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Mainstream, VOL LX No 4, New Delhi, January 15, 2022

A Grim Reality We Are Ignoring | Humra Quraishi

Friday 14 January 2022, by Humra Quraishi

MUSINGS

January10, 2022

A Grim Reality We Are Ignoring — Many More Muslim-Haters Could Be In The Making!

All those arrested or detained so far in the Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai app case are the young. Young students to be precise. How could they carry such perversion cum hatred cum communal anger for the ‘other’?

This very, very vital crux needs to be studied? That’s a different story altogether who would bother to go into the very crux, in an atmosphere when communal poisoning is peaking by the hour, challenging our very survival.

Years back when I’d first heard academic Nalini Taneja talk in an open forum of what’s taught in the RSS run schools, those details hit …came across as a shocker! This Delhi University professor read aloud passages from the text taught in the RSS run schools and commented that the history text books taught in these schools are nothing but an unadulterated version of the RSS view of history and ‘use’ of history for its sectarian agenda: Aryans are the original inhabitants of India, Indian civilization is essentially Aryan civilization, the ancient period of history when Hindu rulers ruled was golden and India had enormous advantages during this period. The coming of Mughals brought along darkness, cruelty… Hedgewar, Gowalkar, Savarkar are amongst the greatest freedom fighters. Muslims as a community are traitors, Hinduism is synonymous with nationalism. Also, caste, child marriages and sati are defended…Muslims, Christians and Parsis are all called foreigners …Urdu is referred to as foreign language.

And in 2016, during an interview given to me for a leading newspaper, former IIT Mumbai academic turned activist, Professor Ram Puniyani, detailed the teachings in the RSS run schools, “RSS has single teacher schools, Ekal Vidyalaya and bigger ones as Shishu Mandirs. The pattern of authoritarianism between teachers-taught, senior- junior is very rigid. The main values which are promoted are those of conformism. Along with this, the books in these schools are structured around the mythical history of superiority of Hinduism, that all was well with Hindus till Muslim aggressors came, caste is presented as having given stability to society, Muslim Kings are presented as cruel and so on… The hatred for religious minorities is drilled into the children.”

Ram Puniyani has also focused on the dangerous build-ups in his book, ‘Indian Nationalism Versus Hindu Nationalism’ (Pharos Media), “Hindu nationalism or for that matter any nationalism under the cloak of religion is an attempt to smuggle in the feudal hierarchical values in the modern language. To begin with it relegates the religious minorities to second class citizenship and simultaneously promotes the inequality of caste and gender. The core of freedom of expression; the freedom of basic choices in matters of food, life partners, pattern of life are constrained. The pluralism is undermined along with rational thinking and scientific temper is being attacked…We are living in difficult times where the very core of our national values is being attacked. The notions of pluralism, fraternity, equality are under constant attack. We have a Constitution based on these values, which in nutshell can be encapsulated in the term Indian Nationalism. From over last three decades Hindu Nationalism is being asserted in a very aggressive ways.”

And the former Vice Chancellor of the Lucknow University, Roop Rekha Verma, minced no words, whilst detailing the communal ‘happenings’ in the academic institutions in Uttar Pradesh. “Besides the text books, the manner in which teachers talk against the Dalits and Muslims in classrooms is just too shocking!”

*****

Indian Muslims are well aware of the RSS agenda. They also realize they cannot go marching down the streets shouting anti- government slogans. They are well aware of the fact that it is neither possible or prudent to fight the Hindutva lot, so they sit back forlorn, amidst severe helplessness and hopelessness. Mind you, this does not mean that they are unaware of the political build-ups and the political treachery that’s on.
They have been reading books on the RSS ideology, authored by the well -known scholars and academics — AG Noorani’s ‘The RSS – A Menace To India’ (Left Word), Shamsul Islam’s ‘Know The RSS: Based on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Documents’ (Pharos Media), Khushwant Singh’s ‘The End of India’ (Penguin ), Jyortimaya Sharma’s ’Terrifying Vision – M.S. Golwalkar, The RSS and India ’(Penguin), books on the RSS and the Right-Wing by Ram Puniyani, books authored by the former I.G. Police, Maharashtra, S.M. Mushrif.

