“Indian Muslims Lose Hope in National Secular Party”
The New York Times, November 9, 2014, p.A15
“When he set out on a muggy morning in mid-October to vote in the Maharashtra State legislative elections, Zubair Azmi intended to cast his ballot, as usual, for the Indian National Congress, the party that has promised for years to protect Muslims like him. But as he walked the streets of Byculla, a once-affluent South Mumbai neighborhood fallen on tougher times, Mr. Azmi sensed a shift in the tide. At every street corner, young Muslim men were beseeching passers-by to back a new political force in the state: the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, known as the M.I.M. And kites, the party’s symbol, seemed to be everywhere. … With a stridently right-wing Hindu nationalist group, the Bharatiya Janata Party, sweeping to victory after winning elections across India, the delicate balance between the country’s religious and ethnic minorities, and especially its Muslims, and the majority Hindu population is shifting. Their faith in the avowedly secular Congress party, which ruled India for decades, is dwindling, and the emergence of a strong Muslim party in Maharashtra suggests a possible consequence. … Muslims make up about 13 percent of the national population, but won only 4 percent of the seats in the new Parliament, the smallest share since Indian independence. Analysts said that in recent times, mainstream political parties have been putting fewer minority candidates on their tickets because of concerns that they will not be able to win, producing alienation. … Though M.I.M. represents only a small slice of India’s Muslims so far, ‘it is part of a larger trend of greater assertiveness of religious identity in public life in India,’ said Rochana Bajpai, senior lecturer in politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. ‘Its rise suggests that there is an urgent need to rebuild Indian models of secularism and multiculturalism.'”
Quickie Analysis: A movement toward greater sectarianism is bad in any democracy, but it seems particularly bad for India.