#India – ‘What we are seeing is the Modi-isation of Congress’


Author: Seema Mustafa

Publisher: ImprintOne

Pages: 199

Price: Rs.395

Year: 2012

Eminent journalist Seema Mustafa speaks about her new book and the Rightwing-communal shift in Indian politics

Sadiq Naqvi and Souzeina Mushtaq  Delhi

In your recent book, Azadi’s Daughter, you describe yourself as a liberal Muslim. What constitutes a liberal Muslim in today’s India?

I think it has changed a lot. Liberal is not a very good word but for want of another description, we have used it. There is some hesitancy about using the word. Some people say either you are a Muslim or you are not. The liberal acquires a meaning which means that probably you are not accepting religiosity in the conventional sense, you are not letting your worldviews be dictated by a certain belief, you are questioning the interpretation of that belief, you believe in rights of human beings, including rights of women. You take progressive positions rather than radical reactions. So, all sorts of coming together become liberal. 

Have perceptions changed?

Communalism, instead of becoming less in society, has grown. In my early years in journalism, I was never conscious that I had a Muslim name. As I moved further into journalism, I felt that my identity as a Muslim often became the first identity and journalism second, and that was very difficult to get used to. That change began after the demolition of the Babri Mosque when the communal forces of this country got a new impetus and the State’s will to fight them became weaker, and weaker, and weaker.

So you believe that the State has moved to a communal trajectory?

Yes. The Congress, under Gandhi and Nehru, had a left of centre progressive ideas. It moved towards the centre. Now, it is very distinctively right of centre.

Why did this happen?

The fact is that political parties and political capability have become so weak; the politician himself is being drawn from society which is ignorant, prejudiced, without a vision. The stature of the politician becomes smaller and smaller. The ability to counter communal violence requires a vision, a resolve, political will, which the politician of today doesn’t have.

Real consciousness in the Congress that there is something like consolidation of the Hindu vote became a reality in the 1984 elections after Indira Gandhi’s assassination when thousands of Sikhs were butchered. The RSS and Congress worked in tandem — the leadership was Congress, RSS provided the cadres. They worked across the country to consolidate Hindu votes.

In UP — I covered the first election after the Babri Masjid demolition — we found this consolidation taking place. The RSS decided that they are not going to vote for the BJP; they will work for the Congress and help consolidate them. The whole character of the Congress changed because it too started looking for the consolidation of the majority vote. Every position it takes, it looks for that consolidation. It has got worried that if it doesn’t the BJP will do it.

At the moment, what we are seeing is the Modi-isation of the Congress. The media is projecting Narendra Modi as larger than life; the Congress, because it is made of low-calibre politicians, feels that this might be the truth and perhaps that will happen.

Basically, they are not ready for a head-on confrontation with him.

Confrontation in politics does not have to be head-on. It has to be continuous, constant, in the form of a campaign. He should have been challenged at his own home ground. Before the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, before thousands of Muslims were killed, Modi was on the verge of losing the elections. It is such a tragedy that you kill 2/3,000 people and you become a big man, and then, on that bigness, you talk about development. The Congress should have challenged him there and then. It is unfortunate that Rahul Gandhi or Congress leaders, none of them were campaigning in Gujarat. If they really want Rahul to lead this country, then the campaign against communalism should have begun from the streets of Ahmedabad. This has not happened.

You have discussed in your book how Muslims are under-represented…

There is a huge bias. There was a time when this bias, if it would show itself, could have been challenged. The Sachar Committee report was a manifestation. It speaks volumes that the Congress government has not implemented its recommendations. This shows an institutional bias.

What is your opinion about the political positions of the CPI(M) and parliamentary Left parties?


Parliamentary Left parties have some problem with identity politics. They are finding it difficult to resolve that problem in their minds. That confusion is still visible in their reactions to larger issues. There is turmoil, a churning; my fear is that, despite that churning, they will again go back to their old position which is not going to answer the challenges we are facing. You cannot secularise everything to a point that you do not mention that most of the people who are being arrested today are Muslims. It is a religion that is under attack now — how do you deal with it? It is alright as long as it is caste, you can deal with it. Dalits are attacked, ostracised, persecuted. But the minute it moves into religion, there is a difficulty. And that difficulty has to be resolved because that is the truth. Indian Muslims, particularly boys, are being targetted in the name of terrorists in different states; that has to be faced head-on. This is the communal response of the State. We can’t brush it off. 

We have a State and society which is not tolerating any dissent. So how does one deal with this growing intolerance?

When this girl in Delhi was raped, everybody started talking about mindsets. They are talking of a mindset where you beat your girls, wives, discriminate against your women, where you have female foeticide, dowry deaths. My thinking is from a political perspective. There is nothing like the goodness of man. We all are good because there are laws and social norms governing us. The decline happens when the State becomes weak and the implementation of law becomes faulty — I mean gender laws, I am not talking of POTA, TADA, and so on.

Progressive laws…

Yes. The State has to crack down, there has to be better policing, it has to make sure that laws are implemented… So when you have a State which doesn’t act against communal forces or the perpetrators of communal crimes, when you have a State which looks the other way and makes a difference between Owaisi and Togadia, then, obviously, the basic communal instincts of man are going to come out as legitimate…

The media doesn’t listen to the secularist. Even when there is a debate, they bring one extremist from the Hindu community, another extremist from the Muslim community, sometimes they bring a secularist who they shut down, and then get these two voices speaking. So the secular liberal discourse is gradually being shifted out of society completely. This is dangerous. 