Communal build-ups have been on …on going. To quote Khushwant Singh— “ The Sangh has capitalized on old prejudices about Muslims …one should make every single effort to save the country and openly challenge and take on these Sanghis /fundoos who are destroying the country. We have to battle with them at any cost, give it back to them, abuse for abuse. For, if we love our country we have to save it from the fascist forces.”

And to quote from A.G. Noorani’s book, ‘The RSS – A Menace To India’ (Left Word), “India is battling for its very soul …The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)is the most powerful organization in India today; complete with a private army of its own, unquestionably obeying its leader who functions on fascist lines on the Fuehrer principle…The RSS is at war with India’s past. It belittles three of the greatest builders of the Indian State — Ashoka, the Buddhist; Akbar, the Muslim; and Nehru, a civilized Enlightened Hindu. It would wipe out centuries of achievement for which the world has acclaimed India and replace that with its own narrow, divisive ideology.”

Time to stand up and talk of the ground realities.

How apt are these lines of Sahir Ludhianvi:

Here we go, stoking fire through song-laden lips
The fear of the world can never staunch the flow of our words
In all, we have just one view, our own
Why should we see the world through someone else’s eyes?
It is true we did not turn the world into a garden
But at least we lessened some thorns from the paths we travelled.

Time To Focus On This Ground Reality!

Let me focus on this major misconception circulated by the Hindutva brigades - That is, the Indian Muslims are an appeased lot. In contrast to the appeasement propaganda, the Indian Muslims will recount humiliating and traumatic experiences they face, because they happen to be Muslims!

Today, when one can get a womb-on- rent, a Muslim family finds it difficult to get a room-on- rent. If the crisis situation for the Indian Muslims was limited to the housing front, then one wouldn’t have to raise an alarm. Its spreading out to all possible spheres, affecting hundreds and thousands. Even the basic survival gets tough. Yet no halt to the appeasement propaganda.

Even poet Nida Fazli had to agree that he faced little problem on the housing front because of his partner. “She’s not a Muslim, that’s why I faced no problem getting a house in Mumbai. Of course, I do know of the communal situation. There’s communal poisoning spreading out, politicians are dividing us. Yeh politicians and politics hamai tukrai-tukrai mai baat rahi hai!’ (Politicians and their politics are dividing us into bits!)
Even the basic facts should be adequate to clear the misconception that Muslims are an appeased lot. Details of the 2011 Census reveal that India’s average household size was 4.45 members .That is, it has decreased and came down from 4.67 a decade ago. The size of an average Muslim household fell to 5.15 from 5.61 over the previous decade. And this reduction was sharper at 11.1% for Muslim households headed by men while for families headed by women it was 4.47%. The average size of Hindu families declined by 5 % over the decade.

The fact that the average size of a Muslim household is shrinking faster than that of the Hindu counterpart is enough to relay that Right-Wing propaganda against the Muslim minority community is factually incorrect and vicious enough in making the masses perceive the Muslim community as the forever expanding, ‘over-producing’ community.

The first time I heard details to the dismal ground realities faced by the Muslim population in the country was way back, in 1998, when I interviewed economist, Abusaleh Shariff, the then chief economist with the National Council of Applied Economic Research.

He spoke on the findings of the NCAER team that conducted a study survey of 33,000 rural Indian households to create a ’Human Development Profile’. Dismal facts about the poverty levels in rural India stood out: India’s 350 million people lived a miserable life of absolute poverty. And facts and figures showed that Muslims lagged on several fronts. Community wise break- up showed the Muslim population to be comparatively much lower than the majority. Coupled with this was the fact that more Muslims — 66% of all Muslims lived in rural areas.

