Indian Muslims Are Anxious, Leaders Busy In Blame Game

As per the reports based on first-person accounts and news circulating on various social media platforms, the Indian Muslims across the country are worried about their and their future generation’s future in the country.

The community as a whole is living under a siege mentality and is unable to fathom how to proceed further. One positive fallout of this stress is that now the common Indian Muslim is ready to come out on the streets and demands his rights and stand against the forceful establishment, in absence of any leadership.

This change amongst the common Indian Muslims started in 2019 after the finalisation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The protests, which started from Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh, soon spread to many other cities. A novel feature of most of these protests was that Muslim women were at the forefront of these demonstrations.

More recently, after the bulldozer politics started in certain Indian states, Muslims in many cities came out once again against the establishment and stood in solidarity with one another.

However, one incongruous fact, which has emerged from these developments, is the absence of any Muslim leader, with an all-India appeal, leading these movements or even coming out in support of these people movements. This once again proves the point that after 1947 the Indian Muslims have been betrayed by their own leaders-both religious and political.

The fact remains that the so-called religious leaders are busy in amassing wealth in the name of the religion and expanding their personal empires. In addition, the social and political leaders pay lip-service to the Muslims’ sentiments and just appear at the right moment to get their mug shots for the photos and videos, making sentimental not practical statements, whilst engaged in serving their political masters and enjoying their political and financial patronage.

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However, a rather more worrying is the fact that recently some Muslim leaders have come out to speak against the establishment and its anti-Muslim policies, but in fact their main aim is not to vilify the establishment, but to vilify their religious opponents and divide the community on fissiparous tendencies.

Last week one such conference was held in Hyderabad, Telangana. The main organisers and speakers at the conference looked more intent on creating divisions within the community, instead of offering any cohesive, forward looking and practical plan to counter the anti-Muslim narratives and operations.

The reports say that most of the speakers at the conference were intent on blaming different international organisations like the Muslim Brotherhood, Ikhwan, Al Qaeda and ISIS for the current plight of Indian Muslims, which sounds so incongruous!

One fails to comprehend how these scholarly figures were able to draw any parallel between the international organisations and Indian Muslims. Even to make any connection of the Indian Muslims with these organisations is to make them more unsafe and open to a whole lot of criticism, added to the fact that Indian Muslims might be sympathetic to these organisations but they have never been and nor will be associated with these organisations, and so far no evidence-based study has been able to link the two. So in effect, these leaders in the name of serving the Muslim cause were making them vulnerable to more attacks.

One of the leaders even went to the extent of urging the Indian Muslims to connect with the rulers and the governments, as per the proper methodology of Islam and to advise them, instead of uprisings and protests to dethrone them and occupy their seats. I hope the incongruity of this statement will not be lost to the readers.

Another speaker spoke about the qualities and patterns of Khawariji terrorists, while exposing the double standards of Islamist preachers like Yusuf Qardawi, Hasan Al Banna, Syed Qutub and Abul-Ala Maududi. This too has no resonance in India, so far.

Now coming to another of these so-called ‘Muslim’ conferences, which took place in Mumbai on 12 May and was addressed by about 35 Muslim religious, social and political leaders. At the end of the day long conference they issued a statement, one point of which read: “The meeting of the Muslim Community leadership appreciates the courage of local Muslim leaders for resisting the evil designs of Fascist forces and thwarting their plans of creating large scale violence against Muslims. It is observed that Muslims organising themselves to defend their lives and properties is a positive sign. The meeting calls upon Muslim leadership to organise at local levels and continuously review the situation at your respective cities. An organised approach towards such planned attacks on Muslims will be the best possible way to thwart the plans of the Fascist forces in a situation where unfortunately the state declines to do its duty of protecting the Minorities”.

The third one of these conferences is to be held in New Delhi on 21 May, organised by a consultative Muslim body and supported by a religious and socio-cultural organisation — which till a decade ago banned its members from participating in the democratic and parliamentary process of India and a fledgling political party and a religious denomination. And yet another one is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 29 May under the banner of Muslims intellectuals (sic).

Coming back to the statement issued after the Mumbai conference, one can take heart from the sentiments expressed by the community’s leaders who have recognised the efforts by the common Indian Muslims to come out against the tyrannical rulers and urged them to organise themselves. But in reality these common Muslims have been made and in future too will be made the sacrificial scapegoat again, whilst these so-called leaders remain ensconced in their luxurious homes with no threat either financial or physical looming over their heads.

have written and spoken many times in the past that the Indian Muslims have to adopt not a reactive but a proactive strategy to counter any campaigns against them. To construct and manage such an apparatus, which keeps an eye on the planning of aggressors and plan a counter strategy, you have to be equipped with monitoring, research and media teams, within the constitutional framework of the country, to counter the opposition’s efforts.

But alas none of our leaders is ready to adopt such an approach and the biggest irony is that even if the Indian Muslims agree to adopt such a strategy, then it will have to be led by the so-called religious leaders eschewing their religious denominational differences and act and behave as One monolith religion, as others view you, not as being Deobandi, Barelvi, Ahl-e Hadith etc.

