB member), Maulana Hamidul Hasan (Muslim Personal Law Board member), Maulana Fazlur Rahman Waizi Nadwi (cleric of Lucknowâ€™s Tilewali Masjid), Maulana Aleem Farooqui and Maulana Naeemur Rahman.
Mayawati has not yet, however, clearly stated as to what would be her partyâ€™s stand if the nuclear deal is tabled in the Lok Sabha, with the government moving a confidence motion or is forced to face a no-confidence vote on it. Undeniably, with Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders having indicated their decision to support UPA on the nuclear deal, Mayawati is using the opportunity to turn the Muslim votes in her favor.
It may be pointed out, at one time SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was even known as Maulana Mulayam Singh Yadav for having taking a strong stand supporting Muslims on the Babari Masjid issue. He is now being blamed for having betrayed Indian Muslims on the nuclear deal. The past few weeks have witnessed hectic political parleys in the capital city on the issue.
SP leaders have stated that their decision to support the UPA on the nuclear deal is to prevent communal forces from turning the political tide in their favor. A day after SP leaders, Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh had discussed the deal with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, they stated that it was in the â€œnational interestâ€ (July 5). Displaying SPâ€™s support for UPA as its commitment to secularism, Amar Singh told media persons: â€œCommunalism is a bigger threat than imperialism today.â€
Justifying SPâ€™s new friendship with the Congress, Singh said: â€œFor us, communalism is a bigger danger than imperialism. L.K. Advani (senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader) is a bigger danger than George W. Bush (United Statesâ€™ President).â€
In its attempt to project that SPâ€™s support for UPA on the deal was not an anti-Muslim move, SP leaders sought former President APJ Abdul Kalamâ€™s opinion on the nuclear pact (July 3). Kalam is a Muslim, known as a missile man and a space scientist. Kalam, according to Mulayam Singh, held the nuclear deal as â€œbeneficialâ€ in the interest of the country.
SPâ€™s move has, however, not helped in convincing Indian Muslims at large on favoring the deal. There is also a view that rather than accord so much importance to the deal, it would be politically wiser for the parties to talk of issues that would appeal to the common man.
On its part, the SP has claimed that majority of Indian Muslims are not against the deal. Claiming that Muslims have favored Mulayam Singhâ€™s stand on it in the national interest, SP spokesman Rajendra Chaudhary said in Lucknow: â€œThere has been no protest by any Muslim organization against the nuclear deal and the rumors being spread about it are the brainchild of Mayawati, who wants to exploit the situation to her political advantageâ€ (July 5).
It cannot be, however, ignored that there are reports on Muslims in SP being against their partyâ€™s decision to favor the deal. They are likely to vote against UPA on the nuclear deal. The survey published in the Urdu weekly, Nai Duniya, is owned by a SP legislator Shahid Siddiqui. When questioned on the survey, he replied: â€œThis is not the party line. This was an independent survey.â€
Prospects of Muslims within the UPA parting ways on the nuclear deal cannot also be missed. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a key ally of the Congress in Kerala, has threatened to quit UPA if the government goes ahead with the deal.