By Ashiq. C.K.
Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and a second to none politician of un-divided India, few years after he was addressed as “the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity” by one of the most revered politicians of Indian Freedom struggle, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, called the mainstream Indian media in 1940s “Hindu Press”, given the fact that media played into the hands of upper echelons of Indian Hindu society that necessitated along with other social and political elements then prevailed in India, the inevitable division of Indian mainland into India and Pakistan. After the British unscrupulously completed the task of dividing India into two independent nations and quit India in August 1947, history of Indian independence written from Indian side cast its aspersions on the secular credentials of Muhammed Ali Jinnah and his party which was named after All India Muslim League(AIML). In all history writings barring a few, Jinnah was portrayed as a villain of the paly. Qaide A’azam (Great leader), as Jinnah was popularly known among his party men, refused to join AIML in the beginning citing his objection to a Muslim party that may end up in worsening already shaken Hidnu-Muslim unity in the country. A decade before he officially enrolled in AIML which was formed in 1906, Jinnah joined Indian National Congress party, political face of Indian freedom struggle headed by its de facto leader Mahatma Gandhi. Moving along with Congress party forward, Jinnah came across the grim fact of Hinduisation efforts of Congress party by a few rightwing leaders and subsequent otherisation of Muslims and their interests that compelled him to rethink about AIML party. But during most of his time in his political career that spanned over four and half decades, he stood for an amicable political settlement between Hindu and Muslim communities of India. Jinnah or AIML party never officially endorsed the idea of an independent Muslim nation until a resolution demanding a separate Quasi-Independent state (under a federal union) demarcating borders of Muslim majority areas of northern and north eastern regions of undivided India (neither the name Pakistan nor a complete independence was demanded) was passed by AIML party conference held in Lahore in 1940. This resolution came close on the heels of elections to the central and state legislative assemblies were held in which Muslims were relegated and substantially humiliated despite AIML performed comparatively well in many parts of the country. Congress party which enjoyed majority Hindu support tried by hook and crook to defame AIML and win the freedom on its own.
Looking back to the political developments that led to the formation of Pakistan from 2020, Jinnah’s demand for a separate Muslim nation partially stands the rational test. India became an Independent secular democratic republic in 1947 prompting a notable chunk of Muslim population of Undivided India especially from south and central India to decide to stay back and continue their part in Independent “secular” India. But the stigma of partition, a phrase commonly used to denote division of Indian mainland into India and Pakistan, continued to cast aspersion on each step of every single Muslim in India. He was bound to convince “Hindu common sense” with the motive behind any political or non-political ventures he pursued. For any terrorist attacks anywhere in the country, he was held responsible. His feeble voice went unheard and grew incapable of asserting his identity either politically or socially owing to this witch hunting led by mainstream media and authorities where upper-class Hindu majority dominates the play. In any political debate or discourse, the first thing being demanded by the “neutral” liberals from Muslim end, to denounce terror outfits and to prove his agency of being a “secular” Muslim. Being a Muslim in letter and spirit (by name and practice) never seemed appealing to the “secular” non- Muslim public. The so called “liberals” are not an exception.
In India courts were believed to be independent to an extent. But Supreme Court of India had passed a verdict to hang Afzal Guru, who was convicted in an attack on Indian parliament building in 2001, despite many allegations of the flaws in the court trials and denial of proper legal assistance to the culprit by many legal experts, the Supreme Court ruled “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation, and the “collective conscience” of society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender”. Here it comes the question how the “collective conscience” of Indian society is being formed?, and how far the feelings of Indian Muslims are being represented in the so called “collective Conscience”. Later on, many incidents including the recent arrest of a senior police official from Kashmir shed lights upon the intriguing back room stories of Parliament attack. Moving on, the most controversial case of all communal tensions in India was Babri masjid issue. While Muslims argued for the ownership of the site with archeological evidences of having Islamic religious edifice in the site where Babri Masjid stood for more than four centuries, Rightwing Hindus put their claim over the masjid based on myths and belief. The Supreme Court of India in an unprecedented mode favored the Hindu community and its rightwing perpetrators by invoking its discretionary powers over the presented evidences.
After Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), political front of rightwing Hindu organizations, came to power after general elections in 2014, the government started officially endorsing “otherising” Muslims. Each developmental projects, welfare activities or any legislative attempts covertly targeted Muslim minority in the country. Among a slew of legislative attempts it brought in the parliament, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) mandating a religious test for obtaining Indian citizenship became the last one. The act offers citizenship to anyone who came to India till 2014 from neighboring countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh but with a condition of being a non-Muslim. At a look it may seem little harming but when it is viewed in tandem with revising National Population Register and National Registry of Citizens, the conclusion is clear; A notable chunk of Muslim population could easily be rendered stateless owing to their inability to prove Indianness in a way that authorities wanted them to prove. Given the context that most of the rural population of Indian states are illiterate and do not manage documents for their homeland lineage proving their ancestors were in India before 1971, this act will outcast a great number of India’s 1.3 billion population but with a safety valve of CAA which would allow in all ousted citizens from National Citizen Registry except Muslims. The result being, millions of Muslims are potentially stateless.
A couple of weeks back to the outbreak of Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic in the region, The president of The U.S paid an official visit to India in the last February. While Donald Trump was hosted at the Presidential house of Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi and chauffeured around the capitol, the northeastern part of the capital city was witnessing worst of communal riots it had ever since the independence of India. The riot claimed 53 lives of which two third were Muslims according to official reports, while unofficial reports confirmed the death toll surpassed 100 and most of them were Muslims. What is sickening in this riot is that no national mainstream media either print or visual didn’t dare to defend the right of living guaranteed to the deceased Muslims who were engaged in a peaceful sit-in protest against the controversial CAA and its discriminatory nature on the ground of religion. In continuance of hate mongering of BJP leaders against Muslims in the just concluded Delhi state elections, a Hindu mob under a lost candidate in the election started pelting stones on the protesters while the police instead of making swift actions against the stone pelters, guarded the violent mob and became literally lethargic.
Last but not least, when the whole world was unitedly fighting the spread of COVID-19 during the last few weeks, while Indian media was busy identifying Muslim COVID-19 and non-Muslim COVID-19. Some hate mongering rightwing media outfits went to an extent of “exploring” Corona Jihad perpetrated by a sect of Muslims in India. In the days that followed evacuation of number of Muslims who attended a religious congregation in New Delhi at the headquarters of Thabligi Jamat, some of them were tested positive for COVID-19 later, the media tirelessly created an image of deliberate attempts by Muslims to spread Corona virus among Hindus. Subsequently, “Collective conscience” of Indian society became active and started witch hunting of Muslims across the breadth and depth of the country. A man was denied entry into the hospital in the home state of PM Narendra Modi, Gujarat, where he had been undergoing dialysis for more than two years, because of his being Muslim. A Muslim lady gave birth to her child into death after she was refused medical helps by hospital just because she happened to be a Muslim.
Rohith Vemula was a PhD student in the university of Hyderabad who committed suicide allegedly because of physical and mental harassment he had to face in the university due to the “low” Hindu cast he belonged to. In his suicide note he wrote that “my birth is my fatal accident”. Are the Muslims in India really any different?.
The author is head of media desk in a foreign mission based in New Delhi and writer)