JNU and the politics of alienation: On AISA that failed a Muslim comrade
Sharjeel Imam May, 06 2017
I was born and raised in the adjacent districts of Patna and Jehanabad in Magadh region where Muslims are a small minority. They constitute around 7-8 percent of the population, and are mostly concentrated in the towns with sparse rural population. Hence, in rural areas, the existence has been historically more perilous for the Muslims amid the volatile Hindu majority, as Muslim villages have been frequently attacked in the last Century, with the most massive and organised attacks happening in 1917, 1946 and 1989.
In this difficult terrain, where the minuscule Muslim population is attacked at worst, or discriminated against at best, my father, Akbar Imam, spent his life as a politician, who struggled to secure Muslim communities by organising them as electoral forces throughout his life, and passed away three years ago continuously struggling towards this goal. In short, the drastic imbalance of forces during any conflict or debate, be it communal or not, has been far too apparent for me since my childhood, and I have been a witness to many of the political realities of a beleaguered minority.
After I finished my schooling in 2006, I qualified for the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and was admitted to the Computer Science department of IIT Bombay. I spent five fruitful years in the Powai campus, where I met many who are now my closest friends. However, even there I was the sole Muslim in my class. The situation was slightly better in the hostel, where there were three or four Muslim post-graduate students, however, among around 200 undergraduates I was the only Muslim.
Partly because of the negligible Muslim presence there, many rumours and prejudices against Muslims were propagated and taken as truth by many ill-informed Hindu students, as there were no Muslims to debunk them. Once in my second year, when I was being ‘interviewed’ for induction into one of the senior wings, some of the third-year students vetoed my entry as I was a Muslim. I was asked strange questions such as: "What if one of us abuses Muhammad?", "Why don’t you guys shave?" etc. However, the issue was resolved by the administration after intervention from some of my batchmates, and I was allotted a random room as the informal ‘interview’ process was done away with.
Similarly, in my third year, there was a ridiculous and month-long attempt by a group of Hindu students to convert me to Hinduism by repeatedly coming to my room for discussions, and forcing Islamophobic literature upon me. These are some highlights of the issues which forced my argumentative self into long hours of debate and polemics against these ill-informed bigots. After my graduation, I spent two years working as a developer for a software firm in Bengaluru. The Muslims are an extreme minority in upper echelons of the corporate world as well, as most of these professionals are extracted from colleges like IITs etc. Hence, my two years in the corporate world were an extension of my life in IIT Bombay, at least as far as my Muslim self is concerned.
It is from this background that I entered Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in 2013 for Masters in Modern History. I was already aware of the reputation of JNU as the fort of secularism and struggles against oppressive forces. On the admission day, I saw large posters on Muslim issues such as witch-hunting, fake encounters etc. by the main Left parties of the campus such as AISA, SFI and DSF etc. These posters and the sloganeering by these parties gave me the impression that the youth of this nation is finally waking up to the miseries of the marginalised people. I was attracted to the Left parties immediately, and joined AISA which is the largest Left party on the campus. I was a member of the party for over two years, was in its executive committee for a year, and also contested the 2015 JNUSU election as their candidate for the councillor post, and finally, left the party after the Najeeb Ahmad incident. In these years, I had the opportunity to observe the internal mechanism of the party, the intellectual limits of many of our comrades, and the hypocrisy of some others.
The first dent in my respect for this party was a case of sexual harassment against then JNUSU president and joint secretary in 2013-2014, both of whom were AISA members. The president was later exonerated only through an intervention by executive committee. However, both the president and joint secretary had to resign from their posts, were suspended from the hostel because they were found guilty of slandering against the complainant. The party was involved in this slandering wholesale, and tried its best to defend these two individuals. I was also trying to follow the updates of the case, but my curiosities were generally dismissed by our comrades, and the whole affair was often explained as a sinister plan against the party and as our party was apparently the last hope of the oppressed, we should stop asking questions, and slander against the complainant. Initially, I read the behaviour of these two members as a mere anomaly, something which could not be consistent with the larger progressive politics, and rhetorics of gender equality of the party. However, as time passed, and other cases emerged, it became certain that AISA has a history of sexual harassment cases against its office-bearers and members, and a culture of defaming the complainant and its leaders. In fact, when one looks at the record of the parent parties of both AISA and SFI (CPI-ML, and CPM respectively), the political representation given to women historically has been poorer than other mainstream parties.
In the same 2013-2014 session, Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student Association (Bapsa) was formed against the Left wing appropriation of Dalit voices in the campus. BAPSA claims that both mainstream Left wing organisations are brahmanical and patriarchal in nature, and have checked the emergence of a Dalit leadership. In fact, none of these mainstream parties have produced Dalit leadership, and their highest bodies and positions of power have been monopolised by upper caste Hindu men. The rise of Bapsa in the campus was long overdue, and it helped increase my knowledge on the hypocritical role played by the Indian Left in movements which sought to empower Dalit communities. Bapsa gained in strength over the last two years, and its presidential candidate was the runner-up in the last elections. This was the second major dent in my respect for the party which spoke a progressive tongue.
