The Mystifying Experience of Being Muslim in India

Creidt: Mudassir Rizwan,

Credit: Mudassir Rizwan,

My father, Munshi Abdul Mabood, was a government employee in the department of posts in Bihar. He was a Muslim.

In 1947, he did not migrate to Pakistan as he did not feel threatened by the post-partition communal flare-up in the country. He did not even know why India was divided.

As time passed by, he came to understand that the goal of partition was to create an India for Hindus and a Pakistan for Muslims. I don’t know how he came to learn this but the belief left him shaken. Was he now a stranger in his own land?

Without protest but with a heavy heart, he wrote out an application as a possible nominee to migrate to Pakistan and submitted that to a local office.  He then began to wait for approval from the government.

Migration to Pakistan was not an easy task by then. It involved great risks of physical and mental pain. The waiting, and the uprooting which lay ahead weighed heavily on him. His face grew longer by the day.

One morning, Harihar Thakur, a practicing Hindu working in the same postal department, noticed my father in low spirits. He was inquisitive and asked the reason.

When Harihar came to know about my father’s plan to migrate to Pakistan, he got furious and said fervently in Bhojpuri: ‘Sab Musalman ke Pakistan jaye ke zaroori na ba‘ meaning ‘all Muslims need not necessarily go to Pakistan’.

My father did not know about the alternative being given to Muslims – that they could choose between India and Pakistan. He was oblivious of politics.

Harihar Thakur thundered in their dialect: ‘Ghar bar duar chod ke kahan jaibe? Tu pagla gaile ka?‘ (‘Where will you go leaving your house, land and people behind? Have you gone mad?’)

Thereafter, he went to the office where my father had submitted his application as a possible nominee for migration to Pakistan. Somehow, he managed to get my father’s nomination paper back. He then proceeded to tear it up,  throwing the pieces up in the air.

That is how a Hindu secured our future in India and shielded us from embarking upon a journey of chaos, confusion and heartbreak. The way Harihar Thakur reasoned, a Muslim had the right to remain in India with as much dignity and security as a Hindu could have in a secular state.

There must be hundreds of thousands of similar anecdotes in which ordinary, God-fearing Hindus helped to reassure millions of Muslims in India at the time of partition that they had no reason to leave their homes and homeland.

Fast forward to 2016, when a Muslim in India is lynched on the mere suspicion of consuming beef or trading in livestock, when a Muslim can be thrown out of a legislature or thrashed simply for refusing to obey demands that they chant a slogan. When a Muslim man and a young boy were lynched in Jharkhand, the chief minister of the state said, “We have an Act in place … prohibiting smuggling of cattle to other states,” suggesting their murder could be linked to smuggling on their part.

I am working in Libya, thousands of miles away from India, and when I surf the Indian channels and come across such stories, my heart sinks and I recoil in fear. I wonder whether I would be ‘safe’ in my own motherland. Or could I ‘also’ end up a target of mob violence.

Muslims today are deeply apprehensive about the way vested interests are playing politics to target the community.  Such events demoralise them psychologically and belittle their aspirations for a secure future. In particular, Muslims who work abroad in so many adverse situations are alarmed by these incidents  and worry about what awaits them when they return home.

What is the value of money earned abroad when Muslim Indians find their own motherland questioning the integrity of her own children? Nothing is as upsetting to the heart as this mystifying experience of being Muslim in India.

Mohammad Azeemullah is a Lecturer in English at the College of Education, Islamic University of Al-Asmariya, Zliten, Libya

  • disqus_b5EP58VIZv

    The article is based on writer’s personal experience and media inputs only- hence is not complete. Muslims in India have comparatively prospered as they share the same cultural history . Partition was a political misadventure, a big blunder for which the leaders who agreed to it are responsible. The present NDA govt focus is on doing the mission impossible ie power and road connectivity to all in the next 3- 5 year which will benefit all including Muslims , sadly Muslims are less educated and not ready to grab the opportunity which is due to lack of good leaders and not joining the main stream

    • rayhan ismail

      yes …..if only us muslims speak up aourselves against people like owaisudin that politician that using media to make the muslims beleive they are second class citizens in india and try and force his terrible intentions through their minds….thats the problems with most muslims of india they are uneducated rural people dwelling in slums claiming minority benerfits putting flags of pakistan everywhere than when hindus call us muslims paki maybe even just in a joke we get sooooooo angry but i geuss dumb people in slums have always been vunrable ……personally i beleive that knowledge and education are 2 hings nobody can steel from and above power is intelligence and knowledge my fellow muslims brothers and siters of india just need an education and count their lucky stars that they live in india

