DNA Explainer: As BJP eyes Pasmanda Muslim vote bank for 2024, here's what the community demands

Pasmanda — a Persian word — means the ‘ones left behind’ and is used to describe depressed classes among the Muslims.

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With its eyes set on 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP seems to have tweaked its strategy, focusing on previously ignored sections of the society in order to broaden its vote base. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly asked the BJP national executive earlier this month to reach out to deprived and downtrodden sections in communities other than Hindus. The indication is understood to be on Pasmanda Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The party units of the two electorally crucial states have been reportedly directed to analyse the impact of government policies on them and what steps can be taken to reach out to them. 

The particular Muslim Dalit community has gained significance in the eyes of the BJP after the party’s victories in the Lok Sabha by-elections in Azamgarh and Rampur, where Muslims hold a major share in the electorate. 

Who are Pasmanda Muslims?

Pasmanda — a Persian word — means the ‘ones left behind’ and is used to describe depressed classes among the Muslims. 

Over the years, Pasmanda has become an umbrella identity used by backward, Dalit, and tribal Muslims to push back against caste-based discrimination against them within the community. 

The exact population of Pasmanda Muslims and their demographic distribution is difficult to ascertain without a caste-based census. 

While the Sachar Committee put the number of OBC and SC/ST Muslims at 40 per cent (all-India 2004-2005), Pasmanda activists and scholars claim the figure to be wrong. 

They claim to make up 80-85 per cent of the total Muslim population in India which is somewhere close to the 1871 Census which said that only 19 per cent of Muslims were upper caste. 

What are their demands?

Pasmanda Muslims say that despite their overwhelming strength within the community, they are under-represented in jobs, legislatures and government-run institutions, as well as community-run Muslim organisations.

Their major demands include conducting a caste-based census, restructuring of the existing reservation categories, and state support for artisans, craftspersons, and agricultural labourers, who are among the most impoverished groups in the community.

They have also demanded that Dalit Muslims be included in the SC list and the OBC quota be redesigned to create an Extremely Backward Castes (EBCs) category at the Centre and the state level to include the most backward Muslims along with Hindu EBCs.

The Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), an affiliate of the RSS, says Pasmanda Muslims are progressing within the BJP and its sister outfits in a “natural” way.

The Pasmanda Muslim community has welcomed PM Modi’s statement that “efforts should be made to reach out to socially backward minorities” like them, with their leaders even willing to take a step towards the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections.  

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