Monday, November 17, 2014

2.5 lakh votes polled, Congress candidate gets just 1,000: Where has Congress' traditional vote gone?


Isn't it shocking that more than 2.5 lakh voters exercise their franchise in an Assembly constituency and while the candidates who come first and second secured well over 1 lakh votes each, the Congress candidate who comes fourth gets just 1035 votes.

NCP candidate had got 1.23 lakh votes and Shiv Sena candidate got 1.17 lakh. Just 0.4% of the voters in the constituency chose Congress.The question comes naturally that where has Congress' traditional vote disappeared?

This happened in Kagal constituency in Maharashtra. But that's not the lone example.

Such trends were witnessed in many other seats in the recently held state elections in Maharashtra, which was seen as a traditional Congress' state.

I find it shocking because we all know there were [are] people who are traditional Congress voters.

Irrespective of their caste or community, they were staunch 'Congressi', and whenever they went to the polling booth, they simply pushed the button and voted for 'hand' [Congress symbol]. But it seems this breed has now vanished.


In the first part, we had analysed the reasons Muslims are angry with the Congress. The issues, which the community has with the party, especially, the long-standing grievances and party's failure to even give a patient hearing to Muslims, let alone take action.

But, it is not just about Muslims. It seems everybody is upset with the way Congress is functioning. During election campaign, it often happens, that on the eve of polling, it gets clear that only two candidates are in the race, and the remaining candidates are relegated to the background.

Still, if Congress' candidate gets just 1,000 votes, it shows how much ground Congress has lost. One after the other, the Rural voter, the Poor, the Dalits, the Tribals, the Minorities, all have left the Congress. 

Even the most committed traditional Congress voter seems getting disenchanted with the party. 

We earlier talked about Muslim dominated constituencies in Haryana, where Congress' Muslim candidates came 4th and 5th.

In Maharashtra too, there is a trend. It is not about Muslim voting for a 'Muslim candidate or a Muslim party'. In Aurangabad, there was clear Muslim support for MIM, and hence one can understand Congress' poor show.

In Aurangabad east, BJP's Atul Moreshwar Save's victory over Dr Abdul Ghaffar Qadri. Both got over 60,000 votes. But a veteran like Congress' Rajendra Darda got just over 20,000 votes. On Aurangabad central, Congress' MM Shaikh came 6th.

Shaikh got just 9,000 votes. Shiv Sena, BJP, NCP, MIM and even BSP candidates got more votes than the Congress. It is clear that Congress' core vote bank has diminished. At many Muslim majority constituencies, Muslims overwhelmingly voted for non-Muslim candidates of parties other than Congress.

In Mumbra, Jitendra Awhad is a popular man and hence the NCP candidate was favoured heavily by Muslim electorate, who didn't choose Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) or any other Muslim candidate from here.

Awhad got 86,000 votes and won by a huge margin from Mumbra. The Shiv Sena candidate came second with 38,000 votes. MIM and BJP came third and fourth. Congress' Muslim candidate Yasin Qureshi came 5th with just over 3,847 votes.


Many feel that the fall in Congress' vote share is a temporary phenomenon. The examples of Janata Party era [1977], the National Front's rise [1989] and the loss of Congress in late 90s, are given, to prove that Congress will again bounce back.

There may be some merit in this argument. Also, BJP's rise can't be permanent. But the fact is that BJP has expanded its voter base. On the other hand Congress has disenchanted its voters, due to a host of reasons.

From inaction to poor communication with its electorate, Congress has a lot to do to get back the 'connect' with the people. Congress' organisational structure has weakened across the country. In the sixties and seventies, the party had Indira Gandhi.

Congress had a charismatic leader like Rajiv Gandhi. After its defeat in the 90s, Sonia Gandhi rejuvenated the party. But today, its leaders don't inspire, don't instill any confidence, and that's the sad reality.

Party has lost its voters' confidence in large parts of the country. To reclaim it is a colossal task, and what Rahul Gandhi is doing about it> It is this situation which brings Congress candidates to just 1,000 votes in an Assembly election, less than its candidates used get in a municipal ward election.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Growing sectarianism among Indian Muslims: Trend of criticizing the 'other' sects, terming their practices as 'un-Islamic'


The growing sectarianism within Muslims, especially, the Sunnis in India, which I exerienced this year on Muharram, has left me deeply disturbed.

