SIGNS OF THE TIMES
I do realise that Eid-ul-Fitr is about three weeks away but seeing the ongoing onslaught on the Muslim community by the political rulers of the day, I’m not too certain how many amongst us will be in that mood to celebrate this upcoming Eid.
Perhaps, we have to get used to these hopeless — alarming conditions. Ongoing and accelerating from the last few years. It wouldn’t be amiss to say that a large percentage of the Indian Muslims, including I, did not ‘celebrate’ Eid, right from — 2017… Eid was observed but not celebrated, in the backdrop of the survival crisis that the minority community is facing in the country.
The manner in which festivals are celebrated is a pointer to the prevailing socio-economic conditions of the community. And though simplicity is one of the basics to Islamic philosophy, but, here in our country, social customs do hold sway. And in keeping with that, in those yesteryears, an abundance of food and gaiety on the Eid days. Days before Eid, families would get busy shopping, cooking, decorating homes. But all that seems fast declining in these recent years. What, with the blatant and ruthless targeting of the Muslim community, impacting the very survival of the community on any given front.
The summer of 2017 could be described as a stretch of ongoing sorrow. And Ramzaan of 2017 — the month of fasting for the Muslim community — was more than tough for the Muslims of North India. Worries accelerated as hundreds of Muslim men sat not just jobless but also in fear of the Hindutva goon brigades. And as I had travelled through the interiors of Haryana’s Mewat region what stood out was sheer poverty and together with that the scare of the police. Meos living in Haryana’s Mewat belt told me that the beef excuse was used to hound and harass the Meos. With parched lands, semi-closed dairies, shut eateries, Meos had recounted, “Our children arrested, thrown in jails … were beaten with rods if we protest. Are we animals! Are we living some enemy country! Today we can be killed on cooked-up charges of cooking beef or selling beef-biryani! Our forefathers fought the angrez for the country’s Independence but see our condition!”
And just days prior to the Eid-ul-Fitr of 2017, sixteen year old Hafiz Mohammad Junaid was killed by passengers, right inside a compartment of the train taking him and his brothers to their home in a village in Haryana’s Ballabhgarh. Yes, he was murdered, with ‘beef-eater’ taunts thrown on his fractured skull, with a skull cap atop it.
Haryana’s Mewat belt was definitely no exception. Tense situation had prevailed in the rural stretches of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, where Muslim clans sat apprehensive. News reports of Muslim men thrashed and abused and humiliated, even hung from trees, by Hindutva goons, on the beef alibi. One incident after another, right from the day Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri, on mere suspicion of storing beef in his home.
Those killing and hounding of Muslims carried offshoots. A majority of the Muslims in North India, including I, did not ‘celebrate’ any of the two Eids in 2017 — Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. One could say that Muslims did observe Eid, and with that they offered namaz in the various mosques and visited relatives, but there were no celebrations. Many Muslims went about with black bands on their arms, disillusioned and traumatised with the biased system and the communal politics heaped on them.
Also, the following two years — 2018 and 2019 — many Muslims, including I, did not celebrate Eid. What celebrations in the midst of communal violence spreading out ever so steadily!
2020 was an exceptionally traumatic year. It started off with protests against CAA- NRC- NPR. Tensions accelerated with the pogrom in North East Delhi, followed by arrests of scholars and students, and also of the victims of that pogrom! And then came the Coronavirus together with the communal virus, affecting hundreds. Targeting of Muslim families continued amidst poisonous propaganda that the Tablighi men were spreading the virus. Hate against the Muslims was made to reach an all-time high.
And on Eid-ul-Adha of 2020 — observed on 1 August 2020, the Right-Wing legislator from Uttar Pradesh’s Loni constituency in district Ghaziabad, publicly stated that he will not allow any goat sacrifice to take place in his constituency, and if Muslims want they should sacrifice their children on that Eid day! And he got away after mouthing the obnoxious!
And today in 2022, right at the year start, there’s been blatant hounding of the Muslim community in the country on every possible front; ample relays to demoralise and crush them. There seems a well-planned strategy by the Right Wing, to put them down there!
I’m sitting back forlorn, pained and upset. Taking you towards the 60s and 70s …thinking of the bygones, how Eid was celebrated in my parents’ home in Lucknow. We, my parents and siblings and I, fasted the entire month of Ramazan before celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr, with relatives and friends. But let me hasten to add that there was much more activity and festivity around the following Eid — Eid-ul-Adha or the Eid of sacrifice. Days or even weeks prior to Eid-ul-Adha, goats were bought by Salamat mia, the butcher supplying gosht at our place.
And on the Eid morning he would come to help my father with the qurbani, done at one end of the courtyard of our home. After that, the meat was distributed amongst relatives, friends, the needy and disadvantaged. Only a small quantity kept for the family intake. Our khansamah, Zahid mia, had never looked so excited as on Eid mornings; cooking several gosht dishes and also vegetarian dishes too, as many of my father’s colleagues and friends were non-Muslims and in those days (60s and 70s), they stuck to the traditional vegetarian fare, not like today when butchers detail that many more non-Muslims are buying and consuming meaty chunks! “Musalmaan ki haalat bahut khasta hai …gosht to aaj ke non-Muslim log jamm kar khaa rahe hain.”(condition of Muslims is pathetic. Today it’s the non-Muslims consuming meat in a big way.)
My parents’ colleagues and friends from different professions and social setups would drop in the entire day with the ‘Eid Mubarak’ greetings. The chief engineers of my father’s department would be sitting next to the Imam and maulvi sahibs. Nah, none of today’s communal biases in circulation. No embarrassment nor explanations sought if seen in the company of bearded, shervani-clad Muslim men!
Not like today when worries compound for the Muslim community as Eid-ul-Adha nears. Days before there is that apparent tension in the air with the Hindutva brigades on the prowl, as this Eid revolves around the sacrifice of a lamb or sheep or goat or a camel. Adha, meaning the ‘festival of the sacrifice’, this Eid centers around Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice — when he was asked by God to sacrifice his son, he agreed to go ahead with the sacrifice, not aware that it was a mere test for him. Instead of his son what lay slain was a sheep. Thereafter, this tradition has carried on… down the centuries.
Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story. The views expressed here are author’s personal.