However, as Islamophobia has been a running theme in my life amid an overwhelming Hindu majority, I would be naturally most sensitive to and aware of this problem. Over the four years of my existence in the campus, I spent no less time than I did in IIT debating against people who had practically no knowledge of Islamic faith, figures and practices, yet could abuse these with impunity. Slowly it dawned upon me, that the anti-Islamic zeal of our comrades is not much different from the zeal of ill-informed Hindu students in the IITs, at lest as far as the content of the debates is concerned. Both are based on prejudices and caricaturing of Islamic faith, and mindless exaggeration of incidents and issues of local nature to make them appear as global ‘Islamic’ issues. The Qur’an is seen by some comrades as a ‘defected’ book which leads to terrorism among Muslims. The Muslims are regularly painted as uniquely misogynistic by many comrades. And there is a healthy propagation of anti-Islamic fake news, and “fatwas” which are hardly ever fatwas.
In short, Islamophobia is rampant inside this ‘progressive’ campus as well. Most of these prejudices against Islam, in my opinion, are prevalent because of three important reasons: 1) Most of the comrades are conditioned to the caste-Hindu narrative against Islam, 2) Most of us are exposed to the liberal media of the English-speaking world, which has pioneered many new ways to hate and misrepresent Islam, and 3) The dogmatic prejudice against ‘religion’ in general, which derives from their self-identification as Marxist atheists. In short, most of these comrades are prejudiced, ill-equipped and lack scholarly instincts when discussing Islamic faith and practices in general. The result of this prejudiced rhetoric is the alienation of Muslim youth in the campus.
For instance, a former VP of JNUSU and an AISA leader once used a sentence abusing Prophet Muhammad as an example to explain to us that such statements do not constitute hate speech. I was amazed at the ignorance of the leading lights of this progressive campus. I was unable to explain to myself that if such statements are not Islamophobic and hate-inducing, then why was I, a 19-year old lonely Muslim, disturbed when one of my bigoted seniors asked me the same question during the ‘interview’ in that hostel of IIT Bombay. It is extremely important to understand the power dynamics against minorities in a polarised space, only then an informed discussion on hate speech can take place.
Another interesting example is a Facebook post by an AISA member who was also a candidate for the post of JNUSU president. He declares an ABVP leader as ‘jaichand’ because ABVP has been against the interests of academic freedom in JNU. The spirit is right, but the metaphor is wrong. Jaichand is a villain and a traitor only in an anti-Islamic characterisation of Indian history. Jaichand allegedly helped the ‘Muslim’ Ghauri against the ‘Hindu’ Prithvi Raj Chauhan and hence was ‘anti-India’, even though ‘India’ as a nation was conceived seven centuries later! Tracing India to 13th century seems a decent thought from an Islamophobic ABVP member, but even an AISA comrade is unaware that he is inadvertently adding fuel to the fire. If there is problem at the basic level of historical understanding in a presidential candidate, one can expect the state of the average comrade.
On the account of representation as well, AISA has failed Muslims repeatedly. Year after year, Muslims have been offered token candidature as JNUSU Joint Secretary to register nominal Muslim presence and ensure Muslim votes. SFI is no better. In fact, its parent party, which has ruled West Bengal for three and a half decades has continuously kept Muslims in a state of utter deprivation.
The last nail in the coffin was the Najeeb incident, in which after an alleged scuffle, Najeeb was beaten up by a group of students. JNUSU President, and AISA leader Mohit Pandey reached the spot during the violence, and witnessed it, but during the hearing in front of the warden, he failed to report the fact. He declared Najeeb as the offender, silenced his voice, and spoke against him. The warden then asked Najeeb to leave the hostel in six days. Najeeb disappeared the next morning and it has been six months since. Instead of impeaching and punishing the president for silencing, instead of representing Najeeb’s side, AISA-SFI union decided to take a different line. After the disappearance of Najeeb, they started defending Mohit Pandey and immediately communalised the issue, and declared that a “communally charged mob” beat Najeeb up, and hence Muslims in this campus should feel insecure. All of this was an exercise of misinformation and fear-mongering in order to hide their own president’s failure, and frighten the Muslims into submission. It is no different from how Congress has been treating the Muslims for a century, let alone BJP which openly speaks against this minority community. This is what forced me out of my politically inactive state, as I severed my ties with the party, and started speaking against AISA-SFI narrative.
This is the state of the leading Left party in JNU. Their legitimacy lies in the fact that they are very loud and slogan-friendly. There is no drive to sanitise the minds of the individual cadre, no encouragement of healthy debate and skepticism. Their loud revolutions can be witnessed often in form of juloos from the Ganga dhaba, to the Chandrabhaga hostel.
The author is a Computer Science graduate from IIT Bombay, and is currently a research scholar at Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, and lives in the same hostel wing where Najeeb resided.
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Muslims are being targetted in India slowly but brutally and in a gory and grusome manner. In the state of Jharkhand three Muslims were brutally killed on the suspicion of being child lifters.
In the meanwhile we realize that Saudi Arabia and UAE are sitting virtually in the lap of India oblivious to the worsening security situation for Muslims. When we the Muslims of India keep shedding tears for Arabs, in Palestine, as a solidarity of Ummah we expect shedding of few tears for us also.
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Muslim Ummah aspires to attain a rightful and honored place among the civilizations of the world and make her full contribution towards international peace, progress and happiness of humanity.
An eyewitness account of India's first war of Independence - Revolt of 1857
[Book extract] There were thousands of women, tiny children, young and old men pouring out of the city in a state of panic.
The city is abandoned
The evening the emperor left the Qila and reached Humayun’s tomb, Nawab Hamid Ali Khan’s servant came to my father at midnight and gave him a message.
"Why are you waiting free of care in your house? The emperor has left the Qila and the locals are fleeing the city. For God’s sake, leave your house and depart from the city with your family. Can’t you see that the city is being murdered? I am going out of the city with my family. You can send the women of your family along with mine."
