When I am writing this letter, the obituary has already been written of all the political parties held up against the far-right Hindu nationalist party- BJP, but I am quite hopeful for Indian Muslims- the greatest ‘false enemy’ of BJP ever and its co-travelling parties. The triumph is giant and massive. Amidst the vehement outcry of opposition parties and lamentations of liberal journalism and academia over electoral victory of BJP, as an ordinary citizen and Indian Muslim, I am thinking about the future of my community, yes, the future of 17.22 Crores (14.23%) Indian Muslims! After writing Paradise Lost, John Milton was quite hopeful for his subsequent writing of Paradise Regained. I too have a hope.
It is very much obvious of BJP which got all possible room to craft a public discourse in and around us i.e. Muslims. They have kept alive the politicization of Muslims as an electoral agenda throughout their political rallies. They have used us as buffer point for the larger political outfit. They have ridden upon false consensus. We knew that it is a very conscious effort to put a community on margin both politically and socially. But what had been the way ahead for us, now we need to have serious deliberation on it. The BJP was as confident as Hitler who was committed to wipe out Jews from European land. The intensity of his commitment was so much strong that Germany was left in deep proud for years for what they did to Jews. BJP and their ally people believing in ‘imagined community’ have been ferocious and blatantly brazen for us as a political community. Perhaps they have learned a lot from Hitler’s ideology. It did not happen overnight. The BJP has certainly been successful in furthering the rift between Hindus and Muslims. The venom found its space. But I am still hopeful.
A long and sustained social perception was built up about a community. The global agenda against terrorism has cemented much more to this perception. Like other oppressed and marginalized groups, the crucial fact is that we Muslims, are also passing through one of the most difficult times in our contemporary history. In our everyday civic engagements, we are repeatedly reminded of our Muslim identity, sometimes overtly and most of the time, covertly. Plenty of proverbs are invented and weaved around our identity. We are labeled as ‘anti’ prefix to all modern adjectives. We are notoriously called conservative, fundamentalist and resistant to change. Our residential localities are known variously called as ‘mini Pakistan’, ‘Saudi Arab’ ‘aatank garh’ etc. It is simply because we live in ghetto.
But now we want to tell the rest of our fellow countrymen and women that, ghettoization is not the reason, neither is it because we are trenchant believer of ‘one ummat‘ but it is an end result of a continuous fear and trauma of communal riots and with the question of our survival. We did not choose it, we are forced to stay together because we are worried about our lives. Please tell us who wants to live in cramped houses and maze of streets with almost no civic facilities? Certainly none of us! In our ‘muahallas‘ we fight with each other, quarrel over a hundred issues, but our lives are very much safe there, there we feel secure for our social, legal and economic concerns. I still do not lose my faith in Indiannes.
From 2014 onward, in public life, a common perception prevailed about vanishing and smashing out Muslims from this country. Yes, we were scared as a community. Riots took place, mob lynching of Muslims became a new normal and the project of ‘othering‘ got strengthened. But Muslim youths did not join militant groups. They joined literary forums, recited dissenting poetries, came out for demanding rights and ensuring state duties, started mastering the art of procedural justice through judicial activism, debated and deliberated about their political participation. We are no longer the part of partition legacy, we have thrown away the luggage and baggage of ‘partition card’. We are not party to that heinous crime. We today need to reaffirm this proclamation. We are not going to go anywhere but will lead a life of dignity and respect in this very country, because it is our home.
My friends, we must understand the fact that neither Congress nor BJP have delivered our prolonged and delayed social justices and they have even not ensured our fundamental rights and citizenship rights in this country. Both are proven deadly for us. They have hindered each and every possibility of our progress very systematically. As a community and as a social group we should have asked them about their economic and social deliverables to us. Yes, they have failed us, and failed us badly. They are accountable for the betrayals they have committed against their own political mandates.
Still we have managed not to lose hope in our country. Because we have a great faith in the constitution and in secular Hindus of this country, we have faith in our Hindu friends and neighbors, we have faith in our secular tradition and thousand years old common history of hardship and struggle. But the jewel of this long struggle has received multiple anomalies in past years. The credit does not belong to BJP alone, there are other national and regional parties too indulged to it. The hope is still alive dear friends.
That is not enough my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. We need to chalk out our future behavior and coursework.
People perceive things differently, it depends on which side of the table you are! For us, security and survival supersedes employment and ‘development’. We have to continue the sprit we have started post-2014 Modi regime. Please do not be trapped in their shoddy political slogans.
We have to create our own voice, we have to claim our rights in this country, we need to develop our identity and assertive politics. We need to write down our dissenting muse through every possible means. We must articulate and channelize our anguish against the ‘political exodus’ of Muslims from mainstream politics. In this election, the opposition parties are defeated, for this we should not feel guilty, we should not take this burden alone. We should go ahead with our everydayness.
We must believe that the problems of Muslims are political, it is a genuine matter of political representation and participation. We shall accept that we are left in a pitiable plight and facing adversaries. At the same time, we must also believe that adversaries borne new ways and new possibilities. Gramsci said about organic intellectualism, so no one can represent ourselves better than us. Let us learn the art of identity politics from Dalits of our country. They have started their journey of demanding justice from state and its institutions; we need to start yet. Martin Luther King was fortunate enough to ‘have a dream’ but we are yet to start dreaming; dreaming the new possibilities of politics. We have to prepare our own redressal mechanism of our religious and cultural issues, shortcomings, lapses; be it Talaq or Halala, be it Ramadan or Ramazan, or be it Polygamy or Burqa. We will not let people to enter in our domain for political polarization whether it is by some Muslim leaders or clerics or anyone from outside.
We must all not lose hope within ourselves. I heard my teacher saying that talking about despair, the amount and heap of despair decreases. So do not stop, please do talk. I stop writing here with a couplet composed by the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish:
….. Write at the top of page one:
I do not hate people,
I do not assault anyone,
But…if I get hungry,
I eat the flesh of my usurper.
Beware…beware…of my hunger,
And of my anger.
Abu Osama– a citizen of India, a Muslim