Book Extract: A Musalman in a Hindu Rashtra
Indian Muslim is living in fear. Mind you, fear not from his fellow countrymen but from state unleashed terror in form of Hindutva goon brigades, police force under direct control of rulers of day
When my father was posted in Jhansi, news had come of the passing away of my paternal grandfather. He had travelled to Lahore to meet his eldest son Waqar Ali Khan, who had shifted there. That news of his death due to a heart attack was followed by another connected news—the body of the deceased couldn’t be sent back to India, so he was to be buried in Pakistan.
My father couldn’t cope with the strain. He fell ill. His condition worsened as the family decided against his travelling from Jhansi to Lahore for the burial. I recall well-wishers hovering around.
“Tum sarkari afsar ho...Police peeche par jaegi! File khul jaega!”
Till date I have not once visited the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. This, when as a journalist I have been invited to functions and receptions at almost every single embassy situated in this capital city. Khushwant Singh had more than once asked me to travel with him to Pakistan but each time there was a firm ‘no’ from my end.
When I’m asked what’s the difference between a poor Muslim and a poor Hindu, my answer is this: No difference at all except one—the Indian Muslim is surviving amidst severe insecurity. Yes, the Indian Muslim is living in fear coupled with apprehensions. Mind you, fear not from his fellow countrymen but from state unleashed terror in the form of Hindutva goon brigades, political mafia, police force under the direct controlof the rulers of the day.
One didn’t need Bollywood’s Aamir Khans or Nasiruddin Shahs to talk of their apprehensions, or for that matter even the former Vice President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, to tell of the insecurity faced by the Muslims.
(In Uttar Pradesh) it started off with lynching, closure of roadside eateries and biryani stalls, arrest and detention of all those raising their voice against the injustices. The police also targeted burqa and hijab clad Muslim women during the anti-CAA protests.
I quote from this news report of Hugh Tomlinson and Saurabh Sharma, published in The Times (UK) dated January 10, 2020:
“The crowd scattered and word spread up the street in panic: ‘Police, police.’ While the protestors scrambled to flee over the rooftops of the block in old Lucknow, dozens of officers burst in below, raining blows on women and children. The Muslim families cowered from their attackers. ‘Take off her veil, check if she’s a man', one officer yelled, pointing to Salma Hussain, 29, who wept as she recalled the humiliation.
The women were groped and officers commented on their breasts as they beat them. ‘One man put a gun to my head’, said Tabassum Raza, 26. He said: ‘Tell me where the men are hiding or I’ll shoot you’.”
There is also the statement of the Lucknow based activist Sadaf Jafar, where she detailed how a particular male police officer in Lucknow’s Hazratganj police station kicked and punched her in the abdomen and kept on doing so, till she started bleeding...blood soaking the clothes on her, blood trickling down.
Also, it’s a known fact that the women molested and groped by the cops during dangaas/rioting, find it difficult to name the culprits, for fear of the aftermath. Not to overlook those “Get lost...go to Pakistan!” taunts hurled at them, by the so-called protectors of the masses—the policemen.
While taking calls on my mobile, all eyes in the train compartment focus on me the moment I say, ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum’ or ‘Walai-Kum-Salaam’ (may peace be on you). Perhaps, I am not targeted because I’m a saree clad Muslim. What if I was wearing a burqa?
Today, many more Muslins are humiliated at work places, many more Muslim students are bullied in educational institutions, many more Muslim families are moving into ghettos, many more Muslim women are harassed by the Hindutva goons, many more Muslim men are detained (and arrested) by the police… threats unleashed by the Right-Wing rulers have reached such lows that a particular minister in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet, during a recent tour to the university town of Aligarh, went ahead to say he would “bury alive” all those protesting against the CAA!
And when my non-Muslim friends can’t comprehend the insecurities and apprehensions the Muslim community is facing in today’s India, I tell them to read facts to the disparities and discriminations on any given front—housing, education, jobs, healthcare, sarkari schemes.
I also tell them to go about in a disguise of sorts—he in a shervani and skull cap, she in a burqa and hijab, together with a Muslim name and surname, an address of a Muslim populated mohalla. And then see what they get to experience! The stark reality is this—a Muslim name and face, along with a Muslim mohalla address is enough for the cops to get ‘suspicious’.
An apolitical Indian Muslim stated, I’m a Musalmaan surviving in a Hindu Rashtra, ruled by pracharaks and mahapracharaks.
Don’t know till when I can survive before I am lynched by the political mafia, on any given pretext—cow trader, talaq giver or taker, azaan lover or mosque goer…!
Today many more Muslims are taking to religion. They also react to the taunt—‘fundamentalist’. In fact, a few years back a young Muslim commented, “You saw Donald Trump going to a chapel before taking oath as President of America. Would you dare call him a fundamentalist?”
Whenever some hue and cry are raised on the dismal conditions of the largest minority community, spokespersons of the government point towards one or two prominent Muslim civil servants and an equal number of politicians used for window dressing! In case murmurs still persist, they quip, “See, my tailor and gardener and butcher are all Muslims.” In case those murmurs still don’t die down, they lisp, “Look here, we hosted an iftaar party last Ramzan!”
Mind you, a Muslim’s anger is not against his fellow countrymen but against the fascist Hindutva forces. I would go ahead and say loud and clear that whatever little chance of survival holds out for the Muslim community, it is because of the liberal Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, atheists and all those who refuse to be part of the Hindutva brigade.
When I asked a bearded rickshaw-puller what he thinks of his country, he looked about in that childlike way before detailing that his grandfather and father had refused to shift to Pakistan, stayedback, and are buried in the soil of this country, in a qabristan where he too shall be buried!
Peddling away, but not before putting on the caller tune on his mobile—‘Saare jahaan se acchaa Hindoostan hamara...’ (Our country Hindoostan, the best in the world...)
In fact, in recent years I have heard this particular caller tune on the mobiles of many Muslims.
(Excerpted from the Author’s Note to her recently published book, 'The Indian Muslims' published by Aakar Books)