By Rajendra Sathe
June 5, 2017
Translated by Dr. Asma Anjum Khan: Asst. Prof of English
In the light of Naseeruddin Shah ‘s calling the Muslims, dirty, suffering from victimhood and not condemning terror enough, this article originally written in Marathi by senior journalist Rajendra Sathe ,offers a perspective from inside. It talks about the perils of a society that is extremely alienated from within.
The prejudices about Muslims stem from people having zero contact with real living Muslims.The biased communal mindset of the people and the media, keep vitiating the atmosphere further.
The writer’s putting the entire burden of onus on the Muslims at the end of the essay though is, debatable.
My daughter was educated in Borivali[ a suburb of Mumbai]. In her school she had class mates from Gujarati, Malayali, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi or even Bengali background. But from standard first to standard 10th she had no Muslim classmate. The other divisions of her class also had no Muslims. Her school publishes impressive annual reports but I never could find a single Muslim name in them. Please note, this school was not run by a church or was not a convent school. It had CBSE curriculum. Parents who get transferred in jobs send their wards to this school, I had heard. But strangely, even then I didn’t find a single Muslim student studying there, even by exception.
The society where I live has 98 flats. We have such seven buildings in our complex. This means our locality has around six to seven hundred families dwelling in it. In our building society there are people speaking different language, but among them there is no Muslim family. Other societies present the same picture. Homes are continually being sold bought and rented in our housing society but never to sell, or rent to a Muslim is an unwritten rule here. People don’t talk in whispers about it; they talk openly, in your face.
That Never A Muslim Is To Be Allowed In Our Holy Precincts.
If someone tries to bring in a Muslim tenant, the office bearers of these societies pressurize him in different sorts of innovative ways. If you roam in the Mumbai suburbs with an agent trying to buy or sell land, you will find that this experience is most common. While selling homes, the agent does not forget to describe the appropriateness of buying the particular place with due references to its being a popular spot, proximity to markets, nearer to highways and stations, and he also never ever forgets to declare, There is no M-factor here. Do I need to define No M-Factor, for you? It implies, NO Muslim family lives here.
Friends of my daughter live in such societies. Some of them live in exclusive Gujarati or Jain building societies. Interestingly, one of her friends lives in a super exclusive Goud-Brahmin building society. In such societies, it is said, only Brahmins believing in certain Math /ashram are allowed an entry.
Most of these parents are from middle and upper class of the society. Speaking to them for a few minutes will convince you that their thought process is tinged with Hindutva. It’s an easy guess for you about their views on Muslims.
These children/youngsters read sparingly. Harry Potter doesn’t bring you Muslim characters, we know. My daughter reads a lot of Marathi stuff but I doubt if she would ever reach to Uddhav Shelke, Shri.D.Panvalkar, Bharat Saasne, Hameed Dalwai or such writings and Muslim characters in it. Muslim characters are found far less and in between even in current English literature as well.
These youngsters watch English, Hindi , Gujarati and Marathi television serials. But never ever will you find a single Muslim character in it. Historical serials have Muslims but they are mostly presented as villains. But we will talk about it sometime later.
These youth watch Hindi movies. They prefer light romantic comedies. The protagonists mainly have names like Sid, Raj, Karan and behave in a Hindu kind of way.
These youngsters have no idea about an ordinary simple Muslim or Muslim family. The Muslim ways of behaviour, how they talk, their dietary habits, their language , their trade, festivals, religiosity, because they never encounter these things in their daily lives. Only Burqa clad Muslim women, walking briskly on the roads and azan from the mosques are the only things that tell them that Muslims exist.
Mumbai is known as the most cosmopolitan of the Indian cities. Muslims have a huge presence here. Generations of Muslims have lived here. The following is an example of some school children living in such a cosmopolitan Mumbai or its suburbs. But this instance can be said to be representational. The picture may be different in Andheri, Bandra and Powai, but that too can be exceptional. These thousands of young children are going grow into teens/youth in such an atmosphere. They have no contact whatsoever with the Muslims. Reading the following story, you would feel, that may be this strict arrangement has been done only to keep these youth away and ‘safe’ from the Muslims.
Now let’s see what happens at the opposite side of this ‘strict arrangement’ of keeping the youth away and ‘safe’ from the Muslims.
Media is obsessed with Kashmir and Pakistan. There is a constant talk about the two topics in our newspapers. Every Indian child instinctively knows that Pakistan is our sore enemy. May be later on, as they grow up a little, they realize that Pakistan is Muslim. That Kashmir is Muslim and that’s the reason they commit ‘anti-national’ activities, this is an idea frequently uttered by our TV anchors and some newspapers. To complicate the matter further, there are international Taliban and ISIS terrorism.
It is not as if, all this kind of news is minutely read and observed by these kids but it keeps banging on their ears. This may not complicate their understanding much but ground is well prepared to think of Muslims as terrorists.
