Not Against Anyone But Against Dynastic Politics: AAP Face from Hyderabad

Dr Lubna Sarwath

Dr Lubna Sarwath

HYDERABAD, April 16 — (TCN) Women’s under representation in political sphere is inextricably linked with their low and inferior status in the Indian society. When it comes to participation in active politics in the country, Muslim women remain far behind compared to women from other communities. However, things have dramatically changed for fair sex in general with the coming of internet and penetration of smartphones in some of the remotest parts of the world. Girls are acquiring advance degrees and skills through both direct and distance education modes, in order to keep themselves professionally competent in the era of sophisticated gadgets and machines.

Popular on global map as an IT hub, Hyderabad also produced some of the finest minds, including Nightingale of India Sarojini Naidu, renowned Marxist poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin, and reputed politicians Dr. Zakir Hussain and Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi. Dr. Lubna Sarwath is one of the contemporary bright minds from the city who joined politics, with whom SM Fasiullah interacts to explore her achievements and know why she entered politics. She holds PhD in Economics from an Indonesian university and is a recipient of IKFS’ Best Economist Award for 2012.

TCN: What are the challenges you faced being a lady who stepped out of home to serve the society?

Lubna Sarwath: No specific challenges as such because of my community or my gender. I have been educated at a higher level and currently a Visiting Lecturer at a university abroad. I see men and women as humen first. It is the people in the city who are actually facing challenges. They are at a deprived level from where they are neither in a position to dream nor realize their dreams. I find myself in a position to address their challenges from a participatory platform.

TCN: You have been involved in numerous social activities. When you joined active politics, what was your family’s reaction to it?

LS: I just informed them of my decision to enter active politics. I never took the permission. And their reaction was not positive one, as Old City (Hyderabad) dynamics are different. When you think of politics in Old City, immediate concern that pops up in mind is life security.

TCN: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) offered you ticket to contest for Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat. What was the rationale behind accepting the offer?

I was among the 27 women who participated in ‘India-Women in Leadership Programme’ at IIM Bangalore in 2012, which gave huge exposure and we got the opportunity to speak with national-level politicians from across parties. Prior to that I was already involved in social activities in the city, and knew the ground reality of majority of aam aadmi. Situation at ground zero is gruesome. I visited some areas in the city where people have to line up early morning to relax as there’s only one lavatory in some quarters. At this stage you can’t tell them to work hard and do something extraordinary. They need backing, at least to fulfill basic necessities. The situation is changeable. Hence I thought of connecting with masses through political platform, with the hope to bring a positive change in the lives of aam aadmi.

The Owaisis have won Hyderabad LS seat for eight consecutive terms. How confident you feel in proving a contest in the Owaisi’s bastion?

First of all, I am not treating it as a contest in Owaisi’s bastion. It’s not a contest against Mr. Owaisi. I am not anti-anybody, including AIMIM, TDP or any party for that matter. My agenda is different. My view point and focus is something else. I am against dynastic politics, corruption, communalism, parochialism and miss-governance. Being an AAP candidate, I am against all these things. If the current regime or any regime responsible for these then I am against them. We want to focus on issues, and expect people to think in the same way, instead of going after caste-based politics, communal-politics, or dynastic politics, etc. We want people to think ‘out-of-the box’ for their own development. People should not vote on the basis of social status or family status. They should vote to those who work for public, and are honest with good character. For me MP means ‘meet the people’. An MP is like a patron whose responsibility is to look after the entire constituency, irrespective of whether any person voted for him/her or not.

As far as Hyderabad is concerned, the Pearl City or the City of Gardens has lost the charm – water bodies are not preserved, trees are being cut regularly, pollution is increasing, there’s no sufficient supply of electricity, security problem, and no dignified life. It is a bastion of these problems and miss-governance. Knowing the ground realities, I will take them up for practical policy design then see that those designed policies are informed at the ground level, and also ensure its implementation. Defects are at both designing and implementation levels. I feel all these problems are resolvable with existing resources and technology.

