By Syed Ali Mujtaba
India is undergoing a rhetorical shift. This trend is glaringly visible since the nation is engaged in the Covid-19 war and the communal virus bubbling across the length and breadth of the country. It appears that while government is fighting the Covid-19 war, the Hindus and Muslims have their own scores to settle.
Ever since Markaz – Corona linkage has surfaced, the Hindu- Muslim hatred is blatantly at display. All and sundry are rebuking at Muslims as if the entire community is responsible for the Markaz lapses. If one goes by the media reports, one gets the impression that Muslims have become the biggest headache for the Hindu community.
The Mrakaz- Corona debate has made it evident how the charade of secularism was overlaid on the Indian society for so long time. Now that cloak is shed and beneath it the societal truth of bitter social relationship is out in open. As one can see the social tension in India is bursting at its seams. And to such developments the blind eye of the ruling elite is quite puzzling. Their conspiracy of silence has made many think where is this Muslim game heading in India?
There is a long history to it that goes back to 1947, but ever since the current government has come to power in 2014, Indian Muslims are drifting at a much faster pace.
It all started with the condoning the crime of mob lynching of Muslims for the cow protection. The triple talaq’ issue torpedoes the Muslim personal law. The Babar Masjid judgment was an appeasement to the majority community. The abrogation of article 370 and 35 A, and then the announcement of the promulgation of the citizenship laws were all part of the same chain events that points to a rhetorical shift India is making with a clear agenda to marginalize the Indian Muslims.
Some equate these developments in India with those in Spain some 500 years ago when Muslims were exterminated from that country in 1612. How that was done is being studied by some radical Hindus who want to replicate the ‘Spanish model’ on the Indian Muslims and exterminate them from India.
What is Spanish model and how it is being implemented in India?
Muslims ruled over Spain for 780 years from 712 AD to 1492 AD. Subsequently, political power slipped out of their hands and in next 120 years they had to Spain where they lived for almost 800 years.
In order to understand this we have to have a clear knowledge about the Spanish society. Muslims in Spain were divided into three categories: (i) the descendants of the Arabs, (ii) descendants of Muslim fathers and Spanish mothers (iii) and locals who adopted Islamic faith.
In India some similar categorization of Muslims exists. 1) descendants of those who came from foreign lands ii) offspring of Muslims and locals iii) and locals who adopted Islamic faith.
In Spain after the “Granada War” ended the Nasrid dynasty the last relic of Islamic rule. After that some among the top category of Muslims left Spain, and some chose to live in Spain. They were subsequently targeted as ‘foreigners” as it is happening in India and are called ‘Babur ke aulad.’
In the second category, the offspring of Muslim-Christian parentage were ridiculed. Their lives and property was under constant attack. They were subjected to ‘Muslim whistling’ and fear was instilling in them to revert to Christianity, if they wished to save their skin. As in India the Spanish Muslims were told this was a temporary phenomenon as they got constitutional rights but the ground reality was quite different as it is now in India.
In the third category Spanish Muslims who converted from Christianity to Islam were persuaded to reconvert to Christianity. They were told that since their ancestors were forced to become Muslims they should revert to their old faith as there was no coercion or fear left. It is the same kind of thing happening in India and its echo are found in ‘Ghar Wapsi’ campaign.
In Spain, the government made deliberate policies for the marginalization of Muslims. Arabic was removed from the administration; schools attached to mosques were only asked to give religious teachings. Lessons in history were rewritten. Muslim rule was dubbed as barbaric. Contribution of Muslims to the development of Spain was blacked out. Muslim houses were constantly searched for anti-national activity. Islamic law was declared illegal. Marriages performed in the Islamic way were directed to be registered.
In Spain there was no political leadership of the Muslim, no organization to protect them, the Muslim intelligentsia left the country due to hostile environment. Only religious leaders were left but due to adverse situation they had to leave Spain in 1612.
In compare the method adopted by Spain’s rulers it can be said that many developments taking place in India looks like a complete replica of the Spanish model. The periodic communal riots are one such example. In the earlier years of communal riots, Muslims resisted and fought pitched battles on the streets with police coming late to the scene. Then gradually the riots became one-sided affair, Muslims being the losers as police playing partisan role.
Muslims history is disappearing from the Indian syllabus. A great martyr like Tippu Sultan who fought against the colonial rule is now made a controversial figure. Whereas the name of Tantia Tope, who fought not for India but for his own pension, and Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, who fought for her adopted son’s heir-ship to the throne, are being glorified.
Urdu, which holds the same place in India as Arabic was in Spain, has been eased out. In north India where Urdu is the mother tongue of the Muslims, are making the children learn Hindi so they can be assimilated with the larger society. Some Muslims who are voluntarily going to madrasas to study Urdu and Arabic are taking refuge in religious activities and have distanced themselves from the common Muslims.
There is no middle class among the Muslims in India. Muslim elite are away from the Muslim masses. They are more comfortable with the Hindus, living in non-Muslim localities and cutting themselves away from the Muslims masses. As such the gulf between the educated rich Muslims and poor Muslim masses is widening every day in India.
On the political front, Muslim electoral constituencies are divided horizontally and vertically in India so that Muslims don’t have an effective voting power anywhere in the country. Any move to organize Muslims is branded as communal and any one flirting with such idea is called ‘anti-national’. Such mockery of democracy goes on in India.
Muslim masses are left rudderless. Among them leadership is not allowed to flourish. Their ultra-secular Muslim leaders are holding on to the tails of the Hindu leadership to survive in the so called secular political parties.
What is left in India is the theological leadership that is trying to maintain the cultural identity of the Muslims. But they are also under constant attack. The cries of Personal Law amendment and its replacement with common civil code pose a big challenge to the theological leadership and they are facing pressure from both within and outside the community. Remember what happened to ‘Desh Bacho, Deen Bacho tehrik.’
What comes out clearly from this discussion is Indian Muslims are constantly being subjected to the replication of the Spanish model. They are living in fear but in hopes that everything will be fixed one day or other in their favor. But these are wishful thinking that is not going to take the community anywhere.
It is high time the Muslim intelligentsia rises to the occasion and come up with some counter measures to check the Spanish model being replicated in India. It has to be understood that religion does not protect its followers; it is the followers that protect the religion. In the given situation it is the Indian Muslims who alone can save themselves from the incursion of the Spanish model being thrust upon them. How they will do it is another tale for another day to tell.
Note: This is a summary of a long editorial in ‘Dalit Voice,’ May 16-31, of 1999 with substantial changes to make it contextual.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com