The sects and sub-sects existed earlier too. The Shia-Sunni conflict was no issue on the street anywhere in India, except in Lucknow.

In fact, people from all the sects, observed Muharram as per their own traditions. In the last couple of years, I had seen hardening of attitudes within Sunnis.

It seemed neither the Deobandis, nor the Barelvis, whom I knew, 'approve' of the way Muharram is observed. [See the TEN POINTS below]

Most of these people have less issues with people of other religions, but for their co-religionists [other sects], they have nothing but obsessive hatred.

Over the years, I had observed that criticism of other sects was getting more common in sects. But it's during Muharram, you see the ire so openly. This is really sad as it is one of the most syncretic traditions in India, in which all communities including non-Muslims, actively take part.

I see our shared culture in the way Muharram is observed in India. The manner in which non-Muslims take part in Ashura, show the basic nature of the people the land--respect for all religions, coexistence and communal harmony.

This year, I realised the extent of sectarian hate that has penetrated the Muslim society in India too. In fact, over the years, it has steadily grown. This is all the more ironic that even after seeing the situation in neighbouring country, no lesson has been learnt.

Now let me give you just two examples:

A. A newspaper posts pictures of Shias performing 'maatam' during the mourning procession, on its Facebook page, where its news links are shared. Within hours, there was a deluge of comments on the post of the paper.

Young Muslim boys and girls recklessly commenting--criticising, condemning and straight terming it as 'un-Islamic'. There was rage and hate in their language. The zeal to run down the 'other' was sickening. People adhering to other religions made few comments, and they weren't harsh.

B. The moment a person talked about 'Muharram' within a Muslim group-forum on internet, there were angry comments, terming 'Shias as non-Muslim', or all those taking part in 'Akhada or carrying Tazia as 'outside the pale of Islam'.

For two days, I kept commenting and replying until I realised that one just can't talk to them. Even to most civilised comments, there were angry responses from people who were just not ready to listen to anything.

As I have earlier also pointed out. the hate was especially for 'other sects' within Islam. No issues with non-Muslims, of course. That's also a unique phenomenon. But if minds are closed in such a way, I don't have much hopes at all, on that front too.
The procession of Tazias in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, Central India


1. FIRST problem with such people is that they instantly term any practice or tradition that has been observed for centuries, as 'un-Islamic'. There is no trace of tolerance.

The basic point is that when you belong to sect X, why do you expect member of sect Y to behave like you? Do they expect you to behave like them? But there is no answer to any such questions.

2. If you try to reason, the next line is straight, 'all those doing this [either mourning or taking Tazias] are 'non-Muslims'. Now, if you are all 'Ulema' and all are armed with the power to issue 'fatwa' terming any fellow Muslim as 'non-Muslim, then you should surely have no business with them. They are not Muslims, so ignore them. Why think about them?


3. Perhaps, the 'anger' is more because you feel that 'they follow your religion (Muslim) and are acting otherwise'. But who decides what is correct or incorrect. Everyone has their own interpretations. Mostly, one learns things from traditions and elders of the family.

It is like the religion you are born in. You talk of your tradition, but it may be just 200 years old. The other tradition, which you see as 'corrupted Islam' may be 1,200 years old. Who will decide who is correct or incorrect.


4. If you feel they are incorrect and you want to reform them or turn them like you, it is also impossible. Just because they too would want the same. And by straight starting with contemptuous talk, branding them as 'un-Islamic' and 'outside pale of Islam', how do you even expect to start a decent dialogue!

Then, whom it helps? You just satisfy your ego, by recklessly commenting on others, because you feel just your sect is right and you are the truly guided. Isn't it? Because your comments won't help anyone, at all. They just increase the hate and widen the gulf.


5. In fact, the minds are so closed that they are not willing to even listen. They instantly believe that a person who is walking with a Tazia, is performing idolatory, or someone who is hurting himself, is not a Muslim.

To you, your faith and beliefs, to them theirs--is the Islamic philosophy. Isn't it? Is it permissible in Islam to judge a fellow Muslim's 'iman' and term him as 'Muslim or non-Muslim'? Who the hell are you?


6. This passion is not visible elsewhere. There are hardly such activism when larger values of liberty and justice are at stake in one or the other country. These are the basic Islamic values but there are no such passion visible then.