An influential person turned down AAP offer in Hyderabad as the party’s presence is barely felt and no prominent national AAP leader visited the city to boost up fervor this election season. How do you evaluate your strengths then?

There is a huge support for the party that wants participatory governance on the basis of insaaf, insaniat and imaandari (justice, humanity and honesty). The regime we promise is not about ruling masses, but about allowing the masses to rule. There is a huge mass out there that wants change. Every other person wants a change, and is looking for an alternative. They simply need to be directed towards the change. This is my gut feeling. In AAP, you give your vote and you rule. Aam aadmi will rule our MP and MLA. These are humanitarian concepts which actually invoke accountability and responsibility.

Though we do not have enough funds at the state level now, but fund raising started the moment I was given ticket. Hopefully we will have enough funds to contest smoothly this time.

How will be AAP different than other political parties that take Muslim votes but don’t deliver?

We do not differentiate between Hindu or Muslim voters. We are seeking votes on humanitarian grounds. TRS says it will give Deputy CM post to Muslim. Why not CM post, I ask. What these parties are playing with? The concept involved in AAP is so encompassing that it talks about justice and humanitarian grounds upon which every citizen of the country must be dealt with. It is all about equal opportunity and affirmative action. As far as security issue of Muslims is concerned, keeping them educated and informed would make them self-reliant to deal with any authority when there is any wrong. All other solutions in this regard are temporary and for time being. Empower them through education then they will take care of their security.

What you hope to achieve by contesting in this election?

Choosing a candidate is voters’ choice. If they prefer me over other contestants then I will deal with material concerns as well their mental wellbeing. Wellbeing of a nation or a constituency is not just about having some material things.

In other case, I will strive to strengthen party through percolation of AAP concept so that more and more people join us. The party will empower people at grass-root level so that they can resolve various problems facing them, and represent to the concerned by offering innovative solutions. The party will also work as a pressure group at policy making level.

TCN & Caravandaily [April 15, 2014] –


Chandrababu Naidu broke the promise he gave to public by joining hands with BJP: Zahid Ali Khan

Hyderabad: Muslim leadership is responsible to an extent for the community’s vulnerable and pathetic conditions, says some intellectuals. In such a scenario, the leaders who are sincerely striving for the betterment of the community have to assume added responsibility. Numerous concerned community members are doing their bit to uplift the community from its various levels of backwardness. But with political empowerment, the betterment of the community could be achieved speedily and at a mass level.

Zahid Ali Khan

Zahid Ali Khan

SM Fasiullah speaks with Mr. Zahid Ali Khan, a popular figure among Hyderabad Muslims and editor of Siasat newspaper, to know how he can benefit the community without being in active politics. He quit Telugu Desam Party (TDP) after it formed electoral alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for upcoming general elections. Though Mr. Khan gave strong competition to AIMIM supremo and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi in last Lok Sabha elections, he has now decided not to contest in the election.

TCN: You quit TDP after its electoral alliance with BJP. How will it help the community you represent?

ZAK: I was sure what agenda Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would come up with. When talks were going on between TDP and BJP on seat sharing and TDP hoped to gain few seats in Telangana, I told Chandrababu Naidu that it would hurt me and the Muslim community. Also, I clearly informed him to fight elections on his own strength capitalizing on the party cadre, without joining hands with BJP. I warned him that I would be the first person to resign in case of an alliance with BJP. Mr. Chandrababu Naidu broke the promise he gave to public by joining hands with BJP. In the wake of these developments, I decided to quit in the best interest of the Muslim community.

TCN: Why BJP or its policies make you so uncomfortable?

ZAK: Apart from Ram Mandir and Uniform Civil Code, there are hidden agendas of BJP that do not come out in public – such as, whether they are trying to make Muslims secondary citizens in the country.

Also there is no ethics found in politics nowadays. Any politician jumps from party to party for his/her personal gains. For me, my interest is my community’s interest. I entered politics to serve my people, but realized that it is not possible so far you are in active politics.

TCN: Considering your position and influence, don’t you think your presence in TDP would have yielded better results than your absence?

