Face to Face with the Indian Muslims
(Note: The writer visited India several times; has visited Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Jaipur, Agra, Azmir and travelled through the states of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The article is based on personal observations, Indian media inputs and face-to-face talks).
The Muslim-phobia & the disbelief
In 2001 census, 13.4 percent of the Indians were found to be Muslims. It is currently estimated to be 15 percent. But, most of the Indian Muslims do not believe this official figure as true. They believe that the actual number is much higher. They consider the official 15 percent a skilfully manipulated lie only to serve the anti-Muslim political agenda of the over-stated Hindu majority. The Hindu ruling clique strongly feels that a higher figure will generate sense of severe deprivation among the Muslims; hence may generate more communal unrest. Such a figure may also cause fear among the Hindus. Even the statistics of 15 percent Muslim population creates a lot of Muslim-phobia among the ruling Hindu clique. They consider it a great increase in Muslims from 9.9 percent in 1951 census. Such a panic in Hindu mind also gets reinforced by the falling Hindu population of 85 percent in 1951 to the current level of estimated 79 percent. They get more panicky when foresee a declining Hindu majority in the near future in some of the strategic states like Assam, West Bengal and Kerala. In these peripheral states, at least one-third of the populations are already Muslim.
The increasing surge in extremist Hindutva politics of BJP (Bharatia Janata Party) is indeed an expression of such a panic in Hindu psyche. To bring down the panic, the strategy of deportation of the Muslims –currently from Assam and other provinces afterwards, gets the priority. They don’t bother to have an objective study of the causes of the surge in population; rather blame it as an infiltration from neighbouring Bangladesh. But such allegation will not help, rather can damage India’s friendly relation with Bangladesh. Thousands of Indians are working in Bangladesh –especially in its garments sector; they earn huge amount of foreign currency for India. Moreover, it is well recognised that the health and socio-economic indicators of people’s wellbeing is significantly better in Bangladesh and its economy is moving faster than India. The poor people in Bangladesh enjoy better opportunity for moving up faster in the socio-economic ladder than that exists for the poor in India. Even Mr Rahul Ghandi –the Indian Congress revealed such truth while he visited Bangladesh. Moreover, unlike India, no caste-based system or religious scripture label the poor as untouchable and restrict the social mobility. Having been heavily infested with anti-Muslim tyranny, rape and massacres, India seldom presents itself as an option for the Bangladeshi economic migrants.
As regards to Muslim population surge, the ground reality tells otherwise. Some of the realities have been revealed in Sachar committee report. In 2006, the fact-finding Sachar committee -set up by the former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh published its reports on social, economic and educational status of the Muslims community of India. The report endorsed the old historic fact that the Muslim population growth was higher than the Hindus even under the British colonial rule. Despite the poor educational status of the Muslim women, the report revealed that the child death rate among the Muslims stands significantly lower than that exists among the Hindus. It also reported that despite economic deprivation, the lifespan of an Indian Muslim is one year more than a Hindu. But the Hindutva supremacists don’t bother to read the scientific facts that are embedded in the report. Rather, they construct their politics on a blatant lie and generate phobia that the Muslims from Bangladesh are flooding their country. This way, they justified the genocidal massacre of about 10, 000 Muslims in Nellie in Assam in 1983 and kept 4 million Assamese Muslims out of the citizenship registrar.
The Sachar report also revealed some horrendous facts on deprivation of the Muslim population. It found that the Muslims’ share in the government jobs doesn’t cross even 5 percent in any of the all-Indian civil service cadres. But awfully, although such commissions cast lights on facts, but do little to solve the problems. Committees are installed under a judge or judges only to minimize the anger of the Muslims -usually after a major anti-Muslim massacre. It looks that the reports are not for consumption by the policy makers; hence, those who can solve the problems seldom read the reports. This is why, little has changed after the publication of the Sachar report. Very low share of the Muslims in Indian civil service is enough to expose the government’s inherent anti-Muslim policy. Such gross injustices against the minority and the policy of exclusion are incompatible to any civilised mode of governance. Such inhumanity fits only into colonial or apartheid rule. So, the end of British colonial rule in 1947 gave liberty only to the Hindu majority, but not to the Muslims. The slavery of the Muslims still continues.
