Indian Muslims and Politics of Exclusion

A Bengali Indian Muslim family living in Assam, India. Photo by Vishal Arora.

By Shahzad Hussain

India has been a diverse country and members of the Indian constituent assembly also endorsed this diversity , and the provisions were accordingly added to the constitution to sustain and nourish the diverse groups.

Gandhi and Ambedkar had envisioned India as a country where every one could enjoy rights and liberties irrespective of their religion , ethnicity , caste and other similar grounds

Modi’s emphatic re-election victory makes inevitable something that was long feared : the transformation of India from secular democracy to Hindu majoritarian state , where attempts are being made to assimilate minorities especially Muslims.

Muslims , in number of aspects were deprived before the B.J.P led N.D.A regime as well, but the ‘politics of exclusion’ got uptick since BJP came to power. BJP promoted ‘politics of Othering’  and didn’t take any strong measure to erase the notion of ‘Binary’  from the society .

Number of facts like Mob Lynching,  triple talaq , Unconstitutional abrogation of Article 370 ,SC’s Verdict on Ram Jan am Bhoomi _ Babri Masjid land dispute ,   and CAA  can be cited as examples to support the argument that there is politics of exclusion when it comes to Muslims in India.

Mob lynching is a prevailing crime across India ,  Most often the victims of which are non other than the Muslims . There is a need to pass law prohibiting the mob lynching because the current law contained in the I.P.C in section 302 ( Murder ) , 307 ( attempt to murder ) is not sufficient to meet the incidents of mob lynching for various reasons. If the Government was so  desperate to pass NRC,  CAB ,and NPR,  why it didn’t pass the ‘Protection from lynching bill 2017’ . This show case the double standards of government. It should be noted that private member ‘ Sri K.T.S  Tulsi, senior advocate and member of Rajya Sabha had introduced Bill number 44 of 2017 ” protection from Lynching bill 2017’ in the Rajya Sacha on 29 December 2017 but the said bill has not yet been passed. In mob lynching people take law in their own hands and act as jury.

The leading national daily – ‘The Hindu’ on 27 – June 2019 reported that in Jaharkhand the victim ( Tabrez Ansari) was targeted by the culprits on the suspicion of a theft on 18th June 2019 . Despite him pleading that he was innocent and should be spared . They beat him up badly . He was rescued by the police in the early hours of the next day and taken into hospital for treatment . Following the theft complaint by the villagers against him , he was arrested and produced in court,  who sent him to jail on 22th, his condition certainly worsened and he was admitted in the district hospital where he died.

There was a debate on ‘ INDIA NEWS’ TV channel regarding the Jaharkhand lynching case on 24th June 2019. Most of the penalists stated that recently there have been more than 250 cases of mob lynching in India out of which 38% related to suspected slaughtering of cows . It was also told in the debate that about 50% victims were Muslims.

There are cases where Muslims  were lynched for not chanting ‘ Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘ Jai Hanuman ‘ . When people are lynched for slaughtering cow , it apparently means that majority community plays the ‘politics of beef’ , where it wants to create monopoly on export of beef . And when state is not punishing the lynchers so it means state is helping the lynchers and state is technically participating.  There is a universal norm that if you are witnessing a crime and you are not making an effort to stop it , you are also participating in committing it.

Legislation on triple talak which BJP claims has increased the respect of Muslim women .  It can be problematised by asking that why the similar repressive and unjust practices on women in other religions including the Hinduism  were not targeted ?It  can also be problematised by questioning who will look after and feed the family when you are imprisoning the husband – bread earner.

The way article 370 was abrogated in an Unconstitutional manner was an attempt to change the demography of Muslim majoritarian state . Since the matter is sub-judice so it is not appropriate to say much about it .

In India there are personal law boards and Muslims have AIMPLB ( All India Muslim Personal Law Board ) . The apex court of the country while giving Verdict on the century old ‘ Ram janam Bhoomi – Babri Masjid ‘ dispute  didn’t take the views of AIMPLB into account . Hence hurted the sentiments of india’s largest national minority  i,e The Muslims.

Since lakhs of people belonging to different religions were left out under NRC in Assam.  In some cases father was included and son was left out for the want of documents . It reminds me of Mahua Moitra , a Trinamol M.P , who while debating this issue said, ” In a country where ministers can’t produce degrees to show that they graduated from college, you expect disposed poor people to show papers as proof that they belong to this country”. India has the plan to have Pan India NRC by 2024.

Coming to the widely protested and criticised act across India – CAA . It is aimed at ensuring that all the non-Muslims missing from NRC  are granted citizenship. Assam’s home minister says that 5.4 lakh Bangali Hindus , who were missing from NRC would get citizenship under this act . CAA provides indian citizenship to six prosecuted immigrant religious communities vis a vis Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jain,  Buddhist and Parsi having emigrated from Pakistan , Bangladesh and Afghanistan from 1972 to 2014 . Muslims are excluded here as well . This act is violation of right to equality under article 14 & 15 of the Indian constitution . It is just vote bank politics and wrong perceptions regarding Muslims.

Swaraj Abhiyan chief Yogendra Yadau in a discussion on the amended citizenship act and the NRC at the faculty of law in Delhi University on 23rd December 2019 said that the new citizenship act is based on religion which is against the constitution.

There are people living in India who have emigrated from Myanmar and Sri Lanka as well . Since only the Rohingya Muslims emigrated from Myanmar that is why Myanmar was not listed among the countries whose people are going to get indian citizenship  under CAA . Sri Lanka was also left out as the Tamils are mostly settled in the non-BJP govt states . BJP being afraid of loosing vote bank kept Tamils at bay .

Though I don’t represent any political ideology but I wouldn’t shy away of taking a stand on the questions of accommodation . As long as India is not declared ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and as long as the words ‘secular and democratic’ remain there in the preamble of the Indian constitution , one has every right to question the people in power.

Basically BJP is looking at Muslims through the prism of ‘essentialism ‘ and hence paints all Muslims with the same brush and treats them as second class citizens . No doubt there have been a few  terrorists from the Muslim religious community as well , but that doesn’t mean all Muslims are terrorists. This can be best understood if one watches the Bollywood movie – ‘ My Name Is Khan’.

It is a general observation that the minorities in India – particularly Indian Muslims suffer more in terms of socio-economic and political disadvantages rather than legal disadvantages . The Sachar Committee’s ( 2006) report has largely vindicated this reality.

To conclude I would say actually present ruling party has failed to keep the promises made with people before parliament elections,  now it is resorting to CAA,NPR. …..to divert the people from their basic issues . It  is othering Muslims  due to the bad perceptions spread by its fire branded orators. So civil society , academicians and scholars have the responsibility to perform the socratic function of ‘speaking truth to power’. The state must shud its egoism & take steps to create sense of belonging among Muslims by protecting their rights and liberties.

Author is pursuing Masters in political science at Central University of Kashmir. He is also secretary of CUK Students Federation & associated with J&K RTI Movement.

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