India Has Lost Its Way and No Party Has the Courage to Set it on the Right Path

Family members of 24-years-old Zahid crying after the Kashmiri truck conductor who was injured in petrol bomb attack in Udhampur district dies in Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, at his residence in Batango in Anantnag District of South Kashmir on Sunday. Credit: PTI

Family members of 24-years-old Zahid crying after the Kashmiri truck conductor who was injured in petrol bomb attack in Udhampur district dies in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, at his residence in Batango in Anantnag District of South Kashmir on Sunday. Credit: PTI

Should Muslims give up on India, as Hindutva organisations fervently hope they will? The death of Zahid Ahmad Bhat, a Kashmiri Muslim, may force some to think the unthinkable. Zahid succumbed to the severe burn injuries he got in a petrol bomb attack on his truck by a mob of ‘cow-protectors’ in the Udhampur region of Jammu and Kashmir on October 9. His death is a warning to Muslims all over India. If this can happen even in J&K, how can they expect safety in the rest of India where they are in a dangerous minority?

Had he succumbed to his injuries on the spot, Zahid would have died much earlier than Noman – who was killed by another mob of ‘cow-protectors’ in Sirmaur, 80 kilometres from Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh three days back.

Panchjanya, the organ of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh which controls and directs the ideology and organisation of its political wing, the Bhartiya Janata Party, has issued a not-so-indirect call to slaughter those who kill cows – citing the Vedas as justification for this call to murder. Sakshi Maharaj, a BJP Member of Parliament has demanded the death penalty for cow-slaughter. He also justified the assault on Engineer Rashid – an independent MLA in the Jammu and Kashmir assembly – by BJP MLAs for having thrown a ‘beef-party.’ Before him, Adityanath, BJP MP from Gorakhpur and the leader who directed the party’s campaign for several by-elections in UP in 2014, is on record offering manpower, money and firepower to the cow-protectors.

If Muslims lawmakers can be assaulted inside the legislature – as happened in the J&K assembly – and the Muslims of India see only gentle murmurs of disapproval, they can well imagine what is in store for them elsewhere in the country.

Muslims have heard Manoharlal Khattar – no ‘fringe element’ of the Sangh circle he but the man whom Modi hand-picked to be Chief Minister of Haryana – saying, “Muslim rahein, magar is desh mein beef khaana chhodna hi hoga unko. Yahan ki manyata hai gau (Muslims can continue to be Muslim, but if they live in this country they will have to give up eating beef. The cow is an article of faith here). This is what he told the Indian Express when asked about incidents like Dadri.

Narendra Modi himself has been asking Hindus to “act like Maharana Pratap to save the honour of cows”. Juxtaposing white revolution with pink revolution, he has consistently exhorted his supporters to choose between the two. To show that the post of Prime Ministership has not dulled his devotion to cows, he recently castigated Lalu Prasad for having said that Hindus also ate beef. Nobody asked him how stating a fact becomes an insult to Hindus or Yadavs. What everybody understood was that the PM decided to invoke the subject of cows in order to consolidate his Hindu base. Yet our Election Commission did not find anything wrong here. It was only natural then, that it was Lalu Prasad who was made to regret and retract what he said and not the Prime Minister.

Let us not go back to Vedas then and start quoting from the sacred text to convince Hindus that cow-slaughter and beef-eating have not been foreign to them. Even if I accept that my forefathers ate beef, how and why should it affect my choice of food or my way of living? Societies evolve, they change, they shed some of their habits, acquire new ones. Referring to the past to justify this or that is a bad method.

Besides anything else, it also does not work. A scholarly work by DN Jha just does not have the same force as the pedestrian and semi-literate invocation of the Vedas by Panchjanya – which then spreads through word of mouth and becomes gospel-truth.

The target is the Muslim, not beef

The truth is that this debate is not about cows. It is also not about beef eating. It is not about the diversity of food habits.When we start discussing the current situation through these themes, we only confuse the issue.

Let us be clear, this campaign is about Muslims. Hindus can go on eating their beef. No ‘gau-rakshak’ will turn up against them. It is only Muslims who shall be identified, targeted, attacked and even killed.

This time it is the cow. Only a few months back, it was the honour of Hindu daughters. What is being done through these campaigns is to make every Muslim a suspect. All Muslims are potential cow-killers and ravishers of Hindu womanhood.

Muslims have been turned into a figure of hate. I recall a discussion in Patna, in the wake of the Ramjanambhoomi movement in which Govindacharya was present. I remember him telling the gathering that it was impossible to throw the 15 crore population of Muslims into the Indian ocean, implying thereby that other ways should be found to deal with them.

Last year, a very senior functionary of the BJP manning its intellectual cell said on camera that minorities can live in India, but with some restraints.

Through these attacks, Muslims are being shown their place in India. They cannot choose their food, their commercial activity, their ways of celebration, their habitation. In Gujarat, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has launched a campaign to bar Muslims from entering garba venues. “We have observed in the past that Hindu girls are lured by the Muslims youths during the festival,” the VHP’s Ahmedabad president said.

