The book documents the trials and tribulations that the country’s largest minority is facing today
Shaheen Nazar | Clarion India
INDIAN Muslims have always been a subject of interest in and outside the country. Of late they have also become a subject of global concern. Thanks to the policies of the current right-wing government, today they face an unprecedented existential crisis. Their “othering” is near complete. It is a subject of academic investigation if their present condition is worse or better than what it used to be during the reign of British who had snatched power from Muslims.
Reading Humra Quraishi’s The Indian Muslims made me nostalgic. It reminded me of my departure to the Gulf for better job prospects and return after a gap of 20 years. I had the option of migrating, like many of my close relatives and colleagues, to Canada or elsewhere. But I stuck to my decision of coming back with my wife and children – three Indians who had grown up away from their motherland.
In October of 2010 while I was packing up in Jeddah I had the opportunity of meeting Mohammad Hashim Ansari, one of the original litigants in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit. The old man had been fighting the case for half a century. Allahabad High Court had concluded all the hearings and had scheduled its ruling in that same week I met him. Ansari was very optimistic of a favourable judgement. All the evidence supported his case, he said. I asked him two questions: How are his relations with Hindus of Ayodhya; and what if the court ruling was not in his favour. “I will continue my legal battle for another 50 years,” was his resolve. Responding my first question he said he enjoys good rapport with local Hindus. His shop in Ayodhya is in the middle of a market dominated by Hindus but he has never faced any threat, not even in December 1992 when Babri Masjid was brought down by karsevaks mobilised by the Sangh Parivar from across the country.
The court ruling that came was disappointing not just to Ansari, who then was performing Haj, but to the entire Muslim community. The court had divided the Babri land in three parts – two parts to Hindus and one to Muslims. It was a blow to Muslims, no less than the one the Supreme Court gave a decade later, on 9 November 2019 to be precise. I was a little apprehensive, especially for my children. But I remained undeterred. I arrived. It was not the same country I had left in 1990. Though it was under Congress rule, the othering of Muslims was in full swing. Muslim youths were being arrested on fictitious claims and suspicions of security agencies while newspapers and television channels were calling them terrorists. Ground for a takeover by Narendra Modi was being prepared even before the RSS had formally endorsed him.
What Humra Quraishi has written in her latest book is not fiction. It’s a reality that has befallen the Muslims of India, especially after Modi has become prime minister of the country. Quraishi has documented the trials and tribulations that India’s largest minority has been going through — the destruction of Babri Masjid; the 2002 Gujarat pogrom; the endless arrests and imprisonment of Muslim youths; apprehensions, insecurities and fears; double standards and discriminations; and the regulation terrorist tag. She also addresses the problems that the community faces from within; and myths and misconceptions about the Indian Muslims. Besides, she has opened her heart in “Author’s note” wherein she describes India at various stages of her life. “As a child or even as an adolescent I could have never imagined that a day would come when I, an Indian Muslim, will have to think twice what to eat, wear, or talk. Or, for that matter, I’ll be looked at as a ‘suspect’ because I greet with a loud and clear ‘As-Salam-Alaikum’ (May peace be upon you). Or I could be side-tracked, if not hounded, if I am critical of the sarkar of the day. Or I could get subjected to humiliating queries and threats. Or I could be thrashed or detained by the cops if I raise my voice against the brutalities and atrocities unleashed on the citizens of the country.
Ideally, the pain the author and her co-religionists are going through should be shared by everyone with a heart and soul. But this is not the case. While common Hindus are unconcerned, the so-called liberal and progressive Hindus have either adjusted to the changed environment or they have been left to fight their own battle. The fate of the detainees under UAPA, NSA or cases like Bhima Koregaon are enough to force others into silence.
As the author puts it, “this book is based on my writings of the last many years. In fact, after the Babri Masjid destruction I have been focusing on the largest minority community in the country – the Indian Muslims or to use the traditional term, the Muslamaans of Hindoostan.” The book is also a documentation of the living conditions of Muslims and challenges they face in today’s India. The 292-page book is priced at Rs.595 and published by Aakar Books.
Quraishi is a writer, columnist and journalist. She has authored several books including two on Kashmir, two collections of her short stories and a novel. She has also co-authored a book and series of writings with late Khushwant Singh.