Ali Anwar Ansari writes stern letter to Narendra Modi on BJP’s Pasmanda outreach

Ali Anwar Ansari
Ani Anwar Ansari

Former Rajya Sabha MP and writer-activist Ali Anwar Ansari, on July 15,  wrote a letter to prime minister Narendra Modi in the context of the prime minister’s directions to Bharatiya Janata Party members to reach out to Pasmanda Muslims. 

“It was a pleasant surprise to hear you talk about ‘Pasmanda’, but the Pasmanda Muslims want ‘sam-maan’ (equality and dignity), not ‘sneh’ (affection). The term ‘sneh’ has a specific connotation: That the Pasmanda Muslims need ‘sneh’ denotes that they are an inferior lot requiring patronage from the ones who are superior,” Ansari wrote in his letter.

Modi, on July 3, had suggested a ‘sneh yatra’ at the BJP’s national executive meeting to reach out to “deprived and downtrodden sections” in communities other than Hindus. Sources in the BJP said the remark was a message for the party to reach out to communities such as Pasmanda Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, as per Indian Express

Ansari, who is the founder of All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz, cast doubts about the intentions behind this overture. He asked in his letter, “Has the sudden move to take out ‘Sneh Yatra’ for Pasmanda society something to do with vote-bank politics? Isn’t it aimed at pitting Muslims against one another? Pasmanda Muslims do not support any party blindly. No party should take them ‘for granted’.”

Ansari explained that the term Pasmanda is religion and caste neutral.

In 1998, we formed a social organization called Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz because the term ‘Pasmanda’ is religion and caste neutral. There is no caste or religion by the name of Pasmanda. All the communities — Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and others — have people from Pasmanda, Dalit and Adivasi sections. Not only do we have a relationship of pain with these sections, but our DNA is also the same. We have put the word Pasmanda’ before the word ‘Muslim’ in our organization’s nomenclature. For, historically we are Pasmanda first, Muslims later. We have converted to Islam for ‘masawat’ (equality). We, Pasmanda Muslims, are the original inhabitants of our country, India. Hardly one or two per cent of Muslims have come to India from Arabia, Iran and Iraq. We are not the people of ‘Aqliyat’ (minority); we are ‘Aksariyat’ (bahujans).

Ali Anwar Ansari in his letter to prime minister Narendra Modi

“’Pasmanda’ is an Urdu-Persian word which means people left behind or oppressed. We don’t want to continue as ‘Pasmanda’; we aspire to become ‘Peshmanda’ (the one who leads from the front),” he continued.

Ansari further questioned the rationale behind the sneh yatra when no action was being taken against the persecution of Pasmanda Muslims. “Mr. Prime Minister, you have asked your partymen to take out ‘Sneh Yatra’ for the Pasmanda Muslims. This will prove effective only when communal harmony is maintained in the society. What’s the point in taking out a ‘Sneh Yatra’ if hate statements and bulldozers also go on? Pasmanda Muslims have been the worst hit of all the campaigns of mob lynching in the name of cow protection, ghar-wapsi, love jihad, Tablighi jihad in the time of Corona pendemic or any temple-mosque conflict that have been going on since 2014. Those killed, burnt, maimed, framed in police cases and jailed due to such incidents were mostly Pasmanda Muslims,” he elaborated. 

Ansari also requested the prime minister to give Scheduled Caste status to Pasmanda Muslim castes such as Halalkhor, Bhatiyara and Gadhedi and Scheduled Tribe status to Mewati, Van Gujjar, Sapera, Madari, etc.

Khalid Anis Ansari, associate professor at Azim Premji University, called Ansari’s letter a powerful intervention. He told The Satyashodhak, “Ali Anwar’s letter falls within the ‘speaking truth to power’ genre. It is a powerful intervention at a juncture when the Opposition has lost the plot, and we are witnessing the elite capture of the identity movements led by the microscopic, upwardly mobile subaltern classes. Anwar poses critical questions to the RSS-BJP combine and reveals their co-optation strategy for Pasmanda Muslims. While reiterating the distance of the Pasmanda movement from the pan-religion communal forces and its core democratic demands, the letter stresses the need for a progressive cross-caste/class solidarity for equality and justice.”

Read Ali Anwar Ansari’s letter to prime minister Narendra Modi in full below:


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