The strategic lie & the beginning of the end
India’s image would have turned much uglier and shameful if the true figure of the Muslim population would have been made public. Then, the deprivation of the Muslims would have looked much worse and gloomy. In such situations, the truth proves most powerful to cause political upheavals. The aggrieved ones even turn to human bombs. Such anger of nearly 200 million Muslims would have caused a political explosion to reduce India to an unmanageable mess. Few years ago, India’s vulnerability was exposed while a few Muslim attackers brought Mumbai -its business heart, to a standstill. Therefore, manipulation of the Muslim population statistics stays as a strategic tool in the hands of the ruling Hindu majority. So, the actual number of the Muslims remains highly secret and sensitive issue -as are the number of the Indian soldiers, details of nuclear bombs and the spy agents at home and abroad.
Nevertheless, the Muslims anger is now steadily boiling up. It has already inflicted a lethal blow to Indian National Congress –the original architect and the political giant of un-divided India. For more than 50 years, the Muslims used to be the traditional vote bank for the Congress. But its huge disservices to the Muslims are now fully exposed. Thousands of anti-Muslim riots and demolition of the historic Babri mosque took place under its watch. Massive deprivation of Muslims in political decision making and the exclusion in civil services didn’t happen in recent years; in fact, these owe to the long rule of the Congress. As a result, the Muslims reject its rule. Due to Muslims’ alienation, the Congress now stands as a political orphan. It has lost its power in the central government with little hope to come back. It has also lost power in many key states with significant Muslim population like West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Kerala. The Muslims now negotiate with the regional parties for their survival. Hence, like dinosaur, an all-India national political party is now stands as an extinct entity. With such irreparable political disintegration, this may turn the beginning of the end of India’s geographical integration. In such a void, the emergence of Bharatia Janata Party (BJP) as a Hindutva fascist party has only added more fuel to its existing socio-politico-ethnic tension rather than solving it.
The strategy for the crime
To keep the Muslim population low, the government of the Hindu majority has its own well-known strategies. Most commonly, it is done by keeping huge number of Muslims out of the census record -especially in provinces adjacent to Bangladesh like West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, and in big cities like Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi. Only in Assam, 4 million people are kept out of the national citizenship registrar. Since they can’t deport them as per their whims, they deprive them of their voting rights. To justify such exclusion, the Muslims are labelled as foreign infiltrators. Along with the party in power, all Hindutva political parties too, get united to make the Muslims political destitute. They demand their immediate push back to Bangladesh. They even launch manslaughter to reduce their number. In Nellie, in Assam, in February 1983, thousands of Muslim men, women and children were killed with no reason other their Muslim identity. The official number of deaths in Nellie were 2,191, but unofficially it was 10, 000. But none was punished for such a genocide. As if no, murderer was involved in that genocidal massacre.
Demands for the push-back and anti-Muslims agitations are usually arranged prior to any national census or voter-list update. It has been an effective ploy to curtail the Muslims’ influence on Indian politics. Because of the agitation, the government gets easy pretexts to exclude Muslims from the census as well as from the voters’ list. This way, the ruling parties appease the Hindu voters. Even the migrant rural Muslims of West Bengal who live in the slums of Kolkata, Mumbai or Delhi also get labelled as Bangladeshi; and left excluded from the census record and the voter list. Their non-Hindi mother tongue like Bengali become an unamenable disability. They conveniently forget the fact that West Bengali Muslims also speak the same Bengali language. Since, inclusion in the census is required as a proof for citizenship, a large number of the Muslims are left disqualified. This way, they keep their case alive to push them back into Bangladesh at a convenient time.