Going by the past experiences, one is not very hopeful that they may be ready to do so. Instead like what happened at the Hyderabad conference, they are ready to further widen the gulf between different religious denominations and claim their superiority over one another.

‘We Know Fabindia Is Not The Target, Muslim Community Is’

TK Rajalakshmi, a Delhi-based senior journalist, finds targeting of a festive clothing line for its Urdu title regressive. But she also feels Fabindia should have fought back the bullies

It is evident that the intention of the BJP MP, Tejasvi Surya, who targeted Fabindia for their clothing line ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’, was communal in nature. People are not dumb; they understand which community is being targeted when you accuse an ad of ‘defacing’ Diwali because it uses an Urdu title. (It is another matter that part of the title was itself not spelled correctly by both the MP and Fabindia) The media is replete with similar instances in the country nowadays targeting the minority community, either in direct or indirect forms.

Hindustani is an amalgamation of Hindi and Urdu and spoken in many parts of India. The Urdu vocabulary reflects in a lot of Hindustani words that we use in our daily interactions, like zindagi, darwaza, tareef, rang etc. One good example is halwa, part and parcel of Hindu religious rituals and festival food, which is of central Asian origin. Does that mean we boycott it too till we find a new indigenous term for halwa. That way even Hind and thus Hindu too are Persian words. Why can’t we see that it is all about amalgamation of culture or languages over the centuries, and how it has evolved over time?

Urdu itself is part of the two dozen recognised official languages in the country. It is spoken in many states as well. Does that have no sanctity? All languages enrich communication and widen forms of expression and thought. To associate a language with a particular religion and therefore damn it, is unthinkable in the 21st century.

I also found it bewildering on the part of Fabindia to withdraw the ad and issue a clarification that ‘Jashn-e-Riwaaz’ was not its Diwali collection. They should have filed a case of criminal intimidation against the MP. There is a rule of law in the country. In fact the state government or the courts should have taken suo moto cognizance on the issue against the MP. By not doing so, anyone can in the name of majoritarian culture bully others on the flimsiest of grounds while the rest watch on.

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Fabindia is a fairly big brand with retail chains around the country. They should have stood their ground. I doubt if the controversy would have hit their popularity or profits. But by withdrawing their ad instead of fighting back it may well have an adverse impact. What kind of a message are they giving to their patrons and their suppliers, some of whom may belong to the minority community, by succumbing to the pressure?

This whole thing of what is indigenous and what is not is a bogus argument. Many festivals in India are celebrated by all. That’s part of our syncretic culture. Rather than being proud of the rich diversity of language, religion, attire etc, there are people who want to impose a bland homogeneity on us.

Does the MP himself not wear western clothes or Kurta? If he wants to be purely indigenous, he should wear only what people wore in ancient India and abandon all modern apparel, accoutrements technology including use of the smart phone. Will he?

Of course, such attacks are motivated. People are not fools, everybody knows who is targeted in such attacks. Be it the recent Fabindia ad now or the popular jewelry label Tanishq earlier (for showing an inter-faith marriage) last year. The greatest Urdu poet-lyricists of our country from Ghalib to Sahir, Firaq or Kaifi Azmi have given such great verses and songs. Are they not part of our heritage? Or should we boycott them too? Honestly, this has gone too far.

I don’t understand why other apparel brands did not come together and speak up against such bullying. Today it is Fabindia, tomorrow it will be one of them. It’s leading from one level to the other all because you want to target a particular community and constantly make them feel like secondary citizens. Where is all this going to lead us?

In his address to the nation on achieving the 100-crore vaccination mark against Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to encourage ‘Made in India’ products. Fab India products are sourced from all local manufactures in the country. They have a significant role to play in popularising block prints etc in cities and they have played some role to popularise rural artisanwork and craft. The ruling political class should look inwards when some of it leaders make such clarion calls that willy nilly might affect those concerns. People from all walks of life ought to speak up against this.

As Told To Mamta Sharma

India’s Fall From Democracy To Electoral Autocracy

By virtue of its having a population of close to 1.37 billion and holding elections to Parliament and state assemblies every five years as required under the Constitution and on the basis of adult suffrage, India has logical claims to the status of the world’s largest democracy. Unfortunately, to popular concern, India is not faring well as a democracy in the eyes of independent global watchdogs.

These agencies use copiously collected social science data and feedback from a wide range of independent sources before they decide where a particular democracy finds itself in their indexes. The first blow for India came from Freedom House, a US based watchdog funded largely by the US Administration, which relegated the country to “partly free” status from the earlier “free” ranking.

Now a much harsher admonition for India comes from Sweden based V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy) Institute. In a major setback for liberal democracy, “the world’s largest democracy has turned into an electoral autocracy,” says the V-Dem report. The country’s 23 percentage point slide on V-Dem scale since 2013 makes “it one of the most dramatic shifts (read in terms of erosion of democracy) among all countries in the world over the past ten years.”

