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The Rise of Voiceless Muslims

By MOHD ASIM
Last updated on: March 16, 2020 12:07 IST
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It is this new Muslim who is not burdened by the Pakistan guilt, who is ready to fight it out for the rights enshrined under the Constitution, and who is not defensive about Muslim identity that the BJP and the Sangh Parivar are out to crush, argues Mohd Asim,.

IMAGE: Hundreds of Muslim women protest in Mumbai against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-National Register of Citizens-National Population Register. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters
 

The last few months have seen unprecedented attacks on Muslims.

Savage police actions inside AMU and Jamia, the UP police's continuing efforts at demonising and terrorising Muslims, Yogi's 'revenge' on Muslim protestors, police actions in Karnataka where even a play at a school invited sedition charges and traumatising questioning of young kids at the hands of cops, concerted efforts to delegimitise the Shaheen Bagh and similar citizen protests through fake videos and malicious online campaigns by the BJP IT cell, public threats and shootings from those inspired by the BJP hate ideology, and most recently the carnage in Delhi.

Not just Muslims, those standing with them today are also the target of the most vicious attacks from the regime and the organs of state.

JNU has borne the brunt, civil society members are being targeted, hounded, film personalities and activists who have lent support to Muslims have been labelled as anti-Hindu and by extension in this regime's lexicon anti-national.

Violence against Muslims is not new in India.

There have been riots where Muslims and other minorities (like Sikhs in 1984) have suffered disproportionately.

The police's and the State's role in riot after riot has been brought into question by a number of post-riots probe commissions.

So what is different in what we see today?

Today the Indian State is seeking to crush its citizens, for simply being citizens.

Today Muslims are being demonised and killed for asserting their Indianness and their citizenship.

They are being attacked for speaking up as Indians and not just as Muslims.

It is a clear Citizens versus State battle that is at play.

And the State is up against its citizens with its full might.

The last 70 years didn't see any Muslim awakening of this scale.

Disproportionate blame of Partition, migration of the educated and middle class to Pakistan left Muslims on the defensive and voiceless.

The only relation Muslims had with the State for the last 70 years was their vote.

They voted, largely for 'secular' parties and left the rest to them.

The arrangement led to the emergence of a breed of 'political brokers' -- both clerics and 'secular' types -- who struck deal with political parties in the name of the Muslim vote.

Political parties also foisted token Muslim leaders on the community.

While Muslims languished at the very bottom of all social, economic and political indices, such leaders, mostly with their tokenism on issues such as personal laws, kept Muslims tagged to the State with a sense of being politically attached, of being heard.

They were made to feel that they belonged although this political attachment did little to their real state and real issues.

The emergence of the BJP on the political horizon and its stated and clear anti-Muslim plank to build its politics further pushed Muslims into an 'insecure and secular' corner.

They closed ranks with 'secular' forces to keep the 'communal' BJP at bay.

But while most Hindus too, till recently, voted against the BJP and for 'secular' formations, its only Muslims who got labelled as a vote bank and not 'secular' Hindus.

The BJP and the Sangh exploited this imagined and manufactured narrative of a Muslim 'votebank' to rally Hindu fears and create insecurities in the majority vis-a-vis minority.

Hence the 'Hindu khatre mein (Hindus are in danger)' narrative.

So, the State got used to a Muslim populace that will not organise itself socially or politically, but will make peace with the tokenism of the political class and let the sarkar decide their fate and status among the citizenry.

This arrangement suited all the politcal parties and regimes as it kept Muslims away from becoming citizens in true sense with a stake in the polity of the country.

A marginalised group turning in to an aware and demanding citizenry cause discomfort to any regime.

And the present one with its overt anti-Muslim mindset is all the more aghast at the audacity of Muslims to question its policies.

The last six years that saw demonisation and marginalisation of Muslims on an industrial scale sent Muslims literally comatose.

Lynchings, media obsession, most vile and communal barbs by people in power, naked communalism of the State: Nothing evoked a response from Muslims.

Muslims did not organise after being made into a political pariah as a community by the BJP blitz.

They did not rake to the streets over the triple talaq ruling nor did they come out beating chests over the Ayodhya verdict.

Muslims didn't raise a protest against the most vicious hate campaign being run against them for the last six years by the BJP-aligned television channels.

But Muslims are out today.

Because the BJP, after steamrolling them for 6 years and in the belief that it has brow-beaten Muslims totally, launched a final assault on their identity, their psyche, their very Indianness. Their citizenship.

In an overtly discriminatory and exclusionary CAA, with pointed threats of a nation-wide NRC and NPR, in the vile and malicious language used by none other than the home minister in the CAA-NRC-NRP contest, the BJP has ringed Muslims's worst fears true: That Muslims will be lesser citizens in the BJP's project of a Hindu Rashtra.

That their citizenship now rests on the mercy of a sarkaari babu, who can cast doubt at their very identity at will.

Muslims have risen today as Indians, holding up the Constitution and raising slogans in the name of Gandhi and Ambedkar, waving the national flag.

The Muslims have found their voice.

They have rediscovered their democracy, are claiming their rights, rekindling their faith in the Constitution.

It is this aware, vocal and organised Muslim citizenry that scares and worries the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.

Muslims singing patriotic songs, reading the Constitution on the streets, unafraid, are the BJP's worst nightmare.

What is worse is that this protest, this awakening, is being led by Muslim women.

The BJP and the media have always painted Muslim women as an oppressed lot who need to be liberated.

They can't fathom a sight of Muslim women leading the pushback of the community against their self-proclaimed 'liberators'.

So the barbs are even more vicious towards the women.

The 'hamari Muslim mothers and sisters' are now 'bikau' for the BJP.

It is this new Muslim, who is not burdened by the Pakistan guilt, who is ready to fight it out for the rights enshrined under the Constitution, and who is not defensive about Muslim identity that the BJP and the Sangh parivaar are out to crush.

The voiceless have found their voice.

So the brute forces have been unleashed on them by the State.

The new Muslim, the creative protest, the poetry, the graffiti, the slogans, the unflinching will and support from a cross section of society has rattled the regime.

The 'Other' is refusing to stay the 'Other'.

'We The People' has become the war cry.

Muslims have suddenly burst in the face of the State as equal citizens.

And the State is not ready for this upsurge, for this statement.

Its only answer is violence, further demonisation, more cruelty.

It is out to crush its own citizens as they have started to speak.

That's why the Delhi carnage is so different from any other this country has seen.

It's not just the killings that took place over 3-4 days, it's the response of the State and all its arms during and after the killings that is scary and worrisome.

Since the killings, every institution of the State and media have been on a project to paint the victims as killers.

The arrests, the television narratives, the silence of the government, all point to a pattern.

Even Amit Anilchandra Shah's reply to a debate in Parliament was an exercise in painting Muslims as responsible for the violence in Delhi.

Earlier, during communal violence, the media would play a constructive role, amplify the voices of those who suffered, hold people in power and police accountable.

But not this time.

Today's media asks more questions on the burning of a bus than the slaughter of 50 people.

Will this be the new normal? Will Muslims now on be subjected to gruesome violence only to be blamed themselves?

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