Do you think this is fuelling fundamentalists on this side? Are Muslims getting radicalised?

I don’t think Muslims are getting radicalised, but fundamentalists, yes. There is fundamentalism but I don’t think it has increased among Muslims. The Jamaat-e-Islami used to be a stronger force in the 1980s than it is today. I am not talking about Kashmir, but about the rest of India.  So I don’t know if Muslims have got more radicalised. You have the Owaisis but then the Owaisis always exist in society. Earlier, there was an aggression. Now, they are not aggressive. In the communal violence that got covered at that time, you had Jamaat and RSS working in tandem to consolidate their constituencies. Today you have Gujarat — without the Jamaat.

From the print issue of Hardnews :

MARCH 2013


Press Note: Supreme Court order granting bail to Syed Kazmi


The Kazmi Solidarity Committee welcomes the Supreme Court order granting bail to Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi after seven months in custody on charges of involvement in the bomb attack on an Israeli diplomatic vehicle.

The committee deplores the obstructive attitude of the prosecution and the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, which have been perversely attempting to keep Mr. Kazmi in prison despite their inability to file a chargesheet within the extended time granted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Not only did the prosecution seek an extension of 90 days after the mandated period of judicial custody was over, it also used its inefficiency as an alibi, pleading that it needed more time to send out letters rogatory seeking international judicial assistance. While Mr. Kazmi was in custody, the Special Cell left no stone unturned in orchestrating a media trial to establish his guilt, planting malicious stories of his “confession” (while disavowing responsibility for these in court hearings).
The committee would like to underline once again, that despite this campaign by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, independent media reports have suggested that the evidence against Mr Kazmi is feeble and the case against him, unlikely to stand any form of scrutiny.
Sukumar Muralidharan, Saeed Naqvi, Seema Mustafa, John Cherian, Jawed Naqvi,Sanjay Kapoor, Iftikhar Geelani, Ajit Sahi, Iqbal Ahmad (journalists)
Shabnam Hashmi, Mahtab Alam, Manisha Sethi, Mansi Sharma and many other activists and journalists for Syed Kazmi Solidarity Committee

Lawyers, Activists Condemn the Arrest of Adv. Shahnawas and demand his immediate release

May 3, 2012 New Delhi: Several activists, lawyers and academicians, in a statement have condemned the arrest of Advocate Shahnawas on Monday by the Kerala Police in Trivandrum.


Here is the statement:    


The undersigned condemn in strongest terms the arrest of Advocate Shahnawas, a leading human rights activist of Kerala. Advocate Shahnawas, who lives and practices in Trivandrum, was arrested on 1st May 2012, and his office raided and his files seized by the Crime Branch of the state. Ostensibly, his arrest has been made by the “Hi-tech Cell” of the Kerala Crime Branch for conspiring to leak intelligence communication in the infamous Email surveillance scandal that rocked the state a few months ago—where a leading daily of the state has alleged that the Hi-tech Cell was snooping on the emails of nearly 250 Muslim individuals and institutions. It cannot escape our attention that the arrest and raid were made on the eve of the SIMI Tribunal sitting in Kerala. Advocate Shahnawas has been assisting the SIMI lawyers in the Tribunal for the past many years and was also due to assist now.


Shahnwas’s arrest comes after Ghalib’s verses were blamed for instigating members of the banned group SIMI and a children’s magazine, Umang published by the Delhi Urdu Academy was cited as incriminating material in an affidavit seeking extension of the ban on SIMI. This follows the condemning of dozens of organizations, including one that hosted AIMPLB convention in Mumbai, as ‘fronts for SIMI’.


The arrest of Advocate Shahnawas is an attack on the very process of law and an attempt to stifle the voice of dissent. Targeting and implicating lawyers in spurious cases encroaches upon the right to access legal aid without fear. It is a clear attempt to also demoralize and intimidate Advocate Shahnwas’s clients—many of them victims of a communal witch-hunt.


We demand that he be released immediately and all his files and work related documents be returned without any conditions.


Abu Zafar, Journalist

Ajit Sahi, senior journalist

Anil Tharayath Varghese, Delhi Solidarity Group

BT Venketesh, Advocate, Bangalore

Feroze Khan Ghazi, South Asian Minorities Lawyers Association (SAMLA)

Gauhar Iqbal, Social Activist, Delhi

Hany Babu, Delhi University

Imran Ali, Advocate, Delhi

Jawahar Raja, Advocate, Delhi

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

Kashif-ul-Huda, Editor, TwoCircles.net

Kavita Srivastava, PUCL

Mahtab Alam, Human Rights activist and journalist

Mansi Sharma, activist

Mayur Suresh, Advocate, Delhi

Mukul Dube, Columnist and Writer

N.D. Pancholi, Advocate, Delhi

Savad Rahman, Journalist, Kerala

Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD

Shankar Gopalakrishnan, Campaign for Survival and Dignity (in individual capacity)

Seema Mustafa, senior journalist

SQR Illyas, Welfare Party

Trideep Pais, Advocate, Delhi

Zafarul-Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette


Released by Manisha Sethi, Adeel Mehdi, Ahmed Sohaib, Sanghamitra Misra and others for Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA)


Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists


Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel


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