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Muslims In Indian Ghettos Are Trapped In An Endless Cycle Of Oppression

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No amount of pragmatism can ensure a blanket security for your land and livestock. No one can ever guarantee even a semblance of equity. In a world which is structurally unfair in its construct, the maximum it can earn is momentary peace – at best, a space for survival. For the larger questions of justice, liberty, equality and constitutional idealism is the only recourse. Fortunately, we have the mechanism in place. Unfortunately, it has few takers among the country’s largest minority community.

Having survived the biggest bloodbath of modern India at the time of partition, Muslims were only left with their battered selves (as material possessions), a sinking soul (the turnaround of whose agony was nowhere in sight), and a badly-bruised ego that constantly reminded them of the grandeur of the past. Under such pitiable circumstances, normalisation of life post-independence assumed foremost importance – for which ‘buying peace’ became pre-requisite.

Seven decades and after countless attempts at vitiating their hard-earned habitable atmosphere, it can be argued that Muslims, as a community, have become resilient and got used to living in peace under the shadow of an ever-impending violence. As long as the shadows don’t unleash violent thunderstorms, they are happy to be pushed to the corners, at being systematically disempowered and being denied the dignity of life.

Over the years, as the community came into a ‘huddle’ – living in close proximity of each other with an explicit sense of community-ship and as an implicit measure of safety – the outskirts (from tehsil towns to the metropolis) got populated in the process of an identity-based segregation. This theoretical formulation of the ‘neo-German ghetto’ was later completed by denying basic civic amenities like health, education and municipal facilities to the residents by the state. With the onset of the new world order where Muslims became the quintessential terrorists, it additionally came under the watch of a willing establishment – the result being the proliferation of more police chowkis in these areas than any other state outlet put together.

The many new worlds that came into being in India’s cities and villages slowly started exhibiting tendencies, mostly identical to the dichotomies pervasive in all closely-knit societies, and in some ways that were typical of its own – an indigenous product of a ‘ghetto-begotten-ghetto’ mentality, which was a result of its unique conditioning.

For the Muslims, is there a way out of the ways and life in the Indian ghettos? (Representative image)

Everyone who fails to appreciate the ‘other’ in you is living in a cultural ghetto. This applies as much to educated Muslims living in ghettos – who, despite having suffered because of it, fell for this mentality, believing theirs alone was the superior race, culture, language and society. It’s a pity they forgot that it’s the same mentality of ‘othering’ that lay at the root of their historic deprivation. It’s no wonder that with such ignorance among the intelligentsia, the struggle for equity was going to be a long haul.

The dichotomy was visible in the manner it carried forward the legacy of their caste system – out from the Pathan tolas and Malik tolas to the more-inclusive ghetto locales, where it was less about spatial segregation and more about a rigid mental block. The space constraint acted as a boon in harmonising intra-community relations and a bane when it came to the preservation of individual identities.

Yet, despite being cramped for space to a large extent, the intra-community dialogue was conspicuous by its absence. People in the sub-standard plush apartments were unaware of their next-door neighbours. They chose to remain aloof from the pains and sufferings of their friends and relatives. The lived tragedies of the millions of oppressed people inhabiting the immediate world around appeared to them as mere statistics. Their only show of strength turned out to be a digital spectacle.

However, being pushed to the margins, and devoid of any institutional help for sustenance, unleashed the ‘entrepreneurial energy’ of the residents. In course of time, it had the effect of creating a self-made ‘affluent class’. In locating all of these upwardly mobile-people within the ghetto and the spatial segregation thereof (owing to class affinities), the dichotomy was more visible. Over time, the ghettos got encircled by walls within walls which no one wanted to see.

The rush for occupying limited but strategically-located real estates in ghettos (positioned in close proximity of an urban setting) led to the rise of many a middle class person. The brokers became the agents of the invisible modern-day jagirdaars. The community’s need for space and a desire for upward mobilisation kicked in a savage property market in its design – the result of which was the skyrocketing real estate prices that had the potential to make even the Fuhrer go green with envy.   The irony didn’t stop here. The land-grabbers, builders, property dealers and their agents, who had amassed huge fortunes banking upon the community’s accommodation needs, also got accepted as their well-wishers and rightful claimants for their representation.

This, along with its many ills, had now become the real native tragedy – the analysis of which was long overdue.

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Featured image used for representative purposes only.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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