Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Indian Muslims and their traumatic road to freedom

India is triumphantly and passionately celebrating its 76th anniversary of independence as the national anthem echoes across the land, and the masses are enveloped with an enormous sense of patriotism, nationalism and pride. Seminars, symposiums, and talks are being held to discuss the struggles the leaders of the time went through to bring us freedom from the Imperialist regime.

Under the current right-wing political dispensation, India has descended into an environment of hate and majoritarian exclusivity; these events have also become spectacles for right-wing Hindu bigotry. Shouting Jai Shri Ram & Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Hail Lord Ram & Glory to India) in various Muslim-dominated areas of the nation to humiliate and unnecessarily provoke Muslims has become a common practice. No one can contradict the fact that both Hindus and Muslims fought side by side during the struggle movement to secure their freedom of peace, equality, dignity, religious practices, and, most importantly, social, political and economic justice.

It is important to remember that Hindu-Muslim hostility, antagonism, jealousy, and detestation have been a long-standing phenomenon in India and have antecedents in modern India. Since Congress got divided into two groups, extremists and modernists, the rate of aversion between these two communities has increased. Lala Lajpat Rai, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who are members of extremist groups, began staging religious Melas and calling out Hindus, encouraging them to put aside their differences and unite under the banner of Sanatana Dharma, a sign of that apparent social division. Furthermore, the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS added double fuel to the fire and created a splenetic social atmosphere by describing Muslims as outsiders and aliens to this land. As a result of such evident hatred for Muslims, Muslim leaders rose to demand a separate nation with governing autonomy. I’m afraid I have to disagree that the Hindu Mahasabha or the RSS had a more significant influence in the creation of Pakistan; more accurately, I believe that their radical perspectives may have kindled a spark that paced the demand for Pakistan. 

Imperialism, monarchy, and authoritarian regimes can be challenged and brought to heel at any time by collaborative efforts. Still, profoundly deep-rooted societal and religious fanaticism in a society can never be resisted if so much is deep-rooted in both communities. One can admit looking at the history, that the era of the National Movement was loaded with intense hate and hostility. The Lucknow Pact of 1916 and the Khilafat Movement of 1920 precisely only reflected the demands of the time. Or else, no one would have joined the cause and shown solidarity with Muslims. However, under the guise of being united, they battled side by side against the Imperialist force and gained independence. However, none of the leaders from both side of the community initiated the undeniable battle that should have ideally been undertaken to fight against the detestation, religious intolerance and secretion violence. They set free society from such widespread toxicity.

If Hindu leaders had made efforts to inculcate democratic values and cultural acceptance among Hindus, the social image of India would have been drastically different. On the other hand, if Muslim leadership had advocated for Muslims in education, Muslims would have been in robust social positions. 

According to the PPRC, over 1000+ riots have occurred in India since 1967, where countless naive people were killed, injured, humiliated and financially weakened. The reasons for such incidents occurring in India were vote-bank and appeasement politics. During the Rajiv Gandhi era, sensitive and high-risk rioting areas were identified, and to our astonishment, the bulk of them were Muslim-majority localities. The question here is, why Muslim localities? Does this mean that Muslims cannot coexist in a varied society? The right wing’s tactics are based on the provocation of the Muslim minority. Any unfortunate event is advertised amongst the majority with the intention to gain Hindu sympathy against Muslims and meticulously branding them as the culprits. The same script unfolded at Godhra in 2002, where the dead bodies were actively paraded in open vehicles across the city, creating an environment of hatred against Muslims. What happened after that is history. Furthermore, it was the same provocation that resulted in the deaths of many people in the recent riots that engulfed the capital region under its fire during the CAA NRC protest.

Historian Romila Thapar argues that India’s present authorities are spreading a ” false narrative, including through the education system”. During her speech, Thapar also said that attempts were being made to legitimise “the currently popular, distorted history to defend political ideology”. It is evident that during the Ram Janm Bhumi movement, a sort of false and politically motivated narrative was built by hardcore Hindutva leaders just to turn Muslims into a villain and blame them for the destruction of their sacred religious places. Thapar also proposes to historians that “it is not authority that is at a premium but reliable evidence and the reading of that evidence.” According to the evidence, it was the Mughals that fostered Hindu-Muslim unity and also awarded Deewan to several Mandirs, whether in Kashi or Mathura or any part of the country.

Hindus believe Muslim rulers were fanatical, wicked by nature as well as aggressive and violent. In contrast, the historical accounts suggest that they were motivated by their own interest rather than religious beliefs. 

The right wing’s politics, whose core lies in the essence of polarisation, derive their historical credibility and authenticity from professional writers rather than authors with scholarship and deep literary knowledge. Professional writers are skilled at twisting and misrepresenting history, helping right-wing extremists create a false narrative and use it to spread terror among poor Muslim localities. The promise of freedom to the Muslim community from hate, selective crime, and exclusivity was not delivered yet. They were always seen as foreigners or enemies of the land. Leaders of the land failed miserably to offer a safe and wholesome atmosphere for Indian Muslims to thrive and survive a peaceful and just life. Thus, the road to freedom for Muslims is long and trauma-inducing.

Arshad Azmi is a student of English at Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.

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