In the Indian media, it is a common practice to publish highly inflammatory news and feature articles demonising the Muslims and blaming them as illegal intruders. The content, tune and political spin in these reports are almost always the same. The Muslims are blamed to cause a dangerous demographic shift in Indian population. For instance, the Time of India once published a claim made by a central Jubo Front (Youth Front) leader in a mass-meeting that Muslim population has increased significantly in Assam and West Bengal. The paper added its own hype to the fear. It reported that if such increase in Muslim population is not checked now, these provinces will turn Hindu minority province in the near future. Thus, the paper projected the issue as a great threat to India’s integrity and prelude to creation of another Pakistan in its own territory. During my six months’ stay in India I found recasting of such inflammatory rhetoric almost once or twice a week on the front page in major Indian dailies. The dailies like the Time of India, the Hindustan Time, the Indian Express, the Pioneer and the Statesman are in the forefront to spread such anti-Muslim venom. As a result, the anti-Muslim fervent never gets any opportunity to die out; rather receives regular boosts to stay alive. The communal parties thrive on such media-engineered phobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
Once I read an article in the Hindustan Time with the caption “Hindu Population and Muslim Population”. The writer tried to tell that there are two different rates of population growth in India: one for the Muslims and another for the Hindu. And he tried to prove that the growth of Muslim population is much higher than that of the Hindus. He cautioned that the Hindu domination will soon come to an end in India if the Muslim population continues to increase with the current rate. I found it a morbid delusion; only a man with pathological bigotry against the Muslims can believe such politically motivated speculation. How the Muslims with its current 15 % proportion can emerge as the majority in India – which did not happen even in about 700 years of Muslim rule. I also wonder how these people could sleep with such terrible fear. I noted that the Hindustan Time, the Time of India and the India Today have special interest in publishing such toxic views. To keep the anti-Muslim sentiment alive, such spin-added news, news analysis and feature articles are published regularly in those papers by different people with different captions. Such propaganda stuffs indeed work as the crucial life line for the communal Hindu politics. Now, more than a hundred TV channels have also joined the battle on their side. As a result, anti-Muslim hatred in Hindu mind has raised to an explosion level. Lynching Muslims to death on alleged beef eating, anti-Muslim riots and burning their houses are indeed the expression of such hatred. However, there are few exceptions; journals like the Frontline show some courage to stand against such tsunami of anti-Muslim propaganda. Once I had a long discussion on such issues with one of the leading Indian economist from Kerala. Although a Hindu, I found him very rational and thoughtful. He studied and taught economics in the MIT in the USA and happens to be a close friend of the former Prime Minister Mr. Monmohan Singh. He also showed deep displeasure on these issues. I expressed my worries: how can India build and sustain friendly relation with the neighbouring Muslims countries with such toxic attitude against the Muslims?
The biased bureaucracy
I found it very common that the Muslims consider the civil servants of both the central and provincial governments more communal and anti-Muslim than the political leaders and activists. So, there exists active non-co-operation in the bureaucracy towards reducing the Muslims’ deprivation. Such non-co-operation becomes more evident during or after any anti-Muslim riots cum massacre. They become the part of the problem by taking side of the Hindu majority and make it impossible to control the killing or undertake any impartial investigation. Because of the bureaucratic inaction, the demolition of Babri mosque or pogrom against the Muslims in Mumbai and Gujarat could continue in broad day lights for days and nights. Because of extreme bigotry in the planning, executive and investigative branches of the government, the Indian police can’t find, arrest and prosecute murderers even after a huge genocidal carnage. Active non-cooperation of the police has become so phenomenal that even horrendous murderer, rapists and arsonists need not face any prosecution -as seen in Gujrat, Bombay and Assam. Because of moral blindness, they see only the crimes, but not the criminals. This is why, the government agencies fumbled to find the criminals while the historic Babri mosque was razed to the ground in broad daylight by thousands of the Hindu extremists. In 1984, thousands of Sikhs were killed, raped and their properties were burnt down after the murder of Prime Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards. The massacre went on for a week; but the law enforcing authority stood by only as silent watchers. Even the Christians faced similar atrocities in Orissa in 2010. So, India stands heaven for killers, rapists and arsonists –especially if the perpetrators are Hindu and the targets are the minorities.
