THE PARTICIPATION of Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in the Gujarat carnage has raised several questions with regard to the unity of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs and Muslims. The Hindutva forces have succeeded in making such a unity very difficult to achieve. More so after the Gujarat carnage and the formation of the Mayawati Government in Uttar Pradesh with BJP support. The Muslims unlike the Christians do not know how to understand the caste question and handle riot situations. The persisting unfriendly relations between Muslims, Dalits and OBCs, mainly in the urban areas, are worrying.
After the BJP came to power and Christians were attacked by the Hindutva forces in several places, Dalit and Adivasi participation in those attacks was all most nil. The Dalits and Adivasis have close relations with the Christians but not with the Muslims. The OBCs have ambiguous relations with the Christians but they too have inimical ties with the Muslims. The causes for this situation need to be probed by Muslim intellectuals. Otherwise, the Hindutva forces will continue to use the muscle power of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the OBCs against the Muslims. Since almost every riot ends up in more killings of Muslims, Dalits and OBCs, the inimical relations increase. This mode of constructing an enemy image among the oppressed communities is a desired agenda of the Hindutva forces. This diverts attention from the basic economic, social and political issues haunting the oppressed.
Following the attacks against the community in Gujarat and elsewhere by the Sangh Parivar, India's Christian intelligentsia launched a global campaign against the fascist nature of the Parivar damaging its credibility in the West. The VHP's attempts to get the United Nations to accord it NGO status were also thwarted. All global NGOs and Government bodies received full information of the attacks and even the U.S. Congress and the European Union Parliament took note. The Sangh Parivar is now planning to install P. C. Alexander as Rashtrapathi.
The Muslim intelligentsia failed to establish a rapport with the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the OBCs at the ground level. Though there are a number of Muslim intellectuals who can document the atrocities against the community and place such facts before the U.N. and other human rights bodies, they never did so. They remain inward looking and have adopted the tactics of mass defence and politics of retaliation. This is unfortunate because the U.N. as a global body gives more credibility to the voices of the victims. Instead of allowing the Muslim community to indulge in retaliatory politics, U.N. involvement may reduce the scale of violence in India. The responsibility for not taking the Gujarat carnage to the U.N. lies entirely with the English-speaking Muslim intelligentsia of India.
The Muslim intelligentsia must also be held responsible for an indifference to the issues of caste and untouchability. Historically, before the British came, the Muslims rulers and scholars did not bother to understand the caste question. A visiting scholar like Alberuni threw a cursory glance at the question but no Indian scholar or poet wrote at length on these issues. Quite surprisingly, they took no social or educational work to the Dalit-Bahujans. Because of the influence of the Brahminic ideology, the Muslim scholars thought that caste system and untouchability were spiritual and that they should not interfere.
Before the Bhakti movement, a few Sufi propagators mingled with the Sudras/Chandalas of that period. But in the modern era, particularly, in the post-Independence period, no Muslim intellectual worth his name has worked among the Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs. No Muslim intellectual stood by Ambedkar when he started the liberative struggle of the Dalits. Following the Mandal movement no Muslim scholar wrote even one serious book formulating an Islamic understanding of caste and untouchability. How do bridges get built among communities? They get built only when one oppressed community gets the support of another and each relates to the other on a day-to-day basis. For that, a theoretical formulation is very essential.
Muslim scholarship has mainly operated within the ruling class feudal ideology. Except for a few scholars such as Irfan Habib, who came under the influence of communism and studied Indian society from a class point of view, no Muslim scholar has done a detailed study on the caste question. Given Islam's literary and educational culture, they should have been the first to fight against caste and untouchability. They should have been the first to write about the inhuman living conditions of the Dalits. However, they remained totally silent. Though the Sufi saints moved into the Dalit and the OBC communities for a spiritual campaign, they too did not build a literary anti-caste, anti-untouchability genre.
Though the British rulers were exploiters they took a keen interest in understanding the caste system. William Carey's "An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the Heathen" made a serious analysis of caste and untouchability in the late 18th century itself. Many issues that became the concerns of Raja Ram Mohan Roy later were raised in his report. During the Mandal debate, many Hindu scholars went to the extent of saying that the British invented caste.
The Muslim intellectuals know that in the Hindu system, the Dalits and the OBCs were forcefully stopped from getting an education. The Christian missionaries introduced education to them irrespective of whether they embraced Christianity or not. Jyotirao Phule and Ambedkar have acknowledged the service of missionaries in their writings. However, such constructive work never came from the Muslim intellectuals.
The educational and health services the missionary activists rendered to the poor masses made their activity a socially integrative one. Even during the attacks on Christians in Gujarat and other places, the missionaries were able to defend their activities in India at all world forums. Even the thoroughly communalised State machinery of Gujarat had to balance its governance between the Hindutva forces and Christian missionaries. The Muslim intellectuals did not take up the social causes of the Adivasis, Dalits and OBCs and hence there are no deep sympathies for them.
In the case of Islam there is not only no investigative tradition, there is no social service tradition with a sense of social interaction before someone embraces Islam. Muslim intellectuals must learn from Christian missionaries and work among Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs so that a relationship of trust is established. All oppressors must learn to work for each other's liberation and build social bondages among them. That is the best way to prevent another Gujarat.