Ayodhya Verdict: Where Does Muslim Community Stand Today?

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People ioffering namaz in the lawns of Babri Masjid. — File photo

Communalism has always been the life-blood for our politicians. So, if Ram Mandir issue was settled, they are bound to come up with another issue.

M. Aariz Imam | Caravan Daily

IMMEDIATELY AFTER the judgement had been pronounced on the Ayodhya dispute, I got a request by email to write an opinion piece. My first reaction was that, what was there left to say? The verdict had come down crashing, like some hollowed out structure of a devastated building. Even when it was painful, it wasn’t much of a surprise to the people who had been living in fear for years, waiting to face the worst and the inevitable.

The building fell; and with it the hopes of a repair. The building fell and sowed in its debris seeds of anxiety and suspicion. From keepers of its fate, the people who adorned the highest temple of justice to the guardians of its faith — the spiritual leaders — the integrity of everyone was hurt. While I was still contemplating on what I should write, I browsed through the social media where, yet again, the minority community was found lacking in the matter of coming up with a coherent response.

Diversity of opinion, confusion, chaos, escapism, ridicule, allegations and despair filled the social media within minutes of the judgement. Every third person appeared to have a fourth opinion on the court order. Obviously Ayodhya was at the centre of the nation’s interest, including that of the minority community; and not Kashmir, where it was the 94th day of the lockdown.

It is pertinent to note here that a community that doesn’t stand by its own oppressed deserves no sympathy from anyone outside of its sphere. And yet, this too was visible in the response that came from the liberal quarters. Many proponents of liberalism and many messiahs of secularism either went into a balancing act, or into silence, or hailed the verdict. For the pseudo-seculars, the opening up of Kartarpur corridor was a good enough relief. For the prudent liberals, the protest in JNU was of greater interest.

Yet, it is the Muslim India’s response that must be of editorial interest. Muslims, even when they remained divided on the Ayodhya verdict, were united by fear. This was a commonality that had cut through every onslaught. Some elitist, self-styled and opinionated intellectuals from the community saw virtue in the verdict and termed it as an act of pragmatism. Some suggested a period of hibernation for Muslims, during which term they should use their energy on effecting internal reforms. Some others suggested that Muslims cannot fight majoritarianism and that they should take it lying down. To decode before the country this and many other psychological behaviours of the community, it required telling plenty of stories.

“chalo mudda hi khatm.” So stated a former editor of an Urdu news daily and a celebrated writer in Bihar — one who finds a huge following for his sharp and incisive writings, both in Hindi and Urdu — after the verdict was delivered. Like many others, he claimed that after the court’s final judgement, the issue was dead. I wonder whether the matter would really come to an end. After all, have we achieved the milestone of Akhand Bharat and Hindu Rashtra? Has the law of the land been officially swapped with Manusmriti?

Had the issue been of the minority’s own making, one could believe that, in the aftermath of this judgement, there would be no other issue to fight with. But this is not so. The issue was not simply a creation of the RSS, the BJP, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Shiv Sena, the Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and several other Sangh Parivar outfits to reap political dividend, but this issue was also one that was used by the Congress, the Left and several regional parties as an SOS.

Muslims neither have, nor had at any point of time in Independent India’s history, any agency to raise their issues. The issues have always been raised by others, and Muslims forever have been on the defensive.

Communalism has always been the life-blood for our politicians. So, if Ram Mandir issue was settled, they are bound to come up with another issue. They would then interfere with Azaan. Once Azaan is settled, they may obstruct Namaaz. If Namaaz is settled, they may question Nikah. If Nikaah is settled, they may ridicule Talaq. If Talaq is settled, they may criminalize Hijab. If Hijab is settled, they may ban Naqab. If and when they reach a point and find there is nothing more to make a fuss about, they would dig out Muslims from their graves and create issues out of them.

If the graves of our immediate ancestors would not suffice, they would go ten generations back to the burial sites of Mughals. If that wouldn’t be enough, they would further go back in time and make issues out of every single Muslim dead in the past. If by chance the entire community gets frustrated and converted wholesale to Hinduism, they would still be vilified by these forces, who would say that, anyhow their ancestors were Muslims. There, thus, would be no end to issues for a confrontation. Hence, it will be amateurish to give communalism a final good bye.

