Thursday, September 25, 2014

Not sure PM meant what he said about Muslims: Asaduddin Owaisi - Interview by Zeeshan Shaikh - The Indian Express, Mumbai

The Indian Express, Mumbai

Not sure PM meant what he said about Muslims: Asaduddin Owaisi

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai | Posted: September 25, 2014 2:54 am

Asaduddin Owaisi is the president of the Hyderabad-centred All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, which is contesting the elections in Maharashtra. Visiting Mumbai, he spoke about his party’s poll prospects and Muslims in India.

How many seats is the MIM planning to contest? Are you open to alliances?
We have not yet decided on the number of seats. We are definitely looking at striking an alliance with Dalit and OBC groups. The MIM is in Maharashtra for the long haul. The party will henceforth contest elections at all levels in the state.

What issues will you take up?

The most important issue is the political dis-empowerment of Muslims, and secondly, the socio-economic indicators of the community. From 1962 to 2009, there have been 3,108 MLAs elected in Maharashtra, of whom 119 were Muslims. With their proportion in the population, the number should have been 286. The political representation of Muslims is only 3.8 per cent. Report after report, from that of the Planning Commission to those of state-appointed committees such as the Rahman Committee, have pointed out the piteous conditions of Muslims. You also have a high incidence of communal conflicts. Innocent Muslims are illegally being put in jail. We plan to raise all these issues. The aim of the MIM is to work with all minorities who face these problems, including Dalits and OBCs.

Some Muslim intellectuals have said your entry will polarise society and malign Muslims’ image.

First of all, inclusive politics was never practised in Maharashtra by either the Congress-NCP or the Shiv Sena-BJP. I want to question people who attack me, why has not a single Muslim MP been elected from Maharashtra? Why has the Srikrishna Commission report never been implemented in the state? The population of Muslims in Maharashtra and Telangana is the same. Telangana has set aside Rs 1.000 crore for minorities; in Maharashtra it is only Rs 368 crore and it has not been spent. The Centre had identified four districts of Maharashtra under the Minority Multi-sectoral Development Plan. The implementation of these funds is less than 5 per cent in Parbhani and Washim. Now if we raise such issues, we are deemed to be communal. It has become very easy to blame Muslims for all the ills of the country.

How do you view Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement about Muslims living and dying for the country?

For the last 10 years, every prime minister who has gone to the United States has been forced to say this. When Manmohan Singh went he too made a statement about Indian Muslims. My question is, if the prime minister feels the way he does, why are his party men sending out such varying signals by attacking Muslims? Why are there still so many Muslims languishing in Gujarat’s jails? Muslims have never indulged in anti-national activities. When you look at Kashmir militancy, which was at its peak in the 1990s, not a single Muslim from other states joined it. I have my doubts about the prime minister’s statement. I am not sure whether he really meant what he said. I don’t know if this is a late realisation by the PM, or a statement made due to international compulsions.

There are reports of a lot of Muslim youths going to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS.

ISIS is one of the most evil entities. The MIM as well as senior clerics of Hyderabad have repeatedly been making statements condemning ISIS. I would tell the youth who are thinking of joining such evil entities that they should take part in the struggle to address the huge problems that the Muslim community in India faces. They should struggle to eradicate poverty. They should take part in the democratic process to take on communal forces.

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