I was also intrigued by the sight of so many temples just beside mosques as well as the kind of prosperity that I witnessed among people there. Most Gujarati Muslims I came across were businessmen and seemed thoroughly focussed on their job. The realisation then dawned upon me that along with being Muslims, they are Gujaratis as well and business is in their DNA. I also came across the famous Sindhi Market in Panchkuva which is almost at the heart of the Muslim locality and I wondered why this picture of an extremely peaceful, prosperous and harmonious Muslim majority Old Ahmedabad is never shown in our mainstream media. Is there a deliberate ploy not to portray this picture of serenity in Modi's Gujarat?
The Malicious Campaign Against Modi....
For the last several years now, there has been a deliberate attempt to paint Gujarat in the most malicious manner and term it as an epitome of communalism, even though official records keep proving otherwise. Over the last one decade or so, Gujarat has been one of the most peaceful states in the country without a single instance of any major communal riot.
The situation in rest of the country has been completely opposite of that starting from riots in several parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even in West Bengal, where beneath the surreal calm and pretention of peace, tensions run high for several reasons including the relentless entry of Bangladeshis which often happens with the blessings of the states themselves. Tensions have also been existent in Northeast India where too the predominant crisis is because of a literal invasion by Bangladeshis who have illegally come and settled in such a huge number that the local population is increasingly becoming minority.
Yet in each of these instances the media does not portray the real picture. Their focus remains on digging out some or the other issue in Gujarat. In spite of the phenomenal progress and peace in Gujarat there seems to be a sinister campaign to undermine its achievement of harmony and not just prosperity. Ten years of riot free environment, conviction of hundreds of rioters of the 2002 riots and clean chit for Narendra Modi from the Supreme Court Appointed SIT, could not appease the critics. Truth though is, seldom one would find a Gujarati Muslim who would be willing to leave Gujarat and go and settle in Hyderabad or West Bengal or Uttar Pradesh.
When I posed this question to a prominent Muslim businessman in old Ahmedabad he had laughed out loud and stated, ‘what would do I do in UP or Bengal? There I would be kidnapped for ransom any day, given the kind of money I have made through my flourishing business here. I am perfectly safe and wealthy in Ahmedabad and I don't need any outsider's advice or charity.' That Muslim businessman did not wish to be named but there are others who openly advocate their support for Modi.
Is Not What is Good For India, Good For Indian Muslims As well?
Over the last several years Narendra Modi has been consistently talking about various national issues. Such national issues include the issue of national security and how India has become a weak state which is not being able to counter the menace of terrorism and that of relentless attacks by Pakistan across borders, beheading of Indian soldiers as well as issues of intrusion of Chinese Soldiers into Indian Territory.
In each of these cases the response of the Indian government has been meek or pacifist at best. Modi has also been raising issues of black money stashed abroad and the need to bring them back, as well as issues related to massive corruption, lack of economic development, massive price rise and unemployment, issues related to farmer suicides across the country. Modi has also talked relentleslys against the issue of terrorism and the need to tackle it with an iron hand. He has consistently voiced concern and criticized the UPA Government for being silent on the issue of massive infiltration of Bangladeshis into India.
Now the moot question is, are these not issues equally relevant for Muslims of India as well? If India is threatened by terrorism and Pakistan, does it not threaten the Muslims of India as well? Is it not that in terror attacks, innocent and educated law abiding Indian Muslims die as well? Is speaking against terrorism anti-Muslim? Is it not that price rise, unemployment and inflation affecting Indian Muslims as well? Are Bangladeshis and Indian Muslims the same thing? Is speaking against intrusion into this country by people of another country a wrong thing?
When Narendra Modi speaks on issues of India IT industry, does he need to speak separately on Wipro just because Azim Premji is a Muslim? So if the industry is not divided into Hindu Industry, Muslim Industry, Parsi Industry and Sikh Industry, why should the nation be always looked from the prism of religion?
Narendra Modi has always stated that ‘India First' is his version of secularism and rightly so because anything that is good for India has to be good for the people of the country as a whole. The compartmentalisation of India that has been nurtured by the so called secularists has created an extremely divisive society. Eventually the choice is between whether India is one nation with people having different religious beliefs or is it a nation of Sikhs, Muslims, Jains, Hindus, Christians all somehow coexisting for the heck of it?