The message is clear and Muslims are getting it: Beware of Hindus. Keep off them. And accept a subservient position in India, a second class citizenship.

Gandhi had said: Muslims cannot be vassals of Hindus in India. Nehru had written to Shyama Prasad Mukherji that Muslims cannot but be equal citizens of this country. Hindus cannot be their patrons and guardians. Muslims will live here as they are, not in the image Hindus want to see them as.

Are the secular parties as clear in their thinking as Gandhi and Nehru were? Or, have they also accepted the line of the RSS? Why are they then not out in the open, standing up for Muslims, sending an unambiguous message to the anti-Muslim and anti-Christian forces that their politics has no place in India? Why is that Congress leaders are calling for a total ban on cow-slaughter in India?

India seems to have lost its way. It has to pause, read its constitutional compass carefully and find out the correct path. It has to convince its Muslims and Christians that it measures up to their understanding of it. If it fails, it puts itself on the path of self-destruction.

Apoorvanand teaches at Delhi University

  • Anil Maheshwari

    Please do not make the Muslims hostage to the fear or keep them under the siege. Let them shed their persecution complex though every minority has an inherent persecution complex. (Same was the case with the Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley.) Let them join the mainstream. In fact, Muslims are too coming forward to compete in the competitive world. Shehzad Poonawalla, the Congress spokesperson informs us that only 2000 Muslim candidates appeared in the 2015 Civil Services examination and 38 of them were selected. It means about two percent while more than 11 lakh candidates had appeared in the prestigious test and only 1200 odds were selected. The percentage was merely .01. Now you compare the percentage. Against the general success rate of .01 per cent, the percentage of Muslims was 1.9 per cent. Who has stopped Muslims to appear in the test. Yes, a microscopic section comprising Hindu extremists has succeeded in grabbing the headlines in the media and a few intellectuals are making a mountain out of a mole for the sake of political expediency. These Hindu extremists should not be allowed to put the nation to the ransom.

    • vidyut

      It ain’t a persecution complex if they are really out to get you. The deaths aren’t rumors. The calls for Islam Mukt Bharat aren’t rumors. Get your head out of the RSS’s propaganda. You are being used to provide a cover for crimes.

  • Sibby

    Does this article says it is ok to hold beef party for “celebrating” lynching of a Muslim man? Both sides and media are playing politics over it

  • vidyut

    Nailed it. Muslims, Christians, sickulars, liberals, dalits….. the list can go on and on. Everyone except the Hindutva supremacists will be cleansed sooner or later unless the country wakes up.

  • JayZ

    Least we forget those who achieved: India is home to many eminent Muslims who have made their mark in numerous fields and have played a constructive role in India’s economic rise and cultural influence across the world.
    Out of the 12 Presidents of the Republic of India, three were Muslims – Zakir Hussain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Additionally, Mohammad Hidayatullah, A. M. Ahmadi, Mirza Hameedullah Beg and Altamas Kabir held the office of the Chief Justice of India on various occasions since independence. Mohammad Hidayatullah also served as the acting President of India on two separate occasions; and holds the distinct honour of being the only person to have served in all three offices of the President of India, the Vice President of India and the Chief Justice of India.
    The current Vice President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid and Director (Head) of the Intelligence Bureau, Syed Asif Ibrahim are Muslims. Mr. Ibrahim is the fist Muslim to hold this office. From 30 July 2010 to 10 June 2012, Dr. S. Y. Quraishi served as the Chief Election Commissioner of India. He was the first Muslim to serve in this position. Prominent Indian bureaucrats and diplomats include Abid Hussain, Ali Yavar Jung and Asaf Ali. Zafar Saifullah was Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India from 1993 to 1994. Salman Haidar was Indian Foreign Secretary from 1995 to 1997 and Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations.Influential Muslim politicians in India include Sheikh Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah (the current Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir), Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Sikander Bakht, A R Antulay, Ahmed Patel, C. H. Mohammed Koya, A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Salman Khurshid, Saifuddin Soz, E. Ahamed, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain and Asaduddin Owaisi.

    Some of the most popular and influential actors and actresses of the Mumbai-based Bollywood film industry are Muslims. These include Yusuf Khan (stage name Dilip Kumar),Shahrukh Khan,Aamir Khan,Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Madhubala, and Emraan Hashmi.India is also home to several critically acclaimed Muslim actors such as Naseeruddin Shah, Johnny Walker, Shabana Azmi,Waheeda Rehman,Amjad Khan, Parveen Babi, Feroz Khan, Meena Kumari, Prem Nazir, Mammootty, Nargis Dutt, Irrfan Khan, Farida Jalal, Arshad Warsi, Mehmood, Zeenat Aman, Farooq Sheikh and Tabu.

