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Mainstream, Vol XLIX, No 15, April 2, 2011

Muslims’ Trauma in India Today

Friday 8 April 2011, by Humra Quraishi

I have before me this recently released volume titled—What It Means To Be A Muslim In India Today. Published by ANHAD, this report is based on two important meets—a national meet on the status of Muslims in contemporary India which was held in New Delhi in 2009; and a people’s tribunal on the atrocities committed against Muslims in the name of fighting terror, which was held in Hyderabad in 2008. And putting together those proceedings, findings, observations, actual facts and figures in the form of this volume has been crucial. For, stark realities hit you as you begin to read this volume.

Its editor, Shabnam Hashmi, does not mince words as she writes: “‘What it means to be a Muslim in India today’ is a compilation of real life stories. It brings heart-rending stories of young boys, mothers, and families in front of the nation. Stories of a besieged community: stories of discrimination, stories of torture and abuse, stories of prejudices and hatred, stories of apathy, stories of intimidation, stories of State terror and fabrication of evidence, stories of police atrocities, stories of judicial apathy and connivance, stories of cold bloodied murders, stories of second class citizens of the world’s largest democracy…”

And in his foreword to this volume, Ram Punyani elaborates: “The last decade (2000-2010) saw multiple acts of terror in different parts of India. These attacks were scattered in different parts of India and killed many innocent people. The attack on Parliament, blast near the Army camp in Jammu, terror episodes at Akshardham, Mumbai trains and Sankatmochan temple are a few amongst the many terror acts which took place. Along with the loss of many innocent lives, the social atmosphere was vitiated. Those blasts intimidated the society as a whole and created an atmosphere of fear all around. During this period, on the heels of the World Trade Centre attack, the word Islamic terrorism was coined and in India this word was further manipulated to the highly dubious and wrong propaganda line that ‘all terrorists are Muslims.’…”

In fact, Ram details the aftermath of this poisonous propaganda against the Muslims: “In this background in most cases, after the blasts many a Muslim youth were arrested on charges of being involved in the act of terror, being in league with the Pakistan terror groups. The investigation authorities recklessly arrested Muslim youth after every act of terror. Young Muslim boys and men were subjected to torture, encountered and remained in police custody for months.... The twin fact of being victims of communal violence and later the victims of police investigation, a sense of despair started gripping the Muslim community …The sense of hopeless-ness was too strong and it started worsening the psyche of the Muslim community as a whole. Meanwhile, their economic plight was made public by the Sachar Committee report, published in 2006. The report, based on concrete data, made it clear that during the last six decades after independence the condition of the Muslims as a community has deteriorated. Their economic status, social conditions, political say and representation, all faced a severe jolt and the community started feeling as if they are being pushed to being second class citizens…”

I go on, for this volume is laced with some of those dark realities and bitter truths that we try and push under those dusty carpets. Time to sit up and begin to read and write, and talk aloud. Loud enough for the politicians and planners to hear…

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