Beyond the tokenism there has never been any effort in India by the ‘powers that be' to galvanise the nation into one because at every step the society asks a person as to what his religion is, what his caste is, what his ethnicity is and even from which region of the nation he belongs to. So at every step differences are sown and ‘Me Vs You' has been profoundly encouraged by none other than the system itself. If it is not a Hindu Vs Muslim thing then it has to be a upper caste vs Lower caste, or must be a Muslim vs Christian or a Shia vs Sunni or must be a Seemandra vs Telegana. And this where India's tokenism of secularism has failed and needs a new definition.
Indian Muslims- Integral Part of the Nation or Insecure Minorities?
Muslims constitute the second largest population group of the country. They have an enormous amount of responsibility towards the nation as well as contribution and it is time it is recognised instead of keeping them perennially insecure by terming them as minority. Often India has looked up to some of the greatest achievers and patriots of this country, who have been Muslims. Be it Dr Abdul Kalam or be it some of the most pioneering entrepreneurs like Azim Premji, YK Hamied or the Khan fraternity of the Bollywood. Be it a Maroof Raza and his impassioned dedication towards the idea of India and the need to protect it with ferocity against a rabid Pakistan or be it the incredible leadership of Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain who headed the 15 Corps of Indian Army with elan and is considered to be one of the finest soldiers of India of all time, each of them inspire the young educated and passionate India.
Who Represents Indian Muslim?
Yet the moot question is why is it that the so called secular parties don't put the above mentioned achievers, who are in millions in this country, as representative of the Indian Muslim community instead of the quintessential bearded Maulana who would always grace the forum of India's champions of pseudo secularism and his presence would be like a certificate of secularism? What is the achievement of that ubiquitous Maulana that he would represent the young educated Muslims of India? Is there a deliberate ploy to keep a stereotype image of the Indian Muslims and make them believe that the best representatives of them could only be that bearded Maulana? And why is it that the same so called Champions of Secularism shiver and feel rattled at the sight of an Irfan Pathan or a Salman Khan or a Dr Kalam shaking hand with Narendra Modi? Why is it the moment they shake hand with Modi, their character assassination and post mortem is started by the so called (Sic!!!) Secular Champions?
How has Modi Defined Hindutva
Modi has often made it clear [See here] that the concept of hindutva has its foundation in the Vedic verse of Ekam Satt Viprah Vahudha Vadanti, meaning there is one truth and there are various means to reach that truth. He has always stated that Hinduism is the only religion in the world which accepts other religions as equal means to reach the supreme God. For thousands of years India have embraced and welcomed people from every religion into this country. And yet problems arise when any sect of any religion starts advocating the ‘holier than thou' or ‘My religion is better than yours' kind of thesis. Eventually it is this which often leads to religious intolerance, extremism and terrorism.
Are So Called Seculars Aware of the Situation in Pakistan And Syria?
Be it Pakistan where Shia Mosques and Sufi Shrines are being relentlessly bombed and people killed by the most intolerant Wahabism following Islamists or be it the Civil War in Syria where the Wahabi and Salafi following Islamist terror groups allegedly funded by Saudis have been undertaking the worst kinds of slaughters of Shias and even going to the extent of ripping apart their bodies in vengeance, all across the world, as it stands today, the Wahabi following Islamists have killed more Muslims than anyone else. And it is no secret that several Madarssas in some of the remotest districts of India have been funded by the Saudi Wahabis to preach Wahabism. There are evangelists who regularly preach religious intolerance through social media sites and even satellite television channels. And thus India needs to be protected against such extremist elements. Protecting India also means protecting Indian Muslims as well.
The Gujrati Muslim- Gradually Inclining towards Modi?
Names like Gulam Mustafa Momin or Sufi M K Chisti are extremely popular in Gujarat and prominent in the social media sites. Sufi M K Chisti is one of the most revered Sufi saints of India and is an ardent supporter of Modi who he says does not believe in minority vote bank politics and have contributed immensely to the welfare of Gujrati Muslims. The fact that Modi's developmental model and his shunning of vote bank politics by treating Muslims as equal contributing entities to the society seems to have paid handsomely in Gujarat. In the 2012 Gujarat Assembly Elections, Modi's BJP won 12 out of 19 seats where Muslim votes were to play a very critical role in determining the eventual winner. Likewise in the February, 2013 Municipal elections in Gujarat which BJP swept, even in the Salaya Munipality, which had a 90% Muslim Population, BJP won handsomely in all the 24 seats where it had put up Muslim candidates. This can only happen if the Muslims of Gujarat have handsomely benefitted out of Modi's developmental work. This cannot happen for any other reason.