Nawab Hamid Ali Khan’s house was near the Kashmiri Darwaza, but a month earlier he had rented a house in our mohalla.
After this message, everyone left the house in whatever clothes he or she was wearing. My mother didn’t even pick up a ring from her jewellery in her state of panic.
My wife had stitched a mattress and bolster in which she had stuffed the valuable clothes she had got in her trousseau, along with her jewellery. She spread the mattress in the cart and kept the bolster beside her.
Thus, my parents, my wife, all my siblings and all the women of Nawab Hamid Ali Khan’s house went to Matia Mahal to my in-laws’ house.
My mother and Nawab Hamid Ali Khan’s wife told my father-in-law’s elder wife, jagirdar of Sadirpur and Raispur villages, "Begum Sahiba, why are you sitting here? Pack up and leave with your children. This is not the time to sit in your house. We have come to take you along with us."
She agreed to come with us. I pleaded with my father-in-law, Nawab Amir Mirza Khan, "For God’s sake, please come away with us."
By 1am, arrangements had been made for travel. My in-laws and children came to Matia Mahal Phatak. My younger brother-in-law, Kazim Mirza, was sitting in my father-in-law’s lap.
We reached Matia Mahal Darwaza, conversing with each other. Here, we met an unforeseen calamity. A woman named Kilo was sitting in a state of majzuba just in front of the Darwaza.
As soon as she saw my father-in-law, she called out loudly, "Miyan Amir Mirza sahib, where are you going? God has not given permission for you to leave. Have you forgotten?"
As soon as these words left her lips, Amir Mirza Sahib’s feet became glued to the ground and he told Kilo, "Undoubtedly, I have erred."
The carriage driver was ordered to return to the house at once. I pleaded with them for a long time, others asked them too, but my father-in-law refused to listen. We all begged him to have mercy on the family of 50 people, to come along with us.
He kept saying, "It is not God’s will."
Another catastrophe struck us at this time. Miyan Nasiruddin sahib, my father-in-law’s maternal cousin, came and said, "Bhai Sahib, please come back. Come to my house. There are some European women hiding there. They are saying that you have nothing to fear. They will plead your case to the British and save you."
Hearing this, my father-in-law’s mind was set at ease and he told me, "Son, you go. I can’t bring myself to leave."
There was nothing I could do but leave with the women of my house. He returned to his house with his family.
I took my family and the women of Nawab Hamid Ali Khan’s house to my maternal grandmother’s house near Dilli Darwaza. It was 2am. Some of my other family members were also gathered there. There were 200 men and women altogether in the haveli of Hakim Momin Ali Khan.
We prepared to leave the city at dawn. My wife had not come with me and had instead gone back with her parents. I sent my younger brother, Umrao Mirza, to their house to ask whether they would send her with me. She would share my state of affairs. But if they wanted to keep her with them then, may God protect you. We would be considered separated for life.
My brother went and relayed my message to my father- in-law. He said that I could take his daughter wherever I wanted, as he had no rights over her. The women of her house kept asking her not to go, but my brother put my wife in a palanquin and brought her to me.
We all left the city and came out of the Dilli Darwaza.
The ground in front of Dilli Darwaza was like the day of resurrection.
There were thousands of purdahnasheen (veiled) women, tiny children, young and old men pouring out of the city in a state of panic. No woman remembered to veil herself. A few pious women were walking barefoot with just a chador to cover themselves.
Wretchedness had spread on delicate ladies
A pallor was seen on moon-like faces
Woe the impropriety of the veiled women
Doomsday had come before its time
How do I describe the turn of fate?
Oh! That burning sand and barefoot helplessness
(Translated by Rana Safvi. )
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DailyO.in or the India Today Group. The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.
Writer Zahir Dehlvi was an official in the Mughal court of Bahadur Shah Zafar and also an accomplished poet. He was witness to a crucial moment in history and his memoir remains the most richly detailed surviving account of the course of the 1857 Revolt.
‘I cannot recall a time when Muslims were suspected en masse of being unpatriotic’:
It is believed that the first sound entering a new-born Muslim’s ears should be the Azaan or the Kalma. Either one must have been the first sound I heard too, though, of course, I have no memory of it now.
Even though I am no longer a practising Muslim, and in fact had never been overly aware of a Muslim identity, the sentimental urge that made me perform this rite for my children as well did not seem paradoxical. My wife Ratna is Hindu, and we were married much before the term ‘love jihad’ was coined and acted upon. She and I both have no more than a ritualistic connection with our respective religions. Eid and Diwali are joyous occasions for us and we celebrate both with equal gusto - so our disparate religious upbringings didn’t merit a thought.
The first tricky moment was our decision to not fill in the column asking ‘religion’ at the time of our childrens’ school admission. Apart from objecting to this in principle, we averred that we genuinely had no idea what their religion was at that time or what it would be later. Not considering a religious education of any kind necessary, we had decided to leave the choice of faith to them. Religion never played a major part in my life anyway and my attempts to be what was called a ‘true muslim’ ended when I was about twenty. I abandoned religion then and have never felt the need for it; Richard Dawkin‘s statement that religion has “nothing whatever to do with goodness” does not need any verification when one looks at what’s happening everywhere in the name of religion.
