Opinion: I Am An Indian Muslim – Inconsequential And Insignificant. Why Fear Me?

Immediately after the judgement had been pronounced on the Ayodhya dispute, I got a request to write my opinion on the issue. My first reaction after reading that mail was, what is there left to say?

The verdict had come crashing down, like some hollowed-out structure of a devastated building, and the pain wasn’t much of a surprise, to the people who had been living out of fear for years, waiting for the inevitable. The building fell and with it the hopes of repair. The building fell and sowed in its debris seeds of suspicion. From keepers of its fate – the people who adorned the highest temple of justice to the guardians of its faith – the spiritual leaders, the integrity of everyone was razed to the ground. While I was still contemplating what I should write on, I browsed social media, where yet again, the minority community was found lacking a coherent response.

Diversity of opinion, confusion, chaos, escapism, ridicule, allegations, and despair filled social media within minutes of the judgment. Every third person appeared to have a fourth opinion on the fresh matter on the table. Obviously, Ayodhya was the epicentre of the nation’s interest, including that of the minority community, and not Kashmir, where it was the 94th day of the lockdown. It is pertinent to note here, that a community which doesn’t stand by its own oppressed people, deserves no sympathy from anyone else. And yet, this too was visible in the response that came from the liberal quarter. Many proponents of liberalism, and many Messiah’s of secularism, either went into a balancing silence or hailed the verdict for its godly justice. For the pseudo seculars, the opening up of Kartarpur corridor was a good enough relief. For the prudent liberals, the protest in JNU became of far greater interest.

Yet, it is Muslim India’s response that must be of editorial interest. The wholesale response to the Ayodhya verdict would hold no value if it wasn’t continuous. Muslims, even when divided on the Ayodhya verdict, were united by fear. This was a commonality that had cut through every onslaught. Some elite, self-styled and opinionated intellectuals of the community termed it as pragmatism. Some suggested a period of hibernation for Muslims, which they should use on internal reforms. Some others suggested that Muslims cannot fight majoritarianism and that they should take it lying down.  To decode before the country, this, and many other psychological behaviours of the community, it requires telling plenty of stories.

“Chalo mudda hi khatm” (the issue is finally over). A former editor of an Urdu news daily and a celebrated writer in Bihar, who finds huge following for his sharp and incisive writings, both in Hindi and Urdu, said the above words after the verdict was delivered. He, like many others, claimed that after the court’s final judgement, the issue was dead.

I wonder whether the matter will really come to an end. After all, have we achieved the milestone of Akhand Bharat and Hindu Rashtra? Has the law of the land been officially swapped with Manusmriti?

Had the issue been of the minority’s own making, one could believe, that now that the judgement had come, they would have no other issues. But this is not the case. The issue was not just created by the RSS, BJP, Hindu Mahasabha, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and several other Sangh Parivar outfits to reap political dividend, but, it was used by Congress, the left and other regional parties, SOS.  Muslims, neither today, neither at any point of time in independent India’s history, had any agency to raise any issue. The issues have always been set by the communal interest, and Muslims forever, have been on the defence.

Communalism has always been the lifeblood for our politicians. So, if Ram Mandir is settled, they may interfere with Azaan. If Azaan is settled they may obstruct Namaaz. If Namaaz is settled they may question Nikah. If Nikaah is settled they may ridicule Talaq. If Talaqis settled they may criminalise Hijab. If Hijab is settled, they may ban Naqab. If they would find nothing, they might dig out Muslims from their graves, and try to polarise the public. If the graves of our immediate ancestors would not suffice, they would go ten generations back to the burial sites of Mughals. If that wouldn’t be enough, they would further go back in time and use every single Muslim dead in the past.

In fact, were the community to get frustrated, and convert en masse to Hinduism, they would be vilified, by saying that anyhow their ancestors were Muslims. The issue meanwhile would remain alive. It would be nothing less than amateurish to give communalism a final goodbye.