    Some of the best known film directors of Indian cinema include Mehboob Khan, K. A. Abbas, Kamal Amrohi, K. Asif and the Abbas-Mustan duo. Indian Muslims also play pivotal roles in other forms of performing arts in India, particularly in music, modern art and theatre. M. F. Husain is one of India’s best known contemporary artists. Academy Awards winners Resul Pookutty and A. R. Rahman, Naushad Ali, Salim-Sulaiman and Nadeem Akhtar of the Nadeem-Shravan duo are some of India’s celebrated musicians. Abrar Alvi penned many of the greatest classics of Indian cinema. Prominent poets and lyricists include Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. Popular Indian singers of Muslim faith include Mohammed Rafi, Anu Malik, Lucky Ali, Talat Mahmood and Shamshad Begum. Another famous personality is the tabla maestro Zakir Hussian.

    Sania Mirza, from Hyderabad, is the highest-ranked Indian woman tennis player. In cricket (the most popular sport of India), there are many Muslim players who have made strong and significant impacts. Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Mohammad Azharuddin captained the Indian cricket team on various occasions. Other prominent Muslim cricketers in India are Mushtaq Ali, Syed Kirmani, Arshad Ayub, Mohammad Kaif, Munaf Patel, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan and Wasim Jaffer.

    Azim Premji, CEO of India’s 3rd largest IT company Wipro Technologies and the 5th richest man in India with an estimated fortune of US$17.1 billion.
    India is home to several influential Muslim businessmen. Some of India’s most prominent firms, such as Wipro, Wockhardt, Himalaya Health Care, Hamdard Laboratories, Cipla and Mirza Tanners were founded by Muslims. The only two South Asian Muslim billionaires named by Forbes Magazine, Yusuf Hamied and Azim Premji, are from India.

    Though Muslims are under-represented in the Indian Armed Forces, as compared to Hindus and Sikhs,several Indian military Muslim personnel have earned gallantry awards and high ranks for exceptional service to the nation. Air Chief Marshal Idris Hasan Latif was Deputy Chief of the Air staff during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and later served as Chief of the Air staff of the Indian Air Force from 1973 to 1976.Indian Army’s Abdul Hamid was posthumously awarded India’s highest military decoration, the Param Vir Chakra, for knocking-out seven Pakistani tanks with a recoilless gun during the Battle of Asal Uttar in 1965.Two other Muslims – Brigadier Mohammed Usman and Mohammed Ismail – were awarded Mahavir Chakra for their actions during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.High ranking Muslims in the Indian Armed Forces include Lieutenant General Jameel Mahmood (former GOC-in-C Eastern Command of the Indian Army), Lieutenant General Sami Khan (former GoC-in-C, Central Army Command), Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain, Major General Afsir Karim, Major General SM Hasnain, and Major General Mohammed Amin Naik.

    Abdul Kalam, one of India’s most respected scientists and the father of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) of India, was honoured through his appointment as the 11th President of India. His extensive contribution to India’s defence industry lead him to being nicknamed as the Missile Man of India and during his tenure as the President of India, he was affectionately known as People’s President. Zahoor Qasim, former Director of the National Institute of Oceanography, led India’s first scientific expedition to Antarctica and played a crucial role in the establishment of Dakshin Gangotri. He was also the former Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Secretary of the Department of Ocean Development and the founder of Polar Research in India.Other prominent Muslim scientists and engineers include C. M. Habibullah, a stem cell scientist and director of Deccan College of Medical Sciences and Allied Hospitals and Center for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Hyderabad.In the field of Unani medicine, one can name Hakim Ajmal Khan, Hakim Abdul Hameed and Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman. Salim Ali, was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist, also known as the “birdman of India”.

    Zakir Naik is one of the most influential spiritual leaders of India as noted by The Indian Express in 2009.Ahle Sunnat Sufi leader Hazrat Syed Muhammad Ameen Mian Qaudri and Aboobacker Ahmad Musliyar have been included in the list of most influential Muslims list by Georgetown University. Mahmood Madani, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind and MP was ranked at 36 for initiating a movement against terrorism in South Asia. Syed Ameen Mian has been ranked 44th in the list.

    But no we dont.

    • DaryaSophia

      Most of those that you named here have to “perform” acts that reinforce their patriotism in particular contexts all the time. In other words, you have to be a particular kind of a Muslim to be acceptable, in the majority’s standpoint, and to do your job. Could you imagine a religious, hijab wearing Muslim woman becoming India’s prime minister? No. In the same way that it is unimaginable for a Jew to be President of the US, or a black to be Prime Minister of Israel, or a Roma to be leading France. It’s racism, and it structures what we think is possible or not possible. The law says *technically* you can, but everyone knows it’s not really possible.

  • Zaki Ghulam

    Yes; ‘Muslims’ are the first and most convenient target of the mobilized ‘mobs’, but it won’t stop with ‘them’. If the present trends are allowed without challenge, ‘Freedoms’ we cherish can all slip away, without we realizing.

  • delta1980

    You do realise that people you call “liberals” in your statement are not in the ruling party/Government so cant punish the wrong doers in these cases?