Hostage to the vested interests
The Indian bureaucrats are relentless to preserve their own vested interests. The powerless poor, the untouchables and the Muslims stay hostage to them. The racial, religious or linguistic identity of people decides not only the fate of the government’s service delivery, but also controls the entry of people in their midst. Faith of a Muslim indeed works as the greatest disability to join their rank. In such a milieu, any small attempts of doing justice towards the Muslims proves suicidal -even for a Hindu leader. It has a long history. During the British raj, the Bengal Pact signed by Chittaranjan Das and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy of Bengal ended in a fiasco due to the bureaucratic thugs. The Pact promised more employment opportunities for the Muslims; hence was detested by the Hindu elite. The vested interest that they established in the administration as the most obedient servants of the British raj was kept unaltered even in the independent India. In fact, the British rule survived in India for 190 years because of their deep obedience to those foreign imperialists. Mamata Banerjee -the Chief Minister of West Bengal, is rapidly losing her popularity because of same privileged class. In West Bengal, about 30 percent people are Muslim. But in government jobs, they do not have a share of even 5 percent. Mamata Banerjee allocated a meagre monthly allowance for the imams and the muezzin of the mosques. Such a grant for the poor muezzin and imam caused huge uproar in Hindutva camp; they called it appeasement for the Muslims.
The foreign colonialists have gone. But the colonial practice and its brain-child still survive with the same agenda. However, the targets are different. They execute the same colonial policy of suppression and deprivation against the Muslims and other minorities. In the colonial era, they received benefits from their British master for the servitude. After 1947, these home-grown mercenaries proved to be very lucky to fully protect their all previous privileges. In independent India, they even ensured the same privileges for their future generation. Any possible advancement of the downtrodden 200 million Muslims into their domain of influence is perceived a real threat. So, hatred against Muslim gets deeper and more vitriolic in the fabric of the bureaucracy. They use the state apparatus as a powerful bulwark to protect their territory against any Muslim advancement. Like their past strategy of alliance with the British rulers, these communal bureaucrats made alliance with the communal politicians. Because of such alliance, anti-Muslim pogrom could be repeatedly committed even in big cities and Babri mosque could be destroyed even in daylight without any preventive efforts. As if, there exists no bureaucratic infrastructure or law-enforcing agency in India to stop such crimes. Such an unholy alliance could justify even the robust inaction of the Indian Prime Minister Narsima Rao, his whole ministry and the whole civil and military bureaucracy in stopping the destruction of Babri mosque.
One can easily sense the tip of anti-Muslim ice-berg in Indian bureaucracy after landing at Mumbai, Delhi or Kolkata airport from a European or Middle Eastern cities with a Bangladeshi passport. It seems they find it difficult to swallow the pride of a Bangladeshi Muslim travelling worldwide with an international passport. Probably they think such privilege is only the right of an upper caste Hindu -as it is customary in India. The communal nature of the Indian administration and the police becomes more evident during any event of Muslim mass killing. The police become more active in arresting the Muslim victims than the Hindu killers. Hence, more Muslims are taken to jails than the Hindu attackers -as happened in Muslim genocide in Mumbai and Gujarat. In both the places, scores of Muslims were killed, arrested and oppressed by the state police. Hundreds of criminal charges are lodged against them. In Rajasthan, the police failed to punish the vigilante who lynched a Muslim cow trader to death; but after his death, a case was lodged against him for illegal cow transport from the state. So the police sets the priority; Muslims’ life has little importance in that setting.
