Muslims warn politicians against using religion to grab votes

April 17th, 2009 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Syed Zarir Hussain
Doboka (Assam), April 17 (IANS) Nur Mohammad and his brother Hafiz, both Muslim clerics in Assam, are angry over politicians trying to seek votes in the name of religion.

“It’s pure nonsense to even think that Muslim voters could be emotionally blackmailed by some politicians trying to whip up communal passions ahead of the elections,” Nur, a middle-aged Imam of a mosque in Doboka in Nagaon district, told IANS.

Doboka, about 170 km east of Assam’s main city Guwahati, is a roadside town dominated by Muslims and falls under the Nagaon parliamentary constituency where three parties are locked in a bitter battle for political supremacy - the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF).

While the BJP has almost ignored campaigning in the Muslim dominated areas, the Congress and the AUDF are the two parties trying to penetrate the minority belt with equal gusto.

And among the two parties, the AUDF, a minority-based party headed by perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, is trying harder to reach out to the Muslim voters.

“It is true that leaders from the AUDF in particular and some from the Congress as well were trying to mix religion with politics to get votes,” said Hafiz.

While the minorities continue to be impoverished and lead a live of abject poverty, it is only during elections that politicians visit them to seek votes - a complaint that is heard often.

“Once the elections are over, politicians simply forget us,” said Rashida Begum, one of the very few women in the area who go to college.

Muslims account for about 40 percent of the nearly 1.2 million voters in the Nagaon parliamentary constituency.

“Our problems are aplenty - poor roads, inadequate healthcare facilities, unemployment and illiteracy. No MP has ever taken interest in the welfare of the community,” said Rashida.

For the past two terms, the Nagaon seat has been held by the BJP.

“We want a representative who could sincerely work for the all-round development of the area, instead of adopting a partisan role,” said Hamid Ali, a village elder.

“Seeking votes in the name of religion and then ignoring us for the next five years would not be tolerated at all,” said Sariful Rahman, a schoolteacher.

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