Published On:02 February 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Is India turning into a Hindu rashtra?

By Javed Anand

The Conclusions chapter of the book opens on an alarming, ominous note: “It is easy to think of the prospects of the Indian Muslims in gloomy terms. Long ago denied the sceptre, which many thought essential to their existence, and now suspected by many for their religion and regarded as second-class citizens, is there any future for them other than eventual absorption in the Hindu mass?

It’s a quote from the highly regarded scholar of Indian history, Percival Spear, from one of his writings in 1967.

That was nearly half-a-century ago. Before the communal riots in Meerut (1968), Ahmedabad (1969), Bhiwandi (1970) and elsewhere; years before communal violence entered the era of state-condoned, state-complicit, even state-sponsored pogroms and genocidal killings: Nellie (1983), Hashimpura (1987), Bhagalpur (1989), Ayodhya, Surat and Mumbai (1992-’93), Gujarat (2002).

What’s the ground reality today? In hindsight, was Spear being alarmist or prophetic? The editors of Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation tell us that the empirical research findings encapsulated in the case studies brought together in the book offer “some elements of response” to Spear’s question. Read together, we do not get a simple yes or no answer. Read separately, the answer comes close to a disturbing “yes” in case of some cities. In others, hope survives.

The case studies cover an interesting mix of 11 cities categorised into three ideal types. One: the former Muslim capitals where the sharp post-Partition decline of the community is marked by identity politics — Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Bhopal. Two: cities that are “over-determined by communal violence and political (sometimes cultural) obliteration” — Mumbai, Ahmedabad. Three, cities where resilient cosmopolitanism is still in evidence — Bengaluru, Kozhikode and Cuttack. Aligarh and Jaipur fall outside these three categories. The reality of each city, the editors agree, is far more complex than the ideal types would indicate.

As the sub-title of the book itself suggests, and this is not the first time we are hearing of it, the marginalisation of Muslims is an undisputable fact. There’s ghettoisation too. (We are cautioned, however, to distinguish, analytically at least, between the enforced Muslim ghettos or “neighbourhoods of exile” of some cities from the self-selected “ethnic enclaves” in others). And there’s worse: “The extreme cases of riot prone areas suggest that the ‘absorption in the Hindu mass’, to use Spear’s words, may be the fate awaiting Muslims in (some) Indian cities.”

Not surprisingly, the most ominous signals emanate from Gujarat, the state under Narendra Modi’s rule. The sprawling Juhapura area in Ahmedabad where Muslims cutting across caste and class divides have been compelled to inhabit fully meets the definition of a ghetto. In trying circumstances, the community is doing its best to forge ahead. “Education” is its new mantra. But here is a worrisome observation from Christophe Jaffrelot and Charlotte Thomas, the contributors to the chapter on Ahmedabad: “The Muslim promoters of modern education in Juhapura are definitely playing down their religious identity, as if that’s the price to pay for being recognised as a full-fledged Indian citizen. Taken to its logical conclusion the process of cultural occultation will seal the fate of India’s multiculturalism”.

Thankfully, all has not been lost even in the saddest of cities. The researchers cite one happy example: “Since 1969 (when the city was consumed by a vicious communal conflagration), Ramrahim Nagar has not been affected by any of the Gujarat riots, including the 2002 pogrom”.
Read together, the case studies uncover three distinct “trajectories of marginalisation” of Muslims in Indian cities. As you move from city to city you realise that, one, the decline is more pronounced in some regions than others, two, Muslims are not evenly marginalised and, three, in the country’s social geography that affects Muslims, the Hindi belt and the West are one end of the spectrum, while the rest of India lies at the other end.

Who is to blame for the marginalisation of the Indian Muslims? The answer, the editors say, lies partly in history. The only ancestral skill the Muslim elite from north India and the princely states possessed was “a certain kind governing”, something they lost with the arrival of the British sarkar. The decline of Muslim artisans is another story. And unlike the Marwaris, not many from the Muslim business class progressed from trade to industry.

Interestingly, the study debunks the idea that Muslim lack of interest in modern education is among the major causes of their backwardness. “For the whole period 1891-1931, Muslims were well ahead of Hindus in terms of literacy in English and it is therefore doubtful that ‘Muslims found the process of adjustment to Western education particularly hard’.” Instead, the explanation lies in the caste-system among Muslims. Only a small section among them (ashraf) had access to education and even this thin layer got seriously depleted with Partition.

If that’s the social backdrop, “the deliberate marginalisation of the Muslims by the state” post-Independence and the intensified communal onslaught of the Sangh Parivar in recent decades are identified as factors behind the backward slide of the community.

Overall the book paints a grim picture of the reality of urban Muslims. But there are glimmers of hope in a new middle class emerging across cities, straining to forge ahead, turning to education with great enthusiasm. Sadly, as the editors point out, “education is one thing, employment another”.

The short message of the book is that a solution must be found soon to end both institutionalised discrimination and the recurring communal targeting of the community. As to the fears of “absorption (of Indian Muslims) in the Hindu mass”, the editors are not unaware of the counter-veiling pull of resurgent Islam.

(Courtesy: The Asian Age)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on February 02, 2013. Filed under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on February 02, 2013. Filed under , , , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

2 comments for "Is India turning into a Hindu rashtra?"

  1. India is a Hindu Rashtra.Pakistan is a Islamic State.India is secular because of Hindus.

  2. india is seclar because of INDIANS...

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