In Mumbai, Muslims have protested against Israeli aggression in Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Myanmar. But on the revocation of Kashmir’s autonomy and the subsequent communications clampdown, protests have been few and far between.
Members say that though there are no mass movements or street protests, and not much on social media, Kashmir is discussed privately. Mumbai’s Muslims are concerned, they say, but are not open about it as on other issues.
The community expresses solidarity by sharing news, even unauthenticated ones, via WhatsApp.
Prominent Muslims attribute this to differences of opinion and to some extent, the fear of being branded anti-national.
Muslim patriotism is in question under the current dispensation. All agree: if this was for their welfare then the government should have taken Kashmiris into confidence. Yet they also believe Kashmir is an integral part of India and there’s no question of supporting separatism.
Activist Javed Anand said there were mixed reactions. “Kashmir did not seem to concern Indian Muslims until now. The current concern is due to attacks on Muslims in the last four to five years. Kashmir is seen as being singled out because the majority of its citizens are Muslims. This has made Muslims of India feel they are in the same boat.”
He added, “But there’s reservation that if we say something, we will be called anti-national.”
Activist Feroze Mithiborwala, who often speaks for Palestinian Muslims and on the issues of Indian Muslims, said Kashmir should not be seen merely through the lens of Muslims of Mumbai because “all secular persons and people who believe in democracy and human rights” are concerned about it.
“Article 370 was abrogated in an undemocratic and unconstitutional process,” he said.
More worryingly, the Supreme Court didn’t hear petitions related to Kashmir immediately. He echoed the belief that Kashmir was an integral part of India.
“Division of the country has always proved damaging for Muslims, and they don’t wish for any more division," he said.
Mithiborwala said the protests though inadequate were higher than in the past. “Now we have to see how peaceful, secular and democratic movements stand with Kashmiris,” he said.
“We appreciate people who went to Kashmir and informed the world about the atrocities there. The international media played an important role.”
The Muslim Council Trust organised a silent protest in Azad Maidan, demanding normalcy in the Valley. Its president, Ebrahim Tai, said people don’t dare speak the truth because they are terrified under the BJP’s rule.
“Those who stand up for the truth are either sent to jail or are threatened with cases.”
When he visited Kashmir with relief material in the wake of floods, locals spoke of cruelty and injustice. He also claimed that the new law where an individual could be termed a terrorist has restrained Muslims in Mumbai from speaking on Kashmir.
A few organisations helped Kashmiri students living in Mumbai. M.A. Khalid, state secretary of All India Milli Council, and social activist Salim Alware were among those who helped Kashmiri students pay their fees, rent and food bills as the communications clampdown in J&K left them disconnected from their families.