Since Narendra Modi’s government at the centre things have now been easily divided in Hindu and Muslim. Cow slaughter, beef ban, banning conversion, Ghar Vapsi, Standing for the national anthem, Vande Mataram, building Ram Mandir at Ayodhya, Common Civil Code and special status for Kashmir, Triple –talaq, the list is a long one.
These topics keep climbing back again and again in the domain of the public discussion. A group called ‘Muslim’ with its due stupid fanaticism is creating havoc in the country and they must be taught a lesson, this trend of thought is getting strengthened and a sinister message is sent to the society.
In cartoons there is a character who is fat, arrogant yet stupid, for ex. Kaliya in Chota Bheem or Sunyo in Doraemon. Punishing them becomes a must for each of these episodes. Similarly, it seems like a Mega-serial is being played out in our country. Reasons keep changing in each episode but the villain remains the same. The Muslim.
Trapping him in the net and punishing him severely becomes the goal of this Mega serial of the country.
It’s not that everything of this reaches our youth. In these circumstances its better if these things don’t reach them. Their comprehension, if is limited only in the domain or arena of the cartoons, then it’s quite okay.
On the one hand, you have never seen, never known what or who is a Muslim and no contact whatsoever with him and then on the other hand you keep hearing that the Muslim is a backward creature, an enemy, a villain.
What happens after being in such a vicious circle, is anybody’s guess.
I remember an incident from Pune when around 1984-85 Vishwa Hindu Parishad had begun to appeal for collecting building bricks for Ram Mandir, in Ayodhya. Many college youth had begun participating in it. Some programmes held during those times, openly spewed venom for and about the Muslims. But the young participants had not lived or seen life beyond Sadashiv Narayan, Shaniwar peth.[All Hindu dominated areas]. These participants had never had any real contact with the Muslims and neither was there any possibility for it.
There is a famous college named Parshuram. In that college leave alone Muslims, even the number of Brahman youth was limited there. There was little possibility that these young men and women had treaded beyond their own secluded living quarters, yet one found their views on and about Muslim were too rigid.
This was the result of a systematic propaganda against the Muslims. It was said some of these youngsters went to Ayodhya for temple building as cheer boys. But from that moment our country was put into a fire whose flames still engulf our society today. This is a permanent wound keeps festering to this day and its stench is becoming increasingly unbearable.
The same is happening with the school kids I mentioned in the beginning.
It can also be said that the same is happening with most of the Mumbai children and youngsters.
Or let’s say, it’s [the brain washing] is happening among the general public even outside of schools.
If I am not exaggerating, just in the way youngsters get to know about bees and flowers, in the same sinister secret , twisted ,unverified and faulty ways, our young generation is getting information about the Muslim. A large number of our population is making up its mind about the Muslim through such vicious and fictional and absolutely wrong sources. [ Few very fortunate people are able to keep themselves safe from it.]
It can also be said that there is little difference between people supporting Trump who wants to ban entry of the Muslim in US, and the young ignorant youth from Borivali.
Let’s leave America for now, but it’s possible to bring about, a positive difference to the thinking patterns and attitudes of our people.
Leave the whole nation, let’s talk about Maharashtra. What is the situation of Muslims in Chiplun,Kolhapur, Dhuke,Parbhani and Amravati. What do the young Muslims, women, artisans, farmers from these areas feel about all this. What is their grouse, dreams, what do they want to be in life, and what do they plan to learn , we know nothing about this nor our media tries to educate us about it.
Triple Talaq, Ayodhya Muslim reservation, what do the ordinary Muslims from the rural Maharashtra feel? City folks find it easy to express themselves but what about the villages and its inhabitants?
We have little idea about it.
Marathi news channels do not feel the need to do a talk show with the Muslims of Akola or Malegaon. They just don’t feel the need for it.
Our media talks too little about the problems of Madrasas and Urdu language and doesn’t feel the need to go deeper. These problems never get analyzed.
How do Muslims feel about the new financial policy, IT revolution, BJP in the driver’s seat, we never get to read a column or two about this nor get to see any news feature on television.
Our media, our plays, cinema, literature, serials have little to do with the Muslims. Muslims are zero if weighed on a scale. After Modi’s ascension on Delhi throne, it is believed that Muslims in general are facing a huge inferiority complex. Perhaps, BJP wants this to happen to the Muslims. But we don’t see even a faint glimpse of this sentiment in our media and other artistic forms of expression.
The chaos and havoc of UP after Yogi must be disturbing the Muslim youth. But nowhere do we get to witness this sentiment of worry and grief in our daily lives.
Hence, whatever have I said above that is not happening, should be , must be happening now.
Various mediums, institutions, and young Muslims should be doing it.
Nay, it is their responsibility to do it.
Rajendra Sathe is a senior journalist, has worked in famous newspapers and television channels.