From Akhlaq To Kathua: The Price We Pay For Ignoring Ambedkar

Posted by Sharique Manazir in Human Rights, Politics, Society
April 16, 2018

The continuous persecution of Muslims in India is nothing new. It is just that the nature and frequency of crime against them in the name of love jihad, Ghar wapsi, radicalisation, terrorism, beef ban etc. have turned more inhuman and brutal day after day. There is a strategically crafted attack against Muslims to weaken their will and spirit of living as an equal citizen in this country. Now right-wing parties not only justify hate crime against Muslims, but they also go to the extent of silencing those who try to speak up against such heinous crimes. As a result of this, now a large section of Muslims, as well as Non-Muslims in India prefer to stay silent while those who carry out such hate crimes against Muslims are accorded with celebrity status.

While liberals, leftists as well as right-wing intellectuals raise concerns about social regressiveness among Muslims through distorted and cherry-picked quotes of B.R.Ambedkar, they tend to forget he also said, “If the Muslims in other countries have undertaken the task of reforming their society and the Muslims of India have refused to do so, it is because the former are free from communal and political clashes with rival communities, while the latter are not.” It is really strange that so many years have passed since India got Independence, but there is no constitutional safeguard available for Muslims against communal and political hate crimes and persecution about which Ambedkar wrote.

In the absence of such constitutional rights, we have seen almost all forms of inhuman acts against Muslims from different genders, age groups, and economic or social statuses. We have seen Akhlaq and Pahlu Khan being lynched in broad daylight,  Mohammad Afrazul being butchered and burnt in Rajasthan, kids like 15-year-old Ibrahim hanged to death from a tree, 16-year-old Sibtulla Rashidi beaten to death then burnt in Asansol, a woman fasting during Ramzan being raped in running train by police personal, an 8-year-old in Kathua sedated, gang-raped and then butchered to death by police personnel as well as pandits inside the premises of a mandir. We have also seen people like Dr.Kafeel sent behind bars when they try to stop poor kids from dying, people like Najeeb who disappear from university campuses, and we have also seen people like Amir who jailed for 14 years on false charges and when they come out of jail they are paid pennies without any formal apology from the police or judiciary.

Three things which are common among all the above cases is the identity of the individual as “Muslim”, the inability of police in stopping these crimes and finally, the failure of the judiciary in giving justice to those who suffered these hate crimes. The sad part is that these crimes are rarely accepted as crimes against people from a particular religion, mostly because if society accepts it, they will have to talk about its solution.

But why have we ignored such an important issue which Ambedkar pointed out so many years back and why have Indian academicians, activists, and politicians never taken it seriously? In 2014, a committee headed by Dr Amitabh Kundu to review implementation of the Sachar Committee Report, suggested that a law on the lines of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act is needed to safeguard the Muslim community. Suggestions mentioned the fact that, “it has been seen that the members of the Muslim community face similar challenges to that of the SC community, and in certain cases, they are more violent challenges,” and thus need safeguarding.

Sadly, even though the Sachar Committee Report is referred by activists and politicians to study caste and other social issues among Muslims, political discourse upon bringing Special Atrocities Act for safeguarding life and dignity of Muslims is very intentionally ignored by even liberals as well as academicians. In recent times, Abu Azmi is the only politician who took up this issue but even he was not able to build any consensus on it. In fact, Samajwadi Party (the party he belongs to) itself never brought any such bill in the state assembly when it was in power in Uttar Pradesh where so many Muslims were killed and displaced during Muzaffarnagar riots. The introduction of the Communal Violence Bill by Congress during its last days in power was also a half-hearted attempt. In fact, that bill did more harm to the cause of “Muslims (Prevention of Atrocities) Act” by not addressing core issues. It should must be mentioned that when the Communal Violence Bill was introduced in Parliament, apart from BJP, Left too was against it.

While it is very easy to talk about social issues faced by Muslims because it makes a person favourite among liberals as well as right-wingers, no one wants to talk about constitutional empowerment of Muslims in India so that they can live like an equal citizen in this country. Random protests, hashtag trends and Facebook statuses in solidarity with the Kathua rape victim will not get her justice. Unless and until Muslims do not have a provision which ensures their life and dignity, every crime against them will be manipulated as a crime against a particular gender, community, sub-community or tribe.