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Reflection on Indian Muslims – Present Grim Future Tense

Syed Ali Mujtaba

Muslims are living on the edge in India. The current situation is indicative of the fact that an anti-Muslim wave is carefully being nurtured in the country. Muslims are being targeted and discriminated against with each passing day in India. All this is happening because there is a systematic effort being made to unite the 80 percent Hindu population by raising the Spector of the 14 percent Muslim population as their enemy. This narrative is increasingly becoming popular so much so that 14 percent of Muslims are facing the heat of living in a hostile atmosphere in their motherland.

Indian Muslims are suffering from a crisis of identity. They are forced to become invisible. They cannot flaunt their religious identity. They are forced to use Hindu aliases to adjust to the majoritarian population. Their women are hounded for wearing hijabs, they are lynched for transporting cattle, and their places of worship are vandalized. Their pockets of resistance are bulldozed and their houses are being raised to the ground.

The greatest challenge Indian Muslims face today is the partisan approach of the state and the government in power. Even the judiciary, the media, and elements of civil society are not sympathetic toward them. The writing on the wall is very clear, their present is grim and the future is tense.  

The situation is so alarming that many Muslims are forced to think, about where this Muslim game is heading in India. What will be the future of the Indian Muslims in the foreseeable time to come?  How these 22 crore Muslims are going to survive in India with the changing nature of Indian polity and society?

It is not the first time that Indian Muslims are faced with such kind of challenge. The very first time, they encountered this challenge was in 1857, when they raised up in revolt against the East India Company’s conquest of India. Thereafter Indian Muslims being the rulers of this country were reduced to being the British subjects. Subsequently, Muslims adjusted to the new reality by taking up English education and joining the administration and judicial system soon to emerge as a new force in Indian politics.

When the concept of democracy and ballot loomed large on the Indian horizon Muslim again had to make choices.  They knew that in this new system, their identity would be drowned. They will politically remain underrepresented, economically marginalized, and educationally backward.  To protect themselves they asked for a separate electorate to be visible citizens in the Hindu majoritarian state.

Indian National Congress which spearheaded the freedom movement refused to give any such guarantee to the Indian Muslims. Indian freedom fighters’ vision was, that in a democratic setup, Muslims would get equal treatment as any other Indian. This was a bluff that now is coming out in the open.  The Muslim leadership at that time called off this bluff by pitching up their separatist demand. When the Indian National Congress refused to address the Muslim question, the Muslims wanted India to be organized into a Hindu nation and a Muslim nation. Had that arrangement been made in 1947, the Hindu Rashtriya question that’s being raised now may have been settled once and for all.

 However, the Congress leadership that included Shayama Prasad Mukherjee and Sardar Valab Bhai Patel, the two Hindutva icons of today agreed to shed the Muslim load and did not rebel to make India a Hindu Rashtriya. They agreed to the Partition of India rather than consenting to India as a Hindu nation.

Independent India wore the cloak of secularism giving Muslims equal status. The constitution of India, protected the rights of the Muslims, and Indian Muslims, for the third time adapted to the new reality. They believed in the slogans unity in diversity, religious tolerance, meritocracy, etc. and actively participated in the progress of the country. The promises made in the constitution gave them hope to lead a dignified life in independent India.

As a result, India was able to achieve some sense of societal balance for the next 75 years or so till the Hindu nationalists rose in the country to tear away the secular mask and declare India a Hindu nation.  The proclamation of this was made on the January 22 event in Ayodhya.

It is in this context Muslims have to make choices on how to adjust to the new reality. They have to develop their future trajectories to adjust to the proclamation of Hindu Rasthrya.

 The reality is Muslims of India have become a rudderless community.  Relying on the constitution, rule of law, state, administration, and media are all acts in futility. There is none to protect them. This is a hard reality.

If Indian Muslims have to come out from this pitiable situation then they have to recalibrate their political future in India.  The Muslim of India has to strive for a dignified living in the new India in the given democratic framework. They have to make choices as to what kind of politics they may like to have in future India.

Getting electoral muscle for the community should be the ultimate goal. Developing credible leadership is the first step. Muslims should leave their inferiority complex and have to rise above ghetto politics. They should politically behave like a unit and get themselves recognized as a player in the electoral politics of India.  For this, the community should develop its pesologist, and election strategist and gain political strength.

The Muslim community should send out messages that India’s largest minority community cannot be pushed to the margins by the majority communityIndian Muslims are in a sizable number and they cannot be pushed to their breaking point. The continuous persecution of the Muslims is bound to generate a reaction and that bow ill for India, it will destabilize Indian society and create turmoil in the country. India cannot be run by spreading hatred against Muslims or telling lies about them.  If India needs social stability persecuting Muslims is not going to bring stability to the country. The Muslim adversaries should know that following the principle of living and letting others live in peace is the only way to run the country.

 At the same time, Muslims should also wake up to the reality that they cannot live the way they are being pushed currently to live in this country. They have to make choices on how to adjust to the new realities in India.

Flagging the issue, an edited volume titled “Reflections on Indian Muslims – Present Grim, Future Tense,” is planned. It calls for an abstract of 150 words as a vision statement of Indian Muslims. All submissions should be made in English. The editor may decide the worthiness of its elaboration as a full-length paper. The abstract can be sent to syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com

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