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INDIAN MUSLIMS - AN OPPRESSED MINORITY

By Abdul Haq

India has a unique experience of Muslim minority. A dominant minority in the medieval period became a dominated minority, all of a sudden with the advent of British rule in India. This sudden change resulted into complex problems. Partition of sub-continent in Aug 47 converted the Muslim community of India into ‘Pakistani Muslims’ and ‘Indian Muslims’. This was a great shock as far as Indian Muslims are concerned. The rulers of Yesterday, now had to live under the ‘Hindu rule’. Fifty years having passed, the Muslims who opted to stay in India are still getting a raw deal in every sphere of life. They are still drowned in the scourge of poverty and backwardness. They continue fighting the ever-hunting spectra of communal riots and threats to their religious and cultural identity. The sense of insecurity experienced by the Indian Muslims in the post partition period has been compounded in recent years by the state repression and terrorism under the ‘draconian’, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevension) Act (TADA). Under this act 7,9332 people, mostly Muslims were detained and tortured during 1990-95 across the country. Though the Act has been repealed, yet about 5000 persons, mostly Muslims, are still in jails.

Hinduism and Islam

Dr Balraj Madhok, former Professor of history at Delhi University while explaining the term ‘Hindu’ said, "Everyone living in India is a Hindu. Hinduism is no religion, it is the name of a civilization (Tahzib), a way of life." He further said that, "Whereas his (Madhok’s) nationality is Hindu, his (Madhok’s) religion is Vedic Dharmi". While giving an interview to ‘New York Times’ correspondent at Delhi in 1966, he said, "In this country we have never insisted on religious confirmity and we are not going to start now. However, one thing we do insist on, is that Muslims become Indians. They can worship as they like, but they must adopt this country’s customs as their customs." What all it means for Muslims is that Hinduism is not so much a religion as it is a way of life. It prescribes not only how a man must pray, but also how he must eat, dress, converse, work and die. On the other hand Islam is much more than this. While asking a Muslim to give up all but his mosque and adopt the Indian way of life, is virtually demanding that he should give up Islam and become Hindu. Nobody can dispute that the Muslims have individually and collectively the duty and responsibility to mould their personal and social lives in accordance with the dictates of Islam, which is a perfect way of life, better than any religion in the world.

Birth of Hindu Revivalism

The Hindu reformers of the 19th century were the pioneers of Hindu renaissance. foremost among them was Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833) the founder of Brahmo Samaj, which represented the first throb of modernism in Hinduism. A great admirer of Muslim thought, he had been deeply influenced by his study of Islamic works (including Quran) and by Sufism. Yet at heart he was a staunch Hindu. His deepest yearnings were to turn the Hindus back to the Vedas. He was thus one of the founders of modern Hindu nationalism. The message of Rammohan Roy was carried further by Dayananda-Saraswati, a Gujrati Brahman (1824-1883), who openly raised the slogan ‘India for the Hindus.’ According to him, Hinduism was to be the sole religion of the sub-continent, and the Hindus its sole masters. The Muslims were foreigners and must be pushed out. He devised a new weapon to fight the Muslims. It was the weapon of ‘Shuddhi’ or individual conversion of Muslims to Hindu faith. After the partition of India in Aug 47, thousands of Muslims were butchered cold blooded and forced to leave India. Since then, Hindu militant Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena and other militant Hindu organiztions are of the opinion that Muslims have their own homeland in the shape of Pakistan (though they do not accept it from their hearts), therefore they have no right to live in India.

Alienation of Muslims

In terms of numbers, the Muslims are only next to the Hindus, totalling 95.2 million (1991 census) and constituting about 12 percent of the population, yet they are considered by the Hindus even less important than the Jains and Buddhists who are only 0.43 and 0.41 percent of the population respectively (1991 census). A prominant Hindu writer S. Harrison admits that the dominant note in the Hindu attitude towards Muslim today is that, "Hindus have a natural right to rule in modern India as a form of long overdue retribution for the sins of the Mughal overlords. It is not enough that unified state with a Hindu majority, clearly dominant over a Muslim minority now reduced to 12 percent, has been established at long last in the Indian sub-continent. The fulfilment of Indian nationalism requires an assertion of Hindu hegemony over the Muslims of the subcontinent in one form or the other." The cumulative outcome of all this is that according to Jai Prakash Narayan, "The Muslim population has been so much cowed and demoralized that they are not acting according to their convictions. They are afraid that if they expressed their real feelings, their loyalty will be suspected."

Interference in Muslim Religion

Apart from being made to suffer a host of disabilities, political, cultural and economic; the Indian Muslims have often been subjected to a campaign of interference with their religion as well. It usually takes the form of slanderous attacks on Islam made in school text books, or in the press, desecration of mosques and shrines, or deliberate incitement of feelings of religious hatered against the Muslims. In most of the Hindu dominated Indian states, Hindu religious beliefs, philosophy and methodology have been introduced into the text books in the name of Indian culture. This is to an extent that a glance through the officially prescribed school text books leaves an impression that those responsible for them regard India (a multi religious country) as the home of Brahmans and attach value only to their deities, temples, religious customs and practices.

