Muslim leaders in India are rootless, says Khurshid

"There is a real absence of an organically developed political Muslim class rooted in the community and organically related to it... Most Muslim leaders on Wednesday are, by and large, rootless and lack organic links with their community.  Many of them are from established political families, handpicked by various political parties for their ability to garner Muslim votes," Khurshid told weekly news magazine Tehelka in an interview.

Referring to leaders like Maulana Azad and Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, the minister said they were neither aggressively dissident nor sycophantic, pliant or excessively dependent on external forces. "Today, we seem to lack such Muslim voices in the political arena that can articulate Muslim issues without either being, for at least appearing to be aggressive, or being supinely dependent on existing political parties," Khurshid said while replying to a question about Muslims suffering from leadership crisis in the country.

Touching on the issue of conservatism among Muslims, Khurshid, who is a senior Congress leader from Uttar Pradesh reminded about Khap Panchayats, whose role, has recently come into criticism over the issue of same gotra marriage and honour killings. "We all know about the conservatives among Muslims, but every community is plagued by conservatives, who refuse resolutely to recognise that there is a need for reform in certain attitudes and laws relating to their communities. The fatwas of the Khap Panchayats are a recent example of the presence of the arch-conservatives amongst the Hindus right next door to New Delhi," he said.

Asked about the Muslim organisation, the jammats and tanzeems, Khurshid said they have never been able to deliver anything to Muslims and simply "capitalise on their liaison with Ulema (cleric) and bargain with political parties".

Khurshid took a dig at the opponents of the Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra Commission reports, which highlighted the backwardness and Muslims and suggested remedial measures.

"The virulent opposition of some non-Muslim forces, particularly some self-professed secular elements and the so-called liberal media to any measures for Muslim empowerment, particularly on the lines of the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and the Rangnath Mishra Commission, clearly shows that it is not the Muslim political class but some among the Hindus, who have an agenda to see that the Muslims remain backward," he said.

Khurshid's remark came, when pointed out that it is often alleged that Muslim leaders or the political class have not adequately taken up the issues related to economic and educational empowerment of the Muslims. The minister, though, refused to comment on the Batla House encounter citing the Supreme Court judgement, but said, "...civil society in India does not, in general, believe the police version about an encounter."

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