And in 2002 , when his report, Relative Socio Economic Deprivation of Indian Muslims, was released, I had once again interviewed him. The report carried these crucial findings— overall the head count poverty and capability ratios were considerably higher for Muslims compared to the all India average and the caste Hindus. The percentage of population below the poverty line was 43 for Muslims as compared with only 32 for caste Hindus and 39 for the whole population. Findings showed that the household income of Muslims was Rs 22,807 compared with Rs 29 ,786 for the Hindu of the upper caste. Even where land was concerned 43 per cent of Muslim households were landless compared with only 30 per cent among Hindus; on an average the high caste Hindus owned 5.1 acres of land compared with only 3.6 acres for Muslims …And on the cultivation, work and housing fronts the statistics suggested that only 36 % of the Muslims undertake agricultural occupations compared to 44 % among all Hindus (including the SCs and STs).The proportion of income derived from agriculture and allied activities among the Muslims was much lower than the Hindus .However their share of income was disproportionately larger when it comes to artisans and industrial work. In urban areas only 29 per cent of Muslims were employed wage /salaried occupations, compared to 47 % Hindus …Muslims were largely self- employed —53 % .

Those findings also showed that Muslims in rural areas depended relatively more on wage labour. But the work participation rate of Muslims was much lower, which suggested higher un-employment rate. Employment of Muslim women in any sort of occupation was extremely low. Whilst Muslims had relatively better access to protected water and toilets ,they were also relatively disadvantaged where the quality of housing of housing was concerned — 60 per cent of Muslims lived in kuttcha houses compared with only 48 per cent for the upper caste Hindus .The proportion of Muslim households with electric connections was only 30 per cent compared to 50 per cent for the upper caste Hindus .Those utilizing the public distribution system was 22 per cent for Muslims and 34 per cent for Hindus.

On the educational front too, Muslims were found to be far behind. However next to the SC and STs .Only 50 % of the Muslims are literate as compared to about 60 % of the upper caste Hindus .The enrolment of Muslims was only 62 % as compared with about 72 % for all India and 77 % for upper caste Hindus. Overall, Muslims seemed worse off as compared to all India average and the upper caste Hindu.

After reading the report, I had asked Abusaleh Shariff to comment on the propaganda that the Muslims are an appeased lot. He said, “It is a myth that Indian minorities are pampered or appeased. Providing subsidies to the Haj pilgrimage cannot be put forth as evidence of welfare for Indian Muslims! What needs to be provided are equal opportunities for education at all levels, employment both in the public and market economy and access to social and health security… Our analysis confirms high incidences of poverty and deprivation amongst all the citizens in India. Given this high level of deprivation, Muslims as a social group are relatively more deprived than the Hindu community as a whole .However, if the scheduled castes and tribes are considered separately then the relative deprivation between Muslims and the non- SC, ST Hindus is very large .So is the differential between SCs and STs and the high caste Hindus."

This economist had also stated that most public programs in the areas of poverty alleviation and social sectors were fraught with conceptualization, identification and implementation problems, besides high levels of corruption at the district and lower levels of bureaucracy. “This is more so in the case of special programs aimed at the minority communities. A disproportionately higher percentage of Muslims fall in this group and thus the benefits of recent growth may have not reached a large percentage of minorities."

And during my travels it got more than writ large that in contrast to the so called appeasement, an Indian Muslim has been facing a series of disadvantages and deprivations. In several regions Muslims are deliberately ‘kept away’ from basic government facilities, including medical facilities.

Appointing a couple of Muslim bureaucrats on prominent slots, cannot be termed appeasement. Window dressing, it is! Also, what can a Muslim figure head do! Nothing! Perhaps, not even listen to your grievances! During my very first visit to Hyderabad in 2006 (January 2006) the Pravasi Diwas was all set to be inaugurated, with the then President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam, in the city for the opening ceremony. His presence made the Muslims of Hyderabad comment that the President did not find time to visit Gujarat , post the 2002 pogrom, but had quite obviously found time to be in Hyderabad for the ‘pravasis’!

They had also told me that when several Muslims of Hyderabad wanted to meet Dr Kalam to discuss their grievances, they were not given time. Provoking them to quip, “What good is a Muslim President for the community! His predecessor Dr K. R. Narayanan, was bold enough to talk of the Gujarat pogrom.”

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