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Explained | Who Are Pasmanda Muslims, Why Is BJP Wooing Them, And Will It Work?

"An end to communalism, lynchings, and persecution of Muslims, is what we want," says Ali Anwar Ansari.

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On Sunday, 16 October, the BJP held a conference with prominent members and intellectuals of the Pasmanda Muslim community in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, in an attempt to woo them and establish a better relationship with them. Why?

Because, according to Ali Anwar Ansari, founder and president of the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz, a substantial portion of Indian Muslims belong to the Pasmanda community.

The term 'Pasmanda', derived from Urdu, has been used to refer to the most oppressed, the most marginalized, and the most socially and economically isolated Muslims in India.

But, even as the BJP attempts to woo Pasmanda Muslims, public floggings, mob lynchings on Muslims, and the bulldozing of homes of Muslims continue across India.

So, would the Pasmanda Muslim community side with the BJP at a time like this? The Quint spoke to Ali Anwar Ansari, founder and president of the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz and former Rajya Sabha MP, to find out.

Explained | Who Are Pasmanda Muslims, Why Is BJP Wooing Them, And Will It Work?

  1. 1. Who Are Pasmanda Muslims?

    "Pasmanda", Ansari says, refers to the most backwards, most marginalized, and most oppressed members of the Muslim community.

    "In India, Pasmanda Muslims form more than 85 percent of the total Muslim population," Ali Anwar claims.

    The 2006 Sachar Committee report, which examined the state of Muslims in India, states that over 40.7 percent of Muslims in India are Muslim OBCs — nearly 16 percent of the total OBC population.

    It further highlighted that Indian Muslim OBCs had a substantial lack of access to reservations and special rights afforded to SC/OBC Hindus under Article 341 of the Constitution.

    This lack of access extends to many Muslim OBCs not being included in the list of OBCs in the country that qualify for protection and special rights, as well as not being provided the same protections and reservations given to Scheduled Castes under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

    These people, Ansari says, are the Pasmanda Muslims.

    Ansari says when he started working towards the upliftment of dalit Muslims in Bihar, the word "pasmanda" wasn't commonplace for Muslim OBCs.

    The term "pasmanda" finds its roots in Urdu, and roughly translates to "those left behind".

    "We started the Pasmanda movement in Bihar in 1998. Initially it was just dalit Muslims from Bihar, but in time it grew much larger than just UP or Bihar."
    Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz

    Despite caste being a Hindu construct, and Islam not having the concept of caste, Indian Muslims can be categorized into three "castes", according to the 2006 Sachar Committee -

    Ashraf, who are members of "the elite", who claim to be descendants of immigrant Muslims.

    Ajlaf, which refers to members of the Backward and Other Backward Classes who converted to Islam.

    Arjal, which refers to dalits who converted to Islam.

    The Sachar Committee report had highlighted, as far back as 2006, that affirmative action needs to be taken for all three groups, albeit to different extents.

    "Pasmanda Muslims have protested communalism and segregation in all forms. Whether it's Hindu communalism, or Muslim communalism, we've stood against it. We protested in the 1940s when Jinnah demanded partition, and we will stand against communalism in all forms."
    Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz
    Expand
  2. 2. Why Is The BJP Trying To Woo Pasmanda Muslims?

    Like we mentioned earlier, a large number of Muslims in India belong to the Pasmanda community. In the 2022 UP assembly elections, the BJP won with a vote share of 41.3 percent, or just over 38 lakh votes. The Samajwadi Party (SP) bagged 32 percent of the vote share.

    To firmly secure their position in the state for coming elections, the BJP needs more than 50 percent of the vote share, according to political commentators.

    "In 2024, even the traditional voters of the BJP are going to vote against them because of the economic crisis caused by demonetisation, GST, rising unemployment rates, the widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor, and the falling rupee. So, now they're trying to woo the poor, the oppressed, and the most marginalized Muslims."
    Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz
    Expand
  3. 3. What Does The Pasmanda Muslim Community Want?

