Friday, 16 March 2018

Has AIMPLB killed the golden goose?

M Rajaque Rahman


In rejecting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s propositions for an out-of-court settlement, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has chosen to play to the gallery rather than weigh the imports of the proposal in the best interest of the community it claims to represent.

A tweet from its official handle quoted its General Secretary Maulana Mohammad Wali Rahmani as saying AIMLPB rejects Sri Sri’s proposal and asked him “to play his role in the Hindu community to maintain peace if the Supreme Court verdict is not the (its) favour”. Sri Sri had written an open letter to AIMPLB raising some serious apprehensions about how the issue can pan out adversely for the country.

Sounding more like an intimate note to the Muslim community rather than a formal proposal, the letter had listed out the possible scenarios and their adverse ramifications while urging the leaders of both faiths to take this (action) seriously. It also sought to reason how any solution through the court or a through an intervention by the government could be “devastating for the nation at large and the Muslim community in particular”. Though these words of caution from the spiritual leader have been presented as a threat and provocation in certain sections, such apprehensions cannot be blindly dismissed.

With no dearth of fanatical elements on both the sides, it will be foolhardy to totally discount and deny the possibilities of frenzied reactions to a court verdict on the Ayodhya issue. The spectre of a situation where one community openly celebrating a court verdict in its favour and another burning inside with a feeling of being wronged is scary. This possibility of chaos and distrust is probably what Sri Sri meant when he talked about “pushing our country to the brink” if the issue is not resolved tactfully.

Given that Muslims are living in one of the most difficult times across the globe, AIMPLB ought to have taken a wider view of the community’s interest. It’s no rabble-rousing propaganda to say Muslims are in “khatre” of being left out of the national discourse. The political isolation of the community is almost complete. Besides the dwindling representation in Parliament and Legislatures, a leadership vacuum is making the community politically irrelevant. It’s a sad state of affairs that the community, which has given three Presidents and many other political stalwarts, is today being shepherd by people like Assaduddin Owaisi and Badruddin Ajmal, whose only claim to popularity is their penchant for spreading hatred and insecurity.

At the other spectrum, the community has to constantly confront the negative image owing to repeated incidences of Islamic terrorism and the narrative of historical atrocities. With such a harsh ground reality, the community can’t afford to allow a frenzied run-in over the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid issue. What is needed is a tactful master-stroke that will establish the community as magnanimous and peace-loving. It desperately needs a good dose of good press to shrug off the baggage of the past.

From that perspective, AIMPLB has squandered a golden opportunity by summarily rejecting Sri Sri’s proposition. His “best solution” of Muslim bodies gifting the one-acre disputed land for the Ram Temple and the Hindus in return gifting enough land for a grand mosque nearby would have helped the Muslims gain the goodwill of 100 crore Hindus. It could have been a potent and respectable way of integrating with the mainstream and saving the community from further isolation. Most importantly, such an act will also undercut those who are out to “teach Muslims a lesson”. Encouragingly, Sri Sri has spoken about his Art of Living taking the responsibility of organising community celebrations across the country to bring together Muslims and Hindus in a spirit of harmonious coexistent.

It would have been wiser for AIMPLB to pick up the thread and pushed for a settlement that reassures the community like a commitment to maintain the status quo of all other places of worship. At this juncture, Muslims must be willing to undertake any enterprise that will endear the community to the larger world as considerate and generous towards the feelings of millions of Hindus. So what if the enterprise involves giving up claims on Babri Masjid?

(A former business journalist, the author now regularly writes on issues that are relevant to the Idea of India. He tweets @rajaque. He can be reached on rajaque@gmail.com)


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