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  Books   14 Apr 2024  ‘Muslim question’ sheer propaganda, there is no promised land

‘Muslim question’ sheer propaganda, there is no promised land

Anand Sahay is a senior journalist based in Delhi.
Published : Apr 14, 2024, 8:57 pm IST
Updated : Apr 14, 2024, 8:57 pm IST

'The book is worthy of reflection by all modern Indians, the country’s civil society as a whole'

The cover page of Being Muslim in Hindu India
 The cover page of Being Muslim in Hindu India

This provocatively titled book by a well-known journalist commentator — it may be unfair to call the author a “Muslim” journalist — may have done well to clarify the meaning and import of “Hindu India” although the context is clear from the writing — that the severe anxieties analysed here are based on the lived experience of an entire religious community across India under the Narendra Modi government, transcending class and other factors.

The explication may have been useful because Muslims have always lived in “Hindu India” in a broad sense, although such an expression was not in usage in pre-British times; indeed there was no political India then.

Also, even when for 600 years or so when Muslims, as a religious category, effectively ruled India, they did not make their domain an Islamic state although occasionally certain aspects of the application of Islamic law were in evidence.

When India was politically partitioned in 1947 by the departing colonial power, the overwhelming bulk of Muslims chose not to cross over into the newly formed Muslim country although the political demand for Partition had arisen in the Muslim-minority provinces of British India which remained in India. The Muslim-majority provinces in the west that were to constitute the main body of Pakistan had given no quarter in the first place to Jinnah’s thesis for a separate homeland for Muslims.

Regrettably, today, it is the outcome of Jinnah’s thesis, abetted by the colonial rulers, that is remembered and not the fact that bulk Muslims stayed put in their homes whichever side they happened to be on. A twist of political fate has sowed great social, political and psychoses.

It was important to show this with a fuller treatment because for our Muslims, as much as for any other religious community, what came to be known as India was their home — their only home and there was or could be no other, no matter what the majoritarian religious Right in India has gone on about for the past century — and with greater stridency under the Modi dispensation. Indeed, this is an important and fundamental point made in the book, and needed elucidation and elaboration. Perhaps a subsequent edition can fill the gap.  

The book may be seen as a broad sweep capture in some detail of the attempt at cultural degradation, the denial of justice, and open attacks by the official machinery and its political canopy, as well as organised hoodlum gangs — the uncivil civil society — on all sections of the Muslim community, raising questions within the country as well as in the altered perception of India in the world outside. As such, the book is worthy of reflection by all modern Indians, the country’s civil society as a whole, and its government and various other institutional structures.

The book is not just about the political marginalisation of our Muslims and the attempted brazen reduction of their civic status in the Modi era, or indeed about insufficient care to ensure them proportionate economic opportunities in the India left after the wound of Partition.

The author quotes from the eminent sociologist, the late Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed, whose work on the operation of the (Hindu) caste system among our Muslims is renowned, “The grand design has finally unfolded itself. If Muslims cannot be annihilated physically (they are too many), annihilate them culturally so that they can be converted to the Hindu fold.” This is an indictment that should make us sit up.

The anti-CAA movement lasting around 100 days until the Covid clampdown in 2020, staged by ordinary Muslim women of Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area, is arguably the high point of Gandhian protest in the era after Gandhi. The author has done well to elaborate this to underscore the point that India is the only natural home of Indian Muslims. This movement of Muslim women is a testimony for India, not just the Muslims, even if the regime showed indifference toward it and sought to deploy social media and rumour-peddling methods to discredit it.

There have been Hindu-Muslim rifts in India, typically propagated by political actors in the modern era. There has also been open violence at times. But there has not been ‘the Muslim question’ on the lines of Europe’s “Jewish question” of the 18th to the 20th century, leading to mass imperialism-aided emigration to Palestine and on to the violent processes culminating in the making of the violent anti-Muslim and anti-Arab state of Israel, which had not been envisaged perhaps even by early Zionists. For India’s Muslims, there is no “promised land” or its equivalent. They always belonged here. No communal ideology can alter that basic historical fact. This book helps to further that understanding although it can at times be dreary with its amplification of recorded crimes committed against the Muslim communities with impunity.  

Being Muslim in Hindu India
By Ziya Us Salam
HarperCollins
pp. 313; Rs 599

Tags: indian muslims, islam, narendra modi, bjp
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi