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Indian Muslims after Modi

Indian Muslims after Modi

by Sazzad Hussain
May 30, 2014

India has seen a remarkable paradigm shift taking place in the trajectory of the country’s parliamentary politics with the landslide victory of BJP in the general election-2014. Led by Narendra Mody the BJP has come to power which will be free from the fissures of the coalition partners and will be enjoying unfettered space and scope to govern. This clear verdict undoubtedly reflects the mood of the nation that wants a decisive government to bring changes. However, how this national mood, is characterized by the inclusion and exclusion of some voices—the voices of Indian Muslims, the second largest majority of the country? What this besieged and beleaguered community will be in this new India that promises so much?

Modi, the BJP or the Sangh Parivar has always been seen by Indian Muslims as antagonistic to their concerns or existence. The narrative of the Hindutva and an equally generic view of secularism have been the cause of such apprehension among the large section of the Indian Muslims. But unfortunately the secular narrative of India has so far failed to secularize the Indian Muslims and they have been made more cosmetically synonymous with their brethren in Taliban Afghanistan and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia instead of Muslims of Kemalite Turkey or that of the Balkans. Secular narratives in India has enabled the Mullahs to take centre stage as spokespersons of Muslims making the community and the nation itself to leave persons like Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, Arif Zakaria, Z.A Qasim, Prof. Nurul Hassan, M. Hedayatullah to the oblivion. This prominence enjoyed by Indian Mullahs under the canopy of secularism that they have even gone to the extent of creating a parallel Islamic state for Muslims in India with Sharia Laws. This accommodation of giving upper hand to a section of Muslim clergy, that has been going on since the Shah Bano Case, in the name of appeasing the community, must be discontinued for the serious betterment of Indian Muslims under the Modi government.

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Indian Muslims have been plagued by series of unfortunate developments that affected the country in the last quarter of the century. Since independence it was the communalism factor which affected most so far Indian Muslims were concerned. From the 1980s onwards, the Mandir-Masjid conflict affected the community as its leaders focused more on rhetoric then mobilizing the Indian Muslims in strengthening with progressive forces of the country. The 1992-93 Bombay Riots, when the global Jihadis were still trying hard to make inroads in Afghanistan, made many Indian Muslims terrorists whose trail is still continuing with later involvement of Pakistani establishments. No collective effort has been initiated from any corner to mobilize the Indian Muslims to form a strong front against the Jihad in Kashmir, cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and infiltration from Bangladesh. In fact, the essentially Indian heritage of Muslims—pluralistic, diversity and inclusivity have been pushed to the corner to promote a homogenous entity of Indian Muslims. Earlier there was a vast difference between a Kashmiri Muslim to a Kerala Muslim or between an Assamese Muslim and an Awadhi Muslim. Now all look similar be in Hatigaon in Guwahati or Hazratganj in Lucknow—women roaming in black burqas and men in skull caps and the red and white checkered Bedouin keffiyeh. It’s true to any Muslim localities across India that is transformed into ghettos under this system. Such segregation of residential areas has encouraged urban legends like “Mini Pakistan” in various corners of the country. Modi’s task will be to de-ghettoize the Indian Muslims in new India—where everyone’s progress and development matters.

Education, healthcare, economic development and social justice as well as physical security are the most important segments in which Indian Muslims need immediate care. Television reports during the Election period showed Muslim villages in and around riot-hit Muzaffarnagar are still devoid of proper roads, electricity, educational institutes and healthcare facilities and even some of the villages even do not have a single TV set. Echoing the Taliban rhetoric, the Muslim elders in those villages consider television as a tool that would corrupt the younger minds, particularly the girls and therefore it’s made a taboo to have one. In the river islands of the Brahmaputra in Assam, the Muslims often alleged as illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators, having a population explosion because of early marriage and polygamy. This increased population has been moving to various other places of the states or the country in search of livelihood pause threat to local demographics which have been becoming xenophobic over the years due to various orientations. Here too, religion plays a crucial role in mobilizing the people for electoral purposes, for anti-social activities, for identity politics and above all to scare others or to being scared.

Over the years all the ‘secular’ political parties followed the same old policy of accommodating certain benefits to a section of the Indian Muslims as a service and responsibility of the entire community. The Congress and SP, BSP or JD (U), RJD—all north Indian parties of the Hindi heartland felt satisfied of grooming some Muslim leaders who do not have any enlightened intellect to read the rich and diverse history of Indian Islam, the charisma to transcend the religious divide and the vision to look for the future and to bring the community to the national mainstream. They only chair the dais with their political bosses (Lalu-Mulayam, Nitish, etc) wearing the Saudi keffiyeh to say goodbye to Hajj pilgrims, organize Iftaar parties during the holy moth of Ramadan and often pressurizing the state governments or New Delhi to stop persons like Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasrin from attending a literary function in India. It was unfortunate that the British author, who had earlier attended the Jaipur Literary Festival in 2007 and made the famous remark that “terrorism will have its natural death”, was barred by the UPA regime last year to attend the same function. Some ministers in states like UP can also go the extent of offering cash reward for killing the Danish cartoonist who had allegedly lampooned the Prophet. We must remember that in neigbouring Bangladesh, Islam was used for more than three decades by the military regimes to make its masses to forget the genocide committed by Pakistan. In India, some Mullahs, through their Fatwas are using this great faith to make people to remain stagnant socially in a fast changing world for the electoral gains of certain political parties. We hope that the Modi government will bring changes to the lives of millions of Indian Muslims by creating a new generation of leaders who can restore the lost glory of Indian Islam shown by Amir Khushrau, to Akbar and Dara Sikoh to Maulana Azad and can fasten their educational and socio-economic upward march.

It’s true that there is a huge trust deficit with the Indian Muslims for Modi because of the 2002 pogrom. However me must not forget that under Modi’s administration, his cabinet colleague in Gujarat, Dr. Mayaben Kodnani got prison terms for her role in leading a mob during that riot. On the other hand many accused in the Bombay riots of 1992-93 are still roaming freely despite successive Congress-NCP governments in Maharashtra. Narendra Modi has been emphatically saying that he stands for India and this India also includes Muslims.


Sazzad Hussain is a freelancer based in Assam, India.

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