Saturday, April 17, 2010
Letter to the Editor: Sharad Pawar calls for Muslim quota in public housing
Last week, Sharad Pawar, the Union minister for Agriculture and the President of National Congress Party, which is a partner with Indian National Congress ruling coalition in Maharashtra, had called for a Muslim quota in government built housing in Mumbai.
Sharad Pawar is not known for any special soft corner for Muslims, in as much he is infamous for being one of the two Congress leaders that were the cause of prolongation of Bombay Riots in the aftermath of Babri Demolition. He, as the then Union Defence Minister, stationed at Bombay, had forces under his command to instantly organise a show of force to stop rioters going berserk in the city. He failed in his public duty by playing one-upmanship game with the then Congress Chief Minister.
Only this week, under Sharad Pawar's home minister, R. R. Patel, the state prosecution had failed to properly present its case against a batch of Bombay rioters and the court has set them free. It merely followed an old pattern of being soft on Bombay rioters by deliberately diluting their cases.
Sharad Pawar is also widely believed to have been instrumental in ordering direct firing on a grand peaceful Muslim rally taken out to protest against Israeli incursion in Al Aqsa Masjid --- a firing in which 12 Muslim protestors died. It was wanton murder of innocents.
On the positive side, he did allot a good sized plot for Muslim community housing, through one of his close Muslim party man, Late Maulana Ziauddin Bukhari, who completed the project of Millat Nagar that houses. Mumbai's first government approved Masjid is built within the colony. Maulana Ziauddin Bukhari was later gunned down supposedly over being more vocal than politically correct in speaking for Muslims caught in Bombay riots.
Sharad Pawar has a knack to court Muslims through co-opting Muslim politicians from other political parties and showing them off as decoration pieces for electoral propaganda exercises.
His call for separate quota for Muslims is nothing but an attempt to ingratiate himself with Mumbai's sizable Muslim population, which is about 3 million in the total of 13.5 million and which forms a big percent chunk of Congress/NCP vote bank in the city. Out of 3 million Muslims, about 2 million (20 lakhs) live in slum areas.
Still it should be noted that in comparison with Sharad Pawar, the Sonia’s Indian National Congress has never bothered to 'appease' Muslims by even justified affirmative actions to give them a fair share in public housing. (75% of Singapore population resides in public housing).
An ongoing campaign of demonization of Muslims keeps them in check from demanding any share in public pie, be that education, employment, health, housing, banking finances, trade opportunities. The continuous hauling of innocent Muslims following several bomb blast events gives media a god-sent opportunity to put ninety nine percent of Indian Muslims on the defensive through collective guilt innuendo.
Besides, it is anybody's guess how sincere and bureaucratically feasible is Sharad Pawar's call to do justice with Muslim population of Mumbai and Maharashtra.
Recently, NCP has benefited through overwhelming Muslim votes in its recent electoral successes. Muslims will have to see how Sharad Pawar's call translates into real term accommodations for Muslims in Mumbai and Maharashtra where NCP has ambitions to take over the government by defeating Indian National Congress, as well as Shiv Sena and BJP. Will Sharad Pawar resort to housing or rioting? Only time will tell.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai