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As Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind moves Supreme Court for SC status to converted Muslims, here is why BJP should be careful about their Pasmanda outreach

With the stated goal of Islamists gaining the faith of Schedule Castes and Tribes simply to establish a Sharia state, it becomes even more clear why Jamiat wants to remove the reservation impediment to their campaign of converting Hindus to Islam.

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Union government to grant the Scheduled Caste status to Dalit converts to Islam. The intervention application filed says that it is important for Dalit converts to Islam to be considered Scheduled Caste so they can get equal opportunities in government jobs, educational institutions and the employment sector.

Interestingly, the petition states that somehow, the non-inclusion of these converts stops them from freely propagating their faith. According to reports, the plea says that the denial of the Scheduled Caste status to Muslim converts deprives them of political, educational, and other benefits given to non-Muslim and non-Christian Scheduled Castes persons and it is a calculated historical wrong to restrain the free profession, practice, and propagation of religion.

It has been submitted that the truth of the caste system cannot be denied and the effect of society is inevitable on all the religious communities it inhabits.

‘In the present issue, a person belonging to a Scheduled Caste is provided benefits if he is a Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist. However, if the same person is a Muslim, he will not be provided with those benefits. This distinction is totally arbitrary and is sans any reasonable classification,’ the petition has stated.

While the Jamiat has approached the Supreme Court demanding Scheduled Caste status for converted Muslims, the BJP, India’s ruling party, has launched a massive outreach to the Pasmanda Muslim community. BJP launched a program to reach out to Pasmanda Muslims, who are “lower caste” Muslims, historically oppressed by the “upper caste” Ashraf Muslims. Earlier in July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a clarion call to unite Pasmandas. In the National Executive meeting that concluded in Hyderabad earlier in July, PM Modi had asked BJP workers to reach out to the downtrodden and oppressed Pasmanda Muslim community. 

These two developments – Jamiat demanding SC status for converted Muslims and the BJP reaching out to Pasmanda Muslims in conjunction could spell doom for Hindus at large.

Pasmanda is a Persian word. It broadly means backward and disadvantaged people. Muslims who come under Pasmanda are also called Arzal. Ashrafs come from the upper castes among Muslims. For example, Sheikh, Sayyid, Mirza, Khan etc. Ashrafs constitute only 15-20 per cent of the total Muslim population in India, the rest are Pasmanda. 

The demand by the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind essentially draws on the Liberal argument that caste is an ingrained construct that sticks with individuals regardless of their religious association – that even after individuals convert to far more “egalitarian” religions such as Islam or Christianity, the societal evil of caste discrimination continues to haunt them.

We are told that the entire reason Dalits convert from Hinduism to Christianity or Islam is that Hinduism is discriminatory and that these religions would provide equality, respect and security. If that is the case, the moment a Dalit changes his religion, there is an assumption that he is shedding the supposed historic oppression to become a part of an egalitarian society. Reservations were accorded to Scheduled Castes (Dalits) essentially because of the historical oppression that the community faced. The oppression then led to economic and social backwardness. As far as social backwardness is concerned, that ideally should be taken care of the moment the individual converts to Christianity or Islam. The economic backwardness is now taken care of by Economic Weaker Section (EWS). Interestingly, the petition by the Jamiat alludes to both these reasons to justify the demand for SC status to converted Muslims saying that the categorisation and the reservation that would accrue owing to the categorisation would help them get economic opportunities and social justice.

However, if one truly thinks about the argument given by the Jamiat, which draws from the liberal argument that caste is an ingrained social evil in India regardless of religious affiliation, one also has to ask why then is the caste construct used to deride Hindus with claims that only Hinduism is the vessel for this social evil. It is true that the construct of caste discrimination exists in Islamic and Christian societies, however, that has nothing to do with Hinduism. These individuals converted to Islam or Christianity precisely because they wanted to escape caste discrimination. Once they convert out of the religion, if they continue to face discrimination, that is a problem of Christianity and Islam and those individuals can’t possibly get reservations based on the assumption of discrimination that accrued when they were Hindus.

They essentially want state protection while their own discriminate against them, but use their Hindu identity to do so – preserving the propaganda of Christianity and Islam.  

Be that as it may, it is important to understand the agenda behind these tropes being furthered not just by the liberals, but not by the Jamiat, based on the liberal argument.

The aim of furthering this argument is simply to facilitate the conversion of Hindus into Islam and Christianity and remove one of the few obstacles to such conversion – the loss of reservation benefits. It is no secret that the Christian and Muslim community provides enough coercive incentives to convert Hindus – from monetary benefits to false promises of an egalitarian society – and in worst cases – intimidation and threats. In several cases, reservation benefits given to Scheduled Caste Hindus is an impediment to the nefarious designs of monotheistic faiths. Many Hindus understand the benefits they get via reservations and refuse to convert. The argument that caste continues to haunt Dalits even after they convert from Hinduism is essentially designed not towards social justice because they continue to deny that Islam and Christianity also have a system of caste hierarchy and blame only Hinduism for it, but to further the political trope of Jai Bheem Jai Meem, which essentially attempts to form a mythical alliance between Dalits and Muslims against Hindus.