My religious education began at the age of five with learning the Arabic alphabet and being subjected to the Maulvi’s ignorant garbage about planets moving around the earth, which of course was not only “flat, and the centre of the universe but to believe it moves round and round is heresy!” I was also persuaded that not only were Muslim men obliged to grow beards (no beards in my family, so I did wonder whether we WERE good Muslims at all!) and wear slightly short trousers, but we belonged to the one and only true faith and were all heaven-bound no matter how we conducted our lives whereas everyone else... ^*#@#! My best friend K.C. Singh burning in hell for eternity was a thought I couldn’t stomach even then.
Questioning the Maulvi was frowned upon so I quietly took whatever i could from the Arabic recitation in terms of diction and breath control and let the rest of it go. Why should someone be punished for his doubts or for no fault of his, and, moreover, why did a being as great as Allah need to be appeased all the time? It just didn’t make sense even at that age.
When Ratna and I decided to marry, discussing conversion and anticipating the social problems we might have couldn’t have been further from our minds. But over the past few years, the nightmarish possibility of my children being someday confronted by a mob demanding to know their religion could be inching closer to reality.
“Evidently, as a Muslim, it should not be my concern to urge India and Pakistan not to hurt each other and if I did I was pro-Pak.”
Never before in our country have rational statements of concern and pleas for peace, not only from Muslims, been interpreted as cowardly or seditious. It is almost as if the day was being awaited when this could be done. A Facebook post quoting Einstein’s warning about nuclear warfare received a few likes but the fair share of abuse and vilification of Islam it also got stumped me. I was even warned “not to poke your nose in matters that don’t concern you”! That the survival of the human race does not concern me was indeed news. Evidently, as a Muslim, it should not be my concern to urge India and Pakistan not to hurt each other and if I did I was pro-Pak, “because we are going to bomb the shit out of them” proclaimed one desi troll whose ideal obviously is the Donald.
Like all children growing up in India post-partition, I heard horror stories of “them” just as “they” certainly heard identical ones about “us”. The supposed savagery of the Sikhs was much mentioned, but I don’t think I ever connected those deeds with the Sikh and Hindu friends I had, and I know the feeling was reciprocal. These acts of depravity were committed by unnamed villians not real people, we all thought; incidentally the longest lasting, dearest friends I have had in my life have been mostly Sikhs, and considering the extreme bloodletting between Sikhs and Muslims at partition, doesn’t it say something about subsequent political machinations that those two communities have never been at each other’s throats again? The puerile religious taunts schoolchildren unthinkingly tossed around then were never venomous enough to even warrant fisticuffs but these nebulous aversions seem to have crystallised over time and found their targets - each other.
The hatred spawned by partition taking seventy years to unleash itself is probably evidence that the longer the pot brewed the more potent the venom got. I cannot, from my lifetime, recall a period when Muslims were suspected en masse of being unpatriotic and required to explain themselves. The sins of the few have been visited on us all.
Undeniable though it is that many Indian Muslims misguidedly consider Pakistan their haven, the immeasurably greater number who take intense pride in being Indian and who connect deeply with the country are hurt and angered at our patriotism being under scrutiny. This political ploy of labelling us outsiders will be abandoned when it has outlived its usefulness of course, but what might happen in the interim is another matter. The visible increase in the sight of saffron scarves and tilaks, as well as on the other side beards, hijabs and topis in a country where barely ten years ago in most states (Maharashtra, Bengal, Kerala to name only three) Hindus were indistinguishable from Muslims, is cause for apprehension but this assertion of the club you belong to and the waving of its flag was waiting to happen.
It seems essential for Muslims in India to get over the feeling of victimisation they are in now; it is a trap all too easy to stumble into - we must determine to stop feeling persecuted, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding; we must stop hoping for salvation from somewhere and take matters into our own hands- not least of all to take pride in our Indian-ness and assert our claim on our country.
Indian Muslims’ indifference, particuarly among the economically weaker sections, to education or hygiene need not be reiterated nor the fact that they have no one but themselves to blame for these ills. Granted, patriotism is not a tonic that can be forced down peoples’ throats. But till the length of Sania Mirza’s skirt causes more agitation than the lack of modern education and employment opportunies for our community, as long as we hesitate to condemn the sadistic madness of the ISIS (that we haven’t heard too many Hindu voices condemn the lynching of innocent Muslims by gaurakshaks is immaterial), so long as we continue to spawn ‘believers’ without giving a thought to their upbringing, or continue to dilly-dally on the removal of an outdated heavily misogynistic tradition, we only help reinforce the belief so easily held that we support or at least condone violence and regression.
The saffron brigade did not have to rack their brains to come up with the idea of evoking and lambasting tyrannical invaders of hundreds of years ago to illustrate “the harm Muslim rule did to the country”. They only had to revive the moth-eaten allegation with conviction enough to make a case for sentencing us Indian Muslims to the rank of second class citizens. We “the invaders’ descendants”, albeit with plenty of indigenous blood in us, many generations later, need to make reparation for our supposed ancestors’ misdeeds.
Islam too has never been in greater need of reform and enlighened intepretation than it is now, though considering that fundamentalists currently rule the roost everywhere, that’s probably not a smart thing to say. But it is time for Muslims to throw the caretakers of religion out and form their own beliefs based on an understanding of what their holy book actually says. Nowhere else perhaps is the Quran recited so much and understood so little as in India. Muslims and Hindus both today need to start speaking for themselves and not buy into the harangues of narrow minded bigots and self-appointed spokesmen who condemn Yoga as anti-Islamic and those who consider equating Surya Namaskar with Namaaz as insulting to Hinduism.
A depressing indicator of the extent of the divisiveness eating into us today is the fact that not too long ago on a quiz show, not one of the contestants got the answer to “Who wrote saare jahan se achchca Hindustan hamara” right and the fact that it was a Muslim astonished not a few of them.
