Author: Saadut
•7:53 PM

‘Muslim rioter damages war memorial enclosure glass’ screamed social networks, the stress here was not on the rioter but on his religion.  This incident after a protest in Mumbai on Saturday which was being held against the killings of Muslims in Assam and Myanmar, turned violent. In the ensuring violence two protestors were killed and 52 injured. While media and social networks highlighted the arson by “Muslim rioters” none of them expressed any concern about the loss of lives (were the killed even part of rioting mob, they don’t know).  Soon across these networks the “Muslim rioter” tag was spreading like wild fire, uncontrolled and used by Islamophobes of all shades. Equating religion with a criminal act was an attempt to demean a faith, not the criminal involved in the act. An arsonist and a rioter is a criminal, nothing else. Whatever be the reason for protest, violence is not the way. And this was not the first time Mumbai had been taken to ransom by rioting and hooliganism, for decades now workers of Shiv Sena and its splinter party MNS (Maharashtra Navnirman Sena) have been exercising muscle power in Mumbai. These right winged groups often seen not only to indulge in acts of vandalism (especially against north Indians) but also have been frequently attacking the media. But in none of these reoccurring cases the media and social networks has not labeled these rioters by their religion, nowhere will you see them classified as ‘Hindu arsonists’.  This bias against Muslims being so prevalent that not so recently the Delhi head of a national newspaper tweeted malicious propaganda against Islam (original tweet came from a known Islam hater Tarek Fateh). While the originating social network handle later accepted his mistake in falsifying and apologized, his Delhi ‘hate franchisee’ would not accept the mistake and continued his vile tirade. And what fair reporting can be expected from a media whose head openly expresses disdain for Islam and Muslims!

This prejudice and contempt against a particular religion has seeped so deep within the society that whenever there is any incident of violence or terrorism in India, Muslims come in the first line of fire for both investigating agencies and media. The terror and violent labels for Muslims are far too convenient for them to use; justice can take its own slow pace. Wrongful detention of innocent Muslims for years together, be it in the Malegoan case or the Mecca Masjid case happened because of prejudices against the community, not because of any proof of their involvement in the cases. Initially labeled with the terror tag, these innocents were released only after their lives had been destroyed held for years behind bars. The same media and social networks who had trumpeted ‘Muslim terror’ in these cases, assumed a criminal silence when it was proven that innocent Muslims had been made scapegoats in these (and many more) cases. 

Such biases against Muslims are seen in other parts of the world too, but what makes it special about ‘Secular’ India is that India has the third largest Muslim population in the world and the world's largest Muslim-minority population. After Hinduism, Islam is the second most practiced religion in India, but unfortunately it is also the most biased against here. Many Muslims in India view being subject to separate set of laws and regulations often treated worse than 2nd class citizens, while the Hindu majority is treated differently. A Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) report of 2011 clearly pointed to an extreme bias against Muslims by Maharashtra police. For a state where Muslims were known to account for 10.6 % of the total population, they comprised of 32.4 per cent of the prison population. Most of those arrested were behind bars for just being Muslims, flimsy charges pressed against them, while charge sheets had been filed in only 47.4 % of the cases.
Even Delhi police was not behind its Muslim prejudices, often accused of hunting Muslims and implicating them falsely. Seven ‘terrorists’ nabbed by Delhi Police after a “fake encounter" in 2005 and falsely implicated were acquitted by Delhi High Court in August, 2012. Delhi Police are known to be making career by falsely implicating Muslims and if Indian Muslims are used as ‘terror fodder’ by Indian security agencies, what could be the fate of Kashmiri Muslims in India? Of the numerous cases propped up against innocent Kashmiri’s, cases like that of aeronautical engineer Imran Kirmani stand out. Such cases were not only staged meticulously but also in the understanding that a Muslim tag combined with a Kashmiri origin was enough to label them terrorists. Held by Delhi Police and presented as a ‘LeT Module’ in November 2006, Kirmani was only to be proven innocent after more than 4 years behind bars, after a career was lost and a life ruined. Such victims are always ignored by the state without any rebuilding or rehabilitation support, left for their own oblivion. And then there was the infamous Batla house encounter which has more questions for Delhi police than answers. 

In this race for prejudices against Muslims other cities are also not far behind. Bangalore, Bhopal and Kolkatta and other cities have seen same biases against the Muslim community. A documentary ‘After the Storm’ highlighted the lives of seven Muslims who were falsely implicated and accused by security agencies of anti-national activities only to be acquitted by the courts after their lives had been destroyed. Such youth, even after acquittal were not able to get back to normal living with the ‘terror tag’ hanging like a stigma on their head and prejudices continuing. The appalling socioeconomic deprivation, official neglect and state denial faced by India’s Muslim minority was also reflected by the Sachar commission report. The devastating indictment of bourgeois rule in India has not been able to translate into any government action into providing justice to these minorities. 

More often than not the victims belong to the lower or the lower middle strata of the society with little or no social security for self or families. The ‘privileged class’ of Muslims in India often are seen to ignore the condition of these victims, trying themselves to race ahead of the prejudiced system in India. These ‘privileged class’ not only ignore the condition of the larger section of deprived Muslims in India, they ironically also present themselves as the real face of Muslims in TV studios and social networks, often proclaiming to adhere to some ‘Indian Islam’ (does that preach in ignoring the truth on ground?). A group within these ‘privileged class’ not only does not condemn such acts but in fact becomes an alibi by being in constant refusal of such prejudices, self arbitrating clean chit to persecuting agencies and systems on social networks and media channels. If well cultivated system prejudices were not enough, social prejudices in India against Muslims have been ever growing. The bias runs deep not only in education, career opportunities, social amenities but also housing where Muslims are clearly refused to be let in.  Housing societies and property dealers are known to clearly refuse entertain Muslims in major cities in India, in many cases even higher class affluent and celebrity Muslims are known to have faced such prejudices. The apartheid against Muslims in India is not only growing within the system but also exponentially growing within the society. 

In a country where media, parliamentarians, politicians, social groups debate and seek rehabilitation of minorities from Pakistan just because they are Hindus, they forget their own extreme bias against minorities in India. A country where wounds of Gujarat and Malegoan have yet not healed, where demolition of Babri Masjid was celebrated by political parties and sections of society; where justice seems increasingly ever elusive for its own Muslim population, what future can it hold for Kashmiri Muslims who have otherwise also been treated as unwanted aliens and excess baggage in India? 

And a state which has for long ignored and disdained its own minorities, escapes to worrying about minorities in neighboring countries.

14th August, 2012

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On August 18, 2012 at 3:03 PM , Imran said...

You have aptly described the irony Indian Muslims are in. Only if they gather guts enough to assert themselves.

On February 27, 2013 at 2:33 PM , the publisher said...

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