In Meerut, the Indian police scored a new low to its already tainted record. They dumped hundreds of Muslim corpses into a nearby canal to show the lower number of the Muslim deaths in the massacre. During the demolition of the Babri mosque, they indeed provided the necessary protection to the militant Hindus -so that they could accomplish the crime without any resistance from the Muslims. After the mosque demolition, the Hindu terrorists started mass-murder of the Muslims in cities like Mumbai. According to government statistics, more than two thousand Muslims were murdered in Mumbai alone; fire was set to thousands of Muslims’ houses and shops. Women were raped and the Muslim babies were thrown into fire. What is more surprising is this: the police couldn’t find any murderers or looters -as if such systemic pogrom happened out of the blue. The police made similar history in Nellie in Assam in 1983, too. About 10 thousands Muslims were killed in a single day in 14 villages of Nagao district, but not a single murderer or a rapist or an arsonist had to appear before the judge to receive any punishment. Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi signed an accord with the anti-Muslim communalists to stop all judicial investigation of the massacre. Whereas, delivering justice is the most basic constitutional duty of the government. Since the victims were the Muslim, the Prime Minister could abrogate his own constitutional responsibility! This was done only to appease the murderer.
While the bureaucrats are impregnated with so much anti-Muslim venom, it is not surprising that the officers will discover scores of fabricated reasons to exclude the Muslims from the voters’ list or census record. The sheer lack of interest in protecting Muslims’ lives, liberty, property and dignity has never been any hidden fact; becomes more pronounced from lack of prosecution against the perpetrators. In fact, the rapists, the arsonists and the murderers are allowed to boast in public in front of the victims. But such ugly failures make little political, moral or ethical impact on India’s civil administration or political leader. Moreover, such awful failures of the politicians and the law enforcing officers have never been considered any moral or ethical disability of the complicit people. No leader get named and shame for that. Even architects of Gujrat pogrom like Norendra Modi and Amit Shah could escape the blame. Rather such complicity in crime works otherwise. Muslim-blood on the hands helped Norendra Modi to speedily climb up the political ladder and become the Prime Minister of India. It also helped Amith Shah to become the Home Minister. In fact, because of such appeasing culture for the criminals, the anti-Muslim pogrom has attained some added speed and barbarity.
The Muslim population in Jaipur city looks quite large –easily visible by its huge number of hijabi women. But very few people could tell me the actual number. They live in a very small area of the central part of the city. The new road and house constructions are booming in all directions in the outskirts, but the Muslims are not moving to those areas. They fear, anytime the Hindu neighbours may turn murderous against them. The Muslims learned such harsh reality from the previous massacres that happened mostly by the hands of the Hindu neighbours. So in Jaipur, like any other Indian city, the heavily-congested old city centre is the abode of the Muslims. There is no park, no wide road, no clean drain, no good school or college – even no arrangement for regular removal of garbage. Piles of garbage covered with thick armies of flies and mosquitoes were visible even in the close vicinity of living quarters and mosques. Most of the civic facilities are absent there. I saw some horrendous pictures of such neglect also in Ajmer –the city of famous shrine of Khawja Moinuddin Chisti. While visiting the shrine, at some point, I needed to go to the public toilet located at its backyard. But I could not proceed. The raw faeces and urine were overflowing its tanks and dirty footpath. This shrine brings in a lot of money to Ajmer city and huge foreign currency to India, but its basic facilities are kept in utter neglect. It depicts a clear picture how the provision of very basic services to the Muslim visitors gets ignored by the city’s Hindu municipal administration. Even in Emperor Shahjahan’s mosque in Agra, the mark of chronic neglect was revealing. But in famous Hindu temples, I found a different standard.
The situations are not different in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and other cities, either. In all these cities, the Muslim dwellings are situated in unhygienic and congested city centres. The reason is the same. The Muslims suffer from a serious lack of safety and security in the prosperous areas – because of its Hindu dominance. In the past, the Muslim families that suffered the worst massacres were the inhabitants in the Hindu-majority areas. During any anti-Muslim pogrom, the neighbouring Hindus always appeared ready to annihilate them with huge jubilation. Killings, rapes and arsons in those areas did not need any outsiders. As soon as any riot starts, the Muslim men, women and children immediately become the sitting duck to be executed; all the camouflages of civility, morality and humanity disappear very quickly. As if, these neighbours were standing ever ready in the next doors for doing the job. In fact, such readiness gets constant boost by the Indian media and the Hindutva political parties; hence gets little chance to drop down. As a result, even a layman easily becomes remorseless killer, rapist or arsonist. Therefore, for gutting Muslim properties, raping Muslim women and murdering Muslim men, women and children, armies of criminals quickly get mobilised. Even an apparently normal Hindu neighbour readily joins such gang. As a result, most of the heinous atrocities are not works of the known local criminals, but committed by the so-called educated and well-off Hindus. Even the white-collar political activists, the academics and the well-placed professionals take part in the carnage. A doctor from Rai Bareli told, how a Muslim professor was killed by his Hindu neighbour’s gunshot.