(Shah is one of India’s most celebrated actors and the author of And Then One Day: A Memoir.)
A special series by Hindustan Times takes a deep look at the churn within the Muslim community.
How deep is the alienation? Are they feeling disenfranchised? Are they looking for political alternatives? What questions are Muslim women asking? Are they warming up to the BJP?
I Am A Practicing Muslim. My Concerns Right Now For India Are...
I write this today as a Muslim, a practicing Muslim who believes in the tenets of Islam, in Ramzan, in namaz, and I believe I can continue to be liberal and secular while being proud of my faith. The Quran that millions across the world read has the first word revealed to Prophet Mohammed as "Iqra" (read). The Quran I have read has given the world some of the best physicists and mathematicians like Ibn Sina who would probably mock at the theory that the world was flat. The Quran that I read each day during this holy month of Ramzan teaches me empathy and compassion through fasting that helps me relate to those who go without food each night.
Among the many reasons that I write the column, the biggest was the brave assertion by Naseeruddin Shah in his piece in Hindustan Times where he writes, "I cannot recall a time when Muslims were suspected en masse of being unpatriotic." He goes on to say, "The nightmarish possibility of my children being someday confronted by a mob demanding to know their religion could be inching closer to reality."
Naseeruddin Shah is part of an industry where colleagues have mostly shied away from displaying a spine or taking a stand, including those who have been feted as superstars. And every time Naseer has taken a stand in the past, whether in supporting Indo-Pak friendship or attending the book launch of Khurshid Ahmed Kasuri in 2015, he has been labelled an anti-national and seen protests against him by the right wing. In 2015, he spoke to a newspaper saying he was targeted because he was a Muslim. "I do not actually understand why anything said as a compliment to Pakistan must be construed as anti-Indian. If I say Imran Khan is great, does that make Sunil Gavaskar any less a cricketer...."
I must also add a disclaimer that Naseer was among the courageous few who dared to praise my book and lend his support for the second edition of Gujarat Files last year. Two movies which played an important role in documenting the horrors of the Gujarat carnage of 2002, Firaaq and Parzania, would not have been possible minus Naseer's stellar performance. It is therefore that I think that I can humbly point out a few fallacies in his argument in the column he wrote on Indian Muslims.
Neither Naseer saheb nor I claim to speak for the Muslim community, nor must we, for we sit in a privileged position that does not allow us to witness what Muslims in a new India have been witnessing on a daily basis.
It would be unfair to suggest that Muslims were better off during the UPA for not a single recommendation by the Sachar Committee or the Justice Srikrishna Committee were implemented by the "secular" Congress. And the BJP is nowhere close to the healing touch it promised Muslims during elections.
In fact, all one hears from the BJP and its sister organisations is talk of minority appeasement by the Congress, which, in reality, is such a sham that Muslims of the country continue to slip down the worst possible denominators of development.
To ask Muslims to focus on education and hygiene and get out of the victim mode is like quoting Naseer himself from his famous Muslim reformist film "Khuda Kay Liye" where he mocks "Kissi ke doctor banney se pehle aap is par aitraaz karein ki usse operation karna nahi aata" (the absurdity of criticizing somebody before he studies medicine for being unable to conduct an operation) .
Naseer and many liberal Muslims who have the privilege of sitting in swanky living rooms, operating out of our MacBooks have not witnessed first-hand the fear of moving into Muslim ghettos in Mumbai like Mumbra, Deonar and Bhiwandi which went on to become a safe zone for Muslims post the 1993 carnage in which thousands of Muslims were killed.
My family was forced to move from the cosmopolitan Sahar village to the rather lower middle class Deonar which was considered safer. My brother and my father applied for a credit card thrice while we lived in that area and were which was rejected on all occasions.
We were told later that these companies have specific instructions to not issue cards to Muslims living in 'such' areas. The building in which we stayed was next to the famous Deonar dumping ground and the abattoir from where the stench would fill the neighbourhood. But we and many like us continued to stay there because it was "safe".
Despite maintaining the best of hygiene, we had to live with the stink and airborne diseases. BMC workers who would mark their presence every morning in the swanky neighbourhoods of Mumbai like Peddar Road didn't mind taking days off in our neighbourhood with the garbage piling up because we (the Muslims and our many lower middle classes companions) could live with it.
Another problematic assertion in Naseer's column is that Muslims must stop feeling victimized. I have and continue to believe as a Muslim who has had to bear two communal riots that the community, like most communities in India, has been resilient and has chosen to put its dreaded past behind it, voting in every election for a change. But when every day you have videos emerging asking Muslims to chant "Bharat Mata ki Jai" before they are thrashed and cattle traders are lynched in public, the Muslim of the country does not feel a healing touch on the scars of the past.
If indeed we are so concerned about the plight of Muslims, their education, hygiene, then the topic of discussion should be to ensure that Muslim-dominated areas, government schools for Muslims have the same level of cleanliness and attention paid to them as other areas of Swachh Bharat. Muslims in this country have moved beyond the pain of the Babri demolition, but if the well-being of Muslims is indeed the criteria, those in power move on from Ayodhya and lets discuss corruption in the Waqf Board whose proceeds could help get Muslims access to higher education and a better status in society.
The alleged participation of Indian Muslims in ISIS is 0.0002 percent of the total number across the globe. To fault them for this and use it as an excuse to deny the 99.99 percent Muslims a dignified life is the worst one can offer to one of the largest minority in the country which has a glorious past in the country's freedom struggle. And which is now, as I keep hearing from many around me, leaving me feeling like a "second-class citizen".