Elaborating how democratic values got eroded in India, V-Dem says: “Autocratisation process has largely followed the typical pattern for countries in the ‘Third Wave’ over the past ten years: a gradual deterioration where freedom of the media, academia and civil society were curtailed first and to the greatest extent.”

But Pranab Bardhan, professor emeritus of economics at University of California, Berkley, says much of Indian media, particularly the TV channels are found “shamelessly” ingratiating themselves with the powers that be. What freedom of the Press can there be when media owners and journalists who matter have on their own drawn the Lakshman Rekha in a way offering comfort to the ruling party at the Centre and in states like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka. What is left of free media is some news and opinion websites run by some intrepid journalists and a magazine or two.

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Bardhan is surprised that BJP has the gumption to complain that the opposition is engaged in smearing the reputation of the country across the world. “But it is now imperative to say that the way democracy is being trampled in so many ways is giving the country a bad name. Let’s take the case of harassment of Disha Ravi (climate activist). Hasn’t this invited global criticism? I will say those who describe the protesting farmers and principled journalists as anti-nationalists are a blot on our democracy,” says Bardhan.

Bardhan, a global campaigner for equality of opportunity for human development, has strong distaste for doublespeak that BJP leaders indulge in. They, according to him, will say sabka saath sabka vikas (development for all) but when it comes to act they will spew hatred for the ones not of their faith. Why Bills are not discussed any longer and Acts are steamrolled through Parliament?

Bardhan thinks the fear of courting uncomfortable questions has made Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to hold Press conferences at all. The people are instead left with ‘Man ki Baat,’ a monologue that leaves no room for questions to be asked. (To put the record straight, Modi at least once sat for a long interview with the former Hindustan Times chief editor Sanjoy Narayan.)

Incidentally, Bardhan like many other front-ranking intellectuals is a strident critic of the NDA decision on demonetisation and the Covid-19 lockdown for the indescribable sufferings of the common man, millions of migrant workers and people dependent on the unorganised sectors. Now we learn from the periodic labour survey by National Statistical Office that the urban unemployment rate in the country shot up to 20.9% in April-June 2020 coinciding with the lockdown from 9.1% in the previous quarter. But what will go unrecorded are the physical, mental and financial pains millions of migrant workers suffered because of sudden declaration of the lockdown without giving them a chance to go back to wherefrom they came by train and long distant buses.

In a recent interview with the largely circulated Bengali newspaper Anandabazar Patrika, Bardhan expressed his anguish over disintegration of the country’s federal structure. As policy decisions are getting concentrated in the Prime Minister’s office (PMO), in a novel development New Delhi is regularly trespassing into areas reserved for the states. There are too many occasions when the centre without seeking the views of states are addressing subjects concerning education, health, agriculture, law and order and labour.

The winding up of the Planning Commission where the states could place their economic demands and subsequently get relief from the government was a blow to federalism. As for revenue mobilisation, every time New Delhi would impose a cess that will be a denial to states of their rightful share. This is not the case when revenues are mobilised by way of taxes.

Drawing an analogy with Germany in the 1930s where the Communists and social democrats locked in political bickering helped in Hitler coming to power, Bardhan strongly recommends that the Left, the Congress and Trinamool Congress should not allow their past differences, often quite bitter, to come in the way to stop BJP from wresting power in West Bengal.

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Bardhan says if the Left truly believes that ‘Ram in 2021 and Bam (that is left) in 2026’ then it is indulging in self-delusion. The left apparently doesn’t want to have any kind of understanding with Trinamool since its members and supporters had suffered a lot in the hands of ruling party members in the past ten years. But he says in the past ahead of the Left Front rule, the Communists were given a hellish time by the Congress. The left, according to him, will be showing wisdom if it is found ready to bury all such hatchets to stop the BJP juggernaut. He at the same time wants the Matua and Rajbangsi communities, which are befriended by BJP, to stay clear of the party with strong Brahminical leanings.

People from different parts of the country have over centuries made Bengal their home and in the process they have made rich contribution to the local economy and culture. Many Bengalis are uncomfortable that BJP is described by incumbent Trinamool as a party of outsiders.

Bardhan has an interesting take on this: “BJP has tenuous links with Bengali culture. Since the party doesn’t have a great Bengali intellectual to boast, it is busy paying obeisance to Bankim Chandra, Rabindranath, Swami Vivekananda and Subhas Chandra Bose. But it is impossible to reconcile BJP’s Hindutva with what these great Bengali minds wrote and said.”

Bankim Chandra will not accept that the country has made any progress unless the Muslims and everyone else have a share in it. Vivekananda wanted everyone to read the Bible and the Quran along with the Gita. Subhas Chandra was secular to the core. His strong disapproval when Syama Prasad Mukherjee joined Hindu Mahasabha is well known. Finally, the world has known Tagore as a well wisher of both Hindus and Muslims and as someone desirous of their brotherhood.