The partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, into Hindustan and Pakistan, led to one of the most brutal migrations known to the face of the earth. Muslims in India were forced to move to West and East Pakistan, while the Hindus on the other side of the divide came to India. This blatant violation of freedom of choice led to the uprooting of more than fifteen million people, and about one to two million people lost their lives.
The Muslims population makes up approximately 14% of the Indian population. Back in 1947, this population had the option to move to Pakistan and live with their own community. They were the ones who, by choice, did not leave their motherland, they did not accept Jinnah’s invitation; they chose to stay.
Our grandfathers and great grandfathers, honest to the Indian soil, couldn’t move away. People moved due to various reasons, but their one single reason was the love and respect they bore in their hearts for their native land, the land they had been calling their own.
I, Syed Mohammad Tahir Hussain, belong to that 14% of the population. Today, it feels like I belong to this percentage more than I belong to India. Today, I have to constantly advocate for the love and respect I have in my heart for my country, which is no different than the love and respect my great grandfather carried in his heart.
I am made to wear my nationalism on my sleeve, and I am made to feel that if I am a Muslim, I am not Indian enough.
After spending 12 years in the comfortable blanket that is the school life, I shifted from Delhi to Ambala for my graduation. Day one and a professor asked me to go out of the class because she couldn’t tolerate a Muslim student in her class. “You’re a Muslim, get out of my class”, she said in a full classroom.
Though my classmates stood for me, raised their voices against the professor, I could still very safely say that my comfortable blanket was swiftly snatched away from me on the very first day of college.
And the harsh weather hasn’t left my side since, moreover, I’ve gotten used to it. I regularly receive hate messages and death threats. People message me and call me a spy from the other country, or ask me to go back to Pakistan.
Being a Muslim in India has become a struggle in itself, more to say, things have worsened since the elections of 2014. Coming from the minority Muslim population, an uncanny sense of threat has now embedded in my bones.
I am forced to think of the regular activities which a normal person carries out through the day. For instance, eating non-vegetarian food or carrying it in my tiffin. In a matter of seconds, the meat can be assumed to be that of a holy cow, and in a matter of minutes, I may be lynched to death.
I happen to live away from my family. If I get busy and forget to make a call even for a single day, nobody sleeps in peace back at home.
During the time of the Pulwama attacks, everyone wanted me back home. Juggling between work and home like this, life becomes difficult and unmanageable.
When I think about our Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, a train of events flash before me: Bombers of the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast, Ajmer blasts, Malegaon blast, or Samjhauta Express blast; all terrorists getting bails, Gujarat riots, demolition of Babri Masjid, the court ruling in favour of Captain Purohit.
Mr Amit Shah is still free and a sitting MP in Rajya Sabha after all the allegations against him, especially with regards to the Muslim community. All of these combine to evoke hesitation and even fear among Muslims.
We learn by asking questions, we achieve by asking questions.
Today critical questioning is the need of the hour, especially the system which controls and influences us. But for people like me, asking even the most crucial questions or speaking of opinions is like playing with fire or skating on thin ice.
Even before one can realise, they may already be labelled as traitors, anti-nationals, or a Pakistani. The constant fear of being attacked and being vigilant gets extremely exhausting and suffocating.
Till date, there is not a single state that employs Muslims in the proportion to their share in the state’s population. There are efforts by the government to chuck out the Mughal history from school’s syllabus; names of places which sound minutely Islamic are being changed, and ministers of the ruling party openly talk about creating a Hindu state.
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mr Adityanath Yogi, after renaming Allahabad to Prayagraj, actively reiterates about changing names of Taj Mahal and Azamgarh to Ram Mahal and Aryamgarh respectively.
Our community is treated like we’re a tumour in the body of India. The only question that further rises is, are we malignant or benign? A malignant tumour is treated by its altogether extraction, while a benign tumour is just kept under surveillance.
The choices don’t make sense because it is a wrong question. The right thing to do will be to question our democracy and secularism. The right question is to differentiate between self-defence and terrorism.
Islamophobia affects me and my family, it affects every other Indian because we all live under the same democracy. Such prejudices and hatred affect the health of our democracy, the very foundation of a free society. We live in a society which ridiculously affiliates the colour green, the moon or a goat to Islam and the colour saffron, the sun, or a cow to Hinduism.
I am a proud Indian. There shouldn’t be any need for me to prove my nationalism, for it is the reality. A big reason why I chose to be a social worker was that I always wanted to work for the people of my country. A political party cannot be the nation; people like you and me, we are the nation and always will be.
I wanted to work on ground level for these ordinary people with extraordinary struggles because these are the people who make my nation, the nation I love with every part of my being. Working for their growth and welfare will facilitate the same for the state. And that is the goal I am here with, and always will be.
But there is always a question in my mind that is, why do we Muslims have to prove our nationalism? Are we not Indians?