New Age Islam
Sun Apr 11 2021, 11:08 PM

Current Affairs ( 18 Feb 2011, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Census: An open letter to Muslim intellectuals and leaders

By Syed Yahya Rizvi,

The Census is now on. It is a very important event from the point of view of Muslims in the country because all the policies and decisions about the largest minority of the country depend on the outcome of the Census. The fate of the mother language of the largest part of the Muslims Urdu also hinges on the statistics provided by the census. That’s why much before the start of the census, Urdu media had tried to create awareness about it. Muslim intellectuals and leaders had issued appeals to the Muslims to take the census seriously and give correct information. They were also advised to monitor the behaviour of the census officials so that they do not fill wrong information or tamper with the information provided. Even today, when the census process is on, they are appealing to the Muslims to give special importance to the census.

But unfortunately all is not going well as far as the Muslims are concerned. Right in the beginning an error was detected in the census form. In the religion column, the word Muslim was printed instead of Islam. A hue and cry was raised but to no avail. So the Muslims decided to fill in ‘Muslim’ in place of ‘Islam’.

But that was only the beginning of the problem. If the news reports that are pouring from all over the country are any indication, the census officials have been showing a very biased and prejudiced approach towards the Muslims particularly in terms of filling the mother language column. And from the reports it is evident that these workers have been instructed at the time of training to fill Hindi as mother language irrespective of what the citizens declare as their mother language. This cements the suspicion that the bureaucracy had planned to suppress the statistics about Muslims and their language well in advance and had run the training programmes along those lines. Otherwise, complaints of such behaviour would not come from all over the country and would confine to a particular region.

First, the Muslims of Delhi complained that the census workers were filling the forms with a pencil where as they have been given black ball pens to use whiling filling in information. On complaint, they argued that they were doing so only to avoid mistakes and assured that they will fill in the forms with pens when they sit in their office comfortably. But the most unfortunate part of all this is that some Muslim and Urdu speaking workers are doing the same thing without realising the damage their irresponsible act might do to their own community. According to a newspaper report, a Muslim lady teacher Kahkashan was also filling in the forms with a pencil and argued that she was using a pencil because her handwriting was not good and that she would fill in the form afresh in the office.

Another report from Baghpat said that the officials there were also following the same practice of using pencils for filling up census forms. They had said that they were filling Hindi as their mother language against their will. The next day, it was reported that the officials were filling photocopies of census forms with pencils in the Muslim majority town of Mau in UP. They were also filling Hindi as the mother language despite the objection by citizens. According to the residents, one official said that Hindi was the mother language of the whole country. So Hindi had to be filled in. The officials do not ask the residents what their mother language is. Instead they ask if they know Hindi even a little. Obviously they say ‘yes’. So they fill Hindi in the mother language column.

In the Muslim majority town Saharanpur it caused a flutter as the Muslim activists raised a hue and cry and pulled up the officials when they filled in Hindi as mother language whereas the residents insisting on Urdu. The officials said that they had been told during the training session to fill Hindi as mother language. In Jalna, a census official came to the residents with 17 pre-filled in forms with Marathi and Hindi mentioned as mother languages and only asked the people to put their signature on it. The residents called up journalists who rushed in on the spot. Later, the census officials of Jalna Municipality arrived at the spot and assured the residents that the forms will be filled again and action will be taken against the guilty. The official concerned named Kharat gave a written confession to the officials that he made the mistake.

All this is happening without any hindrance and in a brazen way. But the Muslim leadership has not taken any concrete step to stop this. They have not raised the issue on political level collectively. The media which is preoccupied with Vastanvi affair has not reacted in the same way on this issue. The biased and communal officials are filling the forms with pencils, writing Hindi instead of Urdu in the language form etc but the Muslim leaders, ulema and intellectuals are busy only issuing press releases appealing to the people to fill the forms correctly. It is time the leaders, intellectuals and ulema sit back and take a resolution and raise the issue on the political level. The social organisations in every area should become active and prevent such officials from filling wrong information in the census forms before it is too late.