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Post-Gujarat dilemmas of Muslim Indians
By Syed Shahabuddin

Ever since independence, one basic though often unarticulated assumption of Muslim politics in India is unquestioned faith in the Constitution which laid the foundation, and created the structure, of the secular State in India. Whatever its flaws and failures, whatever its deviation from the secular norms, or the ideals of secular governance, the State was, therefore, never seen as the adversary by Muslim eyes. The adversary may be a party, in power or in opposition, or a social group, or a community, an organisation, even the government. There was thus a clear distinction between the State and the Government.

The events in Gujarat have erased that distinction. Today the average Muslim Gujarati looks upon the State Government, the state administration, the State police, all, as accomplices in the genocidal carnage of which he has been the victim, and to that extent, the State has become the adversary. The silver lining in the dark clouds is that most Muslim Gujaratis do not regard the Hindu Gujaratis, as a whole, as their adversary but only those who are associated with or influenced by or penetrated by the Sangh Parivar’s ideology of Hindutva, its philosophy of hatred.

This is a very healthy sign as all communication channels between the two communities have not been blocked. The more quickly the silent majority comes of its shell-shock, its state of terror, and actively enters the field of reconciliation and joins in the dialogue through its legitimate representatives, the more the shadow on inter-community relations will shrink.



The ideology of Hindutva as propagated by Guru Golwalkar and as tested in Ayodhya and Gujarat and in the frantic efforts of L.K. Advani to destroy the legitimacy of the Islamic institutions of Masjid and Madarsa and in the zeal of his colleague Murli Manohar Joshi for saffronising education, from the primary to the university stage cannot easily be effaced. Secular parties may have erred in not taking seriously the Sangh Parivar’s systematic communalisation of the vital areas of internal security and education and perhaps accepting them as nationalist and patriotic over zealousness.



But to restore the image of the State as the arbiter of the common destiny, as the guardian and protector of the Constitution and as the neutral, non-aligned, equidistant and accessible, instrument of equity and justice, in situations of conflict and confrontation, will take time to be restored – not only in the eyes of the Muslim Gujaratis but in the consciousness of all Muslim Indians wherever the government is or comes into the hands of the Sangh Parivar.

The ideology of Hindutva as propagated by Guru Golwalkar and as tested in Ayodhya and Gujarat and in the frantic efforts of L.K. Advani to destroy the legitimacy of the Islamic institutions of Masjid and Madrasa and in the zeal of his colleague Murli Manohar Joshi for saffronising education, from the primary to the university stage cannot easily be effaced. Secular parties may have erred in not taking seriously the Sangh Parivar’s systematic communalisation of the vital areas of internal security and education and perhaps accepting them as nationalist and patriotic over zealousness. But they have definitely failed to realise their impact on the secular credentials of the State in the eyes of the biggest religious minority - the Muslim.

A secular State is not the Muslim and the Hindu sovereign of yore treating his subjects alike and dispersing justice , without any discrimination. The secular state is neither Hindu nor Muslim; it has no religion, its civil and criminal laws make no distinction between persons or groups on the basis of religion, except in matters like family life which are organically linked with religion. It is here that the concept of Rajdharma fails the secular test. So does the Muslim state’s claim of benevolence towards and tolerance of non-Muslims, even at the highest echelons of achievement, much propagated by Muslim apologists.

A truly secular State is indeed a morally higher and ennobling form of governance than a state which claims to be Muslim or Hindu. That the ideal of Statehood should now be trashed by the Hindus and the Muslims alike, by the former for its non-realistic application to a Hindu-dominated society, or, by the latter for its blatant hypocrisy, when face to face with Hindu chauvinism should wake up the secularists to the challenges the Indian State faces.

Another disturbing transformation in the post-Gujarat Muslim psyche is hopes shattered and substituted by grim hopelessness. Today the Muslim Indian in Gujarat, as elsewhere, asks: what is my fault that I have no human right, no constitutional right, no civic space, in the land of my birth? He feels he has no options but liquidation or absorption or migration and, so helplessly, he has to lap up whatever comes his way: indignity, humiliation, demonisation, vilification. Above all, he should be prepared to be killed! Such frustration and alienation can breed a fatalistic and even suicidal outlook which can explode into violence. So long as one nurses the hope of civilized co-existence, one tries to come to terms with the ground realities. But when hope is lost, one either loses one’s sense of dignity or one’s responsibility to the larger society.

A negative fallout may be the total withdrawal from the political arena of the Muslim Gujarati who was never particularly political in his thinking. But many Muslim Indians elsewhere also see the democratic process itself as a harbinger of conflict in which they are often cast as villains, as obstacles in the path of the achievement of Hindu goals and, therefore, as the ‘others’ who place a spoke in the wheel of progress and must be pushed aside. Such a withdrawal not only affects the rights of minorities and assures the defeat of secularism in the battle against communalism, of democracy against fascism. The loss of minorities support to the cause of democracy and secularism will provide a reason for the fence-sitters to leap on to the Hindu bandwagon. It will thus facilitate the take-over of the State by the Hindutva forces and the rapid metamorphosis of the Indian society in the Brahminical mould. The de-facto Hindu State then does what it likes – amends or even replaces the Constitution. If non-Hindu citizens, open to global waves of freedom, justice and equality, human rights and democracy, give up, it merely hastens the country into the dark night of fascism.

Post-Gujarat, the Muslim Indian society is face to face with many dilemmas it had chosen to live with. For sane thinking and healthy living, it has to resolve them. The first thing it must do is to change its style of begging for its rights – in the name of the composite culture - symbolised by Taj Mahal, the Ghazal and the Hindustani Music; in the name of the great men who toiled and made great sacrifices in the cause of freedom; in the name of its political dominance for a thousand years! The individual rights of citizens and the collective rights of social groups are based on the modern concepts of Democracy and Human Rights. No group can claim privileges or historic rights or special privileges. No group can demand restoration of political power it once held. So instead of all these arguments which cannot stand the rigorous test of modernity, the Muslim Indians should simply stand up and demand equal right as a citizen under the Constitution. The Muslim Indian must realize that many submerged groups are waking up and are demanding their place in the sun – to regain their lost dignity as human beings, to participate in governance and to share the fruits of development. The Muslim Indian can extricate himself from the morass of despair only if he aligns himself with the forces of progress, only if he moves along the flow lines of history. He has to shed all notions of superiority, historic, cultural or otherwise but struggle against the forces of reaction, which do not represent the Hindu society as a whole, shoulder to shoulder with its other victims, actual or intended. Through his commitment to the common cause he shall purge the anti-Muslim poison injected into the minds of the exploited sections and be accepted as another son of mother India, which he is.

The Muslim Indian has no option but to rise above sorrow, anger or despair, to come out of his ghetto, stand up to be counted in the political arena on the side of the deprived masses in order to make the State worthy of their trust, to force the governments into keep faith with the Constitution. Not to withdraw from the arena and just wait for the nemesis in the safety of the dark room he has found shelter in.
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