Azam Vs. Owaisi
Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan has done it again. A senior minister of India’s most populous and politically significant state, who had taken oath as a minister to protect and defend the Indian constitution, wants the intervention of the United Nations in India to look into the “miseries” of minorities in the country. In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Khan has accused the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) of planning to convert “secular and pluralistic India” into a “majoritarian theocratic nation as Hindu Rashtra”. He has written: “The UN was constituted to ensure that human rights were not violated in the world and it is viewed equally, therefore I have narrated my pain before it (through the letter).”
On the other hand, we have another Muslim politician in Asaduddin Owaisi, whose political party, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, is expanding its strong influence from Hyderabad to other states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka. In fact, the party now has entered the electoral fray in Bihar. Owaisi has a controversial brother in Akbaruddin Owaisi, who has already been jailed for his communal and provocative remarks against the Hindus but learnt little (He branded Prime Minister Narendra Modi the other day as a “saitan”). I do not agree with Asaduddin Owaisi’s politics and his road map for the wellbeing of the Muslims in the country. But I am proud of Asaduddin Owaisi’s loyalty to and love for India, Indian constitution and Indian judiciary. That is why I had disregarded the orchestrations of some mischievous elements early this year that he had said that in any future war between India and Pakistan, Indian Muslims would join the Pakistani soldiers. As it turned out, these were wild allegations and the news establishments carrying the news had to apologize to Owaisi.
On the other hand, just see what Owaisi had told his Pakistani hosts in a TV programme two years ago. Taking part in the “Aman Ki Asha” event on Pakistan’s Geo TV News between a panel of Pakistani politicians and Indian politicians, Owaisi made it clear when a Pakistani participant raised a point on BJP’s Hindutva ideology and RSS’s anti-Muslims stand that “Our Indian Constitution, which all Indians abide by, says that India is a secular nation. India’s fundamental rights on minorities believe in pluralism and are strong.” But he did not stop here. Upholding “the majesty of the Indian judiciary”, Owaisi told his Pakistani hosts, “We have had decided about this before 60 years that India is our country and we belong here. You people should not worry about the Muslim community in India.” He then counter-asked the Pakistanis, “Is it Jihad to kill Shia Muslims? Jihad should be against Nafs (self).”
The above exchange between Owaisi and Pakistanis is readily available on YouTube. That day, Owaisi made me and I am sure every Indian proud. You and I may differ with him and fight politically against him. But that is our internal matter. And that is the strength of the Indian democracy. But the same cannot be said about Azam Khan, a person who is occupying a constitutional position. He claims to be a champion of the cause of the Muslims in the country. But, in reality, he is their biggest enemy. In fact, he is a huge political fraud and suffers from exaggerated sense of self importance. His lifestyle is no different from the maharajas and nawabs of the yesteryears. He believes in profligate structures and sumptuous glories. No wonder that he is in headlines more often than not.
In 2014, Azam Khan had kept scores of Policemen on their toes to find out seven of his buffaloes missing for a week and dismissed three cops for ‘dereliction of duty’. The buffaloes were traced after the cops across the district, led by local Superintendent of Police, spread out in a massive hunt, combed fields and took sniffer dogs along to track down the animals.
In 2013, Azam Khan created ruckus in the United States after he was “detained”, barely for 10 minutes, for “further questioning”, in addition to the regular check-up at the Boston International Airport. He was in the delegation led by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to speak at the Harvard University on his “successful management” of “Mahakumbh mela” at Allahabad. The delegation was invited by a department of the world famous university. That means that Khan and his chief minister were visiting the United States not as the official guests of the US government; they were attending a function at a private university, which has nothing to do with the US government as such. But such was the fury of Khan and his boss Yadav against the US government that they not only boycotted the event for which they were invited but also “cancelled” the dinner that the Indian Consulate in New York had organised in their honour.
Khan, predictably, injected a communal element into the incident by saying that he was insulted just because he was “a Muslim”. There is no doubt that the system of US immigration clearance is more intrusive and hyper sensitive. But then, the fact remains that after the bombings of New York on September 11, 2001 that killed nearly 3000 people, security measures at all US airports have been tightened vigorously. The Americans say that because of these extra measures there have been no attacks from air on their country. Besides, when Khan landed in Boston, the city was just recovering from the bombings by two Chechnyan youth and the police was deploying all measures to beef up security measures. Secondly, Khan was not the first Indian politician to have been frisked at American airports. Much taller politicians than him had also undergone this experience, but they handled it with grace and humility.
In 2011, former President APJ Abdul Kalam was twice subjected to frisking at New York’s JFK Airport with US security officials even taking his jacket and shoes to check for explosives. Similarly, George Fernandes, then defence minister of the country, was once subjected to security checks at an American airport. But neither Kalam nor Fernandes created any scene. Incidentally, both of them had infinitely higher profile than Khan who, at the most, is a provincial politician. And in my considered opinion, Kalam was a much better practicing Muslim than Khan. Unlike Khan, Kalam had never used religion to pursue his career.
But I am sure that Khan will never be impressed by the above logic. Because, as I said in the beginning, he believes that as a Minister or MLA, he has some heavenly rights and is not equal with people like you and me. In fact, Khan had also created a ruckus at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi just before leaving for Boston. He got involved in a scuffle with security personnel because they prevented Munawwar Salim, a Samajwadi Party member and a Rajya Sabha MP, from entering the VVIP lounge, which was against protocol. He accused the security staff as being “anti-Muslim”!
Similarly in 2012, while travelling by Punjab Mail, Khan lost temper on finding his bed improperly made. So much so that he humiliated the rail coach assistant Nirmal Murmu (probably a tribal) by forcing him to do 50 sit-ups! Similarly, in full public view in August 2012, Khan rebuked a senior IAS officer, saying “chup baithiye, badtameez kahin kay” (shut up, you’re misbehaving and being disrespectful)!
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Azam Khan caused several controversies which sparked attention from the media. Referring to the Kargil War: “The perks of Kargil were conquered not by Hindu, but Muslim soldiers.” This was criticised by the Indian media and an FIR was lodged against him. He refused to apologize for this and later accused the Indian Election Commission of bias against him because of his religion. Incidentally, he had also said that Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had been punished by Allah for “forcible” sterilisation during the Emergency and “shilanyas” at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
Does India or for that matter Uttar Pradesh deserve a politician like Azam Khan, who wants to be special by playing the communal card always, which, in turn, does great harm to the image and interests of Indian Muslims? Everybody knows the dirty role he had played in aggravating the notorious Muzaffarabad riots in 2013. And now he has invited the United Nations to intervene in the country. He should be dismissed forthwith. But then, will chief minister Akhilesh Yadav dare? I have my doubts.
By Prakash Nanda