By M Reyaz

Its election season and once again everyone is talking about one community – who else than the Muslims. The community, its potential, strength and weakness is never more hyped than in times of elections, and the community is referred to as if one monolithic group exist. It’s that time when everyone is busy proving the secular and pluralistic credentials of their parties.

I was too young at the time of Ram Janam Bhoomi Andolan, but I am not sure how much communal charged and polarised elections at that time were, but certainly the 2014 Lok Sabha elections is going to be one of the most interesting (and historic) elections. This is the time when a party that had no qualm so far about being seen as ‘anti-Muslim’ and their Prime Ministerial candidate would not shy away from taunting a particular community as ‘Hum Paach Humarre Pachees,’ Miya Mushrraf, Yeh Mans Khaane Waale Log, etc, is today talking of how peaceful Gujarat has been in last ten years and laments on the accidental death of ‘puppies’.

Of course Gujarat has been peaceful, for now there is no need of riots there. The mission has already been accomplished there and has now shifted to Uttar Pradesh, Assam, etc. for mission Delhi. The man certainly is in hurry, but he should remember Hunooz Dilli door ast, it’s a long way to Delhi.

Anyways, every time there is discussion on secularism and communalism, the barb on each other begins. Innocence of self is proved here by reminding of ‘graver’ riots in other’s tenure. After the inapt handling of the Muzaffarnagar riots and irresponsible statements, it can only be a ‘secular’ like Mullah Mulayam Singh Yadav who can remind his supporters in a rally that Modi will never be forgiven and that Muslims of this country are not fools to be swayed by false promises. And it really takes lot of courage for leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan to switch colours at the drop of the hat like chameleon.

There is a popular saying, ‘with friends like these who needs enemies;’ that holds true for most of the so called secular parties and more than those secular cap wearing Netajee, it’s the so called community leaders who have failed their voters more than anyone else. On the Telugu issues, all Telugu leaders appear to be united, on the issue of Tamils all Tamil parties are united, similarly for dalits, but Muslim leaders appear most fragmented even on basic issues of employment, empowerment, reservations, and they all seem to follow the respective party lines. There do not appear a single leader to fulfill the aspiration of the community, sadly because most of them come from three kinds of backgrounds: clergy, Bahubali, or party loyalist elites, who have no base of own.

The ruling Congress party promises to champion the causes of the minorities, but they are seen to be “opportunistically communal,” if not ideologically as the Hindu nationalist opposition of BJP. Consequently nothing has affected the Muslims more than this staler diatribe over secularism and communalism, when they still remain one of the most backward groups, economically and politically and appears to remain so.

A sort of silent revolution is undergoing within the community as the new generation is climbing the social-stairs, with their hard-work. They today appear to be more confident and practically see no dichotomy in being Indian and Muslim, both at the same time. But sadly the political leadership, including the Muslim leadership have completely failed to see the massive change and appear stuck in the old era politics of identity that revolves around question of secularism and security.

The last word: A diverse country like India, has no other option but to remain inclusive, pragmatic, and secular in words and spirit. Our secular democracies may have its share of flaws, but ‘naked communalism’ can never be a substitute for it.

(M Reyaz, 28, is a Delhi based Journalist and tweets at @journalistreyaz )