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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 26 New Delhi June 15, 2019

How are the Muslims in New India?

Monday 17 June 2019, by Arup Kumar Sen

In the last five years of BJP rule, a new India has come into being. The Muslims are being characterised as enemies of the people in the dominant discourse of Hindu nationalism. Instilling fear in the minds of the Muslims is an organic part of the making of this new India. The fear is articulated by the Muslim intelligentsia. Hilal Ahmed, an Associate Professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, recently wrote about the “unofficial political mechanism that has produced a sense of fear among minorities in the last five years”. He observed that the media “has played a significant role in creating a violent anti-Muslim Hindu victimhood discourse in the last five years”. The negative characterisation of Muslims as a community in the media has been recorded by Hilal Ahmed (The Hindu, June 3, 2019):

Every aspect of Muslim life in India has been targeted to create an impression that Muslims are the main problem of the country. For instance, we are told that the birth of a Muslim child is a threat to the Hindu population; the education of a Muslim child is a symbol of separatism; the eating habits of Muslims are anti-Hindu (as Muslims eat beef); the married life of a Muslim couple is a social evil (as Muslims practise triple talaaq); and even the death of Muslims is an anti-national act (because Muslims occupy valuable land for graveyards).

What is the outcome of the aggressive anti-Muslim discourse being propagated by the Hindu majoritarian politics? Again, to put it in the words of Hilal Ahmed:

Despite establishing this discourse of hatred and violence, Hindutva forces failed to provoke Muslims to create a large-scale riot-like situation in the last five years. Issues like ‘love jihad’, ‘ghar wapsi’, Ram temple, and even the ban on triple talaaq could not generate riots. In this hostile communal atmosphere, a new style of violence was invented, however—the lynching of Muslims. A few Muslim individuals were killed to create a powerful impact... Interestingly, the government did not condemn this new form of anti-Muslim violence. On the contrary, the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders not merely justified such events butalso offered legal and political support to the accused (ibid.).

Even the educated middle-class Muslim women are feeling insecure in the present situation of hatred and violence. This is evident in the narrative of Qudsiya Ahmed, a Delhi-based publishing professional, whose grandfather decided to settle in India after the 1947-Partition, as an ordinary Muslim. On the eve of publication of results of the Lok Sabha elections, Qudsiya expressed her fear in the discourse titled Will India Be ‘Hamara Mulk’ After the 23rd? (The Wire, May 22, 2019). Let us re-read her narrative:

Each of these people that I know and have spent hours with is in a celebratory mood in anticipation of the election results. I feel alienated in this gathering. Have they no sense of empathy for those who have been lynched in the past few years? Has no video clip, where innocent people begged for their lives, caught their attention?

Haven’t they heard names like Mohammad Akhlaq or Rakbar Khan? No one in their presence was ever dragged out of his house and asked to go to Pakistan? Or perhaps it was too distant and did not happen to one of their own? But I fear because I could have been the one at the centre, being hounded by a murderous crowd. As the sand underneath my feet erodes, I am finding it difficult to put my faith in people around.

The above narratives, social and personal, raise fundamental moral questions about the governance of our polity and put us in a deep moral crisis as Indians.

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