Published On:11 October 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Origins of hostility to Indian Muslims

By Maryam Imran

Recent anti-Muslim riots in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh (UP) are yet another experiment in Hindutva laboratory. In 2002, the success of an earlier such experiment in Gujarat had helped Hindutva proponents consolidate their electoral victory not only in Gujarat but also in several other Indian states. Claim to Gujarat’s throne by them is thus far unrivalled encouraging the blood thirsty scientists to replicate their success story now in UP. In Hindutva annals, Gujarat stands as a shinning monument of Hindu political unity since in 2002 Hindu extremists had managed not only to break the indifference of Dalits and other depressed classes towards communal calls by Brahman dominated Sangh Parivar but had also pushed them to an animated joint action against Muslims- thus exposing hapless Muslim community to a united, aggressive and violent Hindu front. For lower castes it was a disgraceful shift from Ambedkar’s enlightened humanism to Sarvarkar’s rabid communalism.

Rural UP and possibly other Hindi belt states are going to be the future testing grounds for Hindu Rashtra theories of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bhartia Janata Party (BJP) and their associates. Hindutva gangsters will now put their skills to breaking ethnic bonds between Muslims and Hindus belonging to Jat, Rajput and Gujjar communities in Northern India. These bonds have so far prevented violence based on religion in UP’s rural areas.

With elections in India now few months away, UP is primary arena for political muscle flexing. It sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha, the single largest slab. It is considered to be the cradle of Hindu faith and ethos and an unavoidable power broker in India’s politics. No wonder, Amit Shah, an accused murderer of two Muslims in 2002 Gujarat riots and a close associate of Narendra Modi, has been sent to the state to organize BJP before elections, perhaps with the mandate to experiment whether Hindutva could drive a wedge particularly between rural Muslims and Hindus who traditionally do not fight on communal lines. Joint Hindu action as was seen in Gujarat can help defeat Samajwadis and Congressites in the forthcoming elections despite their efforts to woo Muslims. Welded out of anti-Muslim sentiments, Hindus could possibly vote enbloc for BJP while Muslims who voted in large numbers for Samajwadi may respond with a vote divided this time among Samajwadi, Congress and Bahujanis. In that case, the appeal of Muslim joint electoral action against Hindu extremists will be sadly lost.

Whenever Muslims are made victims of Hindu chauvinism in the largest democracy one wants to understand the roots of this hostility which refuses to go away and which once led to the partition of India. This hostility manifested for the first time in anti-Muslim riots of 1893. A decade earlier it was expressed in one of the most distinct landmarks in India’s anti-Muslim politics i.e, Bankim Chatterjee’s novel Anandamath that contains infamous song, Vande Mataram , widely considered as one of the reasons for Muslim separatism in South Asia. India’s secular leaders had adopted Vande Mataram as their national anthem after establishment of the Congress Ministries in Muslim minority provinces in 1937.

Anandamath can rightly be considered as one of the earliest organized expressions of Hindu communalism that propagated aggression and violence against Muslims. It is nothing but a precursor of the hate literature of today’s Hindutva inspired thugs. In today’s political environment, the novel deepens the understanding of communal politics of India.

The latest translation of the novel has been rendered by Julius Lipner, a Cambridge Scholar. It was published by the Oxford University Press. Translated twice earlier, this is its third notable translation. While the first translation in the early 20 th Century had given an honest description of hate and venom it contains, the second in the 40s was politically correct. It expunged all references to Muslims to enable the Congress leadership to sell it to “all Indians”.

The novel is based on the 18th century Sanyasee rebellion of Bengal. It is structured like a Hindi movie with assorted heroes and heroines singing songs ( Vande Mataram is one of them) and leading gangs against foreigners. By foreigners the author means Muslims who are honoured with epithets such as “bearded degenerates, pigs and rascals”. Their cities, towns and villages are referred to as “ pigsties”. The British are revered as “valorous, friendly” people even while they take punitive actions against sadhus-sanyasies for their banditry.

As regards original Sanyasee rebellion, its exploits were mostly limited to kidnapping, loot, plunder and banditry. It may be an exciting fable, the reality is less so.

One can argue that timeframe for the novel’s story is Mir Jaffer’s lawless, anarchic and bandit-infested Bengal and the problem it might have created for the local people—thus description of Muslims as foreigners. However, the novel is not only against foreigner-looking Persian speaking urban Muslim elite of Bengal in large cities such as Murshidabad and Dhaka, but it is also against Bangla speaking rural Muslims ignoring the fact that rural Islam in South Asia is essentially a home-grown phenomenon resulting mostly from conversions.

Clearly, the author had a specific political agenda when he weaved the story hundred years after Jaffer and Sanyassees (in 1881). He, even, clarified in initial chapters that Jaffer was unable to administer Bengal because the British had arrogated Diwani authority to collect taxes. But, he chooses to praise the Brits as friendly people helping Hindus get rid of “swines”, i.e. Muslims. In any case, Jaffer doesn’t appear anywhere in the novel except in the reference to the loss of diwani authority. What distinctly emerges in every chapter is a plan to loot and plunder Muslim villages and property through pogroms and rioting—something very familiar even in the 21st century India. Lipner in his introduction, which is bigger than the novel, acknowledges its controversial nature and the far-reaching changes it brought about in the political thinking of modern India.

In 1882, when the novel had been authored, no one had even thought about separate identity of Muslims in India. Some of the leaders of the Indian National Congress which was established later in 1885, however, embraced the novel something like a holy Bible despite its strong communal character. The Novel was, therefore, a prime inspiration for both Congress leaders professing secularism (none of whom can condemn it even today) as well as RSS thugs who have now come to dominate every city, town and village of India through their social, cultural, religious and political sub-organizations. With modern technologies at their service, they can spread fake movies showing Muslims killing Hindus or mobile messages such as the one making rounds in Northern India these days— “Muslim se beti bachao, Gaye bachao” (save your daughter and mother cow from Muslims), and incite large scale trouble at a very short notice.

If India really wants to live up to its constitutional commitment to its minorities, it must ban these organizations and their hate-based politics. History bears witness that it is not merely high growth rates but also inclusive politics particularly encompassing depressed minorities that ensure sustained progress of a society. Continued vulnerability of a group as large as Indian Muslims does not augur well for the stability of the Indian Union as a whole. India should look inwards and understand its contradictions- one of which is simultaneous allegiance to the ideology of Ananandmath as well as secularism. It must make visible efforts to overcome them. Anti- Muslim riots in India and their political and ideological basis must also help understand modern-day skeptics particularly in Pakistan about the roots of two-nation theory.

[The writer is freelance journalist.]

(Courtesy: Pakistan Observer)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on October 11, 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 October 11, 2013. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

1 comments for "Origins of hostility to Indian Muslims"

  1. The roads, lanes and alleys have streams of animal blood flowing for day in every year on the day of Bakr-id. The leftover parts of killed animals' remain creates foul odours for weeks. All this while, we will be greeting one another with Eid Mubarak.

    Eid can bring its true meaning only, if it is a sacrifce free. Killing animals on the name of Allah or God display primitiveness in oneself. Please, encourage people to stop killing from now and make it a happy, peaceful and crueltyfree festival.

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