Ghulam Muhammad Mahmood Banatwala


Indian politician The careful style of the rhetoric and speeches that reflected the nervousness and insecurity of Indian Muslim community that has frequently been the target of riots instigated by Hindu extremists was the hallmark of Ghulam Banatwala. The greatest single atrocity visited on Indian Muslims since independence in 1947 - itself an event that physically and ideologically divided the community - placed Banatwala and other Muslim leaders in a dilemma. This was, in 1992, when extremist Hindus tore down the Babri mosque, built in 1528, in Ayodhya. Banatwala had to tiptoe through a controversy involving the national song, Vande Mataram ('Bow to Thee, Mother'), regarded by many as anti-Muslim. Its core is essentially a hymn to Durga, the ten-armed Hindu goddess. Muslims were outraged when in 2006 Government ministers said all students should sing it on the 125th anniversary of its creation. Banatwala urged Muslim students not to attend classes on the occasion, resist provocation and remain calm. He advised to 'stand up silently as a mark of respect' to those who chose to sing it. Ghulam Banatwala displayed a sharper side when he called for India to deport the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen who was allowed to take refuge in India after being hounded out of her own country for hurting Muslims' feeling, in the Indian sub-continent, in her writing. G M M Banatwala was born in Bombay. He was elected to Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament) seven times with big majorities from Kerala constituency, even though he spoke hardly a word of the local language, Malayalam. However, he had evolved into a political institution among Kerala Muslims and his re-election became a mere formality.

Compiler: M. Nauman Khan

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