Is it a crime to be born a Muslim in India?

The rising tide of communal violence since 1980s has consolidated the communal politics in India. The party riding on the chariot of religious nationalism became the second largest party and tasted power at the center for six long years. Entrenched in few states it is now knocking at the door of power in few other states. The hope that its recent defeat in Lok Sabha elections will reduce the impact of communal politics in society, will ensure all communities civil rights and equal citizenship rights still remains a distant dream.

The rise of communal politics has worsened the lot of minorities. This downward slide is going from bad to worse. They are forced to live in fear, and the impact of alienation from the social mainstream. The advocates of communal politics have been talking of Hindu nation, spreading hate against minorities, especially against Muslim community. The divisive politics is being spearheaded by RSS, and its ideological followers. They are not only there in the state machinery and media but also in other crucial spots of Indian social, economic and political life. The worsening plight of Muslim community got reconfirmed in the recently held national meet on "What it means to be a Muslim in India Today", organized by Anhad in Delhi (3-5 Oct).  

The meeting was addressed by the victims and social activists working in the area of human rights particularly of minorities. The pain and anguish of the Muslim community was heart rending. They narrated incidents of illegal arrests, tortures, detentions and adverse judgments. The latest trick is to implicate Muslim youth in multiple cases in different states. This will ensure their being behind the bars for good. The communal violence which has broken the back of the Indian community is being supplemented by the intense and blind police action against innocent Muslim youth, alleging their involvement in terror attacks. While communal violence is now being orchestrated at low intensity and is scattered far and wide, in the post 9/11 period another front for torturing the community has been opened. Here the modus operandi is simple enough, there is "intelligence" tip and that enables our efficient police to arrest Muslim youth. Being Muslim is the major reason for arresting and torturing innocent youth by the guardians of law. Many a youth in the middle of their education face immense obstacles. Their illegal arrests are never compensated for, nor are they supported to complete their education despite being proved innocent.

Many such arrests are accompanied by all sorts of illegal steps by the police: Using cars without number plates, taking victims blindfolded to farm houses for third-degree tortures are new addition to the "efficient methods" of the police machinery. There are enough grounds of doubts in Batla House encounter for instance, but it will not be taken up for honest investigation. The argument to avoid honest investigation is that it will demoralize the police force. Can we have such a police force whose morale depends on hiding truth?

Following Mecca Masjid blast, there was a shooting by the police which killed more people than the number killed by blast. The pretext was that the crowd was menacing, which it was not. Truth of Ishrat Jahan case is out in the open but the perpetrators will remain in the seats of power unscathed, barring an odd official living in jail. While such enthusiasm in arresting Muslim youth is there for all to see, those arrested by Hemant Karkare's ATS in Malegaon blast case, are currently being treated with kid gloves. The apprehension is that these guilty gangsters against whom evidence was collected by late Hemant Karkare may not get the punishment they deserve.

The families battered by such brutal police actions and the families shattered by communal violence are on the streets unattended, marginalized and neglected by society and state. Successful Muslim businessmen have been targeted in order to break their economic backbone. This is true not only in Gujarat but also in other BJP ruled states. This economically marginalized community is practically boycotted by financial institutions, telephone companies and others. There are many cases where the community is being denied space even for graveyards, which are either being taken away or not allowed to expand where there is need for more space. The plight of Shabana Azmi or Imran Hashmi not getting the house in desired locality is not isolated instances; this phenomenon is becoming more widespread. The walls of separation along communal lines are becoming stronger. The Sachar Commission and the Prime Minister's 15 point program remain a showpiece for purposes best known to the state!

The myths and stereotypes in the media and social space are very much there. The large section of school text-books reinforces the stereotypes and myths about the community. So where does all this lead us? In a democracy, in a secular state the minorities should be provided safety and dignity irrespective of their religion. The present condition of Muslims in India is nothing but abysmal from the point of view of security, economic condition and social life. A large section has started feeling the deprivations in a very painful manner.

It may be recalled that under the Brahminical system of four "Varnas" (castes) the higher caste Brahmins remained supreme, and the low caste "Shudras" were relegated to the lowest rung of the social ladder. They were denied elementary human rights and were forced to live a life of subjugation and ghettoisation. It is such a society that the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and their feeder organisations are trying to build by systematically subjugating and brutalising the minorities, especially Muslims, a system where the Brahmins would remain supreme. Now Muslims are being reduced to second class citizens. This is precisely what RSS wants, this is what is coming to be practiced at all the levels in the country. The RSS workers and its ideology have infiltrated the "social common sense" through media and education. It has infiltrated the state machinery. The RSS controlled Bhonsla Military School in Nasik is supplying large number of recruits for Indian army, one of them being Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit, an accomplice of Pragya Singh Thakur, alleged culprits of Malegaon blast. If RSS--, a fascist organization wrapping its politics in the cloak of Hindu religion-- swaymsevaks can infiltrate the Indian army, which institution in the society is safe from slow communal fascist infiltration? Which institution can be trusted for upholding Indian Constitution?

It is this gloomy scenario that many a victim deposed at the meeting with pain and anguish. "Is it a crime to be born a Muslim in India?" (Issues in Secular Politics)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 November 2009 on page no. 9

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