Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Jamadi Awwal 1424 H
July 2003
Volume 16-07 No : 199

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Muslim - Community Series Part - 3


Power and the Glory

Power and the Glory

Different Muslim communities have adopted strategies which
has given them a fair share in the power structure at the local and state level. In this exclusive series, Mohammed Hanif Lakdawala takes a look into the leadership bargains made by each community.

Islamic Voice, in coordination with Trend Research and Analysis Center (TRAC) conducted a random survey amongst the Muslim executives, professionals and businessmen to come up with the top Muslim communities.

In the Muslim community series 2, we had covered various Muslim communities' contribution in the field of entrepreneurship and education. In series 3, we cover the penetration in the power structure.

Muslims are generally considered as politically mature and their voting pattern reflects the general trend. Different communities have adopted strategies which has given them a fair share in the power structure at the local and state level.

Kokanis have adopted a unique strategy in Maharastra to gain their share in the Power structure. They have gradually shifted support from the Congress to the Shiv Sena, which is perceived as the anti-Muslim party. Adopting this strategy, Kokanis have got their due share in the local power structure. Maharastra has thrown only one Muslim chief minister, A. R. Antulay, a Kokani when Kokanis supported Congress. Even in the local election, the support is given to the candidate who is willing to raise their local issues. For example in the local panchayat election in many areas in Konkan, they support the peasant and workers party who take up the issues of local farmers.

Mapilas or Malbaris of Kerala, is one of the politically conscious community. Not only have they have maintained their share in the local, state and national level till today, but also they have played an active role in the independence movement.

Mappila Rebellion of 1921 was a great chapter of India's freedom struggle. It was the expression of the built-up frustration and rage amongst Muslims against the British Government and landlords. Variyankode Kunhahammad Haji, Ali Musliar and Veliyankod Umar Khazi were the prominent Muslim leaders who led this rebellion.

The Muslim League, which was started in Malabar in 1937, extended their activities into the newly formed Kerala state. After India's independence, the Muslim League continued to be politically active although there were dissident voices from time to time. Muslims also actively participated in the political process through Congress, Socialists and Communists.

Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait, Panakkad Mohamedali ShihabThangal are the key leaders of Kerala's Muslim politics. Till today, Kerala sent two Muslims to the Parliament and have their share in the state government. A sizeable section from the Mapila migrated to the Andaman Island. Today they have a large penetration in the local power structure. The unique aspect about the Mapilas settled in Andaman Island is the presence of a large section of their women in the local power structure. Sulemani Bohras, comparatively a minuscule community is the one Muslim community, which has the largest penetration at the National level. Former Cabinet secretary, Zafar Saifullah, a Sulemani Bohra said "Concentrating on education and civil services is the sure route for the share in the power structure".

In Mumbai, the Azmis from Azamgard UP, have captured the local power seats of the Municipal and state assembly. Though they do not have a concrete community structure as other well defined communities, but still their contribution is discernible. Under the stewardship of Abu Asim Azmi these Azamgadis started the local chapter of the UP based Samajwadi party and captured 23 seats in the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and two state assembly seats.

One community who takes its votes very seriously and votes as a block is the Dawoodi Bohras. Their leadership, bargain with the political party, and the community votes for that party only. In the process, the Bohras today have many facilities which other communities do not enjoy. For example the permission needed for Bohra community projects comes easily as compared to others. 55 per cent of the communities derive their names from the traditional occupations they pursue such as, Churihar (bangle-maker), Lohar (blacksmith), Bunkar (weaver), gujjars, julahas, dhobis, nai, Qureshi (butcher) etc have got their share in the local power structure and also at the state level because of the awareness campaign by the All India Muslim OBC's Movement.

Social activists like Shabbir Ansari, (President of All India Muslim OBC's) has worked on reservations for the Muslims especially for the Muslims Other Backward Classes (Muslim OBC’s). "Initially people failed to comprehend the true meaning of the Muslim OBC's, because of the Islamic principle of equality" said Shabbir. "So when the rights of Muslim OBC's were mentioned and debated, it was clarified that this demand for reservation is based on the economic backwardness of Muslims and not on the caste system. In other words, the creation of this organisation, its movement and its demands are based on the economic class and not on caste class".

(The writer is a prolific documentary film maker and teaches Journalism and Marketing at a prestigious college in Mumbai and can be reached at mhl@rediffmail.com)

(To be continued)

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