It is no secret that today India’s Muslims need much help from the Community’s major organizations and parties to lobby with the government, political parties and the power structure to develop and implement programs to uplift the much depressed and backward Muslims. There are about a half dozen such organizations of Muslims in India that are more than fifty years old, that have much credibility with the Muslims as well as the government, the majority Hindu community, media and the nation’s power structure. Over the years India’s major political parties have sought help from these organizations in successive elections.
Thus when the average Muslims in India hear of intense turmoil, infighting and cut-throat power struggle in the top leadership of these organizations, which shocks them. Such turmoil also reveals some basic structural problems in these venerable and respected organizations. Some of the problems that have come to the surface are: certain family’s dynastic stranglehold on these organizations; certain individual’s dictatorial control on these organizations; inability of the ordinary members of these organizations to rise to the top leadership on the basis of merit and service.
In the last few years we have watched at least four major Muslim organizations of Muslims in India go through serious turmoil. The Muslim Majlis Mashawarat of New Delhi experienced turmoil about two years ago in which a segment of Mashawarat split from the parent body and formed a separate organization laying claim to the parent Mashawarat. Majlis Ittihad Muslameen (MIM), Hyderabad, experienced major problem a few years ago when in 1993 a section of MIM broke away to form the Majlis Bachao Tahreek. Now we see the venerable Jamiat ul Ulema Hind, New Delhi, split due to intense power struggle between its President and General Secretary. A decade ago Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) split and the splinter segment formed the Indian National League.
In the case of Mashawarat, those who broke away are people of credibility, with the media reporting that they were encouraged by some Muslim politicians from South India who were being stymied by North Indian Muslim leaders from the top rungs of the organization’s leadership.
In the case of MIM the stranglehold of the Owaisi family on the organization for three generations, and their domination of the top rungs of MIM leadership is cited as the reason for the turmoil in MIM. Currently one Owaisi is an MIM member of parliament and another is a member of Andhra Pradesh Assembly representing MIM. Their father Salahuddin Owaisi was the long time MIM President and member of parliament from Hyderabad, who ensured that his various sons became top leaders of MIM in their young age. And their grandfather was a long time head of MIM. In fact the resentment of this dynastic control of MIM has become so serious that Hyderabad’s major Urdu newspaper Siasat is openly building opposition to MIM in the community in Hyderabad city. The Majlis Bachao Tahrik accused MIM of not being orthodox enough in defending the religious rights of Muslims. That resulted in MIM adopting several uncalled for sectarian programs. Some recent instances are: Physical attacks in public on Tasleema Nasreen, and public agitation forcing the government to ban the showing of the movie “The Messengar” on the life of prophet Mohammad in movie houses in Hyderabad.
In the case of Jamiat ul Ulema, again the source of the problem is the stranglehold of the Madani family on Jamiat’s top leadership for three generations. About 90 years ago Maulana Husain Madani was among the founders of Jamiat who reigned as its President for many years. He was succeeded by his son Maulana Asad Madani as the Head of Jamiat for many years. Asad Madani who died last year ensured in his lifetime that his brother and various sons acquired top leadership positions in Jamiat. After his death his brother Arshad Madani became the President and his son Mahmood Madani became the General Secretary of Jamiat. Since then the Madani uncle and nephew have been involved in cut-throat power struggle to become the sole power in Jamiat. That led to the recent fireworks and split of Jamiat itself.
About ten years ago the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) whose following is largely in Kerala and Tamil Nadu experienced a similar blowup in its top leadership. That resulted in a split in IUML and the formation of the Indian National League led by Sulaiman Sait, who had earlier declined to relinquish his long running Presidency of IUML.
Such turmoil in the top rungs of India’s major Muslim organizations greatly demoralizes rank and file members of these organizations. It creates much loss of credibility, loss of following in the community and their ability to represent the Muslim community and negotiate on behalf of the community on the serious issues of the community. The net looser is the entire Muslim community in India whose interests are seriously harmed by such dogfights among the top leaders. Today introspection and internal reforms in the working of the major organizations of Muslims in India are a pressing need to prevent destructive bickering and division that can spread in the community itself.
It appears that bringing more internal democracy in the Muslim organizations and doing away with the dynastic control of the organizations by certain families can go a long way in removing the buildup of internal frustrations that result in periodic blowups. Another useful step will be term limits for the heads of these organizations, and doing away with too much power in the hands of the Head of the organization.
Photo: Mahmood MadaniÃ‚Â