Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
agitation over Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the impending National
Register of Citizens (NRC) has once again forced us to think on the nature of
Indian state and polity. The turnaround of the polity is increasingly visible
through a certain kind of vocabulary which has the singular focus of alienating
Muslims. The political cosmology itself has shifted: ideologues like Savarkar
are often quoted in the public domain with respect. People have willingly and
overwhelmingly voted for Pragya Singh Thakur whose ideal is Nathuram Godse, the
killer of Gandhi. And yet we should never argue that all this is something
‘new’ which is happening only after the BJP government came to power in 2014.
While there is some truth in this argument, this attempt to link the impending
demise of ‘secular republic’ with the rise of a political party is nothing but
shoddy analysis. A dispassionate attempt must be made to understand how we have
come to this situation where sections of citizens have turned upon one another.
genealogy of anti-secular politics in this country runs deep. And the BJP is
not the only party which has contributed to it. Even the so called ‘secular’
parties are much responsible for this sorry state of affairs. One can certainly
recall numerous events which have squarely pinned the Muslims as the other;
when they have been wantonly killed, humiliated, falsely implicated and
eventually denied justice. We need to just recall the series of anti-Muslim
pogroms which this country witnessed during the 1980s and 1990s. From Maliana
to Mumbai, there has been no justice for Muslims. The perpetrators of these
crimes are free and some have been even elected to high offices. The supreme
irony of all this is of course that some parties which were directly
responsible for killing of Muslims are today being toasted as secular.
that there has always been a consensus in this country to put Muslims in their
place. This has been done at two levels: the periodic riots against them have
reminded them that they are a powerless minority. But at the same time,
discriminatory laws and policies have helped to achieve the same purpose. While
many in India have raised their voice against anti-Muslim pogroms, there are
hardly any voices which have pointed out how certain measures have been
discriminating against Muslims since decades. By being silent on such a crucial
aspect, they have willingly condoned such discriminatory practices. Today, it
is important to call out that the government in power is targeting Muslims. But
let us not forget that many of us where silent when previous governments were
doing the same.
Let us just
understand the whole idea of not extending reservation policy to Dalit Muslims.
We know that there are Muslim communities which are comparable at the social
and educational level to various scheduled caste communities. We also know that
like their Hindu counterparts, they have faced the scourge of untouchability.
Changing their religion to Islam did not change the attitude that even fellow
Muslims had towards them. And yet, they do not have scheduled caste status. If
granted SC status, they would be eligible to certain benefits which might impel
them on the path of development. Since 1950 (when we became a republic), the SC
category has been solely reserved for Hindus. Sikhs and Buddhists were included
in this category later on but Muslims and Christians till today are kept out.
And yet, no one saw it fit to critique this blatantly discriminatory law. For decades,
Hindu liberals and those on the Left have chosen to remain silent on the issue.
For decades, the ‘secular’ principle of this country has not been called into
question. Possibly because these so called secularists were calling the shots
then. We all know that Sikhism and Buddhism are different religions from
Hinduism. Both are in fact a critique against caste system and all that it
entailed. And yet, they can be included but not Islam and Christianity. The
reason is simple: Islam and Christianity are considered foreign religions even
though they have been part of Indian religious cosmology for more than a
thousand years. The consensus around this idea is so wide that even those
radically wedded to the idea of revolution have never termed this policy as
judiciary has not been consistent either. Consider the famous (or infamous)
Supreme Court judgment in 1995 which held that Hindutva was a ‘way of life’.
This judgment blurred the distinction between Hindutva (as an exclusionary version
of Hinduism) and Hinduism (the everyday religion of Hindus). While earlier,
people were hesitant to use the word ‘Hindutva’ freely, the judgment gave it a
certain legitimacy in the public discourse. With the force of SC judgment
behind it, there was nothing to differentiate between Hindutva and Hinduism
anymore. And yet, we hardly saw any opposition to this judgment. The fabled
secularists were silent then and they are even silent now when it comes to
criticising this judgment of the Supreme Court. We must recall in horror that
the same judge who delivered this judgment became the toast of liberals later
on. Everyone forgot his earlier judgment and what it entailed for the fate of
the secular republic. How crass of them that they are now ventilating against
the ‘erosion’ of pluralistic values enshrined in the republic.
brutality of the police, in full display recently in Uttar Pradesh and other
places, is also not new. As an arm of the executive, the police have never been
neutral since many decades. Anti-Muslim prejudice runs deep and various
governments have been reminded to reform the police force. And yet, they chose
to remain silent. There has been no justice to Muslims who fell to police
violence and brutality from Bhagalpur to Ahmedabad. Why is it that we are
crying hoarse when the same police force is running amok and destroying Muslim
property in Uttar Pradesh? This certainly is not new for Muslims. What is
certainly new is the art of forgetting which is being employed by a section of
intellectuals. By linking police brutality with a political party, they are in
fact whitewashing the crimes of previous regimes which were as brutal as what
we are seeing today.
important to call out this government for its treatment of Muslims. It is equally
important for Muslims to protest against this oppression. But while doing so,
Muslims and others should not forget that anti-Muslim prejudice is a systemic
problem and not related to any one political party. A better tomorrow will only
come about when we recognise this problem and collectively try to overcome a
system which has been loaded against Muslims in many ways.
Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com
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no sort of any minority is safe in any sort of majority.
whoever is in the majority will slaughter those of the minority.
this is the basis of the human civilization.