By Mohammed Wajihuddin
Zohair Afsar was all of two when a frenzied mob of kar sevaks demolished the 400-year-old Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. Obviously,
he remembers neither the denouement of that black Sunday nor the countrywide dance of death in its aftermath. Growing up in Deoband, the UP town that houses Islamic seminary Darul Uloom—which, despite its lofty history of producing a galaxy of nationalist ulema, has often been pilloried for its regressive fatwas—one would have expected the boy to catch the virus of minority victimhood.
But Zohair, now 19 and a student of mass media in Mumbai’s Burhani College, has a different perspective. “Babri masjid is not an issue with me,’’ he declares. “I want to get educated and excel in my field.’’
Zohair belongs to the post-Babri generation of Muslims who have undergone a remarkable change in mindset. This generation, reaping the opportunities of globalisation, genuinely believes that the past cannot hold it back. For its members it is career rather than an obsession with rebuilding the destroyed mosque that is paramount.
The indications are everywhere. At a meet at Urdu Markaz, a cultural centre in Dongri, a group discussed the three-day career festival that begins on January 8. “We will have stalls for career counselling, workshops on different career options and speeches by role models on how to excel in different professions,’’ says Aamir Edresy of the Association of Muslim Professionals, which is holding the career fest in co-ordination with Anjuman-e-Islam.
Alfiya Ansari, a master in marketing management and a participant in the career fest, grew up in the Muslim ghetto of Nagpada. Communal thugs burnt down her father’s cloth manufacturing unit in neighbouring Surat during the 1992-’93 riots. “My father remained missing for many days. We were so scared that we had almost planned to leave Mumbai,’’ recalls 24-year-old Alfiya. “But we decided to stay back and avenge the injustice through education.’’
The desire for education, say activists who worked among the riot-affected, became the catalyst that triggered a change in the Muslim mindset. Farid Khan, general secretary of Majlis-e-Shoora, a socio-cultural body set up after the Mumbai riots, recalls how angry youth then wanted to avenge the humiliation. “Posters with the domes of the Babri mosque painted like bleeding eyes were pasted on walls in Muslim pockets.
Slogans like ‘God, send us another Mehmood Ghaznavi (the 10th-century Muslim invader who destroyed the Somnath Temple several times) to rebuild the demolished mosque’ would rend the air,’’ recalls Khan. Today nobody raises such provocative slogans. Even the patriarchal and heavily patronising leadership of the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee, formed to save the mosque, is now marginalized. The leaders have prudently joined the chorus of accepting the court’s verdict on the issue.
The irrelevance of the myopic Muslim leadership is so evident that, as reformist Islamic scholar Asgar Ali Engineer says, the community feels it would have been better off without such ‘leaders’.
Engineer recalls a meeting of Muslim intellectuals in Delhi a few years ago where a prominent Muslim leader came uninvited. “When he wasn’t asked to speak, he stood up demanding to know why,’’ says Engineer. “The crowd had a terse reply: ‘We have reached this stage because we allowed you to speak for so long. Now shut up.’ The leader left the venue humiliated.’’
Engineer also compares the Muslim response to the recent Sachar Committee report as against its reaction to the Gopal Singh Committee report which looked into the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in the late 1980s. “Then the movement to rebuild the mosque was on every Muslim leader’s agenda. All other more pressing issues were relegated to the back burner,’’ he says. “But today Sachar is being debated at a different level.’’
Source: The Times of India