Monday, May 27, 2024

Who is Shahnawaz Ali Raihan, Oxford researcher, anti-CAA protester running on TMC ticket in Malda Dakshin?

In West Bengal’s Malda Dakshin constituency, the Trinamool Congress candidate is 42-year-old academic and former journalist Shahnawaz Ali Raihan, an expert in Marxist history and one of the young figures in the anti-CAA protests.

Raihan is a doctoral fellow at Oxford University pursuing his DPhil from Oxford University’s St Antony’s College since 2018 under the supervision of noted historian Faisal Devji around “Between Marx and Muhammed-Muslims and Communism in Bengal” and has been a staunch critic and opponent of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

In 2019, he led the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in front of the Indian High Commission in London.

“CAA is not only anti-Muslim it is also anti-Bengali. The BJP experiment in Assam proves that. There is a deliberate attempt to mock Bengali identity and food habit,” said Raihan, the newspaper reported.

The Oxford doctoral fellow is also a former national-level leader of the Students Islamic Organisation of India.

His face-off in this election is with Indian National Congress’s Isha Khan Chowdhury who is defending the seat which his father Abu Hasem Khan Chowdhury had represented over the past five years. Sreerupa Mitra Chowdhury contesting on a BJP ticket.

While the Congress won the seat in 2019, Trinamool swept the region in the 2021 Assembly election. The majority of the voters in the constituency are Muslims.

Raihan who hails from the Mothabari area of Kaliachak-2 block of Malda district in West Bengal has graduated from Calcutta University with a journalism degree and holds a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from Rabindra Bharati University. 

He pursued higher education at the Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi (JMI). During his course at JMI, he served as SIO’s national secretary. 

He has also worked as a journalist, after completing his studies in Delhi and has worked in various newspapers as a journalist for a few years.

Ever since the announcement of his candidature, the right-wing and Bhartiya Janata Party has been hitting TMC calling the move a “tactic to fan Muslim Fanaticism.”

TMC has backed Raihan’s candidature in light of his academic qualifications. The party’s state spokesperson Riju Dutta has said, “Shahnawaz Ali Raihan’s academic achievements and commitment to social justice are shining examples. Attempting to smear him only reflects their desperation. Bengal deserves leaders who can handle facts, not fear-mongering. Khela Hobe”, Indian Express quoted.

Raihan while speaking to Maktoob said that his reason behind coming into politics was “a personal one” as he grew up in the region and it’s disheartening to see it drowning in the communal hatred instigated by Bhartiya Janata Party.

He said, “Malda out of all the regions in West Bengal was a place where people used to coexist peacefully despite religious diversity and now the communal polarisation by BJP is tarnishing the secular fabric of not just Malda, or West Bengal but the entire country. As citizens, I think it’s our individual and personal responsibility to save this nation from fascism.”

Congress’s Abu Hashem Chaudhary has retained the Malda Dakshin seat since 2009 but Raihan said, “He has not been that efficient and people have complained of him being incompetent. Moreover, Chaudhary did not take any steps to ensure peace and secularism against growing communalisation in Malda.”

Raihan also strongly stated his views on the Citizenship Amendment Act and said, “There is no chance that we will let the establishment impose CAA and NRC in the state. We have a very clear stand on it since the very beginning and it will be the same”

He maintained that his association with SIO and presence in anti-CAA protests is being used by the BJP against him to woo voters in their political campaign.

When asked if he has a plan to tackle state action on Migrant Bengalis working as labourers in other parts of the country, he said, “We will definitely raise this in the parliament and will take every possible measure to safeguard their rights and existence in the entire country.”

He also said that he is confident about defeating the BJP and the Congress and if given a chance will apply his academic and practical expertise in the region and would want to work on the infrastructural and industrial development of Malda Dalshin as well as Murshidabad.

Malda Dakshin goes to polls in the third phase of the Lok Sabha election on May 7.

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