MAULANA SYED JALALUDDIN UMARI, a prominent Islamic scholar who is acclaimed for his great works in Urdu Islamic literature, also leads Jamaat-e-Islami Hind as its All India President. Besides being an Islamic scholar, Maulana Jalaluddin, a septuagenarian leader, has thorough comprehension of national and international issues. He is bestowed with knowledge of a scholar, charisma of a leader, vision of a visionary, deliberations of a thinker and above all thorough comprehension of current affairs. He was in Kuwait as a guest of Ministry of Awkaf and Islamic Affairs and participated in IMA Youth Wing’s one-day conference organised under the patronage of Ministry of Awkaf and Islamic Affairs. SHARAFUDDIN B.S. interviewed him at Le Meridian Hotel, Kuwait. Here are the niceties of the interview:
While India’s GDP is growing through economic reforms, why is the Jamaat opposing globalisation and liberalisation? Are you against progress?
We are not against progress or any kind of development activities in India. However, we are against two things. First, influence of western and particularly American culture to Indian society, which is being imported along with globalisation and liberalisation. Secondly, we oppose the scenario where benefits of development are reaped by very minute percentage i.e. 5% urban elite in India and fruits of development are not reaching the entire population. Even among the cities, only some cities are benefiting from the developments. You cannot see the glitters of development in cities like Patna and Kolkata, what you may see in Delhi and Mumbai. The so-called development may bring glitter to only some cities. However in villages, which constitute majority of Indian geography, no influence of progress is noticed. Even today, it is sad to state that, in spite of big claims about progress and development more than 30% of people in India are living below poverty line. When we claim about higher growth rate of GDP, we forget that we are counting the common man along with Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis, and calculating the average. We support progress, which is directed towards the steady development of entire population of India.
More annoying is, the growing influence of western culture in India. As a result, extra marital and premarital sex is no more a taboo in our country among younger generation and doctors are now advocating safe sex rather than advising to refrain from such practices. When we talk about economic progress, we should not forget that this progress has brought enormous contrasts in our society. Several people are deprived of two meals a day, whereas many million rupees are spent on fast food by urban elite. In many of our villages, people are deprived of clothing whereas millions of rupees are being spent on cosmetics. Some are living in big bungalows while many cannot afford humble huts. We are against this kind of contrasts in our society but not against progress. While the west is suffering from the drawbacks of their own culture, we are welcoming it in our society without knowing the consequences. If food, shelter and clothing are guaranteed to majority of the populace, we will whole-heartedly support such progress.
Can you outline how central and state governments have responded to the Sachar Committee Report?
The Sachar Committee Report is a big eye-opener for all, which reveals the truth that despite the hue and cry about Muslim appeasement, Muslims are among the most deprived communities in India. The report confirms that they are more backward than OBCs in many areas. The government was bound to accept this fact since ‘Sachar Committee’ is a government appointed body. If such a committee would have been appointed by any other independent organisation or a Muslim organisation, the government would have probably rejected the report. The Sachar Committee Report enumerates detailed data and irrefutable proofs explaining the status of Muslims in various fields in different states.
There was another report called Ranganath Mishra Commission Report, which unfortunately was not tabled in parliament. This report also reveals similar facts identified by the Sachar Committee Report. Muslims are demanding that the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and Mishra Commission Reports have to be implemented. According to government’s official statistics, Muslims constitute 14% of the population. Though actual percentage of Muslims is obviously much higher than government statistics, Muslims need to secure minimum and appropriate share of 14% in all aspects of life such as education and representation in legislative bodies. According to the Mishra Commission Report, minorities should get 15% reservations in employment and education, out of which 10% reservation should be given to Muslims owing to their pathetic condition in India. Furthermore, the Commission also recommends that if there is any leftover quota from the remaining 5% unutilised by other minorities, it also needs to be given to Muslims.
All major Muslim organisations including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiatul Ulema Hind and Majlis Mushawarat unanimously demand that the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and Mishra Commission Reports have to be implemented. However, the government is lending a deaf ear to the plea of Muslims. Ironically, central government and none of the state governments have taken any step forward to implement Sachar committee recommendations. The BJP-led state governments have rejected these recommendations saying that these are attempts to appease Muslims. Meanwhile, state governments led by so-called secular parties also have not done anything to implement them other than rendering some lip services. In West Bengal, a state where Muslims are severely deprived, the government has announced that it will give 10% reservations to Muslims. Since assembly elections of West Bengal are round the corner, it is difficult to judge if the government is sincere in its announcement or if it is just an election gimmick. In West Bengal, where Muslims constitute almost 27% population, the government now accepts that they have committed a mistake by sidelining Muslims during the long span of Communist rule in the state. Other than announcement in the wake of upcoming assembly elections, no practical steps have been taken to implement the report. However, Andhra Pradesh government has announced 4% reservation to Muslims and in Karnataka there is some kind of reservation existing from the beginning. In Kerala, the government has formed a committee to study the implementation of recommendations of Sachar Committee report. Apart from this, practical steps towards implementation of the Sachar Committee and Mishra Commission Reports are not being seen anywhere in India.
How did Muslims themselves respond to the Sachar Committee Report to do something for the community at non-governmental level?
