The plight of Indian Muslims and hopelessness spreading all around

Indian Muslims are going through one of the darkest phases in the recent history of the country. I have never felt so hopeless and helpless as I feel now, in this right-wing regime

The plight of Indian Muslims and hopelessness spreading all around

Humra Quraishi

Three sure ways to kill a person or an entire community. Either shoot him or her dead but then questions could be raised even though you could heap all sorts of wild allegations on the victim and with that justify the swift killing. The second way is to destroy all means of livelihood, snatch away even the basics to survive; with that, the targeted would die, slowly and steadily. The third, perhaps the most discreet way, is to humiliate and harass and hound on a daily basis, to such an extent that it gets impossible to survive in severely adverse circumstances with ongoing onslaughts.

Well, the Indian Muslims are going through the darkest phases in the recent history of the country. I have never felt so very hopeless and helpless as I do now in the present regime of the right-wing 'rulers'.

And if one were to focus on the bulldozing of homes and shops of the supposed ‘suspects’, there seems a manipulated, well-organised pattern to it. It raises several queries: Foremost, who is a suspect: is it the bulldozer-lot or those bulldozed? Is it the Hindutva brigades shouting provocative-abusive-communal slogans outside the targeted mosques and Muslim homes or those trying to defend themselves and their homes and places of worship? Is there any doubt that the land mafia seems hand in glove with the political mafia? Don’t the patterns to this well-planned destruction reek of the new Hindutva ways to hound an entire community, displace them from their homes and ancestral lands and livelihoods? Isn’t the plight of the internally displaced Muslims in the country worse than the refugees seeking refuge here? Aren’t the Muslims affected by the series of these well–planned communal attacks initiated by the Hindutva brigades, going to sit ruined for generations to come?

Cries against State terror can be heard. The victims are much too petrified! Most of them find it very difficult to accept the grim reality of the growing polarisation and the connected barbaric aftermath. But they have no other option but to sit back or flee from one locale to the next.

The Indian Muslims are well-aware of the political games, of the RSS agenda unfolding. They also realise they cannot go marching down the streets shouting slogans. They are well aware of the fact that it is neither possible nor prudent to fight the State, so they sit back. Mind you, this does not mean that they are unaware of the eerie build-ups. All that they quip is, “Too much zulm going on!”

The Muslims of today’s India sit worried. Oft heard laments in the Muslim mohallas: “Hamare mulk main halaat badal gaie hain. Pehle jaisa mahaul nahin hai. Alag type ke log hukumat kar rahein. Hamai chup- chap se zinda rehna hai ya mar jana hai.” (The situation has changed in our country. The political climate or scenario is not like before. Different type of people are ruling. We have to sit all too quiet …live or die like this.)

The Indian Muslims are more than aware of the double standards spread out. In January 2020, in the capital city, New Delhi, Muslims were openly abused and threatened to be riddled with bullets, and yet no arrest warrants against the likes of Anurag Thakurs, Kapil Mishras, Parvesh Vermas. Nor against any of the who’s who of the ruling BJP, who openly abused and humiliated the entire Muslim community.

In contrast, that very winter (of 2020) the police arrested students and scholars. One of the arrested student leader, Sharjeel Imam, was even declared a “terrorist” by the godi media! Yes, the godi media came out with this declaration, even before the charges could be proved! Another blatant case was that of the Shaheen Public School in Karnataka’s Bidar, where sedition cases were slapped on the staff and also on particular parents because prime minister Narendra Modi was criticised in the midst of a play staged by the school children…The list of double standards in the very governance is long. Blatant and hitting. And all out there, in the open.

Today, in the summer of 2022, worries surmount for the Indian Muslims, as the role of the police force during these recent provocative rioting, has raised pertinent queries. It would be very significant to know if an independent level inquiry be conducted on this aspect. Is there pressure on the police from the political lot? Is there that communal virus all too active? Is there a fair representation of Muslims in the police force? If not, then this relevant sub query rises- why not?

I do realise it would be naïve to expect answers to any of these queries but I do hope the IAS and IPS associations do take it up, because the very survival of citizens is getting impacted on a daily basis. After all, if one community is not treated on par, then it would leave imprints.

Way back in the early 90s, I had more than realised that blatant discriminations had intruded right into the very system. In fact, soon after the reactionary rioting to the Babri Masjid destruction in the early 90s, I visited Delhi 's Seelampur area to report on the ground situation. Horror stories emerged. Muslim men recounted they were made to strip in front of cops, to show the circumcision marks. They were also forced to stand apart from the Hindu men rounded up.

