Delegitimised. Dehumanised. Isolated. Orphaned by the world and their own country, Muslims of India have a long and lonely battle to fight for their rights and honour.
The image of a Muslim child picking out coins from his father’s bulldozed juice shop has been reduced to clickbait value. You see it, feel bad or indifferent, you even go as far as to celebrate it, but most of you move on with your lives.
A man with amputated hands is accused of stone-throwing in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone. His only source of income, his shop, is bulldozed. You see his image, perhaps feel bad but move on with your lives. But Muslims? This is their daily reality. What is the future of Muslims in India when they are being psychologically broken by being brandished as conspirators, terrorists, illegal migrants, rioters and stone-throwers?
Are Muslims the only minority in India who can be neglected and shunned without anyone really caring or asking for accountability from the government? Because when Sikhs come to the national capital on Republic Day and are branded as Khalistani terrorists by BJP ministers and a section of government friendly media, you hear Sikh ministers from Canada and the UK speak up in solidarity of their community and against the harsh farm laws of the Narendra Modi government. And the government makes amends. Be it for Punjab elections or otherwise. It repeals the farm laws. The Prime Minister holds a grand ceremony in memory of Guru Tegh Bahadur at the Red Fort to prove his closeness to the Sikh community. No BJP minister or media dares to call Sikhs Khalistanis then.
Or when BJP ministers take on the Christian community, accusing them of forceful conversions, PM Modi’s meeting with the Pope shuts everyone up. You don’t hear a squeak of the derogatory term “rice-bag” (often used by Right-wing to describe missionaries who convert Hindus by giving them food and money) on Twitter. The message sent by the Prime Minister of India is clear. He is in solidarity with the Christian community.
All these welcome gestures, which should be seen as syncretism, were decried as “minority appeasement” by the BJP till now. But BJP wouldn’t dare to call their own PM’s outreach to minorities as appeasement, which they always accused the Congress of doing — “appeasing minorities”.
For the BJP, appeasement of minorities is only seen as ‘appeasement’ when it comes to Muslims. But appeasing Muslims is a fallacy from Congress’ heydays. Because if there was appeasement, at least some needs of the Muslim community would’ve been met and there would have been statically some progress of the community. The Sachar Commission report of 2006 found Muslims at the bottom of almost all socio-economic indices and compared them with Scheduled Castes who still have reservations.
Although the anti-Muslim narrative has been the same since the BJP came to power in 2014, the intensity and the harm that’s now happening on ground is disturbing. Muslims have been en-masse delegitimised by BJP ministers as illegal immigrants in West Bengal and Assam. But now, it is being used as a justification to bulldoze their livelihoods — shanties and shops they set up — without prior notice. Even if such action is justified legally, were only the Muslims stone-throwing? No bulldozing of shops and houses for men from the shobha yatra carrying weapons?
And the irrationality doesn’t stop with BJP alone. The marginalisation of Muslims is so real that someone as educated and liberated as Atishi Marlena from the AAP doesn’t stop at calling the Bengali-speaking Muslim residents of Jahangirpuri as Bangladeshi and Rohingya immigrants who have been made to settle in these areas by the BJP to use as pawns to create violent riots.
Woe to Muslims. Their very existence now seems an invitation to paint them as villain because post-9/11, a Muslim wielding a gun would straight up be a “terrorist” but a white, black, Asian or Indian with a gun would be a “gunman”. The phenomena of pervasive discrimination against Muslims is a global reality today but people around the world also speak up and recognise the horrors common Muslims have faced since 9/11. Commercial movies like The Mauritanian or documentaries on the Muslim experience have been made to show the impact of social isolation and shaming of Muslims.
But in India, no one seems to care about the harshness with which an entire community is being shamed and ridiculed for incidents that have two parties in the wrong. Not one. The blame cannot always be conveniently put on Muslims by the media or the those who benefit from this narrative.
If the Modi government does not recognise the dark abyss it is pushing the Muslim community of India into, this era will be recorded in history, if nothing else, as the psychological ‘terrorism’ aimed at an entire community within their own country. And the blame will lie with the government of the day, which is setting the tone for every minority in the country. Except Muslims.
The author is a political observer who tweets @zainabsikander. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)