For all Indians the resurgence of India in recent years is an occasion of pride and joy. And so it is for the 140 million minority Muslims in India. It makes Indian Muslims proud to see their country become one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world. Also, a few Muslims have achieved positions of prestige in India and there are some success stories.
However it pains Muslims to find that most Muslims continue to be marginalized and stereotyped in India and often suspect in their nationalism, not to mention their utter social, economic and educational backwardness, far in excess of the national average. An overwhelming majority of todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Muslims are of the pro-independence generation. When someone doubts their nationalism or alleges that they may be sympathizers of Pakistan, just because they are Muslims, it causes them a lot of anguish.
In sixty years in post independence India, Muslims have continued to hear questions like, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now that they have Pakistan, what do the Muslims want?Ã¢â‚¬Â And then came the slogan, Ã¢â‚¬Å“If you have to live in India you have to worship Lord Rama.Ã¢â‚¬Â Even some otherwise enlightened Hindus are heard saying that Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is a Muslim problem that will not go away.Ã¢â‚¬Â It pains Muslims that rather than view them as descendants of great patriotic Indians of the past, such as Emperor Akbar, King Tipu Sultan, and Sufi saints like Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, Nizamuddin Aulia of Delhi, freedom fighters like Maulana Azad and Ghaffar Khan, and the creator of ballistic missiles APJ Abdul Kalam, et al, today a significant number of Hindus prefer to link the entire 140 million strong Muslim community with the handful of tyrants of the medieval past like Ghouri, Ghaznavi, Nadir Shah etc, and the isolated instances of their suppression of Hindus.
It bothers Muslims that the close proximity of mosques and temples in countless cities of India is not interpreted as a sign of the coexistence of Muslims and Hindus over the centuries, but as that of the forcible conversion of temples into mosques by Muslim kings of the past. As the Urdu poet late BD Pandey, a former governor of Uttar Pradesh said:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Hazaaron saal ki yeh daastan. Aur unko yaad haiy sirf itna; Kay Alamgir (Aurangzeb) zaalim tha, hindukush tha, sitamgur tha.Ã¢â‚¬Â
( Hindus and Muslims coexisting is a tale of a thousand years. And yet all they remember is that Alamgir (Auragzeb) was a suppressor of Hindus and a tyrant.)
Today after sixty years in independent India, despite their utter powerlessness and impoverishment, despite no government action against the culprits who massacred thousands of Muslims in Gujarat (2002), Mumbai (1993) and other cities in countless riots and who demolished many Muslim mosques and shrines, the Muslim Indians are neither willing to accept the epithet of Mohammadya Hindu, nor ready to give up their authentic home grown Indo-Islamic identity as the price for equal say in the affairs of their nation.
As erstwhile freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Freedom and equal rights is our birthright.Ã¢â‚¬Â They also have no special love for Pakistan which is just another country for them. TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Indian Muslims want to be proactive in nation building and place great trust, not in the government but in the seventyfive percent secular Hindus who genuinely want to coexist in peace and dignity with them, remove their alienation from the mainstream of India and make them an active partner in the world class Indian nation of tomorrow.
The emergence of true grit secular leaders like VP Singh, Jyoti Basu, Sitaram Yechury, Prakash Karat, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Arjun Singh etal on the national scene after decades of vote bank politics and the politics of political expediency gives them hope for the future. Muslims fully expect the silent majority of secular Hindus to remain silent no more but speak up and demand that the power structure take action to redress the genuine plight and deprivation of the Muslim community.
Photo: Muslim Pot Maker, Gujarat