It is pertinent to note that even the PFI document Vision 2047, which talks about converting India into an Islamic nation, talks about this mythical trope. The PFI document said, “From all the cadres who are being given PE, those with talent are to be spotted and recruited to be given advanced training on weapons including firearms and explosives. Meantime, Party should utilise concepts such as ‘National Flag’, ‘Constitution’ and ‘Ambedkar’ to shield the real intention of establishing an Islamic rule and to reach out to SCs/STs/OBCs. We would reach out to executive and judiciary and also strive to infiltrate our members in these at all levels in order to gather information and get a favourable outcome in matters of our interest. Further, liasoning is to be established with foreign Islamic countries for funding and other help”.

The PFI document further says that PFI should form close alliances with the SC/ST/OBC community and win at least a few seats in elections. The alliance that the PFI wants to forge is with 50% Muslims and 10% SC/ST/OBC. In fact, the 10% support they are aiming for becomes trying to gain the trust of 50% SC/ST/OBCs in order to fulfil their dream of restoring power to Muslims.

With the stated goal of Islamists gaining the faith of Schedule Castes and Tribes simply to establish a Sharia state, it becomes even more clear why Jamiat wants to remove the reservation impediment to their campaign of converting Hindus to Islam.

Given this agenda, BJP’s outreach to Pasmanda Muslims and the rhetoric being used to further this outreach becomes far more concerning.

BJP’s Ram Madhav recently asserted that most Pasamanda Muslims converted to Islam due to caste inequalities and discrimination, however, their state has remained the same – and therefore – they need to be reached out to and taken care of.

BJP leader Ram Madhav’s views over Pasmanda Muslims, a clip from Jagran

With Pasmanda Muslims forming 70-80% of the Muslims, the BJP furthering this trope becomes particularly dangerous. They are essentially insinuating then, that most Muslims today converted to Islam because of the discrimination they faced when they were Hindus and that they are still in bad economic and social conditions because of their identity when they were Hindus.

This argument furthers the liberal argument that the root cause of problems even within Islam and Christianity stems from Hinduism, which is patently incorrect. If they convert from Hinduism owing to their social status to more egalitarian options, they cannot possibly continue to blame their Hindu past for their current plight. In fact, the urge to shed that historical and identity baggage is so severe, that often Dalits who convert to Christianity change mostly everything about themselves. Once a Dalit converts, one notices that they change their mannerisms, their linguistic pattern, how they dress and even how they eat. They become a part of the Church congregation or Mosque which in theory, is meant to treat everyone in its people equally. There have in fact been many cases where even the converted Christians and Muslims start disconnecting from their extended family and friends circle because of their newfound identity. The psychology behind that is once the individual is baptised or converted to Islam, they are reborn and start an entirely new chapter of life, therefore, the earlier roots must be abandoned completely. Another reason for this also is that either those newly converted Christians and Muslims start looking down on their Hindu relatives or they believe that with their changed lifestyle (mannerisms, eating habits etc), they are a misfit in the Hindu society they once belonged to.

With such changes, it is fair to assume that the individual converts to Christianity because, in his perception, he would shed his part baggage and achieve upward social mobility. A better social status after conversion is a primary motive for those who convert out of their own free will and even those who are induced to convert. Given that these individuals believe that conversion to a theoretically more egalitarian society would help them shed their past identity baggage completely, it is fair to say that they stop being “Dalits” altogether.

In such a case, for BJP to say that most Muslims today converted because of their past identity and continue to be in abysmal condition due to their past Hindu identity is a dangerous slope that will only legitimise the Muslim demand to remove impediments to conversion. If converted Muslims continue to face discrimination it is because of a problem within the Muslim society – which is discrimination on the basis of tribal and feudal mindset which is indeed independent of their past Hindu identity. In Muslim society, for example, Arabs do consider themselves ‘pure’ and look down upon Muslims of other origins – and that is the problem of the tribal Muslim society – not the Hindu society.

BJP’s outreach to the Muslim community is a political reality, however futile the exercise might be. When BJP repeats tropes like “terrorism has no religion”, while their support base becomes angry, they can still ignore the trope because the reality of the religious identity of terrorism is stark and apparent. However, the caste debate and its contours is a far more complex subject that even their own support base is largely unequipped to deal with. It is also a reality that the contours of the caste debate are set by the Left in order to rub the Hindu nose in the ground. With such tropes being repeated by the BJP, it can only lead to a dangerous situation for Hindus at large and the Hindu case that BJP largely wishes to espouse, leading to Hindus being vilified even for the ills of the Muslim society, leading to the strengthening of the mythical Dalit-Muslim alliance that Islamist organisations like the PFI want to forge in order to Islamise India.

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