Before the BJP came to power the discussion on the campus used to be around Muslim communities’ educational development, employment and the kind of poverty the people suffer from. That was also the period in which the Sachar Committee Report was in every Muslim intellectual’s – man or woman’s – mind. Now I see more fear and silence among them. Why?
Before the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, there was no indication in the election campaign of the Prime Ministerial candidate – Narendra Modi – that the Muslim question that remained on its agenda for a long time would be brought into play in so many ways after coming to power. After the Party came to power, within no time Article 370, the resettlement of Kashmiri pundits back in Kashmir, and beef food bogey became major issues. The cow protection issue has haunted Muslims for decades. The beef ban in many BJP-ruled states put them not only in fear of food security, but many of them lost small businesses around cattle, meat, leather and bone sales and purchases. Unemployment among them has gone up to unknown heights. The lynching of Aklaq in Uttar Pradesh created a scary situation among Muslims all over India.
I have been working at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, for about six years. Here Muslim men and women constitute the main body of teaching faculty, non-teaching staff and student community, as the Urdu language has been only nurtured by Muslims after independence. Even in the Nizam-ruled region, where every other community people learnt Urdu, they no longer hold on to Urdu. The Reddy and Velama Zamindars who used to read and write in Urdu have given up. From this region, only Muslims sustained what they call the Urdu Zuban. So my interaction at this university is with Urdu Urdu-speaking Muslim community.
The Muslim men and women who work in this university live with diverse dress codes, lifestyles, and hairstyles. There are women who wear modern dress, maintain other modes of body style and drive their own cars. Even in a big university like Osmania University, I have not seen so many women driving their own cars, working till late in the night. But they do that in MANUU. A woman professor worked as a registrar. A burkha-clad woman professor worked as provost of the hostels of both boys and girls for quite some time. She has also contested for the presidency of MANUUTA. In Osmania where there are more women teachers mainly Hindu, never took up the provost job, as it involves, at times, late-night stays. In the neighbouring Hyderabad Central University, there are more women staff members (mainly from upper castes), even educated abroad. But nobody has taken up that job.
Some girl students even cover their whole face, except their eyes, but they study well. There are men who always live in traditional dress and have beards, wear sherwani, pyjama and so on. I know two very conservative-looking people – one woman and a man – but their expertise in computer operation is unmatched. There are men who wear more modern dresses than men of other communities. I tried to find out whether there were any polygamous men among teaching and non-teaching men. Hardly any. I know that there are divorced women but they are quite confident and professional. Before the BJP came to power the discussion on the campus used to be around Muslim communities’ educational development, employment, and the kind of poverty the people suffer from. That was also the period in which the Sachar Committee Report was in every Muslim intellectual’s – man or woman – mind. Now I see more fear and silence among them. Why?
The Kashmir crisis has deepened after the election. Blood is flowing on an everyday basis. After the Uri incident, every Muslim began to be suspected as if he or she were a Pakistani agent. After the surgical operation, the celebration appeared not because the terrorist dens on the border were attacked but seemed to be against every Indian Muslim. The mood was that of a lesson being taught. This message was sent quite consciously by the sweet-distributing squads.
The sudden discovery that every Muslim woman is facing Triple Talaq and the urgency to bring about a Uniform Civil Code to save Muslim women scare them more. One case of one Muslim woman in the Supreme Court is being projected as if every Muslim woman after the BJP came to power is facing the Tripple Talaq and the UCC is the solution.
Now the discussion among them in small groups, lunch meetings, and “chai pe churcha” is not about their “vikas” but about their “fear”. The women teachers and non-teachers I talk to tell me that these are not our major problems. They say, “Our major problems are education in English and Urdu and jobs in the market. They further say “safety in the general society not just in the Muslim society”.
I see many of them feel lost in the present situation. They are lost because Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson of the National Women’s Commission and all other ruling Hindu women keep telling the nation that they are worried about the divorced Muslim women more than the Dalit women getting raped on a daily basis. They are also not at all worried about the young and old Hindu widows living a pre-Rajarammohan Roy life in the Varanasi rat hole called Vrindavan.
Every Muslim man feels that the Hindutva brigade treats them as if they are the soldiers on the other side of LOC fighting for Pakistan. Why did the situation change after the 2014 elections so drastically? In the leading TV shops, every Muslim man is buying – particularly in some English TV shops – bombs and guns. Every Muslim woman is selling a Talaq certificate and begging for protection from her cruel husband. Why wasn’t this also done before the 2014 elections? Do Muslim women of India need Hindu Vijaya Mallyas and Christian Donald Trumps to protect them from Triple Talaqs and bad husbands?
There is another campaign at large in the morning walks, lazy chai shops or yoga training centres where the Hindutva brigade’s old and young men talk about how Islam has destroyed Bharat. Many of them use the Muslim-designated name of the nation – “Hindustan” – in danger. Unfortunately in all Muslim meetings, this is the name they also use for this nation without knowing that this can be a source of the amendment to the constitution that its existing name India – Bharat, should be changed to Hindustan.
For decades Muslim politicians and intellectuals were self-destructive and now they lost all the courage to combat these forces who actually participate in “khoon pe charcha’’. The Muslim intellectuals for long were busy with secular “coffee pe churcha” when their community was facing the music of “khoon pe churcha”. They never even wanted to talk about the abolition of untouchability or permanent widowhood in Hindu society. They worried it would hurt the Hindu sentiments.
It was actually the Muslim Irani hotels that initiated the common drink-and-eat culture in India. Hyderabad would provide you with any number of examples where the Brahmin Bhojan Coffee hotels did not allow anybody except the Brahmins to eat and drink inside. In the spiritual domain, the Muslim Durghas allowed all castes to touch and worship the shrine when no Hindu temple was allowing the Dalits and OBCs. They do not want to make a law that all spiritual places – Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Sikh – ban caste practices. Why do we not initiate a Uniform Religion Code (URC), that will ensure human justice, which is a pre-requisite of gender justice?
Excerpted with permission from The Clash of Cultures: Productive Masses Vs Hindutva – Mullah Conflicting Ethics, Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, Telangana Publications.