The pure evil and the mass conversion
In fact, the genocidal mass-killings or mass-scale gang rapes in history have never been the works of the previously known criminals. It could only happen with the mass conversion of the common people to a purely evil ideology. In India, such mass conversion has already been accomplished by the RSS family of organisations and its militant political front called BJP. In Germany, it was done by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers. It was the same evil ideology of race-based supremacism. Because of such mass conversion, the German fascists could raise an army of millions to cause havoc all over Europe. And, they didn’t have any shortage of people to take the Jews to the gas chambers. In India, the members of the RSS family are closely following the footsteps of Hitler. They only differ in the identity of the targets. For the German, it was the Jews. And in India, it is the Muslims. Like the German fascists, they too, believe that wholesale extermination of the target population is the quick and effective way to get rid of them. Such an evil motive of the Hindutva forces gets regularly and vividly displayed in every anti-Muslim pogrom and could instil an aura of extreme insecurity in Muslims’ mind. This is why, the Muslims lose their trust in the Hindu neighbours. Since saving life gets priority than living in good locality, the Muslims voluntarily leave the Hindu-dominated areas and concentrate in over-crowded Muslim quarters. Since located at the centre, the Muslim quarters possess little room for further expansion. So the problems are multiplying with the ever-increasing Muslim population. On the other hand, the Hindus are establishing their absolute dominance in the new residential areas. The political leaders –both in the government and in the opposition, show little political commitment to resolve this inhuman issues. They only pursue to keep the status quo. Surprisingly, such a huge humanitarian issue couldn’t be a political issue in India! Except a few, the so-called writers, intellectuals and social scientists are also sleepwalking with the communal political leaders.
The Muslim migration
After 1947, the mass migration of the Indian Muslims took place primarily in two ways – external migration and internal migration. The external migration was basically exodus to Pakistan. And the goal of the internal migration was to leave villages or non-Muslim dominated areas to settle in the Muslim-dominated quarters in cities. The Indian Muslims are facing similar situations as the Jews experienced in Germany, France, Poland, Russia, and other European countries. Confronted with the persecution by the Christians, they withdrew to ghettoes in European cities. Likewise, every major city in India is divided into two sub-cities: the congested central one is for the Muslims and the prosperous peripheral one for the non-Muslims. Indeed, in every Indian city, the Hindu-Muslim dividing line is too obvious to ignore. During the riot, this division-line becomes the natural frontier between the warring Hindus and Muslims. Many secular Ph.D. holders, university professors and intellectuals in Bangladesh or Pakistan may fail to understand the famous “Two-Nation Theory”; but in India, its visibility is quite distinct even to a layman. Even an illiterate man or woman can see and feel it in every second of his or her survival. The current inhuman condition of the Indian Muslims explains why the creation of Pakistan was so strongly supported more in the Hindu majority provinces of India than the Muslim majority ones. It also explains why the Indian Muslims were eager to migrate to Pakistan even at the cost of abandoning houses, business, graves of dear ones and the dearest lands where their forefathers grew up and settled for hundreds of years.