(Rana Ayyub is an award-winning investigative journalist and political writer. She is the author of 'Gujarat Files', a book on the politics of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in Gujarat.)
Una, Alwar and Delhi cow vigilantism: A list of 'gau rakshak' attacks since 2015 Dadri lynching
Jun, 03 2017
Ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, beef and cow protection have been one of the much debated topics across India. Cow vigilantism gained widespread media spotlight in September 2015 after a 60-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Uttar Pradesh's Dadri for allegedly possessing beef. However, forensic reports later revealed that he had in fact possessed mutton, not beef.
Cow vigilantism has been in the news lately after Yogi Adityanath took over as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The blanket ban on slaughter across the state and the alleged forced closure of meat shops in the state highlight the growing vigilantism by "gau rakshaks".
Here are a few gau rakshak attacks across India since the 28 September, 2015 Dadri lynching:
On 9 October 2015, a truck was attacked by petrol bombs by alleged Hindu extremists after rumours of it carrying dead cows emerged. Zahid Ahmad, the truck driver succumbed to his injuries 10 days later, while another man suffered serious burn injuries.
As news of the death in Delhi spread, mobs took to the streets in the southern district of Anantnag in the Kashmir Valley and blocked the Jammu-Srinagar highway by burning tyres.
The highway is the only road link between the Kashmir Valley and the rest of India.
They also shouted slogans against the government, and pelted stones at security personnel who tried to disperse them.
According to NDTV, the forensic report later concluded that the cows died due to food poisoning and had not been slaughtered.
Ink attack on Kashmiri MLA
Just 10 days after the Udhampur attack, Independent MLA Engineer Rashid was attacked by activists belonging to the Hindu Sena. The activists blackened his face just after he finished a press conference condemning the 9 October attack.
Some activists shouting slogans "gow mata ka apman, nahi sahega Hindustan (India will not tolerate any disrespect to cow)" had pounced on him and painted him with black colour, engine oil and blue ink.
A visibly disturbed Rashid addressed the media after the ink attack and said, "What happened to Sudheendra Kulkarni has happened to me...The world should see where India stands today."
"They (the attackers) are mentally sick. I want the whole world to see how these people are trying to muzzle the voice of Kashmiris," he said. "Talibanisation is not just taking place in Pakistan. It is happening all over India too," CNN-IBN quoted Rashid as saying.
The MLA later had also demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the assault on him.
Himachal Pradesh lynching
Just around the same time as the Udhampur killing, a 20-year-old truck driver from Saharanpur was lynched by a village mob in Himachal Pradesh. The villagers belived that the victim Norman indulged in cow smuggling had been carrying cattle from the state to Uttar Pradesh, The Indian Express reported.
Madhya Pradesh couple attacked
In January 2016, several passengers, including a Muslim couple, were attacked by a cow protection group over allegations that they were carrying beef.The incident had taken place at Khirkiya railway station in the Harda district of Madhya Pradesh.
Similar to the incident in Dadri where Mohammad Akhlaq was killed after rumours of storing beef, the pieces of meat found in a bag were sent to a laboratory for 'testing', after which it was found that it was buffalo meat.
The police had registered a case against two Gauraksha Samiti activists for voluntarily causing hurt and criminal intimidation, and arrested them.
Cattle traders hanged
In March 2016, two Muslim cattle traders were found hanged to death in Jharkhand's Latehar district.
The victims, Mazlum Ansari and teenager Imteyaz Khan, were heading to an animal fair in a nearby district when they were allegedly lynched and hanged by a mob.
Five people were arrested under the charge of murder, while the police suspected it to be connected with cattle loot.
Muslim man shot dead
Mustain Abbas, a 27-year-old father of four, who was travelling back home after buying bulls from Haryana was allegedly fired upon by Gau Raksha Dal members on 5 April 2016. A month later, the CBI ordered a probe into his murder, The Wire reported.
Karnataka Dalit family attacked
On 17 June, 2016, a 30-40 members of Bajrang Dal brutally attacked a Dalit family in Koppa, Karnataka, for allegedly possessing beef.
According to a report in DNA, the patriarch of the family suffered a fracture on his hand while other members of the family suffered minor internal injuries.
Local police filed a case against the attackers under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015.
This was after Dalit rights groups insisted that action be taken against the Bajrang Dal members.
Attack on Pehlu Khan. Photo courtesy: Youtube screengrab
Una flogging incident
On 11 July 2016, Dalit youths were beaten up outside Mota Samadhiyala village, when they were skinning a dead cow brought from Bediya village.
The victims included Vashram Sarvaiya, his brother Ramesh, and their cousins Ashok and Bechar, all residents of Mota Samadhiyala.
Later, the members of the Gau Raksha Dal took them to nearby Una town and again thrashed them with sticks and iron rods after tying them to a vehicle. They were also paraded half-naked on the road in full public view.
Five persons were booked under Section 307 (attempt to murder), Section 395 (loot) of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Three of them were later arrested.
the Una attack outraged the Dalit community in Gujarat and led to widespread protests across the state.
Later, a forensic report revealed that the cow skinned by the Dalits had been killed by a Gir lion.
Muslim women beaten up
On 26 July, 2016, two Muslim women were beaten up at Mandsaur railway station by the members of the Bajrang Dal, on the suspicion of carrying beef, which later turned out to be calf meat.
