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Muslims Are the New Outcastes

The desperate desire of the Hindutva forces is to control what we eat, what we wear, where do we pray, the language we speak and the culture we follow. From meat to masjid, they have a problem with everything.

Ziya Us Salam    

Being a Muslim in India today is not easy. It is often a test of your own imaan and also a test of your faith in the Constitution of the country, in the government of the day. Things have been deteriorating virtually by the day; often it seems a large part of the society is hostile to a Muslim today. A Muslim can be lynched for something as simple as wishing to eat meat. Never mind if it is beef or mutton, as we discovered in the case of Mohammed Akhlaq’s lynching in Dadri in 2015. After the hapless man had been killed for allegations of cow slaughter, the police raided his fridge to find out if the meat there was beef or mutton! The focus, it seemed, was on finding the meat, not the killers of Akhlaq.

While Akhlaq was sleeping in his bedroom when he was dragged out by right wing goons, a Muslim dairy farmer transporting his cattle from one town to another or even to his own house from a cattle fair could be lynched too, as was the case with Pehlu Khan, and later Rakbar too. It is no longer about allegations of cow slaughter; a Muslim today is not allowed to do business which the law of the land permits. He could be a meat merchant running his own shop but he is not allowed to open his shop for about 70 days a year and deprived of his livelihood for this certain period of time in the name of Navaratri and Shravan. Incidentally, this year, the month of Shravan lasted 59 days, effectively depriving those Muslim in meat trade an opportunity to earn a living for two months. In places like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh a common Indian citizen cannot buy meat during Navratri and the month of Shravan. It is nothing but food fascism.

The desperate desire of the Hindutva forces is to control what we eat, what we wear, where do we pray, the language we speak and the culture we follow. From meat to masjid, they have a problem with everything. On the one hand we had the doughty women of Shaheen Bagh leading the struggle against CAA, on the other we had the Prime Minister indulging in insinuations by talking of recognizing protesters by their clothes.  Then we had the BJP social media head Amit Malviya alleging that women gathered at Shaheen Bagh for Rs.500 and a plate of biryani.

For the right wing forces it was inconceivable that our Muslim women could raise their voice and fight for the rights given to them by the Constitution. Hence the insinuations against the peaceful protest.

In their terminology, a Muslim cannot raise his or her voice, cannot even protest peacefully. His lot is to bear and tolerate what is dished out. If they had a problem with women who spoke their mind in Shaheen Bagh, they had a problem with Muslim women who pursued knowledge. There was that lurking fear that the community’s women could get ahead, carve out their own niche. So, we had the concocted problem of Hijab in Karnataka. Hijab is a birthright of Muslim girl, whether she chooses to wear hijab everywhere or she doesn’t wear hijab at all or only wears it on certain occasions that should be left to her. She is an independent entity. Sounds simple, isn’t it? Except that the Hindutva forces want to decide what a Muslim girl can or cannot wear.

A Muslim today is like a boxer in the ring with punches thrown at him from all sides. If it is not meat or hijab then it is property or prayer. There have been cases like in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh where a Muslim is not allowed to sell or buy property in certain areas. A foreigner can buy property there but not an Indian Muslim. In Uttar Pradesh, we had a well-documented case in Moradabad where a Hindu gentleman was selling his house to a Muslim but the Hindutva forces forced him to cancel the deal. Of course, we do know of the silent othering of Muslims in cosmopolitan India where the so-called modern societies do not rent out their apartments or sell them to Muslims.

As far as namaz is concerned, it is becoming the new flashpoint in Modi’s India. We all know of how difficult it has become to offer Friday prayers in Haryana after the number of permitted sites was reduced drastically by the local administration in Gurgaon following pressure from the so-called Hindu forces. That was well covered by the media, but there are a number of lesser-known cases where it has become problematic to offer prayer eve all alone for an individual. For instance, the Muslim woman in Allahabad who was warned for offering namaz all by herself in the hospital. Or the man who was fined in Moradabad for offering taraveeh with his neighbours. In a classic throwback to the early days of Islam, we even had the sad spectacle for a man seeing to defile a masjid by urinating there.

Then there are constant attacks on mosques. Every Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti comes with a foreboding for a Muslim. He does not know what might hit him the next day. It seems that these celebrations of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti are less about obeisance to Ram and Hanuman but more an opportunity to play the role of an aggressor towards Muslims. Every Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar we have these cases where processions of trishul wielding Hindu men and women stop outside mosques, raise provocative slogans. Some even climb over the wall of the masjid and plant a saffron flag on the minaret of the masjid. What is the desperation to plant a saffron flag on top of a minaret?  Are we living in those ancient and medieval times where a particular king would conquer a certain territory and plant his own flag over there? This is what the Hindutva lobby is trying to tell the Muslims.

Everywhere the state seems to have surrendered its authority to non-state actors. We are living in a climate of fear with possibility of violence any given moment. Recently, what we have seen in Parliament is an inevitable reflection of what happens on the roads every day. After all, Lok Sabha is all about people’s representatives. And people, many of them anyway, routinely hurl such abuses at Muslims. I don’t think there would be any Muslim today in the North India who would not have heard those expletives directed towards him or heard those hate slurs in a party, in market place, in stadium or cinema hall.

We saw the kind of response Vivek Agnihotri’s Kashmir Files got and the kind of response they got from The Kerala Story. Now those things have been taken from the streets, from the cinema halls to the Parliament.

For them, Danish Ali is not a representative of the people of Amroha but a representative of a particular community and that is why those slurs and expletives were directed toward him. What was sad was not just Bidhuri saying what he did but the reaction of Ravi Shankar Prasad sitting behind him and Harsh Vardhan sitting next to him. It was like an endorsement of what he was saying and actual enjoyment of the moment.

Critically the BJP has not suspended him and equally important that there has not been any word from the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs or the Minority Affairs. Most importantly, the Prime Minister of India has preferred to go quiet. What Bidhuri has done in the Parliament stems from the ecosystem of hatred which has been fuelled by the politics of Narendra Modi and his party members over last nine years. Bidhuri is not brought up in social isolation; he is the product of the society which makes hateful remarks acceptable to the masses, polity and the media. In this, the worst party is the media.

If you are a Muslim, today it is practically impossible for you to watch television in the evening and not be outraged by the kind of debates, visuals we see on the screens every day. The Supreme Court called for action against hate speeches. Yet there is daily violation of the Supreme Court’s order. The violators go scot-free because they further the agenda of polarisation of the government.

The government only talks of Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas but whose sab and whose Vikas. Has the Prime Minster of India gone to the house of Akhlaq in Dadri or any of the men falsely accused of killing cow? Has any minister visited the homes of the victims of lynching? Not once.

Basically, a Muslim is being that you do not belong here. Anybody could hit you, kill you, disrobe your women, attack your place of worship and you can do nothing. The system will not stand up for you and you are on your own. It is similar to what used to happen in Ancient India when Brahmins were allowed to kill the lowest caste people without the fear of punishment or reprisal. Muslims could be the new outcastes.
(As told to Mohd Naushad Khan)


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