    Ali Anwar Ansari said, in no uncertain terms, that if the BJP wants their support, they need to ensure the safety of Muslims in the country, to begin with.

    "If they want our trust and support, they need to, at the least, start by doing two things.

    1. Put an end to the persecution of Muslims in India. Everything we've seen - the mob lynchings, the accusations of love jihad, tablighi jihad, land jihad, the different kinds of "jihad", bulldozing homes of Muslims, releasing Bilkis Bano's rapists - in all of it, the worst affected are Pasmanda Muslims. The PM is yet to say anything condeming these incidents. They need to first act on this.

    2. Follow up on the findings of the Rangnath Misra Committee report, the Sachar Committee report, and the many other reports that have found that Pasmanda Muslims are treated the same or worse than dalits and other members of backward classes, other backward classes, and scheduled castes. The reports clearly state that dalits exist in Muslim communities too. We want the same classification and protections granted to scheduled castes, OBCs and other marginalized sections for Pasmanda Muslims."

    Ansari also asked why the rapists of Bilkis Bano were released, why those convicted of lynching Muslims were garlanded, and why

    Expand
  4. 4. What's Likely To Happen Next?

    "They might be able to entice some Pasmanda Muslims to support them. But the majority of us, who work hard and are upstanding people, will not give our vote to the BJP," Ansari asserts.

    "They thought passing a law in favour of Muslim women (referring to the verdict on triple talaq) would bag them votes from Muslim women. But, that didn't work for them, did it?"
    Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz

    Ansari adds that the Pasmanda community stands firmly against communalism in all forms, and that until the ruling BJP actively puts an end to the ongoing persecution against Muslims, they won't receive support from the community.

    "We understand that they want out support. But to put it in simple terms, we have many options to pick from, and we can tell the difference between true friends and enemies," he adds.

    So, will the BJP meet the Pasmanda community's demands for equality, equity, and an end to the rampant communalism and persecution of Muslims in the country?

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Who Are Pasmanda Muslims?

"Pasmanda", Ansari says, refers to the most backwards, most marginalized, and most oppressed members of the Muslim community.

"In India, Pasmanda Muslims form more than 85 percent of the total Muslim population," Ali Anwar claims.

The 2006 Sachar Committee report, which examined the state of Muslims in India, states that over 40.7 percent of Muslims in India are Muslim OBCs — nearly 16 percent of the total OBC population.

It further highlighted that Indian Muslim OBCs had a substantial lack of access to reservations and special rights afforded to SC/OBC Hindus under Article 341 of the Constitution.

This lack of access extends to many Muslim OBCs not being included in the list of OBCs in the country that qualify for protection and special rights, as well as not being provided the same protections and reservations given to Scheduled Castes under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.

These people, Ansari says, are the Pasmanda Muslims.

Ansari says when he started working towards the upliftment of dalit Muslims in Bihar, the word "pasmanda" wasn't commonplace for Muslim OBCs.

The term "pasmanda" finds its roots in Urdu, and roughly translates to "those left behind".

"We started the Pasmanda movement in Bihar in 1998. Initially it was just dalit Muslims from Bihar, but in time it grew much larger than just UP or Bihar."
Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz

Despite caste being a Hindu construct, and Islam not having the concept of caste, Indian Muslims can be categorized into three "castes", according to the 2006 Sachar Committee -

Ashraf, who are members of "the elite", who claim to be descendants of immigrant Muslims.

Ajlaf, which refers to members of the Backward and Other Backward Classes who converted to Islam.

Arjal, which refers to dalits who converted to Islam.

The Sachar Committee report had highlighted, as far back as 2006, that affirmative action needs to be taken for all three groups, albeit to different extents.

"Pasmanda Muslims have protested communalism and segregation in all forms. Whether it's Hindu communalism, or Muslim communalism, we've stood against it. We protested in the 1940s when Jinnah demanded partition, and we will stand against communalism in all forms."
Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz
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Why Is The BJP Trying To Woo Pasmanda Muslims?