7. Why the sudden passion and madness when it comes to Muharram or a few other practices during other festivals. What's the source of this joy which you derive from critizing and badmouthing people of other sects?
Tazias lined up in Dharmpuri, a small town in predominantly tribal Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh, India


8. Who gave you the authority? A person who is truly religious would rather be concerned about his own actions and worry about whether God is pleased with him, rather than casting aspersions on others.

For over a 1,000 years, major Islamic Ulema, never passed such judgments even on sects that bordered on heresy. Why every Tom, Dick and Harry has become a champion in terming any other sect-walla as 'non-Muslim'. Earlier, too the sects were there.

But the people were then tolerant and there was no question of opposing others' practices. If they personally didn't follow something, they joined or simply stayed away, remaining silent. But now, it's objecting and terming others 'non-Muslim', which is disgusting.


9. Many are dismissive of the 'rustic' or 'backward' looking rituals. The reality is that these traditions have evolved over centuries of co-existence and confluence of cultures--the strength of Islam, but your narrow-minded vision just can't see it.

For many, it smacks of a bad image of Islam. That's even a bigger joke. If the majority among us really had such worries about the image of Islam, no Western media or anything else [which you blame] would have tarnished our image to this extent.


10. It is this madness--'Only I am Right, all others are Wrong', which is responsible for this situation. And all these are now supposedly educated but acting like the trolls on Internet. Seeing how people get hostile and make it difficult to even engage with them, is simply painful.

The bigotry, the sectarian intolerance and the madness to expect others to act the way it should happen in your view--it's utterly disgusting and moronic. Frankly, now I don't know which sect I belong to, and I am not joking.

The reason is that I am a Sunni, but for me Muharram symbolises Imam Husain's sacrifice. If such is the level of discord, I wish to be known as a sect-less Muslim. In the concluding line, I hope that better sense will prevail someday. But will it?

[Note: While Shias take out 'Alams', the Tazias are mostly brought out by Sunnis and often Hindus. Among Sunnis, official position in sub-sects may be against it now, but the lower middle class, those of artisan class and the poor participate actively in Muharram. Also, there are certain caste groups too who observe Muharram more fervently]

SEE EARLIER POST: Muharram traditions, pictures of Ashura from Central India

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Muharram in India: Mourning for Imam Husain's martyrdom, Ashura traditions in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh


India is a vast country and Muharram is observed across the length and breadth of the nation.

Not just Muslims, Hindus too take part in Muharram. In fact, Muharram reflects local culture in each state and region of the country.

From district to district, the shapes and forms of Tazias, the rituals differ. However, the passion remains same among Muslims and Hindus.

Muharram in small cities, towns

Generally, photographs from major cities like Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, Hyderabad are seen in newspapers and media. In major cities in Central India like Jabalpur, Bhopal, Raipur, Indore, Bilaspur and Gwalior, Muharram is observed on a big scale.

Khargone, MP
In Bhopal alone, nearly 700 Tazias are taken out on Yaum-e-Ashura--the 10th of Islamic month of Muharram.

But this post deals with Muharram observances in smaller towns in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The reason is that from these places photographs don't generally reach the people, as media ignores small towns.

On the left is the photograph of Tazias in Panna, a small town in Madhya Pradesh.

The Tazias are quite high and the shape is also unique. The second photo shows a Tazia in Khargone, a tribal dominated region in South Eastern MP.

Imam Husain's horse, Zul-Jinah, is often seen on tazias. Here, its size is quite big.

Sarkari Tazia, Indore
Sarkari Tazia

The next photograph shows the 'Sarkari Tazia' in Indore. It is brought out from the era when Holkar was a princely state.

The person accompanying the Tazia is seen wearing the traditional Maratha dress and the headgear.

Sarkari Tazias are brought out in dozens of cities in MP and Chhattisgarh, It is an old tradition.

It dates backs to the era of princely states, when Muharram was observed under state patronage.

Though the Rajas and Nawabs are no more, these Tazias continue to be brought out with the same enthuiasm.

Mostly Sunnis, Hindus take out Taziyas

For many, who aren't aware, it needs to be clarified that Shias take out 'Alams' and perform the 'maatam' viz. beating their chests to express their grief over the martyrdom of Imam Husain.

Begamganj, MP
Sunnis and Hindus take out Tazias. In MP, 'sawaris' or persons who are possessed, are also a distinct feature of the Ashura.

Hindus, especially, women go to the 'sawari' and make their wishes. Also, they seek the 'sawari's blessings.