  • V B Lal

    There can hardly be a sensible response to Mr Azimullah’s agony and anxiety. The incidents are true and so are the fears that they bring. But they give a small part of the picture. Hari Har Thakurs are very much alive and kicking. However, two observations. One, a very substantial number of Hindus (remember, Hindus are no monolith) are quite disturbed over recent incidents. Two, The majority of Muslims in India are hesitant to call themselves Indian muslims; they would rather be identified as Muslim Indians. Such insistence on a non-issue is sufficient to sow seeds in the minds of many Hindus that for Muslms their religion is the first priority over their country. Muslims may please concede that the history of Islam in India, from the pre-Mughal centuries, is largely one of horror and atrocities. The scars remain. But there are a large number of Hindus educated in modern, liberal, secular tradition and millions more who find it futile to remain stuck up in the past. But the need for caution and awareness remains paramount. The orthodox mullahs don’t seem alive to this Hindu sensitivity and issue reckless fatwas which perpetuate the hatred and division between the two communities. One expects a Muslim equipped with modern education would help to bridge the divide.

  • Scarface

    I disagree with the author. I still think there are millions of people like Harihar Thakur still in India.

  • Naushad Ali

    Very well expressed feeling and fear of Indian Muslims/

  • Naushad Ali

    You are absolutly wrong. Loving motherland does not need RSS certificate or require as worshiping it as Durga. Muslims love their motherland but worship only one God. Do not impose the idea of Bakim’s fake novel which is based on Hate against Muslims. Vande Matram is not National anthem and concept of India as Durga Mata infringes Islamic concept and has also no constitutional value.

    • Lokesh

      People of Almost all countries think of their countries as Motherland or Fatherland. Why bring in RSS?

      No one asked Muslims to consider country as GOD, calling a country as Mother is a beautiful emotion, Nowhere in “Vande Mataram” it is mentioned that Country is God/ Goddess.

      You are either making such an assumption because you somehow think treating your country like a mother is against Islam or you have plainly misunderstood things.

      True it is not constitutionally required to say “Vande Mataram”, but When a Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain or a Christian finds saying “Vande Mataram” as an expression of Love for his culture, heritage and the unity in diversity that India represents, and a Muslim rejects it falsely claiming it to be opposed in his religion, it does leave bad taste.

  • rayhan ismail

    thanks bro ……….its ashame that us muslims ourselves discriminate against those muslims in india who were ancestrally or locally converted and class the as lower-caste muslims

  • rayhan ismail

    my moms family lives in pakistan faisalabad and in the village there are muslims majority(ammm….obviously) and christian minority they get along peacefully …..okay at the most my great-grandmother orders her daughter-in-laws’s to get a separate pile of dishes out to serve the christians …….but its nothing against them even that great granny of mine has a best friend who is a christian like you know how some happenings here in india are exaggerated in the media its a bit similar in pakistan like in india there is comunal harmony in pakistan yess the sindh province has resulted intolerence towards hindus since indipendance of pakistan a lot ….not to forget jinnah left pakistan secular with muslim majority and democracy but sindh itself in the fanded farmland area of sindh is such a state with less access to education …… in 50’s and 60’s and probably upto 70’s yes pakistan was intolerent towards hindus but than they grew up and realised how wrong it is and relegion does not support any ideology of two nation theory or divisiona and especially not hatred towards anyone because of their faith……

    anyways pakistan may result incidents that you suggested in your comment but they are rare oveall it is just a peace-loving country with unfortunatly currupted and dirty minded politicians and media people

    now coming to the main point of the article than as already said in an earlier answer i think muslims need to stop supporting ill-minded people like owaisudin stop putting flags of pakistan stop claiming minority benerfits and get an education because knowledge is such a thing no-one can take away from you intelligence and knowledge is above power and position

  • rayhan ismail

    hindustan zindabad thats what we say

    devotion has no language …………………………….we can say hindustan zindabad , we can say jab tak sooraj chand rahega hinduatan ka naam rahega…….and so on