Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) student leader Sharjeel Usmani has been victimized because of his Muslim identity. A bright youth leader, emerging scholar, and asset of the country as well as the community has been picked up from his house in Azamgarh by the U.P. Police and sent to judicial custody. The media reports suggest that he has been accused of being involved in violent acts on December 15 at AMU.

But human rights activists argue that the police crackdown on peaceful protestors against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) within the campus was the real source of violence. The students of AMU — like the students of Jamia Millia Islamia – were not the instigators of the violence but the victims of the violence.

It is widely perceived that the crackdown on Usmani and other Muslim youths is an attempt to nip in the bud the emerging leadership among the Muslim community. By repeated use of brute force the larger Hindutva design is to keep the largest minority of the country terrorized.

By keeping Muslims terrorized, the Hindutva forces try to turn them silent about the everyday violation of their rights.

The communal ruling classes have never been ready to accept Muslims as equal citizens as well as equal partners in the development of the country. For them, Muslims are just a source of cheap labour. While their rights are being nibbled away on a daily basis, they are being made the targeted victims of state violence. The Hindutva forces, having grabbed the state power, are doing everything to render Muslims the second-class citizens of the country.

The source of the Hindutva forces’ hatred against Muslims is a sense of “superiority”. Equality and brotherhood have always been anathema to the Hindutva self. The deep-seated prejudice accounts for their portrayal of Muslims as “the (potential) fifth column”.

The same communal mindset has been responsible for violence on anti-CAA protestors particularly Muslims. Even the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg — sitting thousands of miles away from India — knows and has publically said which forces were behind the February Delhi violence, but the police are busy punishing the victims of the riots as the “assailants”.

The twentieth-century popular Urdu poet Ameer Qazalbash made an apt comment about the prevalence of systemic injustice with the following words.

“Usi ka Shahr vahi Muddai vahi Munsif

Hamen Yaqin tha Hamara Qusur Niklega”

(The city belongs to him; he is an appellant and he is a judge.

We were confident that we will be found guilty)

The arrest of Sharjeel Usmani is not the first case of the state high-handedness against Muslims. Chengiz Khan, Safoora Zargar, Gulfisha Fatima, Khalid Saifi, Meeran Haider, Shifa-Ur-Rehman, Dr. Kafeel Khan; Asif Iqbal and Sharjeel Imam and many others are victims of their identity.

The cruel Hindutva system has also victimized Gautam Navlakha and Anand Teltumbde, Sudha Bharadwaj, Akhil Gogoi, Natasha Narwal, Devangana Kalita, Soni Sori (now released on bail), and several others. That is why forging far bigger solidarity is a need of the hour.

Muslims and non-Muslims, believers and non-believers — whosoever dreams of establishing a just system — should come together. Given the serious threat from the monstrous and violent state, the protest has to spread far and wide. In sum, only a united struggle can foil the Hindutva forces’ nefarious design.

The united struggle is needed to save this country from becoming a fiefdom of a particular group. The silence must be broken to reassert our composite culture, equality and democracy. India belongs to all. Indians, irrespective of religion, caste, region, and gender, are equal before the law. It is a high time we waged a peaceful and democratic struggle against the divisive forces. The divisive forces are hell-bent on doing a counter-revolution.

The ideology of hatred and division has never been the ideals of great leaders. In the imagination of Sir Syed, our country is “like a newly-wedded bride whose two beautiful and luscious eyes are the Hindus and the Musalmans”. Mahatma Gandhi echoed the same sentiment during a women’s meeting at Dadar on October 27, 1920: “The Hindus and Muslims are like two eyes of the country, there should be no enmity between them.”

Maulana Azad, too, asserted the same sentiment in his presidential lecture at the 53rd session of Congress held in 1940: “Everything bears the stamp of our joint endeavour. Our languages were different, but we grew to use a common language. Our manners and customs were different, but they produced a new synthesis… No fantasy or artificial scheming to separate and divide can break this unity—Islam has now as great a claim on the soil of India as Hinduism”.

Babasaheb Ambedkar, a true democrat and messiah of downtrodden, stressed liberty, equality, and fraternity. “Social and economic democracy are the tissues and the fibre of a political democracy. The tougher the tissue and the fibre, the greater the strength of the body. Democracy is another name for equality”.

Against the imagination of ‘the newly wedded bride with two beautiful eyes’ and the idea of equality are the Hindutva forces. They have betrayed the National Movement and are snatching the gains of Freedom. In both pre and post-Independence India, they have been preoccupied with widening religious strife.

Since the Hindutva forces have succeeded in capturing the state, they have become even more dangerous. It is a part of their anti-Muslim politics that they blame Muslims for every problem in the country. It is within this game plan that Muslim youth leaders are being targeted.

We, therefore, must stand in solidarity with Sharjeel Usmani and all other political prisoners. We must fight for their unconditional release. Our solidarity with Usmani should grow into a united fight against the enemy of the shared culture, communal harmony, equality and democracy.

(Abhay Kumar is a Ph.D. (Modern History) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is broadly interested in Minority and Social Justice. You may write to him at debatingissues@gmail.com)


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