Bar Muslims from voting, says Sena

Written By kom nampultig on Senin, 13 April 2015 | 22.23

MUMBAI: Disenfranchise Muslims in order to end vote-bank politics, demanded Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, triggering a firestorm of protest in both the community and political circles. The Mumbai police has stepped up vigil across the city to prevent any communal incident in view of the article.

In a signed article in Saamna, the Sena mouthpiece, on Sunday, Raut slammed both secular and Hindutva forces for playing upon the insecurities of the Muslim community to win elections.

"In elections, some want a Muslim candidate, while others don't. Muslims will not be on the path of development if their numerical strength continues to be misused by political parties. Muslims have no future in this country if there is going to be petty politics over their voting power.... Balasaheb Thackeray had made a demand that Muslims should be stripped of their voting right. This is an appropriate demand...The mask of secularists will come off if Muslims are disenfranchised... Muslims should take the initiative in this connection," wrote Raut.

None of the Maharashtra BJP leaders were willing to go on record on the Saamna article. "Keep us out of this. We have enough muck on our plate," remarked a senior state BJP functionary. However, he admitted that Raut's rants will make the state BJP government "vulnerable" to fresh rounds of criticism from the left, secular forces and the opposition Congress-NCP combine.

BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said in New Delhi, "Owaisi brothers play communal politics. However, this does not mean that any community should be stripped of its democratic rights. This is Shiv Sena's personal view and BJP does not agree with it. This country belongs to 125 crore people and it runs according to a Constitution where everyone above the age of 18 has voting rights."

Several Muslim and Congress leaders demanded criminal proceedings against Raut. Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam and senior leader Sachin Sawant demanded that Raut's Rajya Sabha membership be revoked. Nirupam condemned Raut's article, saying the onus was now on chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to initiate criminal proceedings against Raut. "If Fadnavis does not act, then it will mean that he was endorsing the views expressed by Raut," he said, adding Shiv Sena and MIM should be derecognized and barred from contesting polls.

Muslim leaders demanded Raut's immediate arrest for trying to breach peace and communal harmony. MIM legislator Waris Pathan said the comments were aimed at creating hatred. "We demand Fadnavis file a criminal case against him or else MIM will move the court against Raut,'' Pathan told TOI. Pathan said if Raut was serious about his demand, he should first ensure that Muslim cabinet members in the Union cabinet, including Najma Heptullah, are sacked immediately.

Senior NCP functionary Nawab Malik said India can march ahead only if Muslims are treated with respect and a sense of equality. Malik said Raut's article was born out of frustration. "Raut knows that Shiv Sena nominee Trupti Sawant will be defeated in the (Bandra east) by-election since most of the Muslims have moved in favour of the Congress,'' he said, adding, "If Raut had the courage, he should have written the article before polling day.''

A senior police official said that no one will be allowed to take law into their hands, and all steps will be taken to ensure the situation stays normal. "We have sought the opinion of the law and judiciary department on whether Raut's article attracts provisions of the IPC, particularly section 153A (which deals with hate speech)." He said alerts have been sounded across the state to be on guard against any communal flare-ups.

Interestingly, Raut also lashed out at Hindutva forces for playing the Muslim card for political gains. It appears that Hindutva leaders tacitly support a radical Muslim leader as he helps polarization of votes which actually helps patriotic parties to flaunt their stripes, said Raut, adding, "The crux of the problem is that every political party wants to provoke the Muslim community for its political benefit...Hindutva leaders are playing with national security if they think division of Muslim votes will bring them huge electoral success."

"We (saffron parties) tend to purr with delight when an Owaisi or a Mulayam Yadav appeases the Muslim community. We think we've got a good point for the poll campaign. We think rabid, anti-Hindu speeches by such extremist leaders will result in polarization of votes....But, no one thinks of the country's security...With such venom in the air, Hindus and this country will not last longer...Muslims will outnumber Hindus in the next 50 years and we will be slaves carrying the weight of a Muslim nation in India," Raut predicted.

"Right to vote is provided by the Constitution to every valid citizen of India. A case should be filed against Raut and he should be arrested for suggesting that Muslims be denied this constitutional right," said Maulana Athar Ali, senior cleric and member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board at a conference for Muslim reservation.

While stating that he felt "awfully sorry" while writing the Saamna piece, Raut said, "However, surgery is often needed to restore one's health." He said exploiting Muslims for winning elections will threaten India's territorial integrity and security.

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