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Reflection on Indian Muslims: Present Grim, Future Tense

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

MUSLIMS are living on the edge in India. The current situation is indicative of the fact that an anti-Muslim wave is carefully being nurtured in the country. Muslims are being targeted and discriminated against every passing day in India.

All this is happening because there is a systematic effort to unite the 80 percent Hindu population by raising the spectre of the 14 percent Muslim population as their enemy. This narrative is increasingly becoming popular so much so that 14 percent of Muslims are facing the heat of living in a hostile atmosphere in their own motherland.

Indian Muslims are having crisis of identity. They are forced to become invisible; they cannot flaunt their religious identity. They are forced to use Hindu aliases to adjust to the majoritarian wish. Their women are hounded for wearing hijab, they are lynched for transporting cattle, and their places of worship are vandalised. Their pockets of resistance are bulldozed and their houses are being raised to the ground.  

The greatest challenge Indian Muslims face today is the partisan approach of the state and the government in power. Even the judiciary, the media, and elements of civil society are not sympathetic toward them. The writing on the wall is very clear, their present is grim and the future is tense. 

The situation is so alarming that many Muslims are forced to think: where this game is heading in India?What will be the future of the Indian Muslims in the foreseeable future?  How these 22 crore Muslims are going to survive in India with the changing nature of Indian polity and society?

It is not the first time that Indian Muslims are faced with such kind of challenge. The very first time they encountered this challenge was in 1857, when they stood up in revolt against East India Company. Thereafter Indian Muslims, being rulers of the country, were reduced to being the British subjects. Subsequently, Muslims adjusted to the new reality by taking up English education and joining the administration and judicial system soon to emerge as a new force in Indian politics.

When the concept of democracy and ballot loomed large on the Indian horizon, Muslims again had to make choices.  They knew that in this new system, their identity would be drowned. They will politically remain underrepresented, economically marginalised, and educationally backward.  To protect themselves they asked for a separate electorate to be visible citizens in the Hindu majoritarian state.

Indian National Congress, which spearheaded the freedom movement, refused to give any such guarantee to Indian Muslims. Indian freedom fighters’ vision was that, in a democratic setup Muslims would get equal treatment as any other Indian. This was a bluff that now is coming out in the open. The Muslim League at that time called this bluff by pitching up their separatist demand. When the Indian National Congress refused to address the Muslim question, the Muslim League wanted India to be divided into a Hindu nation and a Muslim nation. Had that arrangement been made in 1947, the Hindu rashtra (nation) question that’s being raised now may have been settled once and for all.   

However, the Congress leadership that included Shayama Prasad Mukherjee and Sardar Patel, the two Hindutva icons of today, agreed to shed the Muslim load. They agreed to the Partition of India rather than consenting to convert India into a Hindu nation.

Independent India wore the cloak of secularism giving Muslims equal status. The constitution of India protected the rights of the Muslims. Thus Indian Muslims, for the third time, adapted to the new reality. They believed in slogans like “unity in diversity”, “religious tolerance”, “meritocracy”, etc. and actively participated in the progress of the country. The promises made in the constitution gave them hope to lead a dignified life in independent India.

As a result, India was able to achieve some sense of societal balance for the next 75 years or so till the Hindutva proponents rose in the country to tear away the secular mask and declare India a Hindu nation.  The proclamation of this was made at the January 22 event in Ayodhya.

It is in this context Muslims have to make choices on how to adjust to the new reality. They have to develop their future trajectories to adjust to the proclamation of Hindu rasthra.

The reality is that Muslims of India have become a rudderless community. Relying on the constitution, rule of law, state, administration, and media are all acts in futility. There is none to protect them. This is a hard reality.

If Indian Muslims have to come out of this pitiable situation then they have to recalibrate their political future.  Muslim have to strive for a dignified living in the new India in the given democratic framework. They have to make choices as to what kind of politics they may like to have in future India. 

Getting electoral muscle for the community should be the ultimate goal. Developing credible leadership is the first step. Muslims should leave their inferiority complex and rise above ghetto politics. They should politically behave like a unit and get themselves recognised as a player in the electoral politics of India.  For this, the community should develop its pesologist, and election strategist and gain political strength.

The Muslim community should send out messages that India’s largest minority community cannot be pushed to the margins by the majority communityIndian Muslims are in a sizable number and they cannot be pushed to their breaking point. The continuous persecution of Muslims is bound to generate a reaction and that will be disastrous for India, it will destabilise Indian society and create turmoil in the country. India cannot be run by spreading hatred against Muslims or telling lies about them.  If India needs social stability, persecution of Muslims should stop. The Muslim adversaries should know that following the principle of living and letting others live in peace is the only way to run the country.  

At the same time Muslims should also wake up to the reality that they cannot live the way they are being pushed now. They have to make choices on how to adjust to the new realities in India.  

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at  

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