The Jaipur city has many mosques. Most of these mosques are old and built during the Mughal or the British era. I could not find a single mosque built in recent years. Every time of prayers, I intentionally offered my prayers at different mosques (I visited at least six of them), so that I could get the opportunity to see different mosque premises and the different people each time. I found every mosque to be old and some of them are dilapidated. The floors, the prayer mats, the walls and the ablution areas of those mosques tell vividly the story of deprivation and poverty of the Muslims. Jaipur is a provincial capital of Rajasthan, but its mosques do not match even the standard of a district mosque in Bangladesh or Pakistan. Once I got the opportunity to offer my Eid prayer in one of the Jaipur mosques. It was one my very saddest experience during my whole stay in India. People’s attire on a festive day indeed gives a true depiction of their happiness and prosperity. At least on the Eid day, the people wear the best possible dress to attend the congregation with the fellow Muslims. Thus, people’s inner joys gets an unrestrained expression on that special day. Once I offered my Eid prayer in a mosque in the outskirt of Jaipur city -near to its international airport. It is also near to one of the business hub of the city -known for traditional bed-sheets and garments of Rajasthan. To my utter surprise, I couldn’t find any joy and jubilant festivity in people who came to offer the Eid prayer. Even the mosque did not receive any special treatment for the Eid celebration, either. Everything inside the mosque, on its wall and in the courtyard looked old and untouched for ages. A very few people were found with new dress. Their facial expression looked gloomy, too. As if, the Muslims are living in an open prison. The people in a prison don’t show any joy or festivity; every day of their captivity tells a new story of sadness and agony. As if the state itself has become a tool of oppression and de-empowerment of the Muslims. I couldn’t find a single man with a smiling face. Even the imam didn’t say Eid greeting to the attendants with a smile. After the Eid prayer, very few people were seen to embrace each other –which is very common in South Asian Muslim culture. Probably, ongoing poverty, alienation, marginalisation and lack of security have robbed their inspiration for any joyous living.
In most of the Indian cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Jaipur, Agra, the number of the mosques did not increase even though the Muslim population soared. The existing mosques cannot accommodate the musallies especially on Friday and Eid days. Consequently, the Muslims get compelled to spill over onto the surrounding street on Friday and on Eid occasions. As a consequence, this causes traffic jam in the adjoining areas. Such traffic jams give extra weapons to the Hindu extremists to generate more hatred against the Muslims. Without considering the reasons of such problems, the Hindutva outfits ask the government to stop Muslims’ outpouring onto the streets. The Hindu communal media also make huge issues out of it. But they never ask the government to allocate adequate lands for building more mosques to accommodate the ever increasing Muslim population. They even don’t bother to mention that performing prayers on Friday and Eid days in a proper mosque is the fundamental right of every Muslims in any country. No civilised country can’t deny such basic religious right. To honour such right, the European governments have allocated lands to build hundreds of new mosques. As a result, in the UK alone, the number of new mosques stands more than a thousand. But in India, such religious right of the Muslims finds its place in the bin. Whenever the Muslims take their own initiative to purchase a land and build a new mosque, they face fierce resistance from the Hindu administration. While sitting in a mosque in Jaipur, one tablighi man told me how the government stopped construction of a mosque in Jaipur. Since none of the mosque in Jaipur could accommodate the participants of a large Tablighi ijtema, the local Muslims took initiative to construct a two-storey bigger mosque in the outskirt of Jaipur city. But the government did not permit to execute the plan. The official explanation was very clear. The government allows icons that fit only into its Hindu identity. Since such two-storied mosque would be a visible Muslim landmark, the government can’t allow that to happen.
At some places, the mosque’s own land stands annexed illegally either by a government department or by a private organisation. I visited such a mosque near Jaipur international airport to offer my prayer. The mosque stands on a very tiny piece of land, its border extends hardly beyond its walls. The surrounding huge open area of the mosque is grabbed by the government’s Public Works Department (P.W.D.). The mosque was built during the rule of the British. The imam of the mosque came from Bihar. There is a residence in the mosque premise to provide accommodation for the imam, but that has been occupied by the employees of P.W.D. I saw people gossiping in that room. Whereas, the imam has to sleep right on the floor. The huge waqf compound of the mosque has become a damping ground for P.W.D’s worn-out tools. After the afternoon prayer, I talked with few local musallies. While I introduced myself as a Bangladeshi, their enthusiasm got a bit of sudden boost. I asked them many questions. They also wanted to know many things about Bangladesh. At that time, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power in Rajasthan. There were no anti-Muslim riots; but the oppression was taking place in other ways. The educated Muslims didn’t have any opportunity to secure government jobs. They didn’t have no other alternatives but to accept low-paying menial works in factories owned by the Hindus. Since education gives little socio-economic benefit, the children get little zeal for higher education.