As far as Muslim organisations are concerned, all Muslims organisations have welcomed the Sachar Committee Report and are pressurising the government to implement its recommendations. However, there are no collective efforts from the Muslim organization towards implementation of Sachar and Mishra Commission Reports. Muslim organisations are expressing their views through their own separate platforms. Needless to say, the Muslim organisations had been striving for the betterment of Muslims even before the submission of Sachar Committee Report. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind also has established many schools, colleges and hospitals in different parts of India. It has also served employment generation. Many other Muslim organisations have also contributed toward the upliftment of the community. In Hyderabad, for example, Salahudddin Owasi has established many schools, colleges and contributed towards social work. Jamiatul Ulema Hind has established many Arabic Madrasas and colleges. Vision 2016 is also part of the Jamaat’s activities towards upliftment of the society in general, and Muslims in particular. The Sachar Committee Report has reconfirmed the importance of such activities. The Muslim community in India is a huge community and all these efforts rendered by Muslims are just small efforts compared to the size of the community and magnitude of the challenges they are facing. Muslim organisations joined together cannot produce the same thing what a concerned and responsible government can produce.
From reports, we understand that recently many innocent Muslim youth are targeted in the name of war on terror. What you say about this situation?
American policy of war on terror initiated by erstwhile US government has influenced many countries including our own country. Thus, it is true that Muslims particularly many innocent Muslim youth were targeted in the name of war on terror. An atmosphere is created through media stereotypes where if any terrorist activity is reported, Muslims are blamed at the outset, without finding out the real culprits. However during the recent past there have been several instances in India where many activists from non-Muslim outfits have been arrested for terrorist activities, with cases registered against them, and some of them are even behind the bars. This has brought a slight change in the trend of out rightly blaming Muslims for any untoward incidents without finding the real culprits.
Reports of attacks against churches, moral policing by anti-social elements and atmosphere of hatred show that communal elements are growing in India. What you think about this situation?
It is true that there are communal elements in India and there are continued efforts by anti-social elements to spread communalism. However, it is not true that communalism has grown much higher than ever. There were no major communal riots in India after the Gujarat riots, which are still famed as the biggest communal riot in India post-partition. Previously Bihar was considered a communally sensitive area. Bihar now is a riot-free state, though there is poverty, corruption and many other problems which can be capitalised by anti-social elements. During the rule of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar there were no communal riots in Bihar. Earlier during the rule of Congress, communal riots were common in Bihar. In Uttar Pradesh as well, which is again considered the most sensitive state, there was no major communal riots reported in the recent past even during the rule of BJP, which was followed by the rule of Mulayam Singh and Mayawati. Recently there were some communal riots in Hyderabad. However, it did not spread to other parts of the state, unlike Gujarat riots which soon spread to the entire state. This does not mean that you can have a sigh of relief that communalism has faded away from India. Efforts are needed to promote the atmosphere of understanding and tolerance and communal elements need to be defeated. Peace is a basic need of human beings, which is also an inevitable need of progress. Jamaat and other organisations can only wish and advocate peace. However, the government has more power to ensure and establish peace.
You have mentioned Gujarat riots. Do you think Narendra Modi, who is termed as architect of Gujarat riots, will be convicted by the court?
As you know, there are several cases against Narendra Modi and justice will take its own course. We do not have any other sources to know the status of his case other than media. The Supreme Court of India has given many impartial judgments in the past, which strengthen one’s belief in judiciary. In any democracy, the Court is the final door to knock at for seeking justice. Hence, one has to wait and see what happens.
What you think about women’s reservation bill presented recently by the ruling party?
Women’s Reservation Bill is not beneficial to minorities, particularly Muslims. Majority of the Muslim organisations opposed this bill including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. Moreover, all other small and big political parties are against this bill except the Congress and the Communist Party. BJP has adopted a middle path in this regard. If this bill is passed, it will be a gateway to the so-called upper cast elites to strengthen their political might. Their women folk will also reach the parliament alongside their men. Women of backward communities are already less in number in politics. This bill is in no way beneficial to any backward communities. Muslim organisations, including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind feel that a separate quota for Muslims and other backward communities has to be fixed in the women’s reservation. Otherwise, women’s reservation bill in its current form only serves the interests of the upper cast elite. According to Lalu Prasad, a political strongman with proven track record, “even we cannot reach parliament if this bill is implemented.” Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has visited many national level political leaders to express its dissatisfaction regarding the bill and we feel that many parties think on similar lines.
Is there any preparation by JIH to launch a political Party?
Jamaat-e-Islami Hindi is an organisation with a mission and we have no intension to become a political party. The Jamaat has its own area of work and has a long way to go. However, in the current political scenario of our country, the Jamaat feels that there is need of a political party, which pursues value-based politics and serves the interests of the weaker sections. Hence, Jamaat will support any movement to establish such a political party, which particularly addresses common problems of weaker sections in India, including Muslims. The Jamaat will support such a party and feels that time is ripe for its establishment. Educational upliftment, employment generation, eradication of communal riots, over all social development could be some of its agenda.
Can you brief about the Vision 2016 project initiated by JIH?
Through Vision 2016, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has initiated so many social service activities towards the betterment of downtrodden people, Muslims in particular, in areas where they are living under pathetic conditions.
Many schools have been established in many parts of India. In Delhi, we have undertaken a big project of hospital construction. Scholarship programmes for talented poor children have also been initiated. Interest-free loans and monetary support are being given to many people to generate their own means of income and to come out of the clutches of poverty.
Through Vision 2016 project, relief activities have been initiated at a larger scale compared to our customary relief activities, towards people affected from natural calamities and riots. We also support marriage needs of poor families. However, the outcome of entire project cannot be anticipated soon. It is like giving education to a child. Outcome of the education is apparent when the boy grows up, secures his own job and social status. It is a long process and any social change cannot be anticipated within a short time. You may have to wait for 10-15 years to see at least some better consequences of the project.
We are doing social service activities from the beginning, much before the presentation of Sachar Committee Report. However Vision 2016 is a much focused and large-scale project compared to the previous social service activities of JIH.