SEEMA MUSTAFA | 13 SEPTEMBER, 2016
To Be A Muslim In India This Eid
NEW DELHI: Mohammad Akhlaq was dragged out of his tenement in Dadri by a mob of Gau Rakshaks and beaten to death for allegedly eating beef. His son barely survived and was in hospital for weeks. His wife and children were screaming with terror, unable to get help and unable to prevent the frenzied mob.
This Eid, Akhlaq's family, charged with consuming beef, have a long legal battle ahead of them. Terrified out of their wits this family has been running from pillar to post, not just for justice for Akhlaq, but for their own security. They have been threatened, abused despite the trauma, and now the impoverished family has been dragged to the courts on an alleged forensic laboratory report that claims that the meat, that the mob insisted was taken from their home, was indeed beef. This is after the first forensic reports of similar meat samples verified that it was not beef.
In Hyderabad, a senior BJP lawmaker T.Raja Singh threatened violence if oxen were sacrificed on Eid. He warned the Telangana government to ensure the ban was imposed strictly.
This, even as the poor briyani vendors in Mewat, Haryana, remained on the run fearing action as rumours spread that samples seized from their stalls had tested positive for “beef”. In this sleepy Haryana town, the police turned into cow vigilantes, swooped down on the impoverished vendors, and spread terror as the youth ran fearing indiscriminate arrests. In the midst of this a mob attacked a Muslim home in a Mewat village and raped the girls, including a 14 year old, and killed a couple by tying them and beating them to death.
In Muzaffarnagar, a large number of Muslims displaced in the 2013 communal violence that tore through the villages in what was a first for the area, remain in camps. These internally displaced persons have been unable to return to their vilages, as the attackers were neighbours, as were those who raped their women. Terrified, and still facing abuse, these families live in terrible conditions in these camps infested with snakes, and with no sanitation, electricity or even potable drinking water. For three years they have been living in inhuman conditions, with tears pouring down at the mention of the homes where they had lived for generations, but can no longer return to.
In Kairana, again a bustling town, local BJP leaders spread the rumour of Hindu migration as a result of which the minorities are now terrified, and scared of reprisal by mobs. The state government stepped in on this issue for a change, and hence it was prevented from reaching new levels of violence although locally the terror remains.
Overarching is Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority state. The state is stepping up the offensive with the Army returning to villages and districts it had left over a decade and more ago. At the time of writing this, a senior retired government official from Kashmir called, very agitated, that the forces were going into homes in the rural areas and firing pellet guns inside at the families. People are being arrested, taken away in action reminiscent of the 1990’s when enforced disappearances had hit almost every Kashmiri home. This is now the apprehension amongst the elders of Kashmir, even as the young are bent on giving up their lives for what they perceive to be their rights.
Drones and helicopters fly over Kashmir on Eid day even as one writes. Strict curfew keeps people at home, with internet and communication services suspended.
New Delhi, in line with the approach of centralising its slogan of nationalism around the ‘anti-national’ Kashmiri (and now also the Muslims in other parts of India), has decided to force an offensive for as long as it takes. The visit of the All Party Parliamentary delegation has been dismissed by the government as an aberration, with the hard line continuing in Kashmir. More so as the state has been placed since Independence in the national security paradigm, and not in the space of democratic rights and justice. Kashmir, thus, allows the government to build its ‘nationalism’ constituency by juxtaposing the Kashmiris as a national security threat.
Muslims in India thus, today, are being effectively projected as the crux of the definition of anti-nationals and terrorists embodied in the persona of the Kashmiri:-
anti-Hindu for being beef eaters with the current campaign actually intended to make the Indian Muslim synonymous with beef, when exactly the opposite is true;
anti-India and pro-Pakistan (this applies to Kashmiris and all other Muslims as well);
And all on the verge of joining the Islamic State.
There is no counter narrative, given the political opposition’s collapse in the face of the right wing onslaught. The Muslims have no organisation, no leadership except of the Muslim Personal Law Board kind, diminishing political support, with rights and justice playing a poor second to vote bank politics. The isolation is nearing completion.