Like we mentioned earlier, a large number of Muslims in India belong to the Pasmanda community. In the 2022 UP assembly elections, the BJP won with a vote share of 41.3 percent, or just over 38 lakh votes. The Samajwadi Party (SP) bagged 32 percent of the vote share.

To firmly secure their position in the state for coming elections, the BJP needs more than 50 percent of the vote share, according to political commentators.

"In 2024, even the traditional voters of the BJP are going to vote against them because of the economic crisis caused by demonetisation, GST, rising unemployment rates, the widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor, and the falling rupee. So, now they're trying to woo the poor, the oppressed, and the most marginalized Muslims."
Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz
0

Winning the Pasmanda Muslim vote, thus, would help the BJP in not just state elections, but also with returning to power in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

To this end, the BJP has worked to appease the Pasmanda community since 2014, first with the appointment of Abdul Rashid Ansari as chief of the Rashtriya Alpsankhyak Morcha in 2014 and then in 2021, when Pasmanda leader Sabir Ali was appointed the general secretary of the same Morcha. Ali has reportedly been given the mandate to reach out to the Pasmanda community, and was one of the leaders at the meeting on Sunday, 16 October.

Another Pasmanda face in the UP cabinet who has been in the news recently is Danish Azad Ansari, Minister of (State) Minority Welfare. From a student member of the ABVP to a minister in Yogi Adityanath's UP cabinet, Danish Azad Ansari has risen to significance within the UP cabinet over the years.

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What Does The Pasmanda Muslim Community Want?

Ali Anwar Ansari said, in no uncertain terms, that if the BJP wants their support, they need to ensure the safety of Muslims in the country, to begin with.

"If they want our trust and support, they need to, at the least, start by doing two things.

  1. Put an end to the persecution of Muslims in India. Everything we've seen - the mob lynchings, the accusations of love jihad, tablighi jihad, land jihad, the different kinds of "jihad", bulldozing homes of Muslims, releasing Bilkis Bano's rapists - in all of it, the worst affected are Pasmanda Muslims. The PM is yet to say anything condeming these incidents. They need to first act on this.

  2. Follow up on the findings of the Rangnath Misra Committee report, the Sachar Committee report, and the many other reports that have found that Pasmanda Muslims are treated the same or worse than dalits and other members of backward classes, other backward classes, and scheduled castes. The reports clearly state that dalits exist in Muslim communities too. We want the same classification and protections granted to scheduled castes, OBCs and other marginalized sections for Pasmanda Muslims."

Ansari also asked why the rapists of Bilkis Bano were released, why those convicted of lynching Muslims were garlanded, and why

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Ansari adds, "If they were serious, they would have met with me and discussed this. No one from the BJP's leadership has met with me yet. I met with leaders from different communities and political parties including the Congress and socialist parties on Sunday in Ahmedabad."

He adds that he has written to the prime minister with their expectations, on 16 October.

Ansari's meeting came at the same time that the BJP's leadership in UP had set a meeting with Pasmanda leaders in the state on Sunday.

The BJP isn't the first party to try and woo the Pasmanda community either. Ansari himself was a Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar, representing the JD(U) under the Nitish Kumar government from 2006 to 2017. He was expelled in 2017 for opposing the Nitish Kumar government's decision to exit the Mahagathbandhan and ally with the BJP.

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What's Likely To Happen Next?

"They might be able to entice some Pasmanda Muslims to support them. But the majority of us, who work hard and are upstanding people, will not give our vote to the BJP," Ansari asserts.

"They thought passing a law in favour of Muslim women (referring to the verdict on triple talaq) would bag them votes from Muslim women. But, that didn't work for them, did it?"
Ali Anwar Ansari, Founder and President, All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz

Ansari adds that the Pasmanda community stands firmly against communalism in all forms, and that until the ruling BJP actively puts an end to the ongoing persecution against Muslims, they won't receive support from the community.

"We understand that they want out support. But to put it in simple terms, we have many options to pick from, and we can tell the difference between true friends and enemies," he adds.

So, will the BJP meet the Pasmanda community's demands for equality, equity, and an end to the rampant communalism and persecution of Muslims in the country?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Muslim    Muslims 

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