Adverse propaganda against Islam

The books dealing with the heritage of India exclusively enumerate Hindu heritage and gloss over everything Muslim. The Muslim heroes in medieval Indian history have been treated as ‘aliens’ and ‘strangers’, the book ‘Hamara Purwaj’ prescribed for classes VI, VII and VIII in the state of Uttar Pradesh is an instance of such unfair treatment. A text book on history approved by Bihar State Government entitled ‘Gayania Uday Basic Itihas’ carries an alleged picture of the Holy Prophet under the caption ‘Eishwar Ke Peghamber-Hazrat Mohammad.’ The author makes the statement that the Quran was written by the Prophet himself. It is not only contrary to the Muslim belief but also an adverse propaganda against Islam. The book also makes indecent remarks about Hazrat Khadija, one of the Prophet’s wives. In Rajisthan as well, text book prescribed in Schools contain derogatory references against the Holy Prophet. The Director of education Rajisthan, issued instructions to authors to see, "That lessons in India and other subjects deal with the importance of cow at all stages in a suitable manner." The content of prayers recited in state schools is also very objectionable, grossly violating the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom so far as Muslims are concerned.

Desecration of Mosques and Shrines

Countless incidents can be cited of the desecration of mosques by the Hindu communalists during the last few decades. In 1961, the Indian Rehabilitation Minister made the claim that all the mosques and graveyards had been resorted to the Muslims. Refuting this statement, Maulana Hifzur Rahman produced a long list of mosques and graveyards not restored to the Muslims but had been auctioned by the Rehabilitation department. Some of the names of mosques and shrines mentioned in the list are Masjid Qazi Serai (near Thana Mehrauli), Masjid Begampur Khurd (near Kalu Serai), Masjid Chuna Mandi, Masjid Mantola Pahrargang (Delhi), Masjid Qabrastan Golebazar, (Thana Reading road, Delhi), Masjid Thana Civil Lines Delhi.Qabrastan village Ladha Serai, Mehrauli, Qabrastan near Dargah Hazrat Khwaja Qutbuddin), Qabrastan behind Thana corporation office, (Mehrauli), Qabrastan East of Eidgah, (Mehrauli), Qabrastan Gurgaon road, Qabrastan Gole Market, Thana Reading Road, (Delhi), and Qabrastan Motia Khan, Pahargang (Delhi).

Tragedy of Babri Mosque

The 16th century historic Babri mosque was razed to ground by thousands of Hindu fanatics in Ayodhya, (UP) on 16th Dec 92. According to Indian media reports, the Hindu Zealosts and India’s one of the largest Hindu fundamentalist political party BJP are again threatening to build a grand temple on the rubble of this mosque. Hindu fundamentalists openly announce that they would, "Purify India of Muslim remnants." It was during 1949 when Babri Masjid was first raided. A group of vandals entered the mosque and placed the idol of Ramlallah. The successive Indian governments patronized the Hindu fundamentalists under different garbs, which ultimately turned into an uncontrollable demon.

Responsibility of the tragedy

It is an established fact that the government of India did not take any action to disperse the mob despite the fact that it was aware of the heinous designs of the unholy gathering. Instead of saving the mosque from destruction a number of government officials were reported to have watched the scene gleefully, inciting the mob to deliver a final blow to bring down the structure. The reluctance of government to either call in the army or Central Reserve Police to protect the mosque, spoke of understanding between Shiv Sena and the Union government of the Congress. Reports indicated that the assault on the mosque was effectively abetted by the guards. An Indian journalist Yuvraj Mohite, while recording his statement in the court of Mumbai said, "Bal Thackeray, founder of Shiva Sena ordered the massacre in Dec 1992 after the demolition of Babri Mosque. The double-dealing Congress Ministry of the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao at the centre did almost nothing to Prevent the distruction of 450 years old Babri Mosque by the BJP-VHP and other anti Muslim elements". ‘The Statesman’ of new Delhi (2 Dec 92) reported, "The VHP and Bajrang dal cadres were taught demolition methods by a retired Brig of the Indian Army in a month long training camp in a Hindu village in Gujrat State and that the State government had full Knowledge of it". Some Indian Newspapers reported that India’s intelligence agencies had informed Narasimha Rao government’s Home Ministry about the specially trained squads raised by the BJP and VHP cohorts to destroy the mosque but the then Home Minister, Chavan, showed utter indifference and hypocracy.

