Moidatila is a small village of 100 families in Shantibazar constituency in South Tripura. 83 of these families are Muslim. After 25 of these Muslim families decided to go with the BJP, the people at the village mosque told them they could no longer pray there. Moidatila now has two mosques, one in which the BJP supporters pray, and the original mosque that holds congregations of the non-BJP families.
The Indian Express report regarding the incident says:
““We joined the BJP 16 months ago. Soon after, people at the mosque told us we could no longer pray there,” said Babul Hossain, 35. “They said since we are supporting a Hindu-vadi party, there is no longer any need to come to the mosque and we could go with the Hindus.”
Hossain grows potato and sells it in the open market to support his family that includes two sons in school. The 25 families shut out of the mosque have made a makeshift mosque with a tin roof and bamboo. The group has engaged a separate imam and pay him through collections.
“We don’t know about the BJP being a Hindutva party,” says Hossain. “I don’t believe they have been involved in attacks against Muslims in other parts of the country. This is just something the Congress and the CPM has been saying. If there are Muslims who have been killed, they must have been done something wrong. Why would anyone attack a good person?”
Hossain used to be a Congress voter. “The Congress is finished, muche gecha (wiped out). But we want this government to go. It’s been 25 years and we have got nothing from them [Left Front]. If the BJP comes, we hope to get fertiliser subsidies and water,” he says.
Of the Muslim families who have become BJP supporters, most were formerly Congress supporters and a few CPM loyalists. Farooq Islam, 27, whose family supported the CPM for years, says they decided to switch to the BJP to see “if we get anything in return”. “As you can see, we have nothing in the village,” he says. “There is no power, not even clean drinking water. The BJP says it can bring us all this. Besides, CPM leaders and their workers had become arrogant, they were oppressing us. We wanted the mosque upgraded and repaired but two CPM workers here, who are in charge of the mosque, opposed it. So we collected money ourselves to do the job and they got angry. It had become unsafe for us here. When we wanted to raise the salary of the imam and decided to take collections, they wanted a cut out of it.”
Bhanu Bibi, 38, had contested the last panchayat elections on a Congress ticket and says she lost by one vote. She expressed her disillusionment: “This year I didn’t even get paid for 35 days of work under MNREGA. Also, our families don’t get jobs, water or any other basic services.”
The BJP’s minority wing state president, Mohammad Jasmuddin, who facilitated the joining of the Muslim voters, belongs to neighbouring Karmibazar, another village with a large Muslim population. He says that out of the 150 families there, 40 Muslim families have moved to the BJP. “I joined the BJP right after the 2013 elections. I was with the Congress but realised there was no point remaining. They couldn’t protect workers from CPM musclemen. It was a good idea to join the BJP at that point because it wasn’t considered a threat, so we weren’t prosecuted. I never thought the BJP would become the main opponent,” Jasmuddin says. “As far as minority affairs are concerned, there is no problem for a Muslim joining the BJP.”
This news might seem insignificant in the larger scheme of things, but it contains some important insights into our politics –
1.) Muslim religious-political leadership & left-liberals have successfully demonised BJP-RSS as fascist murderers in the mind of ordinary Muslims. Some people have started seeing through the propaganda, but most Muslims are still under its sway.
2.) CPM practises a fascist, violent brand of politics wherever it goes. CPM goon and musclemen routinely intimidate their political opponents of all hues – Congress, CPM, TMC …it doesn’t matter. Extreme political violence, political murders & intimidation of voters during election time are considered ‘normal’ in states like like West Bengal, Kerala & Tripura where CPM is a significant player. Such violence is not the norm in other states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra despite bitter political rivalry between non-CPM parties.
3.) Muslims need basic good governance like everyone else – water, education, electricity, jobs. They need to be freed from the oppressive chokehold of the formal mullah-mosque-madrassa network which is aligned to radicals of Jamaat, Deoband etc. But what they don’t need is the kind of appeasement that secular parties have shown over the years by supporting the most regressive & fundamentalist forces within Muslim society. BJP also needs to stick to its “sabka saath, sabka vikas” goal, instead of pumping in more money to sectarian minority-specific schemes – instead of integrating Muslims into the national mainstream, such schemes only engender a feeling of entitlement in Muslims and resentment in poor Hindus who are equally needy.
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