Asaduddin Owaisi is perhaps the most prominent advocate of minority rights in India today. His impassioned speeches defending India’s constitutional values, in Parliament and outside, have frequently landed the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader and MP from Hyderabad in headlines, and sometimes controversies. Not surprisingly then, Owaisi has, over his 25 years in politics, won loyal admirers and vehement critics alike.
This week, as protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act raged across the country, Owaisi sat down with Abhinandan Sekhri to discuss an array of subjects, from minority rights to the sanctity of political alliances to his party’s future.
Commenting on the constitutional validity of the citizenship law, he says that it “fails on all three tests of the reasonable classification of Article 14”. “It’s not me, but many legal jurists and retired judges who have said this,” he adds. “BJP is making this a theocratic country because you have legislation that is being done on the basis of religion. Whenever there is a conflict between religion and equality, it is equality which prevails.”
Replying to Abhinandan’s question about whether religion should be intertwined with politics, he says, “If Muslims believe that what he [Owaisi] is saying makes sense to us, if Muslims believe that they have been used in the name of secularism, which the parties have not really practiced, if they see the issues which I am raising, be it social, economic, or developmental, and they relate to it, then what is wrong in that?”
On the question of microaggressions against Muslims, he says, “If you are a practicing Muslim then there’s a lot of hesitation and questions amongst the liberal people about you.”
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remark about identifying rioters by their clothes, Owaisi says, “Maybe if Jamia students were wearing a 15-lakh suit with NAMO written on it, the police would not have hit them.”
“In the name of flexibility, in the name of secularism, or in the name of defeating the fascist forces, you sleep with another fascist. I can not do that,” Owaisi affirms while commenting on the Congress, National Congress Party and Shiv Sena coming together to form the government in Maharashtra.