By Haider Abbas
Muhammed Azam Khan is not even slightly diffident, he is unrelenting and has not succumbed to the worst ever political vendetta meted to any politician, which only has one example other than him, that of Sheikh Abdullah of Kashmir who was jailed for more than 15 years. MA Khan has been a 10 times MLA, Ex. Rajya Sabha MP, Ex. Lok Sabha MP-all from Rampur (UP), but today has been stripped of his MLA seat, his vote too, as he has been convicted of hate-speech, which has necessitated by-elections in Rampur. MA Khan’s wife is also Ex. Rajya Sabha MP and Ex. MLA, his son is a sitting MLA. Asim Raja is the Samajwadi Party (SP) candidate.
There is also an election to the Lok Sabha seat of Samajwadi Party (SP) founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, who left for heavenly-abode, his daughter-in-law and wife of SP President Akhilesh Yadav- Dimple Yadav is contesting from Mainpuri.
Another assembly seat is Khatauli where SP ally Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate Madan Bhaiyya is in fray. SP is contending against the ruling BJP government in the State as well as in Center. The elections are to be on December 5.
There has been no solace for MA Khan, since 2017, when the SP government had bowed out of office and ‘his hounding’ began full-flow. The smear media campaign, which included mainstream media channels, with one or two exceptions, were in the fore-front as BJP had taken to office. Come 2019, and despite BJP in UP as well as in Delhi, he won the Rampur parliament seat, but the onslaught continued. He was slapped with more than a 100 cases, was sent to jail for 27 months, since February 2020, along with his ailing wife and son. In jail his wife slipped and broke her shoulder. He suffered by COVID-19 massive infection, and only after the intervention of Ex. UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, had to be shifted to Medanta Hospital, Lucknow, from his dungeon in Sitapur Jail, where he was confined for than two-years. Even after coming out on bail, in April, the woes did not end, as fresh cases have been heaped on him, almost as a routine, despite SP veteran and UP Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey, on the floor of the House, asking to end the miseries inflicted on MA Khan! This writer visited Sitapur Jail on numerous times and also Medanta Hospital, Lucknow, and has written ‘Sitapur Jail Diary’, a compilation of articles based on eye-witness accounts.
MA Khan has been convicted of hate speech, but where are the ‘baiters of hate’ who had left the whole nation bleeding by virtue of the Rath-Yatra ( LK Advani) to liberate Lord Rama from Babri Masjid? The riots that ensued after Babri Masjid locks were opened (1986), the Hashimpura massacre (1987) in which 41 innocent and unarmed Muslims were lined-up and gutted to death! In Maliana the same year 72 Muslims were killed, in both the cases police was involved, and after hundreds of dates, in courts of law, it has come to light that the original First Information Report (FIR) is missing from the government records! Both Hashimpura and Maliana are in district Meerut (UP).
The speeches made by LK Advani, Vinay Katiyar, Ashok Singhal, Sadhvi Rithambra, MM Joshi, Uma Bharti etc, in the run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition, and its continuation through the likes of Pravin Tagodia, Pushpender Kulshreshtra, Sanjay Dixit, Vinay Krishna Chaturvedi, have never been hate-mongering at all! The 31 accused, along with LK Advani, in the Babri Masjid demolition case have all been acquitted. In fact no one demolished Babri Masjid and no one killed the 113 Muslims, as per government records, in Meerut too! After BJP’s second run in office, in May 2019, Babri Masjid was gifted to the Hindu side, at the Apex Court on November 9, 2019, by a five-judges bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, who after four-months was accorded a Rajya Sabha seat by BJP.
Hatred et al has been in reverse for MA Khan instead! Why? This is for the cardinal wrong that MA Khan always had stood like a rock by the campaign for Babri Masjid as he had had held a position of a co-convener of Babri Masjid Action Committee along with Zafaryab Jilani. Together the duo decimated the Congress party, from 1986 hence, and thereafter began the rise of the socialist and secular politics led by SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. MA Khan is the only surviving founding member of SP as Janeshwar Mishra is also no more. Zafaryab Jilani is ailing and confined to bed. MA Khan too has been suffering with grave post-COVID-19 complications and has undergone a heart surgery.
Mainpuri is all likely to be retained by SP, as it is the legacy of Mulayam Singh Yadav, his brother Shivpal Yadav is hand-in-hand with Akhilesh Yadav and BJP has started Shivpal Yadav’s encirclement through investigating agencies as Shivpal Yadav’s security has also been slashed. Khatauli is a tough fight where RLD can notch-up a surprise victory, as Azad Samaj Party President has come-up together with RLD Chief Jayant Chaudhry to garner Dalit votes for Madan Bhaiyya. But, the whole prestige of MA Khan and also that of SP is at stake in Rampur. MA Khan had to leave Rampur Lok Sabha seat which he won in 2019, as he had won UP Assembly Rampur seat in 2022, and Rampur saw Lok Sabha by-elections in which Asim Raja contested and lost in June, as people could not come out of ‘fear’ of police to vote. MA Khan has been demanding that Rampur be handed over to army for free-and-fair elections. Nothing bigger slap can there be for democracy!
MA Khan’s dynamism is still on the same page. He is not at all a past shadow of himself but instead the same persistent raging lion, as his actual vitality lies in ‘his penchant with the masses and classes’. His speech on November 27, where he stuck to an emotional chord, sent everyone into raptures of sobs and tears, as he narrated his ‘turmoil and tumult’ when he was stranded the jail. He lamented and also lampooned people for not having turned-up in such-great numbers, which saw Asim Raja’s debacle, and exhorted people never to repeat it, even if how so ever the same police highhandedness happens again.
He openly has accused Election Commission of partisanship, the district administration and police apparatus most brazen pro-BJP attitude, as he accuses police to have broken doors of people, to its terror writ, and even has threatened his wife, to not to come out! He however is not subdued. He reminds people of his people’s Jauhar University and about how Rampur has been ruined in the past five-years, how Tara Mandal, Gandhi Samadhi, Nagar Palika- a replica of India’s Parliament and roads that could match England, all built during SP rule, are wearing a worn-out look. He challenged BJP to complete the Kosi river dam which is lying in shambles from the past seven years and complete the incomplete Gateway to Rampur which he was building! “Every particle of Rampur has my sweat and blood wrapped in it,” he reminisces. .
The outcome of the elections needs to be seen in the wake of the hardest tide, as contempt against socialist-secular politics and specifically against MA Khan runs skin deep, for many historical reasons, particularly in reference to the communal Hindus, who remember MA Khan to have called Bharat Mata a vampire! Whereas, the truth is that MA Khan had once referred that the one who feeds on her own children is a vampire and cannot be a (Mata) mother. This was in context to the hundreds of Muslims massacred, after around 75,000 Muslims had gathered to offer Eid prayers in Muradabad, UP (1980). The BJP candidates are Akash Saxena in Rampur, Raghuraj Shakya in Mainpuri and Rajkumari Saini in Khatauli. Let’s wait until December 8 happens.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner and writes on politics.