And at the very start of 2020, news reports carried pointers to the fact that Muslim men in the detention centres and prisons of Uttar Pradesh were segregated along religious lines! Former IPS officer turned activist SR Darapuri’s interviews of 2020 revealed some of those hard hitting facts. After all, he was a witness to that, when he was himself imprisoned in Lucknow during the anti-CAA protests.

Another worry that hits, is that on one hand the Right Wing rulers have found bulldozers to demolish homes and hearths, but there seems no focus on the fact that there are no homes for Muslims! They are finding it difficult to get a room on rent. Muslims also recounted the experiences they have faced on the housing front in the capital city, New Delhi. when they went looking for a place on rent they were told, “Why don’t you people shift out …to Pakistan or stuff yourself in one of your Muslim mohallas!” In many places the landlords made it clear that they do not want Muslim tenants, “No Muslims … police will be on our heads because of Muslim tenants!”

Several years back, when I went to interview Justice Sachar, he was in the midst of a meeting. While waiting for the meeting to be over, I started discussing with his office staff the findings of this Committee. When we came to the housing front, one of them — a young Bengali Muslim who'd recently shifted to New Delhi from Kolkata — recounted the insulting taunts he had to hear, after he had found a roof over his head! "I found a first floor flat in New Delhi’s Green Park and the landlord, a Sikh, rented it to me without creating any fuss about my Muslim identity. But the very next morning as I sat in the balcony and was going through a road map of the city, I saw tenants residing on the second floor peering down. Looking towards me, saying aloud, ‘See, he’s looking at the map of New Delhi to find where to place bombs!’ ”

Why didn’t he lodge a complaint with the police?

He pointed out, he was at least fortunate enough to have found a place to reside in New Delhi, so he kept shut and digested that insult!

On an earlier occasion, whilst speaking to Dr Puneet Bedi —New Delhi’s well- known obstetrician who’d earlier, in 1992, worked in Delhi’s Seelampur area, treating Muslims injured in police firing—told me, “I would rate the condition of Muslims as grim because the discriminations against them are getting blatant by the day. Today the Muslims are surviving in a very kharaab haal! Earlier the discrimination against them was subtle but now it is all out in the open. If any fellow tells me there is no discrimination against the Muslims, I would say that fellow is lying…bilkul jhoot bol raha hai! I can see for myself the discriminations Muslims face. They are not getting rooms on rent. No jobs, no place to stay! Even in South Delhi colonies only a very small percentage of Muslims are residing. Why? Because even if they happen to be owners of apartments they are hounded out in some way or the other! One such incident took place only a couple of years back… I know this Muslim family who were living in their own apartment in Saket, but each time bearded relatives or ‘Muslim attired’ or ‘Muslim looking’ friends visited them, neighbours would lodge complaints with the cops that all sorts of Muslim characters are visiting their area! This Muslim family got so fed up that they decided to sell off their Saket apartment and move to the Muslim dominated Jasola, which is close to the Jamia Nagar locality.”

Dr Bedi had detailed more along the strain,“One day I picked up the directory of the Hauz Khas residential colony, where I reside, and out of 3,000 houses /kothis in the area only 3 with Muslim names. Maybe a few Muslim families reside in Hauz Khas as tenants but not as owners of properties. It is ironical that before the Partition almost all the South Delhi colonies and South Delhi villages were owned by Muslims. In fact, Hauz Khas, Shahpur Jat, Green Park, Greater Kailash were all evacuee property which were later acquired by the Jats. Tragically, today Muslims are kept out from all spheres. You wouldn’t believe but till my school days, I hadn’t met a single Muslim child or family. In school there were two Parsi brothers, Adil and Nausher, in my class and for years I thought they were Muslims! Much later, in the medical college, there were three Muslim students in my class but my first big exposure to the Muslim community was in December 1992 , when several of us doctors and activists decided to reach out to the injured Muslims in Delhi’s Seelampur colonies — the Janata Mazdoor Colony and the Welcome Colony. I can’t describe what poverty we saw in those Muslim bastis of Seelampur.”

Today, these lines of Ahmed Rahi do stand out in the context of the Indian Muslims:

“Our lives were spent in despair; hope had begun to stir in our hearts

We thought our destiny would change, but alas, we were deceived.”

(Views are personal)

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