ZAK: No party gives value to Muslim leaders, including TDP. When Congress was not in power, Muslims did not leave Gandhi Bhavan (Hyderabad) even in such times. But when Congress came to power it neglected Muslims and their needs. On the contrary, Congress played role in looting waqf properties of Muslims in the state, including 1300 acres of court land and the land where Lanco Hills are being built. What politicians and their parties want is to amass wealth, and promote members of their kin. I would have joined any other party but all political parties are tainted. I have realized that service to Muslims can’t be done by remaining in the party. Being editor of Siasat Daily I can work much more for the community.

TCN: You have decided not to contest in this general election. What happened to your goal to ‘uplift Muslims of Hyderabad’ that you set in 2009 then?

ZAK: I have been working from my Siasat office for educational and economic development of Muslims, more than an MP does. Now I have taken up the issue of widows and divorcees in the region. Being a political representative of any party, one may not be able to do much because of party leadership interference. As an editor, I feel more independent and comfortable to take up any community welfare activity.

TCN: When you entered active politics, you were hopeful of bringing out Muslims from their ‘pathetic conditions’ by entering politics. How will you realize it now without political power?

ZAK: Show me a community leader in politics who did substantial/satisfactory work for the community in the last two decades. Nothing much changed for people living in Old City (Hyderabad) in the last two-three decades, despite so called powerful leadership. Had doors to Middle East not opened (job opportunities in gulf countries), conditions of Muslims in the city would have been worse. They have improved standards of living by working in foreign countries. In fact the facilities they should have been provided in the city are still missing. It becomes responsibility of their political leaders to offer better facilities within the city.

TCN: Don’t you think staying away from active politics will disappoint voters who voted for you in last elections?

ZAK: I have promised them. Whatever I could have done being an MP, much better than that I will do by being the editor of Siasat. It’s hard to believe in any politicians nowadays. They give false promises and fool people. To contest elections you need crores of rupees. Where does this come from? I want to use my own money to benefit the community, unlike others who loot their community to amass wealth for themselves. I believe, if you have determination to serve the people then you will surely do.

TCN: Even before formation of Telangana State, political parties in the region have discriminatively sidelined Muslims by not giving tickets. What is your comment on Muslim interests in the new state?

ZAK: Parties should give ticket to their respective Muslim members. In addition to giving the ticket, the party must provide necessary backup and resources to ensure the candidate wins. The candidate’s victory means party’s victory. Last time TDP gave me ticket, but neither Mr. Chandrababu nor late Lal Jan Basha came to support me or took part in my public activities. TDP did not offer any financial help to me for contesting, and K. Vijaya Rama Rao too did not come for support. Whatever performance I delivered in last elections, it was due to my efforts and love of people who voted for me. A political party does not pay much heed to a candidate. If a community decides not to vote then the party will run after it; primarily to come to power and retain it.

TCN: TRS promised 12% reservations to Muslims in Telangana State, after it becomes reality. How feasible it is from legal point of view, and what your experience says about it in general?

ZAK: Politicians are expert in giving promises and breaking them. For instance, Mr. Naidu promised in a public meeting long ago that he will not join hands with BJP ever. But he did now. When it comes to reservations to Muslims, not only TRS but also TDP promised it. False assurances are part of politics in the country. Muzaffar Ali Khan (of TDP) worked continuously for last two years, but he was not given ticket because that constituency has been given to BJP. There is no guarantee of politicians or parties. Therefore, I am fed up of this politics. I want to start a new politics. The one which helps Muslims attain educational, economic and social empowerment, something which they were denied in last sixty years in the country. It would ensure development of the community. It will keep Siasat in forefront for this task.

TCN: Do you have plans to join AAP, especially when it offered you the ticket?

ZAK: Yes I have received letter from Aam Aadmi Party to join it and contest for Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat on its ticket. I have tried to analyze whether the party that exists over a 1,000km away from Hyderabad and riding high only in North India could have considerable influence here in the city. A clear picture would have emerged only when Arvind Kejriwal visited the city and addressed public. Neither he visited AP nor did any wave of him become visible here. Anyway, I have finally decided not to contest.