Irrespective of religion, the kids are made to bow their head and walk under the Tazia.

It is considered auspicious by the devotees.The mourners chant 'Ya Husain'. Urdu verses are played on loud speakers.

Those addressing the gatherings during the procession, rue that they weren't there during the battle, to fight along side the Imam.

Many people walk barefoot towards the local Karbala. Shias whiplash themselves and show their devotion.

Kunkuri, Chhattisgarh

Sherbet is also distributed on the way to the local Karbala [at the water body] in each town.

In the procession, there are also Akhadas where youth show their acrobatics.Also, traditional Indian martial arts are displayed. Those in procession recite elegiac verses.

On the right is the photograph of fireworks at Begamganj town in Raisen district in central MP.

On the eve of 10th of Islamic month of Muharram, there is a display of such fireworks at many places.

People also walk on fire or burning coal, to show their devotion. The fifth photograph shows a tazia being taken away on a cycle-rickshaw.

Chhindwara, MP

This is the photo from Kunkuri in remote Chhattisgarh. The children also accompany the tazia.

Interestingly, most of the people who build tazia, and work for days to complete it, belong to lower-middle class or poor section of the society.

They save hard earned money to build the tazia, because of their devotion and the sense of tradition.

A tazia is a replica of Imam Husain's 'rauza' or tomb.  Muharram is observed to commemorate Imam Husain, his family and companion's martyrdom.


On the right is a boy dressed as tiger in Chhindwara in MP. This is also an aspect of Muharram observance in central India and Maharashtra. Many families praying for child, take a vow that if the kid is born, they would turn him into 'Husain's sher (tiger)'.

Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh

The practice continues till date. Similarly, there are many other associated traditions that vary from regions to region.

First, the treachery and later the brutality with which Husain, his family and companions including children, were killed, shocked the Islamic world.

Husain was the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. The battle of Karbala took place nearly fourteen centuries ago in Iraq.

Bhilai, Chhattisgarh
Husain stood for principles. He refused to swear allegiance to the tyrant Yazid who was turning Caliphate into a hereditary rule.

Centuries have passed but the tragedy continues to inspire people and gives them the courage to stand for truth.

On the left is the photograph of a procession of Tazias in Bhilai in Chhattisgarh. There is a long line of brightly lit Tazias, which move around in the town before immersion.

The big photograph shows Guru Nanak Jayanti procession passing on the same street, where a Tazia procession is also moving.

This photo is from Rajnandgaon in Chhattisgarh. Read posts on Muharram traditions published on this blog in the past.


1. Muharram observed in India: Photos from Western, Southern and Eastern India.

2. Most famous Urdu, Persian verses, poetry on the message behind Husain's sacrifice. SEE THE LINK

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Why Muslims don't want to vote for Congress, not even willing to consider party as second or third option?


After Congress' loss in Haryana and Maharashtra, which was not unexpected, a lot of things were analysed but an important aspect was not mentioned.

I don't see anyone discussing the trend of Muslims' voting pattern--not considering Congress even as second or third option. Did you notice the recent voting trend in Haryana? More than 52% Muslims voted for INLD, 27% to other parties and JUST 16% MUSLIMS voted for Congress in Haryana.

We will delve into the statistics, the trend, reasons and implications too. But do remember that this happened in Haryana, not a state like Maharashtra where Muslims have severe issues with Congress or UP-Bihar.

In states like Haryana, Rajasthan, MP, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Muslims are considered traditional Congress voters. But if just one in six Muslims are voting for the Congress, it is not ordinary.

This is alarming for the party, as even after BJP's victory in Lok Sabha, and the supposed feeling among large sections that Muslims tend to vote for Congress to keep BJP away from power, the minorities didn't vote enthusiastically for Congress.

First, let's see the Muslim majority constituencies in Haryana, from where Muslim contestants got elected to the Assembly. The trend is same at all these seats. It seemed Muslims didn't want to vote for Congress, at all.


In Ferozepur Jhirka, most of the Muslim electorate didn't even think of voting for Congress candidate, who faced the humiliation of coming fifth, after two independents who got more votes than him.
Imagine, this is not UP where there are many parties like SP, BSP, RLD, Peace Party, Ulema Council et al.

Still, such is the situation! INLD's Naseem Ahmed won the seat by securing 40,000 votes.

Independent M Khan came second with 37,000 votes, followed by another independent Aman Ahmed who got 18,000 votes. BJP's Alam too got 16,540 votes. Congress' Azad Mohammad got just 15,943 votes.