Likewise, Zafar Sareshwala a prominent Gujarat businessman and a close aide of Gujarat Chief Minister wrote in a blog, "Modi, in fact, has given a new formula of inclusive development to our secular country by removing the labels of religion, castes and creed. He approaches the people as one and designs schemes intended to benefit all Gujaratis, thus eliminating the evil divide and rule formula of vote-bank politics from which the country is suffering from."
Be it Maulana Vastanvi, the former Vice Chancellor of Deoband or Maulana Mehmood Madani, each had to accept that Muslims of Gujarat are far better off in terms of economic prosperity than Muslims of the rest of the country. And Modi made it happen without any appeasement politics.
Beyond Gujarat - The Gradual Tectonic Shifts that are Happening
Yet it is not just perhaps the Gujrati Muslims, a significant proportion of which is now rooting for Modi. Sultan Alimuddin from the state of Bihar, who studies in the Ahmedabad based Deen Dayal Upadhayay Petroleum University writes in his article "My Tweet to Narednra Modi" in Manushi after his meeting with Narendra Modi, ‘Only after I came out, the realization of the humility possessed by Mr. Modi occurred to me. Imagine the Chief Minister of one of the richest states of India himself inviting an engineering student with open arms to quell his curiosities. Never even once during the course of our meeting, the longest serving Chief Minister of Gujarat boasted of his powers, authority and hold over the state, which made me sit back and finally admire the person who has swayed six crore Gujaratis with his style and persona. Mr. Modi is disciplined, well dressed, respectful and non-assertive, and thus meeting him in person washed away my stereotypes of all politicians being corrupt and fraudulent." (Read)
Sultan further writes ‘ The conversation we had a couple of hours before made me wonder if there is actually an undergoing conspiracy to defame him which keeps him in news for all the wrong reasons. Despite trying his best, it's unfortunate that this self made personality (who has risen to power from an underprivileged background) is a subject of constant criticism and ridicule. Though I got an answer to all my questions, what I could still not comprehend were the reasons behind such fractious and demeaning perception people have of the most popular face of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in present times.'
Even as I write this article, Lucknow based Hasan Agha Jaffri, a diehard Modi supporter replied, " I support Narendra Modi because no other India leader has the conviction and resolve to ruthlessly deal with Saudi funded Wahabi terrorism." I cross checked with him if being a Shia, he is against the Sunnis. He replies, ‘I am not at all against Sunnis. Liberal Sunnis, Sufis, Ahmadiyas and Shias in particular have all suffered in the hands of the Wahabi Islamists which is being spread in India as well. Sadly all Muslims are maligned for their disgusting acts of terror and cruelty. I don't want India to become another Syria. I support Modi because I know he would not play vote bank politics and would deal with terrorism in the manner it should be dealt with. And mind you, I am not an exception in my hope.'
Beyond the Stereotypes- Sowing Seeds of Optimism
Looking at the optimism of Sultan Alimuddin who calls Gujarat now his Karma Bhoomi, or the hope in the eyes of Hasan Agha that Modi would make sure that India does not become another Syria, by looking at the pictures of Salim Chisti sitting with Hindu saints and narrating peaceful verses of Sufism, I realised why many so called Secular Champions are scared of Modi. I realised Modi is gradually breaking the stereotypes and sowing new seeds of dream and optimism. Modi is creating a new identity for a new India. Modi would never term Osama as Osamaji for votes. Modi would never play vote bank politics for the sake of votes. Modi would not be soft on terror for the sake of votes. He would appease none but would care for all. HE would treat all as equal, none as majority or minority. It is this realisation that has made many Gujrati Muslims to back Modi now.
Modi is gradually sowing dreams in the eyes millions of Sultan Alimuddins, Modi is striving for world class education for all Indians and bring the poor hapless Muslim kids out of madarssas into a new world of quality education. Modi is striving to break identity crisis sown deeply in the psyche of Indians perennially made to feel inferior by caste or insecure by virtue of being a minority Muslim. Modi is striving to bring them into the mainstream and making them change agents in their own way. In other words Modi is asking people to have conviction, confidence and faith in their dreams. And that is creating sleepless nights for those who have divided and ruled for decades.