The suspects were arrested under Sections 341, 323 and 34 of the IPC, which pertain to punishment for wrongful restraint, voluntarily causing hurt and acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention respectively.
"When we were coming to Mandsaur, few Bajrang Dal activists stopped us and enquired about what we were carrying. We told them that it was 'Paade ke meat' (buffalo calf meat) they did not listen to us and said that it was beef," Salma, one of the victims, had told PTI.
Andhra Pradesh vigilantism
In August 2016, two men belonging to the lower caste came under attack from cow vigilantes.
According to NDTV, Mokati Elisa and his brother Lazar were hired to skin a cow that had died of electrocution, the police said. While they were on the job, the brothers were attacked by around 100 gau rakshaks who arrived at the spot accusing them of stealing and killing the animal.
Pehlu Khan murder
On 1 April, 2017, Pehlu Khan and at least four others were injured when a mob attacked nearly 15 persons hailing from Haryana, while transporting cows in vehicles on the Behror highway in Alwar district on Saturday, the police said. As many as 16 people were allegedly transporting 36 bovine animals illegally in six pick up vans.
Khan, in his fifties, later died on the night of 3 April in a hospital where he had been admitted for treatment.
A report in The Indian Express further reported that Khan and the others were beaten up even after they produced documents to show that they had bought the cows and were not involved in illegal cow smuggling.
"Gau rakshaks affiliated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal stopped four vehicles, near Jaguwas crossing on National Highway 8, on the evening of 1 April, alleging that they were illegally transporting bovines.
“Before he died, Pehlu told us that they beat him up and then told him to run, saying ‘tu buddha aadmi hai, bhaag’ (you’re an old man, run away)… But they chased him and beat him up again,” Khan's uncle had told police.
Shockingly, one of the accused in the case, Vipin Yadav was hailed as a modern day "Bhagat Singh" by a woman cow vigilante Sadhvi Kamal.
Jammu and Kashmir attack
Five people of a family, including a 9-year-old girl, were injured in an attack by self-styled cow vigilantes in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to NDTV, the incident took place on the evening of 21 April when a nomad family, moving with their livestock near the Talwara area, were intercepted by a large group of gau rakshaks and beaten up with iron rods.
Four members of the gau rakshak group were arrested, police said on Saturday.
"They beat us ruthlessly. Somehow we managed to flee from there. One of our children, a 10-year-old, is still missing. We don't know whether he is alive or dead. They even beat our elders very badly. They wanted to kill us and throw our bodies into the river," said Naseem Begam, one of the victims expressing the horrors of the attack told NDTV.
Delhi cow vigilantes
Three men were allegedly roughed up by members of an animal rights group in Kalkaji area on the night of 21 April for transporting buffaloes in a truck. They were later arrested for inhumane transportation of animals. The trio was later released on bail, while those who had attacked them have been asked to join the probe, police said.
Following the incident, two FIRs were filed — one against the three men transporting the cattle and another against those who assaulted them, police said. The trio has been booked for mischief by killing or maiming cattle and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act as they were carrying more number of animals in a truck than rules permit. However, the men had legal transit papers for transporting the animals.
Mohammad Rizwan, one of the men who sustained injuries, told The Times of India, afraid that he might get lynched by cow vigilantes — like what had happened in Alwar — he decided to play dead for a few minutes.
Sad these zaalims are roaming freely even after they were exposed in public media. The continuation of such incidents show that they are not afraid of anything and their behavior is like nothing can stop them and they can do that in gangs. No use of police force. If they ever use security force it will be working only kashmir valley and that too against the innocent Muslims. Will the community continuously take this injustice or will they ever respond and if they respond, how will they respond and how the respond should be islamically? I don't have any idea. Wallahu alam
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Say, "O my people, work according to your position; [for] indeed, I am working. And you are going to know who will have succession in the home. Indeed, the wrongdoers will not succeed." Surah Anaam, Ayat 135
India perhaps is amongst the best countries to be a Muslim. But lately there has been this surge of encroachment upon our life space here in India. The situation is so critical that I should be focussing completely on India. Strangely people have stopped reading and discussing the issues that I focus upon. Sadly the situation is going from bad to worse. I do not know when the tide will start turning in our favour - it is Allah SWT's decision.
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Muslim Ummah aspires to attain a rightful and honored place among the civilizations of the world and make her full contribution towards international peace, progress and happiness of humanity.
India perhaps is amongst the best countries to be a Muslim
Possibly since you live there, but that attitude really changes with the media. In my case, I would say UK (from non-Muslim nations) is amongst the best countries to be a Muslim (at the best of times) and I believe our Ulama agree, like Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf. We are lucky to an extent that we can practice our Deen almost to the full. Just hope it stays that way.
The new mob
- State and non-State actors are attacking liberal values together
It is not often that you come across, on the same day and in the same space, two voices from diametrically opposite ends of the ideological spectrum saying much the same thing.
The first was that of Arundhati Roy, the feisty writer who has for over two decades now relentlessly dissected the depredations of the Indian State and the festering fault lines of Indian society.
In an interview that was published on June 4 in The Indian Express, Roy said, "There are two ways of curbing speech. One, as we know, is legally, formally; the other is outsourcing the violence to the mob and creating a climate in which people start censoring themselves."
On the same day, the newspaper carried a report on an interaction that had taken place between the Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman, Sambit Patra, and the chief minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, in Panaji on June 3. In the discussion, Parrikar was asked why the Modi government was not taking action against anti-nationals. He replied, "Let me tell you. This government and Modi's biggest achievement is the change that has been brought in the way the country thinks." The "change in people's mindset," he said, will "go against [the] anti-nationals," and added for good measure, "[t]hose who are against the nation. People will stop them."
