THE CITIZEN EDITORIAL | 6 APRIL, 2019
To Be an Indian Muslim In 2019...
A 22 year old girl has the courage to speak out against communal harassment
A 22 year old girl has had the courage,sheer guts, to describe her ordeal at the hands of her fellow students on a college trip to Agra. Studying in Meerut, the students had embarked on this trip with enthusiasm, accompanied by two male teachers. During the journey this young girl, the only Muslim in the crowd, was accosted by drunk male students who insisted she wear a BJP cap. She refused, and they started trying to touch her, abuse her, humiliate and taunt her. The teachers watched. Some of her friends came to her rescue, but the experience was traumatic to say the least.
The young girl posted this on Twitter, the tweets have gone viral, there has been an outpouring of support and I am sure abuse as well. Politicians like Shashi Tharoor have also shared her tweets. But then what? Despite her courage, is there a sense of isolation, of being unsafe?
This is what Muslim citizens in north India are feeling today. Unsafe, and insecure. If this was the intention of the ruling party it has succeeded. As the assault on Muslims has followed a steady pattern, to a point where no political party wants to talk about it. Not even those contesting the elections in perhaps the worst affected state of all, Uttar Pradesh. (This editorial is not including Kashmir, as that is a story of brutality and repression that stands alone in a different context. To be dealt with later in a separate article).
The hounding, the terrorising of Muslims has not stopped since Muzaffarnagar 2013, only got worse. Love jihad with Muslims being attacked for being in a relationship with a person from the other community terrorised the districts of western UP. This turned into attacks by vigilantes on Muslim households on suspicion of eating beef that quickly turned into lynchings by cow mobs on the highways. Haryana, UP, Rajasthan were the worst impacted with fear spreading like wildfire. Videos appeared all over the social media of Muslims being stopped and beaten by small groups who made them chant Bharat mata ki jai and Vande mataram.
More recently in Gurugram a mob entered the residence of a Muslim family, beat them senseless, attacked the women, looted and destroyed their property. Why? Because the boys of the family were playing cricket, and just the exercise of this freedom was not acceptable to those who attacked them. Now a case has been lodged against the hapless victims, who have joined the ranks of all the victims who have been dragged into the courts by the assailants.
These are just a few instances. There are many more unrecorded, not even mentioned for fear of reprisal. Shops have been burnt, houses attacked, people beaten by groups seeking to terrorise the minorities and make them second class citizens without rights in their own country.
For India is the country that the Muslims of north India opted for during Partition, rejecting the concept of the two nation theory. Today these mobs are validating the Pakistani argument that Indian leaders had spent a lifetime of struggle in negating.
This has to stop. And the Opposition parties asking for the votes of the minorities without making any concessions for them, need to step up their act. And stop this deliberate terrorising of Indian Muslims. For this all the Opposition parties will first have to bring the minorities into the narrative via the Constitution of India. By asserting rights and freedoms and making it clear that they will brook no violation of these tenets. That violation of the rule of law will not be tolerated. Currently the Muslims are not even in the narrative, they are being marginalised and isolated rapidly.
The victims, increasing by the day, need hand holding. Opposition groups should visit such homes, ensure compensation, oversee justice and bring back a sense of security in India’s largest minority. Without this, democracy will lose is sheen, lost in the tears of its own citizens feeling the brunt of a violent policy of exclusion.
Not a single Muslim party has ever survived the democratic vote, having been shunned by the minorities themselves. The greatest ‘Muslim’ leaders in India have been Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, V.P.Singh… not an Owaisi or a Jamaat e Islami. This is easily forgotten by all who are in the fray today, with the Muslims in the north feeling the heat of an election where they are expected to perform, without being given the space by any political grouping. An opposition leader from Bihar put it best when he said, “our attitude unfortunately is, where will the Muslims go. We don’t need to do anything for them as the BJP has left them with no choice.”
And it is the exercise of this ‘no choice’ that the so called political parties are waiting for. But this will do little for the long term. Perhaps not even for the short. Not as long as we ignore the Idea of India encapsulated by a 22 year old Muslim girl from Meerut in her idealism, reflected in “I so love my country’ tweets that define her Twitter account; and do nothing to make her feel safe, protected, and embraced; and reduce her to just a helpless vote.