BJP vs Indian Muslims

The Upsurge of Hindu fundamentalism in the states under the BJP’s rule, Rajisthan, Haryana, East Punjab and Delhi has been a source of serious concern to the Muslim minority there. But the resurrection of the BJP’s rule over Utter Pradesh, India’s most populous state with a sizable Muslim community, since late Sep this year has sent a shiver of apprehensions among the Muslim minority. As the top ranking BJP leader and the man behind the tragedy of Babri Mosque, Kalyan Singh is now again in power in this state. The hard line Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Manohar Joshi, a member of the BJP’s ruling echelon, punished the state government secretary for cultural affairs, Govind Swaroop, a broadminded civil servant, for including Mr. Jinnah (Quaid-e-Azam) in a list of India’s freedom fighters for a TV documentary film and for ranking him with Mr.Gandhi and Nehru in the fight against the British. Shiv Sena, is a Nazi style communal outfit so intense in its hatred towards Muslims that its fascist guru, Bal Thackeray, forbade the Pakistani cricket team from playing in its power base city of Mumbai a few years ago. In order to promote the Hindutva brand of militant Hindu fundamentalism, the BJP led state government of Rajisthan organized a massive celebration on 18 Jun 97 of the 421st anniversary of the ‘Battle of Haldighat’ to honour Maharana pratab as a Hindu hero for his war against Akbar, the Mughal emperor. An Indian Hindu journalist, C.P Bhambhri, in New Delhi’s ‘Hindustan Times’ of 31 Jul 97 comments, "The BJP, RSS, VHP and other allied organisations, without any shadow of doubts are using the culture and history of India to Promote the concept of a Hindu nation which was a victim of Muslim rulers and their purpose is to consolidate Hinduism around a specific religious ethos selectively chosen by political leaders" .He further writes that "The BJP hate list of Muslims continues to unify the Hindus against their religious enemy as revealed by Indian history, the BJP will like to re-write the constitution for establishing a strong Hindu state".

Replacement of Muslim names by Hindus’

The Maharashtra government’s hostility to Muslims under the BJP- Shiv Sena ministry has been so blatant in recent years that the old towns bearing Muslim names are being systematically given Hindu colour. The historic city of Aurangabad, once ruled by Muslims has been named as ‘Sambhajinagar’ to honour the family of the anti Mughal Shivaji. Similarly a very old city of Osmanabad is being given a Hindu name. Eliminating the Muslim names of many other towns is on the Shiv Sena’s agenda.

Anti-Muslim riots

Anti-Muslim riots are a common feature in India. Some of the recent ones are as follows:-

1) In the state of Gjurat, which the BJP ruled till Sep 96, the Muslim minority has been incessantly terrorized and victimized. Mumbai’s ‘Economic and political weekly’ of 26 Jul 97, published horrifying accounts of the murder of many Muslims in the village of Kukas in Mahesana district last June. On 29 Jun, truckloads of armed Hindu ‘chaudharies’ attacked the Muslims in kukas, hurling filthy abuses on them, burnt their houses and hacked to death with knives many of them.

2) In many districts of Gujrat, there are pockets of 25 to 30 Muslim families who are subjected to periodic terrorization and arson. Teenage Muslim girls from poverty-stricken peasant families are either forcibly bought or kidnapped for prostitution in Bombay or smuggled to oil rich gulf states for slavery.

3) Deploring the plight of Muslims in Gujrat, an Indian journalist Satyakam Joshi, wrote in Mumbai’s ‘Economic and political weekly’ (26 Jul 97), "The rise of the BJP and its front organizations in Gujrat after 1980 has come as a blow to Muslims who are being reduced relentlessly to a second class citizenship. Their legitimate demands are not on the state agenda. Their harassment by the Hindu fundamentalist forces, remains unmitigated. To considerable extent, the fundamentalist forces have been able to channelise the middle class Hindu psyche against them".

4) In the anti-Muslim riots in Maharashtra, specially Mumbai, armed marauders of the ‘Army of Shiva’ had inflicted death and destruction on terror striken Muslims while the police was looking on indifferently or even conniving with the Hindu extremists in killing Muslims of Mumbai.

Discrimination against Muslim community in services

According to 1991 nationwide census., Muslims constitute 12.60 percent of the total Indian population. However, the representation of Muslims in the parliament, state legislatures, administrative services, armed forces, police and para military forces, educational institutions and the private and public sectors is far below their proportion. The percentage of the Muslims in the civil and foreign services is less than a quarter of their population. According to a white paper, prepared by All India Milli council (AIMC) and presented to Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, on the performance of Indian Union during last 50 years, there were only 116 Muslims out of a total of 3883 administrative officers (2.98%), 45 out of 1433 police service officers (3.14%) and 57 out of 2159 foreign service officers (2.64%). In central government, Muslims constitute 1.6% of all class I officers, 3.9% of all class II officers and 4.4% of the technical supervisory staff. According to an official report prepared by Dr. Gopal Singh Committee, there is a marked disparity between Hindus and Muslims in economic, social and educational field. The committee’s report based on a sample survey of 80 districts across the country, found that there were only 92 Muslims out of 2698 students in Engineering colleges. The number of Muslim students in the MBBS course in 8 universities of eight states was only 98 out of 2895.

Conclusion

The Muslims of India are in a state of dilemma, whether to accept humility in the form of Indian nationalism (based on secular ideas) or to preserve their Muslim identity. They have to rationalise whether by accepting the secular nationalism they will be given equal status like Hindus or will they remain aliens as they are. The Hindu desire to absorb the Muslims into Hinduism through Indian nationalism still persists. They have already done this with Jainism and Budhism and they are working on other communities living in India as well.

 

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