The Welfare Party of India (WPI) is a new addition in the list of over half a dozen existing Muslim parties in India with Mujtaba Farooque who was till recently the secretary of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind(JIH)as its president and Syed Qasim Rasul Ilyas another prominent member of JIH as general secretary. JIH was formed in April 1948 as an offshoot of Jamaat-e-Islami(JEI) which was launched as a religio-political Islamic movement in 1941 by a puritan Islamist Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979).
Even though 11 out of 16 office bearers of the WPI are JIH activists, the party president Mujtaba Farooque claims that it is neither a Muslim party nor a front of the JIH and has declared that it has five non-Muslims namely Fr. Abraham Joseph, Mrs. Lalitha Naik, Prof. Rama Panchal, Prof. Rama Surya Rao and Subramani in the list. Surprisingly, Dr.J K Jain, president of the minority cell of the BJP was also invited to share the platform and speak during the launch function. So much so Fr. Abraham Joseph a Church leader recited Gayatri mantra to prove secular credentials of the party.
Speaking on the concept paper of the WPI Mujtaba Farooque stated: “The real test of a democracy is how it treats its minorities. The biggest minority of the country, the Muslims, have gradually become the most backward social group. By all educational, economic and other developmental measures, they went through unprecedented downfall in the last six decades. They could not still get rid of the lethal sense of insecurity. The violent communalism always keeps them terrorised. The state excesses, sometimes, in the name of curbing communal conflicts and sometimes in the name of countering terrorism, have not yet stopped.”( Afroz Alam Sahil in Beyond Headlines).
JIH is known for its strong commitment to the anti-secular, anti-democracy and Pan-Islamist ideology of Maududi ever since its formation and therefore, never joined electoral politics in India. It hardly has any literature which supports secularism. Even after migration of Maududi to Pakistan the JIH activists have fervently believed and preached his ideology for over six decades.
Maududi advocated for a more assertive political Islam and preached Jihadi ideology of Islamism throughout his life. Widely known for his Islamic activism for obdurate fight against the political system of infidels by updating the proto-Islamist thoughts of eighteenth century Islamists like Shah Waliullah of Delhi and Mawlana Wahhab of Arabian Peninsula, his objective was to convert Indian sub-continent then under British rule from dar-ul- kufr (land of infidels) to dar-ul-Islam (land of Islam). Accordingly, while migrating to Pakistan Maududi advised his followers to boycott the secular political structure including legislative bodies, judiciary and executive which is not in conformity with Islamic scriptures namely Quran, Hadith and Sharia.
Due to his life long preaching on Islamic radicalism Maududi was the first recipient of King Faisal International award in 1979 for his Service to Islam. The award which was started by Saudi Arabia in 1976 carried a 24 carat 200 gram gold medal and a cash prize of 200,000 US dollars. (Wikipadea).
After partition of the Indian sub-continent and migration of Maududi to Pakistan, the JIH’s main problem was how to camouflage its Islamist character and guard the party against any Government action when Indian constitution accepted democracy and socialism. Since Maududi regarded Indian constitution contrary to the Islamic concept of governance, the JIH started its Islamist politics in ambiguity. It adopted a strategy to carry forward t the-political ideology of Hukumat-e-Ilahia (Rule of God) based on Islamic scriptures through Jihad (Holy War) as propounded by Maududi by replacing them with new terminology namely Iqamate Deen( Islamic religious order) and Saleh Inqilab (Peaceful revolution) respectively.
Staying aloof from direct electoral politics, the JIH floated a student front known as Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) in April 1978 immediately after Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and extended support to its cadres from behind. When the Islamist design of SIMI was exposed following its aggressive campaign during Afghan war, the JIH kept a safe distance from it and formed another students front in 1982 known as Students Islamic Organisation (SIO). Almost all the top office bearers of both the SIMI and the SIO were drawn from the JIH.
