A meeting by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra on November 27 is slated to discuss triple talaq that permits verbal divorce and a uniform civil code (UCC) that can alter the political dynamics in the country. Also on the agenda are the threat of radicalism and the Muslim community’s overall development vis-à-vis education and employment opportunities.
This is not the first such conference by the 2002-formed RSS-affiliate, but the timing has now lent it particular significance.
In a few months from now, Uttar Pradesh, with a sizeable Muslim population, will go to polls. The BJP does not traditionally bank on the Muslims for a vote, but the party does not want to alienate the community even as it makes guarded moves to introduce UCC.
The MRM, with 10,000 volunteers and limited clout in the community, has thrown its weight behind the fight to end the practice of triple talaq. The Manch refers to Triple Talaq as a social problem does not keep in with the tenets of Islam.
“Not all sects of Muslims believe in triple talaq; but somehow it is prevalent and misused,” said Mohd Afzal of the MRM. “So many women are forced to live in penury after being divorced. So, this is not a religious issue, but a social cause. We need to discuss this as a community.” While Afzal asserted the day-long event is to discuss issues concerning the community’s welfare and for erasing the notion that the BJP and the RSS are anti-Muslim, there are other reasons for the MRM’s overtures.
For one, Ram temple construction in Ayodhya has resurfaced on public memory and the issue can further wedge communities in the poll-bound state. Politically too, it has the potential of rallying the Muslims against the BJP.
The MRM has thus stepped in to broker peace, given that the RSS cadre won’t be pressed into reaching out to Muslims.
“The Muslims are not opposed to a temple; it is a politically-motivated campaign,” claimed Afzal. “Muslims in Ayodhya revere Ram as much as the Hindus as he is part of the Indian culture.”
In recent months the MRM has held several meetings with Ulemas and representatives of the community, focusing on reaching out to professionals and students to build inter-community bridges. It is particularly focusing attention on youngsters being lured by radical groups.
In strife-torn Kashmir Valley, too, the Manch is making attempts to woo Muslims by offering skill training opportunities and running schools.