Malick Asghar Hashmi
Dr. Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie, a writer, is at the forefront of the ongoing Pasmandan movement in the country. Malick Asghar Hashmi, Editor, Awaz-The Voice, Hindi, spoke to him about the movement. Excerpts from their conversation:
What is the condition of Pasmanda Muslims in different states of India? How many organizations are there associated with the Pasmanda movement?
The answer to your question is explained on page 10 of the Sachar Committee report. The chapter is about reservations and the need to help deprived people. You must have heard the name of PA Krishna, (member of the Sachar Committee). He did a lot of work for OBCs and Pasmanda Muslims. In Andhra Pradesh, the Pasmanda Muslims used to write their surname as Sheikh. This was confusing as Sheikhs are generally upper castes. Here the community was included in the OBC list. The original Hyderabadi Sheikhs also took advantage of this later. Since I have lived in Hyderabad for three years, I spoke with PA Krishna and he told me that none of the Pasmandas in Odisha were included in the OBC category. He left this world, two and a half years ago. I had spoken to him on the phone. There is a cast in Assam which has been included in OBC. Many castes which are in OBC in Uttar Pradesh are not on the OBC list in Gujarat. Bhat is a caste and they are neither in OBC nor in ST list.
OBCs are either in Pasmanda or in the scheduled tribes' list. They are not on the SC list. So, he (Pasmanda) is pitted against the Shaikhs, and Sayyads, in the general category. Bhatyara caste is included in the OBC list in Uttar Pradesh. There is no State where Pasmanda Muslims are visible in the mainstream. One or two people who become IAS, have come up the hard way.
During riots, Hindus come to kill us or we, Pasmandas, go to kill Hindus. But, Ashraaf is the one making strategy while sitting at home. When we are powerful, we beat them, but wherever we are weak, we get killed. The control of the game is with Ashraaf. It’s said that the best weapon for an operation is the mind of the operator. Ashraaf sets a dreadful narrative in his (Pasmanda’s) mind about what will Muslims gain by being part of the ‘Hindu’ government. Will that get jobs for Muslims? They manipulate our minds through such narratives so that we remain slaves of their strategy. In the meanwhile, they sent their children to England and America. Their children get admission into the Aligarh Muslim University. They also get jobs. These people make use of the Urdu language by monopolizing it. And they tell us what the use of reading and writing is. Despite that, some people have come up from the Pasmanda community through their sheer hard work and ability.
Right now our movement is very weak; our voice is feeble and that is why we are not able to assert. Our position is that of a slave in Muslim society. We are the slaves of Ashraafs; we are always looking for them to set the narrative and follow them blindly. However, now we want to be liberated from their bondage and we are standing up to them.
Which organizations are fighting for the Pasmanda cause and in which states to they exist?
This is an important question. There are about two dozen Pasmanda organizations around the country. Despite so many organizations, only some action is seen in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on the front of their movement. There is some activity inside Maharashtra too. In Maharashtra, 80-year-old Iqbal Painter has done great work for the Bhil tribe. The Kadwa Bhil tribe is a Pasmanda Muslim. I have spoken to Iqbal Painter on Pasmanda's issues. Another activist from Maharashtra, Shabbir Ansari started a big movement. Thespian Dilip Kumar supported him in this cause. Some people are working in Rajasthan. In Assam, there is Owaiduddin Ahmed Saheb who is Barak, a fishing community of Bengali speakers. This community is called Mahiwal. A member of this community also contested the election and the Muslims opposed him. No marks for guessing that those who opposed him were Ashraaf.
Talking about sporadic and organization, there is an organization in UP, Bihar. There are organizations in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra. There are many like this. At this time I understand that All India Muslim Pasmanda is just a big organization. Secondly, the organization of All India OBC led by Shabbir Ansari is also a big organization. Iqbal Sahab also has an organization; in Assam also there is an organization of Patikars who weave mats. In this way, people are workingtogether. At times there are ego clashes between leaders and many of them abruptly get turned off after launching the movement. There are ups and downs. Despite this, the world's weakest community is somehow standing up against the most powerful Ashraaf class. We will also fight for our rights; we don’t feel discouraged. Somewhere the resistance is on though it may be weak at the moment. In a country that has Satyamev Jayate (Truth triumphs everywhere) as a national slogan, we are sure to win the battle sooner or later.
What needs to be done for the welfare of Pasmanda Muslims to change the picture?
First of all, we have to accept that there is a disease in society. I was in a debate on a Hindi television channel where a commentator said this is an internal matter of Muslims. I countered him and said no, this is not an internal matter of Muslims. If there is a problem in any community, or region, across India, it’s a problem of the entire country. People’s problems are not being addressed, so I consider this as a wound in the body of the nation. The problem of Pasmanda is not the problem of Muslims alone; it’s the problem of the country. Denial of social justice is a problem. It also applies to Hindu society. Like in Hindus too the objective of social justice may not have been achieved fully, but it’s surely the work in progress.