While strolling along the streets of Ajmer, I met a retired headmaster of a local secondary school. I found this handsome tall man in his traditional Muslim dress with a long black sherwani, white shalwar and a black cap. All four of his children were university graduate but none of them got any job. He lamented, “The Muslims have no other alternatives but to do menial chores under the Hindus. Some are living from hand to mouth by begging at the majar [shrine]”. Our conversation went on while standing on the street in front of the shrine. The shopkeepers were doing brisk trade on both sides of the road. Most of the buyers were Muslims travellers –many of them are from other parts of India and some of them belong to Bangladesh. The headmaster continued, “Here you can see hundreds of shops but none of the shops are owned by the Muslims – not even the shops that sell prayer rugs and tasbees [counting beads], although the Muslims comprise 40% of the population of Ajmer. Even in Moradabad, Aligarh and Bareli -where the Muslims are comparatively better in businesses, their shops and houses get periodically burnt down on various flimsy excuses. Such anti-Muslims arsons and killing have been very effective strategy to drive out Muslims from their established businesses. I talked with several shopkeepers at Agra – the city that boasts Taj Mahal. They sell miniature marble replicas of Taj Mahal. They told that most of their highly educated relatives did not get any government jobs. Thus, even the educated Muslims are prevented to get nearer to the ladder of socio-economic progress, let alone climbing it up. Stagnation prevails over their entire existence.
The policy of exclusion
Apart from the business, the Muslims are also being successfully driven away from higher education sector. Aligarh Muslim University was founded exclusively by the Muslims, and with the Muslims money collected from all over India. Its objective was to promote higher education among the Muslims. After India’s independence, new laws are introduced to curtail the admission of Muslim students. Instead, its gate was opened for the Hindus. It was argued that in secular India the Hindus must have the equal rights of admission in every institution even in Muslim-owned Aligarh Muslim University. As a result, the Aligarh Muslim University lost its Muslim identity. Thus, all the resources invested by the Muslims to promote education among downtrodden Muslim community were usurped. Later on, the Hindu bigots of the RSS-BJP family established their stronghold on the administration, as well as on the students’ body. These days, Aligarh is more remembered for brutal anti-Muslim skirmishes than for the university. I heard from an ex-Aligarh Muslim doctor about the story how he was deprived of getting admission into the post-graduation program due to anti-Muslim bigotry of the Hindu faculty members. He said that Hindus comprise more than half of its academics.
Moreover, whenever some Indian Muslims working in the Middle-East take some initiatives to build schools, colleges or madrasahs at their own cost for the backward Muslims, the Hindu media starts vile propaganda against such venture. The RSS-BJP family and other Hindutva forces consider such Muslim initiatives inimical to Hindu identity of India; hence campaign goes vehemently against the establishment of such Muslim or Islamic schools. They even complain that an uneven competition has been started with foreign money to help the Muslims to go ahead of the Hindu. They demand equal opportunity of admission for the Hindu students to these institutions which are built exclusively by the hard earned money of the Muslims. The government willingly yields to such demands of the Hindu communalists. As per coercion, not only the Hindu students get admitted to such Islamic or Muslim schools, but also the Hindu teachers get employed. The situation is getting increasingly worse. The Muslims are not even left with any option to grow up in their own way. Even the religious institutions suffer from blatant government interferences. Thus the majoritarian Hindutva fascism has taken full control over all affairs in India. As a result, growing up as a Muslim, living up as a Muslim and excelling as a Muslim is made extremely difficult in India. What Allama Iqbal and Mohammad Ali Jinnah could foresee about hundred years ago now stands 100 percent true in India.
(First published in Daily Inqilab, Dhaka on 3rd July, 1997 in Bengali; Updated English edition: 13/09/19