TCN: Your son Amir Ali Khan recently joined YSRCP of Jaganmohan Reddy, who openly praises BJP PM Candidate Narendra Modi. What’s your comment on this?

ZAK: Amir Ali Khan is a childhood friend of YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Therefore he agreed to support Mr. Jagan as a Muslim face in both the regions (Telangana & Andhra). Amir told Jagan that he would join YSRCP only for the development of the community. Mr. Jagan also offered ticket to Amir to contest from Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat. I have told him not to take part in electoral politics sensing that YSRCP may also join hands with BJP in future. Thankfully, Amir turned down the offer to contest from Secunderabad.

TCN [April 12, 2014] –

WPI will try to speak with all secular parties to keep communal forces at bay: AP President

With elections just over a month away, political parties in India have pulled up their socks. As a new player in the so called ‘dirty game’ in India, Welfare Party of India (WPI) has jumped into the field with its value-based politics and inclusive development mantra to woo voter. WPI Andhra Pradesh president Malik Motasim Khan shows his confidence to beat communal forces in upcoming elections, during an interaction with SM Fasiullah in Hyderabad.

Malik Motasim Khan

Malik Motasim Khan

WPI of AP performed fairly well in its election debut during Panchayat elections in the state. What response you got when interacting with voters in rural areas?

Indeed we did well in Panchayat Elections in Andhra Pradesh without following immoral and illegal means to woo voters. People liked our fair and honest approach, and believed in our localized action plans. Their positive responses to our call for value-based politics really boosted our morale. Now we want to contest upcoming elections.

Being just over two years old in the state, don’t you think it’s too early for your party to contest for upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections?

Fighting elections is more about the determination of a person or the party. If you have the spirit to serve people and guts to challenge evil in the society then nothing else would matter. We are promising value-based politics, and will field candidates with no criminal records.

How do you see strong competitors in the field such as TRS, Congress, TDP, MIM and YSRCP?

The party has decided to fight communal forces. We will definitely try to speak with all secular like-minded political parties, if need be, to keep communal forces at bay. The party will convince voters to choose non-criminals to run government at both local and national level.

How will you approach voters who already seem to have been moved by either Modi-wave or AAP magic?

In a country like India there will be followers for every celebrity. Modi too has his followers. That does not mean he will sit on Prime Minister’s chair. Indian history is witness to the fact that majority of people in India have chosen secular candidates as Prime Minister in the past for many times. He’s riding high only in Media. The ground reality is different.

As far as AAP is concerned, it came to power in Delhi with its pro-people promises. It fulfilled a few, and walked away from power in just 49 days leaving many other promises and needs of Delhiites unfulfilled. That’s not what people were expecting from Kejriwal and his party. Moreover, the party has not taken clear stand on many issues of national importance.

There are many similarities in WPI & AAP’s manifestos. Is there any possibility of political alliance with AAP?

It’s quite possible to have similarities in policies or action plans of political parties. Political alliance as such may not be possible with AAP at this juncture. But what I think is if a party takes up an issue or a task beneficial for people then there should not be a problem for another like-minded party to support it. We are ready to give and take support in all people welfare works.

You have been a strong supporter of Telengana Movement and led ‘Telangana Garjana’. What would be your reaction if TRS supports BJP post elections?

I reiterate that Telangana Movement for a separate state and TRS are different. TRS has been in forefront as a political party during this movement, in which I too gave my support as a community leader. TRS has not announced its post elections plans yet; therefore it’s better to leave it.

Rumours are making rounds on social network sites that you will contest for Lok Sabha. Is it true? What would be your preferred constituency?

Yes I will contest for Lok Sabha elections. No official statement in this regard has been issued so far, but let me share that Nizamabad is my preferred Lok Sabha constituency as it’s suitable for me. I belong to Nizamabad and want to serve people of my region.

What are the issues that you will take up, particularly during canvassing?