Parrikar's words were an eerie echo of Roy's dark prognosis. The Modi regime, he confirmed, was indeed outsourcing the violence to the mob. The mob, in their scheme of things, were nationalist citizens who went after 'anti-nationals' - a term left deliberately vague to include anyone who said anything against the government, against the concept of Hindutva and its holy cows, literally and figuratively.
Almost in tandem, both Roy and Parrikar drew attention to India's chilling new reality. Critics of the regime have come out in the open to compare today's climate with that during Indira Gandhi's infamous Emergency.
But there is a difference. The Emergency, to be sure, was much more overtly repressive with blanket press censorship and jail terms for Opposition leaders and activists. But at that time, both readers and writers knew that what appeared in the media was government propaganda - not to be taken seriously. And the battle lines were drawn between an authoritarian State and a hapless people, who took their revenge as soon as they got the chance when Indira Gandhi chose to go in for elections even without formally lifting the Emergency.
The situation today is qualitatively different. On the surface, there are no restrictions on the media or the Opposition. But what we are witnessing is, arguably, more insidious and sinister, more damaging in the long run than the formal lapse of democracy in those 21 months of Emergency.
For today, unlike then, both State and non-State actors are carrying out a pincer attack on secular and liberal values, on free speech and free thought, on ways of seeing and living, on a daily basis. While the State can and does use its immense powers to crack down on opponents, it is left to the mob to impose the new code of conduct - in the garb of a righteous hyper nationalism - on fellow citizens who dare to err or refuse to fall in line.
It is a perfect division of labour. So the government can use the Central Bureau of Investigation to get after a seemingly hostile television channel, announce new rules to bring a virtual end to cattle trade and the meat and leather industries, tighten the screws against all kinds of non-governmental organizations by starving them of funds. But the day-to-day intimidation - the nasty abuse, the menacing threats, the shrill diatribes, and the physical violence - is, as Roy says, outsourced to the mob, or what Parrikar and his ideological brethren regard as right-spirited nationalist citizens.
What makes the contemporary situation scary is the metamorphosis of the mob. India is no stranger to violence, and anyone who has witnessed a riot would know how perfectly normal people could turn into bloodthirsty beasts, looting and killing with mindless abandon in the space of a few hours or a few days. But once the madness was over, the situation invariably - to use the stock newspaper phrase, "limped back to normalcy", and people resumed their old selves and returned to their quotidian concerns.
The Modi government prides itself on the fact that there has been no bloody riot under its watch. But the truth is that the temporary cleavage in society during a riot is fast becoming a permanent fault line in our collective psyche. The hate and violence that used to be episodic eruptions are now part of everyday discourse.
The second aspect of the metamorphosis is that the mob is no longer faceless groups of men who can be sneeringly dismissed as the 'lumpen'. The vigilantes on the streets may meet that description. Usually affiliated to one or the other front of the amorphous sangh parivar, bands of young men with their saffron bandannas can switch from being 'ghar wapsi' crusaders to 'anti-Romeo' squads to ' gau rakshaks' to 'Rana Pratap warriors' with practised ease - loyal foot soldiers to whatever cause the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chooses to highlight for the moment.
But the real strength of the new mob is that it is no longer confined to thugs on the streets who lynch to death a Pehlu Khan or enter the home of a Mohammad Akhlaque to kill him.
The new mob is part of our very own middle class - men and women who are 'educated', hold professional jobs, were beneficiaries of the old order and have now become aggressive advocates of the macho "new" India. This middle class aggression can be seen and felt every day on television channels and social media. Recently, for instance, the renowned scholar, Partha Chatterjee, was pilloried for his nuanced article on how the defence of the army chief, Bipin Rawat, of the use of a 'human shield' carried echoes of General Dyer's justification of the firing at Jallianwala Bagh. Without bothering to read the article or respond to it with an equally reasoned critique, TV anchors were baying for his blood and social media warriors declaring him a paid agent of Pakistan.
Since Chatterjee does not live in a BJP-ruled state and is not beholden to the State even tangentially, he escaped more stringent 'punishment'. But others, less brave or less free, will not dare to express a contrary opinion, for that would mean summary dismissal or worse.
That's what happened to Keyur Joshi, the co-founder and strategic adviser of the travel portal, Make My Trip. On May 31, Joshi posted two tweets that said, "I am a strong supporter of Narendra Modi and a vegetarian for life. But I will now eat beef only in India to support freedom for food," and "If Hinduism takes away right to choice of food, I rather not be a Hindu..."
The backlash was swift. A social media campaign was launched to uninstall the app and downgrade the travel site and it was so effective that Joshi had to issue an abject apology and delete his tweets as well as his Twitter account. This was not the first time that the social media had effectively flexed their muscle. Snapdeal was forced to drop Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador after he fell foul of the 'nationalists' for his comments on growing intolerance.
These public instances apart, the mentality of the mob is now omnipresent. We can see it in family WhatsApp groups, in Facebook shares - a fond uncle expressing a bigoted view about Kashmiris you never expected him to harbour, an old schoolmate sharing 'jokes' that are laced with prejudice. And the worst part of the coarsening discourse is that everyone - no matter which side of the fence they stand - is becoming that much more bitter and shrill.
The mob is no longer at the gate. It has entered our homes, it has invaded our minds, it has expanded its grip over family and friends, it threatens to engulf both you and me...
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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