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In order to make inroads among the Muslim voters in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-ruled government has come up with several schemes. Highlighting the backwardness among Pasmanda Muslims, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has delivered on reaching out to the most deprived sections of the society through his various welfare schemes.

The PM said, “We should provide facilities to our tribes in more than 200 districts and more than 22,000 villages. We have Pasmanda Muslims among our minorities, especially Muslims, how should we benefit them..this government is thinking. Because Even after so many years of independence, they are still far behind.”

In July last year, at the BJP National Executive meeting, PM Modi talked about Pasmanda Muslims. After this, he has been stressing about the backwardness of Pasmanda in the Delhi session of the National Executive, where a ‘Sneh Yatra’ was announced in order to woo the Pasmanda Muslims.

Pasmanda community leader Danish Ansari, who hails from Ballia, is also a minister in the Yogi Adityanath government of BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.

Whopping 85% of total Muslim population
Muslims in India are broadly categorised into three social groups – Ashraf, the “noble” or upper caste, Aljaf, backward caste Muslims; and Arzal, lower caste or Dalit Muslims. While Ashraf are considered the traditionally dominant group comprising Sheikh, Syed, Turk (Mughal) Pathan clans, Aljaf and Arzal are collectively known as Pasmanda, a Persian word for “ones left behind.”

Pasmanda is a term for Other Backward Class (OBC) Muslims comprising economically and socially backward members of society. According to Pasmanda leaders and rights activists, out of the total Muslim population in the country, around 85 per cent are backward or Pasmanda Muslims.

‘Only 60 Pasmanda Muslims reached Lok Sabha’
The community has often raised concerns over the lack of representation in political leadership positions despite being the numerical majority. They claim that out of the roughly 400 Muslims elected to the first 14 Lok Sabhas, only 60 were Pasmanda Muslims.

Demands of Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj?
All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj is an organization of Pasmanda Muslims from all over the country. As soon as it heard the news of BJP’s Sneh Yatra, the organisation wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi and demanded that Scheduled Caste status should be given to about a dozen castes in Pasmanda Muslims, who currently come under OBC.

This demand is not new. But amidst the news of BJP making inroads among Pasmanda Muslims, it has once again raised this demand afresh.

Mahaj claims that if the government really wants to do good to the Pasmanda Muslims, then their old demand should be accepted.

If experts are to be believed, without accepting this demand, it is a bit difficult for the Pasmanda Muslims to go with the BJP. This demand is standing as a rift between BJP and Pasmanda Muslims.

Who are Pasmanda Muslims?
‘Pasmanda’ is a Persian word meaning ‘those who are left behind,’ it is believed to be a category of Muslims belonging to Shudra (backward) and Ati-Shudra (Dalit) castes. Till 1998, Pasmanda Muslims were just a group, mainly active in Bihar.

For this reason, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj Sangathan believes that ‘Pasmanda’ are in every religion and in the same way they are also in Muslims.

Caste census has not been done in India for years. According to an estimate, 15 percent of the total population of India are Muslims, out of which about 85 percent are Pasmanda Muslims. According to the latest figures of the National Family Health Survey, about 45 percent of Muslims get the benefit of OBC.

Pasmanda includes people who are socially, educationally and economically backward and forms the majority of the Muslim community in the country. The term Pasmanda is used by Muslim associations in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other parts of India to describe themselves as historically and socially oppressed Muslim communities by caste.

The backward, dalit and tribal Muslim communities are now uniting under the identity of Pasmanda. Among them Kunjare (Rayan), Julahe (Ansari), Dhunia (Mansuri), Butcher (Qureshi), Fakir (Alvi), Hairdresser (Salmani), Scavenger (Halalkhor), Gwala (Ghosi), Washerman (Hawari), Blacksmith-Carpenter (Saifi), Manihar (Siddique), Darji (Idrisi), Vangujjar, etc.

Pasmandas seek answers from ‘secular’ parties
The Bharatiya Janata Party accused the Samajwadi Party and the Congress of using Muslims as mere vote banks while the community strengthened these parties for over seven decades with their blind support.

Pasmandas, or ones left behind, have asked the so-called ‘secular’ political parties to spell out their plans for Other Backward Classes and Dalit Muslims. Activists fighting for the Pasmanda bloc have for long insisted that caste cuts across religions, and that non-Ashraf (well-heeled) Muslims also face caste discrimination just like backward and Dalit Hindus.

Opposition parties have so far remained mum on the matter.

Can’t address Muslims without Pasmandas
While the politics is making sure that the ‘Muslim question’ cannot be addressed without talking to Pasmandas, which comprise majority of Indian Muslims, in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, with the BJP trying its best to win Muslim voters in its favour, it is left to be seen to what extent it succeeds in garnering their support.


MOHD FAHAD The writer is senior journalist, and alumnus of AJKMCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia

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