When Sitaram Yechury was denied entry in Srinagar after the lockdown, he appealed to the Supreme court of India for directions to the state to enable him to meet and to be able to help his lone party colleague of CPI-M Yousuf Tarigami.
The apex court then condescended to pass suitable directions but with riders which strictly forbade him from any political activity as if this was some crime. This despite the apex court conceding Yechury’s fundamental right to help his party colleague stuck in the Kashmir civil lockdown.
This was about a political party’s leader wanting to find out the well-being of just one of his party colleagues and reaching out to help him in any way he could. What if several thousand people had approached the Supreme Court with similar petitions?
There are approximately 80 lakh Muslims in Kashmir valley locked down in their homes for the past two months.
And yet why didn’t a single Muslim religious or religio-political leader try to go to Kashmir?
Even the most vocal of them all, the All India Majlise-Ittahdul Muslimeen (AMIM) leader and Hyderabad MP the articulate and assertive Asaduddin Owaisi has been remiss. He claims to lead the entire Muslim population in India and undoubtedly has strong pockets of support in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra besides his home stretch Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
How come he is not moved by what is happening to the people of Kashmir when in Parliament he was very vocal against the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A? What has he done outside the Parliament?
Doesn’t he represent the 80 lakh Muslim population of Kashmir? What has prevented Owaisi from going to Kashmir to see the pitiable situation of the people there, and attempt to offer a helping hand to people under lockdown? Besides, Owaisi happens to be a Barrister. Why did he not approach the Supreme Court to seek permission to visit Kashmir to help his people there?
He indeed had a much stronger case than Sitaram Yechury seeking to reach out to a solitary CPM member.
Next take the case of Azam Khan. He, again, is a qualified lawyer and a strong Muslim face of the Samajwadi Party. His legal teams are fighting 81 cases lodged against him. For him, it was just a matter of moving one extra application in the apex court to seek permission to visit Kashmir. What stopped him and his legal batteries of seasoned lawyers from doing so?
During the swearing in ceremony of the MP’s of the current 17th Lok Sabha, there was a lot of hue and cry over MP’s using religious slogans. Among the 27 Muslim MPs many were vocal in using Islamic slogans to assert their Muslim identity and leadership. But none of them approached the Supreme Court with a request to visit Kashmir. Why?
Do these Muslim MPs not represent the 80 lakh Muslim population of Kashmir?
Yes, Ghulam Nabi Azad did so but he is an exception because he is a Kashmiri himself, so his desire to go and see the situation there may have had nothing to do with leadership.
What about the prominent religious leaders? The most prominent leader of the majority of Sunni Muslims in India is Moulana Mehmood Madani, general secretary of the biggest Muslim seminary of Deoband’s Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind (council of Indian Muslim theologians), and his uncle Arshad Madani, the president of the same council.
They claim to represent the largest part of Muslim population of India. Deoband seminary led by the Madanis formulate and pass diktats or fatwas to millions of Muslim followers in India and even abroad.
In their annual general meeting on 12th September 2019 amidst the Kashmir lockdown, they passed a resolution in support of the government’s move on the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A from Kashmir, but then despite this visible move to get in the ruling party’s good books, made no effort to reach out to the 80 lakh Muslim population of Kashmir and help out in this purely humanitarian crisis.
Why is not a single plea gone from the Madanis in Deoband to the Supreme Court to visit Kashmir to oversee the plight of their fellow community members?
Under the looming shadow of Kashmir, Arshad Madani went to meet RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat in Delhi, reportedly in the first week of September.
In his interview to the Quint on 4th September 2019, he didn’t divulge much about the meeting while the headlines quoted him saying that RSS may actually give up on Hindu Rashtra or Hindu Nation demand.
Once a staunch opponent of the RSS, Deoband and Arshad Madani seem now comfortable in doing business with them. About a week after this meeting with Mohan Bhagwat came the resolution by the Deoband seminary on 12th of September 2019.
This resolution was in support of Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Kashmir, Triple Talaq bill and a nationwide NRC, the grapevine has it that their foreign funds, primarily from Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries, were being scrutinised by Government agencies, alongside some alleged illegal construction and encroachment of land.
The dots are there for everyone to connect. The other Sunni leaders like Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Ahmad Bukhari, Aala Hazrat or supreme leader of Bareily seminary of Sunni Muslims too have made no effort to approach the Supreme Court to visit Kashmir and get a first-hand account of the plight of their co-religionists.
The biggest Shia Muslim leader Kalbe Jawwad not only came in support of the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Kashmir, but his justification for doing so is so naive that it exposes the basic intelligence of the large Shia community that follows him.
In his statement quoted by Siasat.com dated 6th August 2019, it says “people of Kashmir will now get equal rights enjoyed by people of other states”, implying that it is now good for them. Do Shia Muslims who are considered better educated and intellectually more evolved not know that Article 370 and 35A gave special rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which was over and above the rights guaranteed to all Indians including Kashmiris by the Constitution?
Notwithstanding this patently BJP logic, Kalbe Jawwad too made no effort to seek the Supreme Court’s intervention to visit Kashmir, or to see and help his community members, who account for 25 to 30% of the population of 8 million.
Mind you, Yechury mentioned only a fellow party leader and secured the court’s permission.
Like Azam Khan, Kalbe Jawwad also has FIRs against him. There are allegations levelled against him for accumulating unaccounted foreign funds coming as charity from Iran along with other middle eastern countries for the welfare of Shia community in India.
The recent allegation came from his one-time confidante turned foe the chairman of Shia Waqf board Waseem Rizvi of using foreign charity for anti-national activities. Interestingly Waseem Rizvi was appointed as the Chairman of the Shia Waqf board on Kalbe Jawwad’s recommendations. But that was during their days of bonhomie and camaraderie. Today they are archrivals. Kalbe Jawwad had recently described Waseem an enemy of Islam. Similarly, Waseem too has hurled corruption charges against Kalbe Jawwad, including, land grabbing and illegal sale of Shia Waqf properties.
Before 2017 when the Samajwadi Party was in power, Waseem Rizvi was close to the Samajwadi Party, but with changing times he switched loyalty and thus transgressed into Kalbe’s domain who thrived thanks to his camarederie with Rajnath Singh, a cabinet minister as well as with other senior leaders of the BJP.
Unlike Kalbe Jawwad, Waseem Rizvi has no mass following among the Shia community, and he is no religious leader either. On the other hand, Kalbe Jawwad, not only has all the means to move the Supreme Court to visit Kashmir, but his visit can easily be facilitated by the Government due to his close ties with the BJP.
Let’s now turn to the so-called secular intellectual Muslims like Javed Akhtar, Saeed Naqvi, Arif Mohammad Khan, Shabana Azmi. Remember Javed Akhtar and Shabana voluntarily went to campaign for Kanhaiya Kumar in Begusarai and there he appealed to Muslim voters to vote for him in the interest of people.
Unfortunately, we are yet to see any request by Muslim leadership to the apex court to see their solidarity with the Muslims of Kashmir.
So, the fundamental question is if there is any leadership of Muslims in India. A leadership that genuinely cares for them?
Will the 18 Crore Muslims of India remain a vote bank to be used by their religious and political leaders only? Will they ever see through the facade around this leadership that is concerned with its own vested interests?
The humanitarian crisis in Kashmir could well have been a blessing in disguise, an opportunity in adversity.
(The writer is an electronic and digital media practitioner, a documentary filmmaker and a TV producer who has worked with National Geographic and BBC besides other prominent national and international media groups. These are his personal views)