Decline in Muslim representation continues: (Kushal Jeena)

An alarming decline in Muslim representation in all elected bodies is continuing. Since 2014 when right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party reached its peak in the Parliament getting majority for the first time on its own and showing an improved performance in the just concluded Parliamentary polls, the situation has come to such a pass that a Muslim in India for being from the largest minority community is automatically linked with Pakistan’s interests.

The elections to previous Lok Sabha could be termed as an alarming landmark in India’s independent history as for the first time a political party came to power without having a Muslim as its member in the lower House of the Parliament. In the previous Lok Sabha total Muslim representation fell to 4 percent, the lowest ever in India’s independent history. In the last Lok Sabha only 22 Muslims could manage to enter into the House and none of them was from the ruling BJP. In the current Lok Sabha their number has increased to 27 and only one Muslim woman has won on a BJP ticket.

The BJP has created a myth of Muslim appeasement and has been accusing the opposition parties particularly principle opposition Congress of indulging in Muslim appeasement. However, the fact remains that Muslim representation in Parliament during Congress-dominated rule from 1952-77 ranged between 2 to 7 percent. The highest Muslim representation was in 1980 when it touched a whopping 10 percent. It has been consistently declining since then as the period after that has been witnessing the rise of BJP and its pro-Hindutva ideology. The party that has reached to its peak in the current Lok Sabha improved it electoral performance in the aftermath of 1992 when Hindu zealots at the behest of a large number of senior BJP leaders demolished a century old ancient mosque called Babri mosque at Ayodhya, a place in Uttar Pradesh known as birth place for Hindu lord Rama.

In fact Muslim representation is less only in elected bodies in India. In the armed forces, judiciary, police and civil services the Muslim representation is also less than its population share.

“A democracy will be brittle if minorities are systematically subject to political isolation and denied political representation.

The ruling BJP that is currently ruling in 19 of 29 Indian states has been pressing for a Congress-free India during its electoral campaign trails. But in reality what it manifests is a ‘march to a Muslim free India’. India’s Muslim population is on the rise due to high birth rates, and has almost doubled since 1991. According to data gathered at the Pew Research Centre, a political and social think-tank, the Muslim population in India stood at 195 million in 2015. The share of Muslim community has increased from 12 percent to 15 percent in this time period, the Pew Centre has estimated that there will be more Muslims in India than elsewhere in the world and will constitute 19 percent of India’s population. Currently, Indonesia tops the world as far as Muslim population is concerned.

The 2019 general elections have also not been able to stop the downward trend being witnessed in Muslim representation. The political researchers and social scientists are of the view that Hindu majoritarianism and the rise of BJP, the current major political force in the country is partly responsible for the decline in Muslim representation.

When British rulers divided India into two independent states of India and Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of independence, about 35 million Muslim preferred to remain in India. They are mostly concentrated in northern part of the country that includes Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Presently, every part of the country has a significant presence of Muslim minority. In 1952, when India held its first general elections after independence, only 11 Muslims got elected of the 489 elected member’s strength of the House. Over the next 30 years, their presence increased, peaking in 1980.

After its foundation in 1980 the BJP contested its first election in 1984 winning just two seats. But, the party registered a significant growth in the years to come and by 1998 it led a coalition government of the opposition to run the government. In 2014 it won an outright majority for the first time in its political history and repeated the same feat in the 2019 general polls.

Interestingly, the major decline in Muslim representation has come from most populated state of Uttar Pradesh because BJP of late registered a remarkable growth in Uttar Pradesh. The number of Muslim members of Parliament from UP fell from 18 all the way down to zero in 2014 when the BJP had won 73 of 80 seats that comes within the boundaries of Uttar Pradesh. The Muslims hold 20 percent of Uttar Pradesh’s population.

The anti-Muslim sentiment that BJP has been stoking has also played a vital role in finding fewer Muslim candidates in parties outside BJP and its ally’s formation because parties opposed to BJP in general and Congress in particular also live in a fear of being pegged an anti-Hindu entity if they promote Muslim candidates. This situation prevents Muslims to come forward in large number to stand for elections to the elected bodies thereby declining their share in the political representation.

“The lack of Muslim in the lower House of Parliament may have serious policy consequences, “said Soolani Bhogale, a computer scientist and political researcher. She had analyzed a set of 2, 760,00 questions asked in Parliament from 1991 to 2017, and found that Muslim representatives were far more likely to ask questions about issues that particularly concerned the community including on violence against Muslims. The just held Parliamentary polls were critical for Muslims because another BJP landslide is meant for a further sidelining of country’s biggest minority community.

India is one among the signatories of United Nations Charters on minorities, which defines the minorities and also advises that states take measures required to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination and in full equality before the law.

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