I will do whatever I can to develop Nizamabad. In the past, politicians promised a lot but did trivial things in the name of development. I have decided to take up following things as a priority: Revival of sugar industry; Rail connectivity between Nizamabad and Karimnagar; Infrastructure development; Implementation of all welfare schemes by government; and Development of slum areas. Being myself a member of minorities, I know problems of minority groups including SC/STs and BCs. I have plan for their overall development as well.

TCN [March 13, 2014] –

An Interview with IIC-Hyderabad Secretary Tariq Muneer

IIC-Hyderabad Secretary Tariq Muneer (MBA-IT) talks about the significance of an Islamic information centre during an interview with SM Fasiullah. He says: Social welfare initiatives particularly in a multi-cultural setup help in harmonizing various perspectives for a peaceful co-existence of people. In the Age of DNA there’s plenty of information on the internet which not only quenches thirst for knowledge of Netizens but also creates doubts and confuses them. The Islamic Information Centre (Hyderabad) answers queries on Islam, clears any misunderstanding about the religion, and works toward religious-harmony.

IIC Hyderabad

IIC Hyderabad

 SM Fasiullah:  What’s the point of motivation behind establishing IIC?

Tariq Muneer : Islamic Information Center (IIC) is a platform for all those who are in search to get clarification on their doubts pertaining to Islam. Unfortunately, Islam is one of the most misunderstood religions across the globe in our times. Media has often projected it as a religion of intolerance, violence and terrorism. In fact, Islam is a universal and an exceptionally peaceful religion.

Misunderstandings do develop between people when they communicate. It is required to clear those misunderstandings for a better existence. People have been looking for someone to answer their queries about Islam. When they search on Internet they may not find specific answer or end up more confused.
Through this Information Center, we are trying to remove those misconceptions, answer queries and bring forth the true facet of Islam before people. Islam teaches universal brotherhood, equality, tolerance and attainment of peace through submission to God.

SM Fasiullah:  How the centre operates and whom it caters to?

Tariq Muneer : It is a one stop solution for all Islam related queries. The team here at IIC comprised of dedicated and qualified graduates and post-graduates having expertise in various domains including Comparative Religion.

We are running a 14/6 (9AM-11PM) available call center answering queries in Hindi, Telugu and English languages. This is an all-India level call center with a toll free number 1800-2000-787. We also have a strong presence on Internet through our website and social networking sites.

IIC caters to various segments of the society like media, academicians, corporate, research scholars, film industry and speakers/writers on Islam as an authentic source of information about Islam. Of late, we are organizing various indoor/outdoor events like inter-faith discussions, symposiums, visits to different religious centers like Ramakrishna Math (Hyderabad), Buddhist Temple, Gurudwara, Church, etc.

SM Fasiullah:  In what way the centre is going to be beneficial for a pluralistic society?

Tariq Muneer : For a pluralistic society like India where many cultures and religions exist, there’s always a possibility of misunderstanding to develop. With its various activities IIC is trying to create an atmosphere of religious understanding, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence. We believe that better understating of religious values will reduce communal differences.

SM Fasiullah : What are common questions that urbanites pose about Islam?

Tariq Muneer : Some of the frequently asked questions about Islam are related to Islam and Terrorism, significance of Hijab/Purdah in Islam, and the concept of God in Islam. Unlike some mainstream religions like Hinduism and Christianity where there is polytheism and trinity respectively, Islam teaches monotheism. People also ask questions specific to festivals of Islam including Fasting (Ramadan) and Sacrifice (Bakrid).

SM Fasiullah : How’s the initial response to your work?

Tariq Muneer : The response is good, we receive around 500-600 calls every month. Since the beginning of operations (in past 7 months), we have successfully reached about 5 Lakh individuals through social networks. We receive calls not only from Hyderabad but also from Maharashtra, West Bengal, Noida, Delhi, Bangalore, etc. InshaAllah we are looking forward to calls from across the country.

SM Fasiullah : Any plans to take the concept to other cities within Andhra Pradesh?

 Tariq Muneer : IIC is the initiative of city chapter of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH). As JIH has a vast network of cadre throughout India, it is possible that more information centers may be established in different cities across India.

[Muslim Mirror: November 24, 2013] –