Against the backdrop of the commitment of the JIH to the Jihadi ideology of Madudi, formation of a Muslim driven party by his disciples in a ‘secular’ mask named as Welfare Party of India is not only a new phenomenon but somewhat intriguing. Does it mean that the JIH has adopted the strategy to preach democracy and secularism openly and push Maududism secretly? Or has the JIH abandoned Maududism which does not permit the Muslims to be the part of the governance which is not in conformity with Islamic scriptures?
Since the JIH has been following Maududism since its inception and none of the WPI office bearers have given any statement that they have abandoned the anti-democracy ideology of Maududi, it appears that ‘Islamic revolutionaries’ who are committed to oppose vehemently the man-made constitution, legislative bodies and political ideas of democracy, socialism and secularism are now trying to achieve their objective through a seemingly 'innocent' means.
Due to the ambiguous style of politics the JIH is still having only a very small following among the Indian Muslims even after its existence of over six decades. But a significant section of radical Muslim youths who are found more inclined towards Islamist terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban and its associated outfits operating in India and are also against the strategic alliance of Saudi Arabia with USA may need political protection. Is it the objective of the JIH to unite them under the banner of the WPI and help them politically?
If the JIH is not a Muslim party, then why were the speakers one after the other concentrated only on the plight of the Muslims? Even the concept paper of the WPI focussed mainly on the alleged plight of minorities particularly the Muslims. A joint strategy of the party with ‘like minded’ parties to contest future elections particularly in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 revealed the political objectives of the JIH. They have already initiated dialogue with Muslim parties like Ulema Council and Peace Party in Uttar Pradesh and other parts of the country.
The JIH was one of the radical Islamist organizations which took active part in hosting the royal welcome to Mecca Imam during his visit in India (March 24-28, 2011). The Saudi cleric asked the organizers to unite the Muslims for changing their existing social order and also plumped for setting up an Islamic TV channel in India for preaching the teachings of the companions of the Prophet. (See my paper on Mecca Imam visit in India). Within a month of his visit the JIH appears to have formed the WPI (April 19). Was this to impress upon the Saudi Monarchy that it was responding to the call of Mecca Imam for the political unity of the Indian Muslims?
Encouraged with the success of Muslim candidates in recently held Assembly elections particularly in West Bengal and Kerala, the JIH perhaps is now preparing for fielding its own candidates in coming Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh in 2012 under the cover of a secular party. In the era of coalition politics and political parties, it is possible that the JIH is exploring other means to acquire political clout. This should be seen in the light of the results of the recently concluded elections in Assam and West Bengal where the Islamist group has managed to send 28 and 59 candidates respectively to the assembly.
Some may argue that it is not a bad development if the JIH has floated a new party that is committed to the man-made constitution and people should welcome it. But if the intention of the Maududi-ites is so pious, why are they trying to enter politics through the back door?. They should have come forward and publicly declared that in view of the changing socio-political environment of the world, the intolerant and outrageous ideology of Mauduism is now outdated? They have not said so so far.
The problem of Islamist groups in India is that their leadership is not yet ready to understand the political ground reality of the country. Except Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim population is scattered across the country and therefore even after sixty four years of partition there is no Muslim political party in the country which has a national character. Two Muslim parties namely Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen are not even regional parties and what to talk of their national status. While the IUML is hardly having any existence beyond Malappuram district in Kerala, the MIM is only a city based party in Hyderabad of Andhra Pradesh.
The emergence of a new political alliance among different Muslim groups including the Islamists should not end up as a danger signal for assertive communal politics in coming days as the heirs of Maududi. Mauddodism has to be fought and defeated politically. Is the JIH willing to reform itself politically? Or will it with the new 'secular credentials' not only make make demands like reservation for Muslims in government jobs but would also press for proportionate political share in democratic institutions like parliament and assemblies? This would take us to pre partition days and this is neither in the interest of the Muslim community nor in the interest of the unity and integrity of the country.