However, for Muslims, it’s just the opposite. It’s not even being discussed. I want this issue to be discussed everywhere – from a roadside tea chop to the Parliament. Only when this problem is discussed we will recognize it as a disease. In this great nation with a great Constitution and only when we discuss, the situation will change. We like to follow it (Constitution) and unlike Ashraaf are not riding on a horse, killing people to capture the land. Our aim has always been to work together. If there is a problem, we talk about it. Second thing, whenever there is a matter of social justice, the Muslim community should not be allowed to hijack the issue by saying that the Muslim Personal Law Board will deal with it. We are the citizens of the country. It should be resolved accordingly.
the third and last point is that the Muslim discourse should end in this country. 90 percent of Muslims are harmed by open society and television discussions on Muslims. Muslim discourse is bogus. It’s the perpetuation of the thought of the Muslim League that this is different and that is different, precisely the two-nation theory in another form. Why does this talk about Muslims being poor and backward resonate all the time? Is there anyone backward in Jainism? Is Christianity backward? Is there no backwardness in the Hindu religion, from which Dalits also come? Yes, the followers of any religion can be rich, poor, and also backward.
That's why Muslim discussion is not a religious discussion. We are against such discussions. When the Indian constitution is a secular concept, what is the need to see someone as a Hindu or a Muslim? We are against it. If this is heeded, the face of this nation will change. Pasmanda has been contributing to GDP earlier also. Since he is a farmer; he makes sarees. weaves cloth.; he makes chadar in Bhagalpur. He sells vegetables. In this way, he is contributing to the GDP.
Your population is 90 percent, so why don't you have greater ambitions?
We want to draw a big line (have ambition), but first, we should have a pen to draw it. The British were in very few and we, the Indians we too many in terms of numbers, and yet it took us 90 years to liberate the country from them. It takes time. Our numbers are like froth on the surface of the sea; the Ashraaf blows it away.
One Owaisi is shouting all over the country and he has become the roast of the media. The secular and Liberals are being feted by the Hindus; they carry them over their shoulders. People like Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie are not given a chance to speak. You are not ready to give a chance to one voice in 90 percent. If a Pasmanda activist is given the same opportunity that Owaisigets, rest assured, Owaisi is beat a hasty retreat. We made Qasim Rizvi run away from a debate. You make us compete with them and then give a judgment.
What is your plan for intensifying your struggle?
We want to build relationships with more and more people. Pasmanda should understand this. Pasmanda section is there in UP, Bihar, and Rajasthan which is the Hindu belt. But he reads and writes Urdu. For this, we are holding small meetings and also using social media. Ashraaf people often say why you don’t just go to the ground and then campaign on social media. Mr. Maroof Ansari, who is the secretary of Pasmanda Mahaz, says that they want us to come on the ground as it will be very easy for them to kill us. If we put a post on social media, five hundred people see it. We are using all the mediums available to reach people.
However, those working in the organization have to also work for their livelihood. They have their own business to attend to. They are working slowly but steadily. I am also doing some work like writing articles etc. As Gautam Buddha said be your own lamp. We, as individuals are trying to be lamps to that eventually we can illuminate the world of Pasmanda.
Is there any leader who understands your thoughts and feelings?
This is a very good question. Most political parties win elections on the issue of Muslim discourse. This discourse harms us. When Mulayam Singh's government was formed in UP, many backward Muslims got a place in the government. Backward also mean Dalits, tribals, and backwards. There were a large number of backward Muslims in it. Nitish Kumar has broken Lalu Prasad's MY (Muslim-Yadav) winning combination formula by promoting discussion on Pasmanda. He sent two Pasmanda to the Rajya Sabha. With such moves, the situation can change. This time, why Nitish Kumar didn’t win as convincingly as he did earlier, is that Pasmanda did not support him. That's why Nitish Kumar has become a little weak. This time his magic of Pasmanda did not work. Bharatiya Janata Party has noticed Pasmanda in Uttar Pradesh. There is no talk of Pasmanda openly, but people coming from Pasmanda society are getting a place. They have been made members of the Minorities Commission. Madrasa Education Council. The Hunar Haat has been set up. Pasmanda are skilled people and they can make use of it.
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We have high hopes on the Bharatiya Janata Party. In Uttar Pradesh Pasmanda is 16 percent of the overall population (as against 19 percent Muslim population). If only two to three percent of them vote in favour of the BJP, the situation will hugely be beneficial to benefit. All political parties belong to us. Still, instead of talking about the native Indian Muslims, these parties prefer to cohabit with the Muslims who are outsiders.