In Punahana, such was the disenchantment with Congress that its candidate was no where in the race. While Independent Raees Khan got 34,000 votes, INLD's M Ilyas came second with 31,000 votes.

Even BJP's Iqbal Bhai got double the number of votes secured by Congress' Muslim candidate. Iqbal got 25,135 votes while Congress' Subhan Khan got 12,809 votes to come fourth.


In Nuh, INLD's Zakir Hussain won the election.

He convincingy defeated the Congress candidate, getting more than double the votes polled by him.

Hussain got 64,000 votes whilge Congress' Aftab Ahmed secured merely 31,000 votes.

Clearly, this is a major trend. If it is happening in a state like Haryana, you can imagine, how serious is Muslims' disenchantment with Congress.

Also, we will discuss Maharashtra in later posts. But this is pan-Indian phenomenon. There are several reasons. The two seats to MIM in Maharashtra got excessive focus in the media.

Reality is Muslims will vote for anyone other than Congress--from INLD to SP-BSP, AAP [as in last Delhi elections] or even Independents. It is not about going for a Muslim party because of choice, but because of 'majboori'.

In the surrounding din [MIM win], the trends like the
heightened disenchantment of Muslims with Congress were not analysed properly.

What about Sachar panel, Caste-based reservation demand, prison population!

1. Muslims voted for any party or candidate other than Congress. For the last 10 years, UPA was in government, but did it act on Sachar panel's recommendations. Congress did nothing about the Communal violence bill.

2. The presidential ordinance that bars Muslim and Christian Dalits from reservations was enforced during Congress rule, and despite vehement protests and demands to bring these communities in the ambit of caste reservations, UPA didn't act in 10 years.

3. Did it do anything about the fact that more than 35% inmates in jails in Maharashtra were Muslim, a vast number among them, under-trial prisoners. It gave the impression that it is pro-Muslim, but it shied from taking any step that would be seen as 'appeasement'.

4. It fell in a 'secular trap'. Congress has lost Dalits in UP-Bihar-MP-Chhattisgarh and many other states. It also lost tribal vote. Muslims are now forced to vote for it in exceptional circumstances, only in a few states.

5. They don't at all think of the party in UP. However, Congress refuses to learn. It feels Muslims will keep on voting for it. It forgets that Muslims want nothing, just basic respect and a bit of listening and action on their just demands.

6. The most basic thing is to ensure that there is no communal riot and the expectation that government would take action against those involved in excesses, torture or violation of human rights. On the contrary, there are killings--firing on the chest, riots, and yet, no stern action.

CONGRESS-ruled states were WORSE than BJP-ruled STATES IN tackling COMMUNAL RIOTS, KILLINGS in last couple of years

7. Congress talks of Gujarat carnage, which Muslims haven't forgotten, but it easily forgets that in the last couple of years, the worst killings of Muslims took place during Congress regimes, which haven't been forgotten either.

8. Assam repeatedly burnt and the horrific killings in BTAD, led to nationwide outrage but Congress couldn't stop it timely. No action was taken against Chief Minister. The same had happened earlier in Gopalgarh killings in Rajasthan. No action was taken against CM.

9. In Maharashtra, the Dhule killings, were treated as non-issue by ruling Congress. Just that we can't forget. The issue of non-implementing Sri Krishna panel report of Mumbai riots, has been repeatedly mentioned on this blog.

10. Once again, I would have to say that the situation in Maharashtra was such that Congress' mis-rule have now prepared the Muslims for the worst situations. Jo hoga jhelengu but you go now. In 1992-93, the Mumbai riots were during Congress regime, not Sena-BJP rule.

Lastly, I am not at all a BJP fan. But if you [Congress] are sincere, do introspect, accept your failures and work to ensure for providing a life of safety and dignity to people, who vote to you to power. You feel Muslims have no option, because if they vote for non-Congress candidate, their vote will get wasted.

Ok, we will waste the vote, but won't give it to you*. That's perhaps, lot of us feel today. 


If you want to understand the context, the reasons for anger,desperation and disgust among Muslims, you should read these posts. 

[Percent of Muslims who voted for Congress obtained through CSDS survey. Published in Indian Express.]
[*Congress will get vote when it acts like Congress, work on the ideology of a real centrist party, as per the aspirations of the early leaders. More on this later]