To substantiate my argument, I would like to recall a meeting, the third in a series of sittings held in Gaya, where people were arguing about whether the protest march should be held on a Friday or not. In mid-August, the grandson of Rafiganj’s first MLA, Sardar Latifur Rahman, along with his friends, was lynched on the pretext of being a child lifter, in Gaya’s Paharpur block.  Sardar Latifur Rahman was also a member of the constituent Assembly and stood his ground when the wave of Muslim League’s politics swept north India. Lynching in the name of child lifting rumours had gained ground in the preceding few months in the entire country and served as a cover-up of what appeared to be an act of communal nature in Goldy’s case.  Goldy, who suffered multiple head injuries in mob violence, is still battling for life in Ranchi’s Medanta hospital.

The people after the previous two failed sittings finally agreed on the necessity to carry out a peaceful protest march, but still had disagreements when it came to finalising the day. The majority of people preferred Friday as the day of protest, arguing that it’s convenient to mobilise people after Juma prayers, while those in opposition, said that Muslims joining immediately after Juma prayers in their traditional attire, Kurta Pajama, and skullcap, would associate the issue only with the minority community, thereby making it difficult to invite people of other faiths.

Also, the emphasis was laid on organising a silent protest, else some miscreant may infiltrate the crowd and raise inflammatory slogans. Others suggested avoiding a confrontational approach with the administration, and that the IB was always on the lookout for any transgression. If this was not enough of pragmatism, a suggestion came to at least remove the skullcap during the protest march, if the protest had to happen on a Friday.

The fact that it took three meetings to agree on a protest, and issues like people fearing slogans, reluctance to participate in the protest in their traditional attire, and fear of the IB, without having done anything wrong, speaks volumes about the sense of fear the community is living in.

Now, compare this with the protest that took place against the desecration of the Dalit icon, Sant Ravidas’s temple in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad. The protest held in Gaya, within a week of the protest against mob lynching was an altogether different scene. The Dalits hit the road, challenged the authority and were fearless, and outspoken about their demands. They raised slogans against the central government and sat in front of the collectorate when they were denied an audience.

In yet another example, I call recall a discussion I once had with a friend; a devout practising Muslim, who said he had deleted all videos of Dr Zakir Naik from his mobile phone, and contacts of all Pakistani friends and relatives, for the fear of being harassed by the authorities at the airport.

I recall how a girl, a fresh Mass Communications graduate from one of India’s most premier institutes, was advised not to wear hijab to avoid uncomfortable questions in an interview. In order to secure a quick job and for the fear of losing out on opportunities, she quickly obliged.

I can also recall how Delhi’s all-time favourite, Farooque Abdullah was put under house arrest, under the stringent J&K Public safety Law, without any explanation, and yet there wasn’t much of a whisper. Abdullah’s father, a devout nationalist himself, was the contemporary of Sardar Latifur Rahman. I am also reminded that, as I write, it has been 97 days since Kashmir is locked up. Where for every six persons, there stands a guard, armed personnel, and there has been no popular protest in free India.

I am reminded of how Azam Khan’s University was ransacked, and yet people were suggesting that the five acres of land should be used for building an educational institution.  One is also reminded that from triple talaq to mob violence, love jihad to NRC, every time an assault was carried out on the country’s largest minority, there wasn’t much chaos on the streets. While at the same time,  the loot and arson in the name of hurt Rajput pride and for the sake of Jat, Patel and Maratha reservations, was justified. Not to forget, that the Prime Minister himself expressed displeasure with the Supreme Court’s judgment on Sabrimala, and praised it when it came to Babri Masjid. How there were mass protests with the members of the ruling party openly voicing an opinion against Supreme court’s judgment on Sabrimala, and how the minority community has been silently accepting of the supreme court’s rulings.

The strands of continuity marked in Muslim behaviour in the wake of oppression makes one wonder, why people were preaching in advance that we have to respect the judgement? Why WhatsApp group admins were blocking others from posting anything?

After all, I am a Muslim Indian, if I am inconsequential and insignificant. Why fear me?

*Feature image is for representational purposes only. 

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