Gujarat: ghettoes in the making

As per the report in a section of media recently(November 2009) the UK based Muslim Charities have warned Muslims living in the relief colonies set up in the wake of Gujarat carnage, that they must abide by a code of conduct: no TV, no music, education only in madrassa, particular type of cap and beard for men, hijab for women, etc. If these are not adhered to, the Charity threatened to stop supporting the relief work. At the same time the members of Tablighi Jamat insisted on similar lines, ‘Islamic behaviour’ or else! Muslims living in these colonies are living a wretched life, totally bereft of any support from state and boycotted by the society at large.

There are cases where the residents of this ‘lesser world’ have opposed such dictates coming from local Maulanas, but they have been beaten to silence. The society at large is not permitting them to come out of the emotional and physical walls erected by the state and civil society around them. The orthodox elements, clerics etc are not permitting them to live normal life, to endeavor for modern education and jobs, a life matching with our times. One recalls that in the aftermath of Godhra train burning and the riots engineered on the pretext of taking revenge of Godhra, took a heavy toll of the life of Muslims. As the refugee camps were to be set up by the state, it reluctantly did part of the job and soon enough, even before the tears of trauma dried up and scars of the violence were healed, the state-supported camps were wound up. The Gujarat Chief Mininster Narendra Modi said that there is no need to keep these ‘Child producing factories to go on’.

Orthodoxy steps-in
Other charities enlarged their scope of work and stepped in. The mosques which gave them shelter also imposed a version of Islam, a type of life style on them, which was alien to most of the Gujarat Muslims. The compensation by the state did not come up to the necessary and mandatory level. Once the total rehabilitation fell under the control of orthodox Muslim charities, they started imposing the retrograde norms on the community. The most glaring example of this was manifest in the housing pattern which came up in due course. One noticed that the dwellings were comparatively smaller while the mosques were bigger. One also noticed that the presence of Maulanas became more dominant in these communities. The madrasas were the only type of schools available for these ‘children of the other God’.

One knows very well that prior to violence in Gujarat the Muslim community there was going more for trade, modern education and the like. The process has been reversed by the physical insecurity created by carnage and this has been topped with the total neglect of the plight of Muslims by the state. One is witnessing a very interesting sociological phenomenon in Gujarat. On one side the planned carnage left the minority community helpless and gripped by insecurity. On the other, since the state controlled by right wing politics bypasses the legal, social and moral norms, it left the victims to fend for themselves.

Insecurity and Conservatism
The popular perceptions accuse the Muslim minority of being conservative etc., but it never goes beyond this level of perception to understand as to why it is so. One concedes that what is going on so intensely in Gujarat today vis -a- vis Muslim community has been a widespread phenomenon in different Muslim majority areas, more so in those areas which have seen communal violence. One also knows that in communal violence the percentage of Muslim victims is over 80%, while their percentage in population is 13.4%. The insecurity this creates is the root of conservatism in this community. One also knows that Muslim community is no uniform monolith. There are types and types of pattern of living. Till 1990 large sections of Muslim girls and boys were trying to come up and take to modern vocations, teachers, professionals of various types and what not. 1992-93 Mumbai carnage came as a big damper and the Muslim youth got a big setback, economic deprivation on the top of insecurity. For sometime the large section of community could not recover from the trauma of the violence. As they began to recover, there was Gujarat baying at them.

A chicken-and-egg situation! The insecurity ghettoizes them and retards their path; the same is then used by the propaganda mills to demonize them. On one hand the myth is spread that Madrasas are a breeding ground for terrorists, on the other a situation is created where Madrasas remain the only option for Muslim children. While this link between Madrasa and terrorism is a total lie, barring, of course, those Madrasas which were set up with US-CIA link in Pakistan, where Muslim youth were indoctrinated to take the path of violence against Russian army. One can confidently say that the Indian Madrasas are just teaching Koran and not terrorism.

The condition of large sections of Muslims can only be compared to the Shudras in ancient India, where the society treated them as slaves and codified their slavery as their Dharma, Shudra Dharma. They were also ghettoized. The other example is the African Americans of US, where the Whites committed atrocities on them and pushed them to the ghettoes, depriving them of dignity and civic rights. The rise of Right-wing communal politics in India from last three decades in particular, politics in the name of religion, which is seeping through different pores of state apparatus and social thinking, is achieving the same purpose, to create a set of second class beings at the mercy and service of the elite trying to impose retrograde politics on the society at large. (Issues in Secular Politics)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2010 on page no. 9

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