Professor Tariq Mansoor, the Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) took it upon himself to defend and extend his support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi – in Indian Express’s opinion column recently – over the controversial BBC documentary ‘India: The Modi Question‘.
The series investigates the claims about Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which some even claim to be a genocide.
Mansoor accuses BBC of ‘biased reportage’ and says it suffers from ‘white media’s burden’. The article is titled, ‘Indian Muslims want to move on from the past — we do not live there anymore.’
From a nationalist vantage point, Mansoor has invoked constitutional morality, reiterated the resounding mandates won by the Bharatiya Janata Party and applauded PM Modi for his developmental and welfare policies, conveniently omitting the present horrors Indian Muslims have to face at home.
Furthermore, he assures Indian Muslims that PM Modi is ‘the answer’ to all the issues they are currently facing, earmarking preceding establishments as ‘false godparents’ with ‘half-baked agendas’, who were ‘too fixated on tokenism.’
It is pertinently suspicious that a documentary blocked for all and sundry is available to Mansoor, who has found time to study all the episodes of the series thoroughly enough to form well-worked-out opinions.
AMU students and alumni have been up in arms in response – expressing shame on behalf of their institution and community. AMU teachers are believed to be quietly apprehensive about the possible outcome of this article on the campus and in the country.
The executive head of any educational institution coming out publicly in support of a ruling regime is an expected outcome.
For effective administration of public universities, appointment of pro-establishment candidates has been an implied criterion for all governments in the past. Now, some of these appointees at the helm of public universities, have turned into mouthpieces of the Modi establishment, acting as intellectual fronts for the BJP.
But by doing the PM’s bidding, heads of minority universities who stand by him ignore the systematic marginalisation of their own community and demean the battle of those who fight for human freedom, liberty, equality and justice.
So what motivates BJP-supporting Muslim ‘influencers’?
Due to deep social cleavages in India, the electorate finds itself in a system where voting a patron belonging to the same religious or caste group could be the sole access to state resources.
As India heads down the road to becoming an ethnic democracy, the growing fear of Muslim persecution, lack of representation, absence of strong opposition or political alternative has left few Indian Muslims reflecting on the fact that perhaps an accommodation with the BJP is the last resort of survival. Following this rationale, the growing intimacy between the establishment and influential Muslims makes sense.
However, when an educated, informed and influential person chooses to create a false and illogical discourse on national media in order to manipulate their own community, she or he disappoints deeply.
This brings us to the second possibility – sycophancy. This is a curse of our feudal past. A deeply rooted idea of unquestionable obedience to the ruling class was inculcated in the Indian mind since ancient times. In post-colonial India, the newly emerged political elite commanded similar devotion.
In India one can easily spot aspiring politicians, bureaucrats and government officials touching feet and opening car doors for their political masters.
With the rise of Modi, political sycophancy has graduated to institutional idolisation of the leader’s personality.
But the AMU V-C should know the other side too.
A lesson from the life of former Vice-President Hamid Ansari is that no matter how deeply patriotic a Muslim is, or if she or he has dedicated her or his life to work for the country, Muslims will always be ‘the other’ and outside the Sangh Parivar’s vision of the country.
Tokenism in BJP’s larger political strategy to reach out to Muslims
The Muslim vote bank is the only vote bank until today which BJP has failed to mobilise.
It now thus places much focus on reaching out to Pasmanda Muslims. The party has systematically accommodated Pasmanda faces in important positions. Ashaf Saifi’s appointment as the head of UP Minority Commission, Kaif-ul-Wara’s at the top post in the UP Urdu Academy, the appointment of Iftikhar Ahmed Javed as the Chief of UP Board of Madarsa Education are the prime examples of attempts by the ruling regime to give space to Pasmanda Muslims.
The party also fielded Muslim candidates in MP local body polls held in July as well as four candidates in recent Delhi Municipal Corporation elections. Over the past few months, Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief has been seen advising the Sangh Parivar to reach out to the Muslims.
An article by the V-C of a renowned Muslim university in support of the prime minister serves this strategy of BJP’s.
As it happens, the V-C belongs to a Pasmanda Muslim community.
BJP has killed more than two birds with a single stone.
Aiman M. Alam is an AMU alumna and independent political researcher based in Delhi. Views expressed are personal.