To substantiate my argument, I would like to recall a meeting, the third in a series of sittings held in Gaya, where people were arguing whether the protest march should be held, or not held, on a Friday. In mid-August, the grandson of Rafiganj’s first MLA Sardar Latifur Rahman along with his friends was lynched on the pretext of being a child lifter in Gaya’s Maher village.  Sardar Latifur Rahman was also a member of the constituent assembly and stood his ground when the wave of Muslim League’s politics swept through north India. Lynching in the name of child-lifting rumours had gained currency in the preceding few months across the country and served as a cover for what appeared to be an act of communal nature in the Waliur Rahman alias Goldy’s case. Goldy who suffered multiple head injuries in the mob violence is still battling for his life in Ranchi.

The people, after two failed sittings in the past, finally agreed on the necessity to take out a peaceful protest march. There was disagreement, again, when it came to finalising a day for this. The majority of the people preferred Friday as the day of protest, arguing that it’s convenient to mobilize people after Juma prayers. Those who opposed this line said Muslims joining a protest immediately after Juma prayers in their traditional attire — Kurta Pajama and skullcap — would mean the people would associate the issue only with the minority community. This, they argued, would make it difficult to invite people from other faiths to the protest march.

Also, emphasis was laid on organising a silent protest, or else “some miscreants may infiltrate the crowd and raise inflammatory slogans”. Others suggested that there be no confrontational approach with the administration, and that the IB was always on the lookout for any such transgression.  If this was not enough of pragmatism, a suggestion came that Muslim participants at least remove the skullcap during the protest march if it took place on a Friday.

That it took three meetings to agree for a protest, that people were afraid of raising slogans, that many were reluctant to participate in the protest in their traditional attire and many feared the IB even as they did no wrong, speak volumes about the sense of fear the community as a whole is living in.

Now compare this with the protest that took place against the desecration of Dalit icon Sant Ravidas’s temple in Delhi’s Tughlaqabad. The protest held in Gaya within a week of the protest against mob lynching was an altogether different scene. The Dalits hit the road without permission, challenged the authority and were fearless and outspoken about their demands. They raised slogans against the central government and sat in front of the Collectorate when they were not given an audience immediately itself.

In yet another example, I recall a discussion I once had with a friend, a devout practising Muslim, who said he had deleted all videos of Dr. Zakir Naik from his mobile phone and contacts of all Pakistani friends and relatives, for fear of being harassed by the authorities at the airport. Dr. Naik is one of those rare Muslim personalities who command the respect of large segments of the community worldwide. Yet, I am reminded of how Muslims abandoned him when the government went after him.

I recall how a girl, a fresh Mass Communications graduate from one of India’s most premier institutes, was advised not to wear hijab to avoid uncomfortable questions in an interview and secure a quick job; and how, for fear of losing an opportunity, she quickly obliged. I can also recall how Delhi’s all-time favourite Farooq Abdullah was put under house arrest under the stringent J&K Public safety Law without any explanation and yet there wasn’t much of a whisper. Abdullah’s father, a devout nationalist himself, was the contemporary of Sardar Latifur Rahman.

I am also reminded that, as I write, it has been 97 days since Kashmir is locked up and where, for every six person, stands an armed securityman, and there has been no protest against these in free India. I am reminded of how Azam Khan’s University was ransacked and yet people were suggesting that the five acres of land should be used for building an educational institution. One is also reminded that from triple talaq to mob violence, love jihad to NRC, every time an assault was carried out on the country’s largest minority, there wasn’t much chaos in the streets. At the same time, the loot and arson in the name of a hurt Rajput or Brahmin pride or one such act for the sake of Jat, Patel and Maratha reservations, was justified.

Let us not forget that the Prime Minister himself expressed displeasure with the Supreme Court’s judgement on Sabarimala and praised the court order when it came to the Babri Masjid case. Note how there were mass protests organised by the members of ruling BJP against the Supreme court’s judgement on Sabarimala, and how the minority community has been silently accepting of the Supreme Court’s rulings. The strands of continuity and tolerance, marked in Muslim behaviour in the face of oppression, make one wonder as to why people kept preaching to us in advance that we have to respect the Babri judgement? Why was it that WhatsApp group admins were blocking others from posting anything?

Afterall I am a Muslim Indian, howsoever inconsequential or insignificant I am. Why fear me?

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The writer is a Jamia Millia Islamia alumnus and does freelancing for citizen journalism portals. Presently he lives in Oman. The views expressed here are his personal and Caravan Daily does not necessarily subscribe to them.

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