A video titled "The real communal face of the Aam Aadmi Party" is doing the rounds, and shows Shazia Ilmi recommending that Muslims become communal. If we go by word counts, we can end the post right here with "OMG communal", but is it really communal in the manner usually condemned?
This is the video
Here's a transcript by a volunteer.
Shazia seated along with long bearded people
Shazia : me to manti hu musalman k liye insaniyat ke khuda ke waste itne secular na baniye
Guy One : nahi nahi humko banna padhega aur kaam karna padhega, humare islam k khilaf jo kaam karoge to hume karna padhega..
Shazia : mein to ulta kehti hu.. Me kehti hu musalman bahut secular hai.. Musalmanon ko communal hona padega pehli baat.. Musalman communal nahi hai.. Apnon ko nahi deta he vo.. Aravind Kejriwal aap ke apne hai. Ham to kah rahe he.. Secular bahut ho gaya musalman. Ya congress ko jita rahe hai, kisi aur ko.. jo apna nuksan kar rahe hai.. Aap log itna secular mat huiye.. ab apne ghar ka dekiye.. Na huiye itna secular...Musalman secular hai.. Dete rahte hai auron ko vote.. Baki partiyon to nahi karthe hai kuch.. hamare vote bighadthe hai. Apna faida sochna.. Bahut controversial baat hai.. lekin saroori baat hai.
Guy Two : kuch baat to aap sahi keh rahi hai wo baat apni jagah sahi hai lekin humare zimme do kaam hai daro aur harao, dare bhi hum haraye bhi hum aur malayi khaye dusre
Shazia : kaam badal dijiye ladho aur jeeto
Guy Two : abhi apne sarfaraz arzoo se baat ki na aur aise bahut sare log hai
Shazia: sarfaraz bhai se puchiyega ????
I want to make this clear that this is how I see this situation. Your mileage may vary. Also note that I have no idea what the Aam Aadmi Party stand on this is. Last I heard, they were condemning. I see a very ignorant person, but not someone who is "communal" or "polarizing" or even aware what the words "secular" and "communal" actually mean (and apparently neither do those sitting with her). Ironically, she actually seems to be talking them down from a communal high.
For those who don't understand Hindi, here's a rough translation:
Shazia seated along with long bearded people
Shazia : I am saying for the sake of God don't be so secular
Guy One : no no, we will have to and act. If you act against our Islam, then we will have to act.
Shazia : I am saying the opposite. I am saying Muslims are very secular. Muslims will have to become communal. Muslims are not communal. They don't vote for their own. Arvind Kejriwal (who is not a Muslim) is your own. I am saying Muslims have become too secular. Either you make Congress win, or someone else and suffering losses on themselves. Don't be so secular, see to your own home. Don't be so secular. Muslims are secular, keep giving votes to others. Other parties don't so anything, only spoil (waste?) our votes. Think for your own advantage. This is controversial, but essential to say.
Guy Two : what you are saying is somewhat right in its own way, but our role/task remains at two things. Fear and defeat [competing candidates]. We fear and we defeat [political opponents] and the rewards are reaped by someone else.
Shazia : change your task and win
Guy Two : you spoke with sarfaraz arzoo now, right? there are many others like him
Shazia: Ask sarfaraz bhai????
If you go by the dictionary meaning of "secular" and "communal", this above conversation makes no sense. Shazia Ilmi is asking the people to not be secular and recommending that they be communal, but how? By telling them not to vote for those who usually represent their comminity and exploit their votes for political gain. She is telling them to support Kejriwal, who is a Hindu.
In fact, when "Guy one" initially disagreeing with her is a full on Alice in Wonderland moment if you go by the Oxford dictionary. Shazia says for Gods sake don't be secular. Guy one negates this (implying they will have to be secular) if someone acts against Islam and they will have to act. So, acting on a religious threat is passing as secularism for this group.
Either she is doped, or she has learned what secular and communal mean from Indian politics and its unique warped "opposing sides". If you are a Hindu zealot, you are communal, which means if you are a Muslim zealot, you are secular in the name of protecting minorities - essentially, both sides operate from a premise of religious loyalty. It is also how Mayawati actively chasing dalit votes is not seen as communal, because you have to be an upper caste Hindu to be communal. Mayawati is secular. All dalit community should vote for her. This is the brain damage our opportunistic and exploitative political leadership has inflicted on the country by lobbing labels at each other to the point they make no sense.
It is in this that Shazia Ilmi is wading. Recommending that they don't be secular. Meaning, that they don't vote on the basis of being a Muslim minority and bring someone to power who will again use their fear and their efforts to defeat the threat for political profit and forget about them, but to vote for "their own" - who happens to not be a Muslim. So how does communal compute? It doesn't.
Unless the community you are talking is not one of religion but caring. It is a cheesy explanation, but there is no other. It is exactly what Aam Aadmi Party tells everyone - Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, rich, poor, film stars, rickshaw drivers.... that it is YOUR party. If this is to be interpreted as Aam Aadmi Party being communal, then I imagine there will be mass conversions. And all AAP members will aslo change professions to rickshaw drivers, or bankers, or whatever.
In my view, Shazia Ilmi's only crime is monumental ignorance. It would not matter so much if it were a random worker, but a politician getting a ticket to contest elections in a country where communal politics rules ought to know the basic meaning of the words secular and communal, regardless of how they get warped in use. That said, it is impossible to know everything we don't know, till we find ourselves ignorant. I doubt if Shazia Ilmi is going to be confused about this again.
About the "polarization". It is a BJP con being run on social media that takes advantage of more political labels that can be flung regardless of meaning. To polarize anything, you need two entities. You speak with Hindus about Muslims, in a manner that highlights differences, you are polarizing. You speak with Muslims about Hindus in a manner that highlights differences, you are polarizing. You speak with Hindus about themselves, or Muslims about themselves, where is the polarization? It is merely conversation pertaining to the community. If speaking with Muslims about Muslims were polarizing, then BJP probably needs to trash the Ram Mandir from its manifest, yes? It isn't, which is why no one is screaming bloody murder about the manifesto, like they are, about Togadia, who is inciting Hindus about minorities (as opposed to talking about Hindus themselves). If Togadia spoke of the need to build a Ram Mandir, as long as he didn't mention other communities in a way that created ill will about them, he wouldn't be polarizing (though that one is tough, since Togadia has turned himself into a polarization symbol - but say if Modi spoke.)
Speaking of Modi and secular and communal, the BJP people yelling about criticism of secularism and promoting communalism may want to check out his Jammu speech. He pretty much knowingly rejects secularism and stops an inch short of thumping his 56 incher on being communal - within careful boundaries of the Model CODE of conduct.
Lastly, taking this opportunity to recommend YET AGAIN that AAP have some kind of code of conduct for representatives to follow when they interact on behalf of AAP. It is not merely about saying the wrong things, but as this incident proves, it is also about finding the right words for what people want to say. Given the state of our education system, public intellect and political stupidification, the abilities of various people to articulate the AAP view on various subjects will fluctuate wildly, and standard protocols will help bring some stability for everyone's speech. Shazia Ilmi is hardly the only reckless speaker in AAP.