Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fall of Congress in UP and Sonia Gandhi's Urdu letter to 15,000 Muslims

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

Sonia Gandhi has written a letter to 15,000 'prominent' Muslims urging them to support the Congress candidates in their areas--for strengthening secular values and justice in Uttar Pradesh.

Will it cut any ice? I don't think so. Recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that Muslims have the right to study in Urdu medium.

1. From 1949 to 1989, [forty years], Congress leaders in Uttar Pradesh played an extremely dubious role and made all efforts to kill Urdu.

Overnight Urdu as medium of instruction was scrapped in schools and even as a subject Urdu teaching was stopped across the state.

2. The early Congress leaders Sampoornanand and Purushottam Das Tandon used all means to ensure that Urdu died in its natural homeland.

These politicians succeeded to an extent. Today UP does not have Urdu medium schools while Maharashtra, Karnataka, AP and [also MP, Gujarat, Bihar] have thousands of Urdu schools. Sampurnanand went on record to say that 'we will give Urdu speaking populace its rights, 25 years late'. What did it mean?

3. In the heart of Urdu world, Lucknow, the City of Meer, you can't open an Urdu medium school as 'education can only be imparted in Hindi and English mediums in the state as per education department rule'.

4. Muslims wanted just that they could read Urdu as a subject in school but with compulsory introduction of Sanskrit, it was made impossible in Uttar Pradesh (UP) under the three language formula.

5. The role of Congress in Uttar Pradesh was unique. Its leaders functioned like leaders of Hindu Mahasabha. Muslims faced a systematic bias from system which was not found elsewhere even in other Congress ruled states.

6. Muslim votes were supposed to go to Congress anyhow. Such an atmosphere was created through riots, large scale, much of the size of Gujarat, in any Muslim dominated city that the community was left with no option.

7. It was probably believed that most Muslims would leave the state for Pakistan, which didn't happen. Congress in UP in the post-partition era was much more vicious and anti-Muslim than present day BJP. And it is no exaggeration.

Purushottam Das Tandon
8. Today in the era of satellite TV, we have seen Gujarat carnage but the horrors of Firozabad, Moradabad, Meerut, Maliana, Aligarh and Meerut were riots where thousands perished and a former Prime Minister had said that riots were an annual feature and couldn't be stopped.

9. Muslims don't want any reservation. They needed respect like other communities but were treated as fifth columnists. From Railway station to University, no place of mention bore a signboard in Urdu. And the situation changed only in the 90s when Congress was finally out of the power in the state.

10. It is not that Urdu medium education alone can ensure progress but the fact that it hurt the self-respect of Muslims. They were made to look like strangers in their own land as the language of culture was turned alien in the very place it was born.

Tandon and Sampoornanand were well versed in Urdu. More Hindus knew the language than Muslims in UP, but still it became the only language in the world to be associated with a religion. There was no such bias in any other state in Southern India, Western region or even Central India.

11. Haq na dete, izzat to dete. With opportunities in Middle-East opening up from the late 70s and early 80s, the situation started looking up. Under the first non-Congress government in the state (SVD), Muslims for the first time after partition, got jobs in police and other departments.

12. With the Mandir and Mandal wave that brought Congress' communal politics to the fore, disenchanted Muslims got a new option in Janata Dal, and their mass desertion along with Backwards and Dalits, brought doom to Congress in this most populous state.

13. Surely Congress seems genuinely interested in improving the education and social standards of Muslims. But Muslims would prefer any non-Muslim leader of any other political party than listening to the Mohsina Kidwais, Salman Khurshids and Noor Banos.

14. The leaders were always happy with their own fiefdoms and cared nothing for ordinary Muslim. Muslims remember how trucks full of over a million signed letters that were taken for restoring the status of Urdu, were treated by the Congress government at the Centre.

Congress has a long way to go before its gets back the lost ground and as far as regaining the faith of Muslims and other sections is concerned, it will still take time. A few road shows, populist statements and letters won't undo the damage done for forty years.