In an attempt to strengthen its ongoing outreach among Muslim Pasmanda communities, the BJP on Saturday appointed former Aligarh Muslim University vice-chancellor Tariq Mansoor as one of its vice presidents.
Mr Mansoor was instrumental in steering the AMU, one of the hotbeds of anti-NRC and CAA protests, on a “middle path”, and later closely working with the RSS on its project to promote the teachings of Mughal prince Dara Shikoh on peaceful Hindu-Muslim coexistence that was in contradiction to his brother Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s way of working.
The appointment came on a day when Home Minister Amit Shah was in Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu to launch a book on former president APJ Abdul Kalam, also one of the icons of the party’s Pasmanda outreach.
BJP has been continuously reaching out to a section of the Muslim population through Minority Morcha meetings, mostly focused on Pasmanda Muslims, who are from Dalit and other backward class communities. Mr Mansoor was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council, the fourth Muslim picked by the BJP for the post in the last few years.
Tariq Mansoor is from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims constitute roughly 19% of the state’s electorate, and have a sizeable presence in at least 30 Lok Sabha seats, out of which they play a major role in deciding the outcome in 15 to 20 constituencies.
According to an RSS functionary, Mr Mansoor had impressed the sangh’s leadership by his work on the Dara Shikoh project, by effectively using the AMU’s Persian department to translate much of Shikoh’s work on inter-faith dialogue and project him as an ideal for the Muslim community. He organised seminars and conferences on the same.
Mr Mansoor, a surgeon, has been associated with AMU since the 1970s when he completed his MBBS degree in surgery from the university’s JN Medical College. He then went on to do his Master of Surgery (MS) degree in 1982 from the same college. Apart from the BJP’s focus on the Pasmanda Muslims, which is important in terms of influence, the RSS has been specifically reaching out to Muslim academics, and people of the community from professions such as medicine, law, and bureaucracy, to make a difference in the minority discourse.
Jamal Siddiqui, head of the BJP’s Minority Morcha said Mr Mansoor was a “nationalist Muslim” who has always promoted the ideal of “nation first.” “His understanding of the fault lines in the Muslim community is as deep as his knowledge about the country and its history. He has led the students of AMU on the right path and prevented them from being misled. His appointment will help the party to expand better.”
He was the fourth person from the Muslim community to be promoted to the Legislative Council by the party in UP since 2017, after Bukkal Nawab, Mohsin Raza, and Danish Azad Ansari.
Mr Mansoor was the AMU Vice Chancellor when it witnessed protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) in 2020. He was then criticised for “not standing up for students” when policemen allegedly barged into the university, as opposed to the VC of Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, who stood by the students. Mr Mansoor has, however, always said he did his best, and talked about the importance of welfare and socio-economic justice over identity issues.
“Mansoor belongs to Aligarh, the hub of Muslim politics, and comes from an educated, middle class family. His family has doctors and lawyers. This is the kind of Muslims we want to work with to take the nation forward,” a BJP functionary from UP said.
Khalid Anis Ansari, associate professor from Azim Premji University, who has been actively raising issues pertaining to the community for many years, has often pointed out that Indian Muslims too are victims of caste-based stratification, and are divided into three main classes, and hundreds of biradaris.
The ‘Ashraf’ Muslims, or native upper caste converts, for instance Syed, Sheikh, Mughal, Pathan, etc are at the top, and the Syed biradari is highly revered. The movements against the Ashraf dominance have been led by the ‘lower’ ones – Ajlaf (backward Muslims) and Arzal (Dalit Muslims), and these are known as Pasmandas, the community the BJP has been trying to woo. Only 15 percent of the community come from these upper caste communities, while the rest are largely Pasmanda Muslims. The BJP has planned a massive Sneh Yatra to reach out to these Pasmanda Muslims in the coming days.
Muslim intellectuals and opposition parties have, however, said this was an attempt by the BJP to create a divide among the Muslim community, and that often the Muslim victims of hate crimes or economic boycott were Pasmanda themselves.