As an Indian Muslim, I have never felt so hopeless as in the last four and a half years. Mind you, this sense of despair cum hopelessness is peaking every single day of the week. In fact, earlier the numerous lynching incidents shook one; culprits seemingly got state protection and relatives of the lynched victims were more than often detained by the police. Then came one after another incident of college and university students and even school-going Muslim children getting targeted and humiliated…not to overlook the latest two incidents where two hijab-wearing students were not allowed to sit for the UGC Net examinations. Needless to mention that these are only the reported cases. There are hundreds of cases where entire Muslim families have been discriminated against, if not targeted and hounded.
And last week’s Uttar Pradesh government’s clampdown on namaaz being offered in a particular park of Noida once again reeks of the communal tactics that the Yogi Adityanath government is infamous for. There are several disturbing dimensions to this order. For one, the Noida Police has proclaimed loud and clear that if a Muslim employee of any of the Noida-based companies is spotted offering namaaz in and around that park, then his company will be held responsible. This clause rather too automatically relays a very negative message; as though the Yogi administration is making sure that the companies will think a hundred times before employing/hiring Muslims in their offices. Another significant offshoot is the fact that non–Muslims could or would view namaaz as something dangerous or offensive or even criminal, so as to be halted in a public park. After all, other activities such as RSS meets and drills and marches do take place in public parks.
Not to overlook the kanwariyas and their processions that run along highways and even along parks. Muslims have been pushed to the wall. Yes, even the space to offer prayers is being snatched away. Here, let me also add that though any religious or semi–religious activity is highly personal, and so ought to be conducted within the confines of homes or within the set religious places, what happens if one is travelling or is away from home for work or business? In this particular case, the nearest mosque is several kilometres away. Also, the concerned persons are only praying for 10 to 15 minutes. Namaaz is a combination of prayers and exercise and that’s about it. For God’s sake, they are not indulging in some criminal activity!
Of course, the Muslim community realises that RSS pracharacks and mahapracharacks happen to be the current political rulers. That explains the double standards. I, as an Indian Muslim, cannot offer namaaz in parks or along the road. But, on the other hand, several government set-ups and workplaces, including police stations and ministerial offices, more than resemble mini-mandirs. Not to overlook the RSS shakhas and training camps that are held out there in the open.
Tell me why these double standards! Tell me, why does the government insist and persist in using these tactics to drill into my psyche that I’m from a minority community and so will have to forgo my fundamental rights as a Muslim citizen of this country! Tell me, why is this government insisting on using laws to frame and harass as many Muslims as possible.
In fact, this brings me to focus on the Triple Talaq Bill, recently passed in the Lok Sabha. As a Muslim woman, I find it not just flawed but reeking of an obvious, communally-charged right-wing angle to it…I have personally not come across a single case where a Muslim man has left his wife uttering talaq-talaq-talaq at one go. Even if such cases surface, they would be rare and arising more out of ignorance of the religious guidelines and coming along the strain of poverty and backwardness. Instead of making sure that the Muslim community does not lag behind on the educational and economical fronts, the establishment is seemingly ensuring that more and more Muslim men languish in the prisons and jails of the country.
Did any of the Smriti Iranis or Meenakshi Lekhis shout and scream and reached out to the Muslim women when riots and pogroms raged in Gujarat and in the other locales of the country…where Muslim women and even girls were not just hounded but even raped and molested by right-wing goons. Why is only now, when the Triple Talaq Bill was to be passed in the Lok Sabha that these politicians thought of the Muslim women! What about protecting Muslim women from those who are getting trained out there in the open, to target and terrorise the ‘other’! What about making the Muslim women financially and socially strong! What about ensuring that Muslims are on par with other communities as far as education and jobs are concerned! Why is it that the Muslim feels not just discriminated against and bypassed, but is also insecure, apprehensive of the State machinery’s actions.
The truth is that in today’s polluted political atmosphere, a Muslim’s faith in any of the governmental machinery is nil. Questions are being raised on the NIA raids conducted in the Muslim neighbourhood of Delhi’s Jaffrabad in the name of busting a terror module!
I have been speaking to several Muslims and they have told me that if only the media bothered to hear the parents, neighbours and the lawyers of those arrested, then perhaps, the glaring loopholes in the police theory would surface. To quote one of them, “It has become a strange norm that around August 15 and before January 26, the police will catch hold of Muslim men and then say they have caught terrorists, busted a terror plot! Can’t the media see a clear pattern in this?”