Saturday, April 13, 2024

Contemplating Muslim lives in new India

A Muslim elderly man walking away from Police

While after the heinous killing of Junaid and Nasir, the condition of Indian Muslims has been discussed all around the country. The current situation has not erupted abruptly. Instead, it has taken its due time to ripe and become a new reality imposed on the Muslims in India.

As journalist Alishan Jafri aptly puts it, “For so many young Indian Muslims today, social media feeds have begun looking like a visitors’ diary outside a busy graveyard.”

The situation is quite perturbing if one is conscious enough to open their eyes and look at the affairs of our society. Just looking back at a week or two, Muslims have been burnt alive, killed in police custody, stabbed, households dismantled, called terrorists, and have faced open calls for genocide across the country. The saga may seem like a dark storyline, but it is the new realm in which Muslims have to live in the current times. 

As I reflect on the aforesaid worrying events, I often stumble upon this thought. I am an Indian Muslim too?, why are things like bad food in the dining hall a big issue for me? why is my life very different from the victims in the news headlines? While it is true that an educated young Indian Muslim’s life consists of stress about Assignments, exams, and evaluations, having given strenuous thought to it, I found that the difference in the lives of young Indian Muslims has far deeper underpinnings that I can think of. 

To be precise, the lived realities of Indian Muslims are nothing but a function of their social reproduction. A section of representative Muslims shares platforms with different religious leaders and politicians, while a Muslim vendor can become an outcast in the market for his identity.

An educated English-speaking Muslim rants about their academic and professional pressure, and a subaltern Muslim has his livelihood threatened by a sporadic boycott. Although this rationale does provide some clarity on the issue, another dreadful thought has its place in my mind. 

Does that mean that how I am treated by my colleagues, friends, and society as a whole depends on my Social Reproduction? I did not want to explore this frightening thought further, but Alas! I had to. Going by this hypothesis, every educated, well-off, stable Indian Muslim is Junaid, Nasir, Akhlaq, and Tabrez.

The harrowing realisation that if I were the alleged beef-eater Akhlaq, I would have been lynched by a charging mob of more than 200 people. The fact that I can put stories of eating beef, hanging out with non-Muslim friends, and political jokes is possible only because I have some social background that has been reproduced through my ancestors. 

The more I explored the aforesaid thought, the more anxiety I had. If I were the 16-year-old Junaid studying in a Madarsa, I would have also been stabbed 40 times in a moving train in Haryana. That means all the glittering dreams I have -about getting a gold medal, further studying abroad, my mother, brother, and sister, and getting all the worldly amenities- could be attacked, and burnt and charred, the moment my identity -of being a student in a liberal educational institute- changes to a young subaltern Muslim living in a village of Rajasthan, Haryana, or Uttar Pradesh.

As someone who has witnessed the dichotomy of society personally, I have been teetering between being a ‘good Muslim’ who evades critical questions that affect the large Muslim community and a ‘bad Muslim’ who speaks for the malicious propaganda that is decimating the harmony of the society. My non-Muslim friend had been chided by a medical professional during the Covid-19 vaccination drive for arranging vaccines for a ‘Muslim fellow’ (me). While in my sight, I had my non-Muslim friend arguing with the medical authority for their brazen hatred towards me, I could see two contradicting factions operating in a tight space depicting the widening rift in the social structure of our country.

Owing to my privileges, I am surrounded by great, liberal, emphatic friends, teachers, and Mentors where I could offer Namaz in the four-seater hostel room, and my Hindu roommate does Shivratri Prayers and distributes Prasad in the same room, we have debates about religion in the very same tiny room with four contrary opinions. But closing our eyes to this inclusive and secular atmosphere has done nothing but deteriorated the secular fabric of our society.

In the last month, we had only a weak gate fortified with security guards, separating our inclusive space and a Mob chanting, “ Desh k Gaddaro ko, Goli maaro Saalo ko”. 

As I reflect on my long-concealed thoughts about the lived realities of our society, I do not want to speak about the Jargon of ‘Hindutva’, ‘ Right-Wing’, and ‘ Bhagva’. I have a problem with these terms, as I do not believe in selling one’s Identity, Consciousness, and very value of Humanity to a particular Ideology, and Political Party. I refuse to admit that my dear ones see my Muslim Identity from any political or ideological Lens. Having said that, it is also true that the phenomenon that I rebut has become a reality in an increasing number of pockets in our country. 

In all, the lived experiences of Muslims in our country are stratified based on the social and financial status one holds. It is up to us, as a society, not as Hindus and Muslims, to listen to the increasingly diminishing voice of our conscience, and fathom the rationale for supporting cow vigilantes, Hate-speeches and Mahapanchayats.

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