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Living in merciless times: For Muslims in India, the othering starts in school

Many called the AIMIM chief’s demand bizarre, some buffoonery. Of course, there cannot and should not be any law that violates the freedom of speech.

Written by Saba Rahman | Updated: February 10, 2018 5:03 pm
Living in merciless times: For Muslims in India, the othering starts in school Many called the AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi’s demand bizarre, some buffoonery. (Express Photo/Anil Sharma)

Parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi has demanded a three-year jail term for anyone who calls an Indian Muslim a “Pakistani”. In his address in Parliament earlier this week, he asked: “We (Muslims) rejected Jinnah’s two-nation theory. Even after 70 years (of Independence), I am called a Pakistani. Why?”

Many called the AIMIM chief’s demand bizarre, some buffoonery. Of course, there cannot and should not be any law that violates the freedom of speech. No one can, however, deny that Muslims are subjected to such name-calling routinely. They face it early on in their lives. It comes their way in schools, colleges, the neighbourhood, at workplaces, from friends, strangers — sometimes viciously, often in jest.

After the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, boys in my school would chant “Jai Shri Ram”, ‘Pakistani’, “go to Pakistan” after me. In my college, in Ranchi, during a conversation about that old chestnut, an India-Pakistan cricket match, a Hindu Bengali classmate said with much conviction: “But you all support Pakistan”. Then there were/are snide comments on Muslim population, cleanliness, and food habits that become part of your growing up.

The current times are surely more merciless. In the past few years, Muslims have become fair game for not only name-calling and hatred but also violence and lynching. The pretext could be anything: Your name, your attire, the food you eat, whether you are unwilling to say Vande Mataram, so on and so forth.

More worrying than my stories are those that my niece, now in class IX, brings home from her south Delhi school. A child asked her: “We will make a cake of Pakistan, will you cut it?” After bomb blasts in India or outside, she has been asked if she was a “terrorist” or if she knew one who was.

Recently, a poem, titled “Woh Kehte Hain Mujhe Pakistani” (They call me a Pakistani) by one Syed Zafeer, went viral on social media. Describing the ordeal of a Muslim living in India, Zafeer, like Owaisi, wondered: “Main kyun jaun Pakistan?” (Why should I go to Pakistan?) My father, who decided to bury my mother in Ranchi, her homeland, and not in Delhi where she passed away last year, too, would have asked this.

Bareilly District Magistrate Raghvendra Vikram Singh, after the riots in Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj, had a similar question. “A very strange trend has started of late. Take out processions by force through Muslim-dominated localities and raise anti-Pakistan slogans. Why? Are these people Pakistani?” the DM wrote on Facebook.

It took Vinay Katiyar, BJP’s poster boy for intolerance, little time to retort to Owaisi and launch into his usual anti-Muslim rhetoric. “Muslims should not stay in this country. They have partitioned the country on the basis of population… They should go to Bangladesh or Pakistan,” he said.

We have similar examples in another BJP leader, Giriraj Singh, and VHP leader Praveen Togadia who have all waved “go-to-Pakistan” flags at Muslims with no as much as a reprimand from the government.

Let’s also not forget how our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as Gujarat chief minister, added the suffix “miyan” to Congress leader Ahmed Patel’s name during the 2012 election campaign. The point he was trying to drive home wasn’t lost on anyone.

The prime minister is also infamous for calling post-2002 relief camps in Gujarat as “child-bearing factories” where Muslims reproduce with a “hum paanch, hamaare pachchees” gusto. His political career has been marked by a pronounced anti-Muslim position, which, in the run-up to the 2019 election, is expected to be more visible. His Parliament speeches this week have betrayed his plans in the near future.

The increasing anxieties and insecurities of a community, therefore, cannot be ruled out. Nazia Erum’s book, Mothering a Muslim, has come at a time when a large number of Indian Muslim mothers are grappling with this new question: How do you prepare your child to deal with the discrimination that she is being subjected to outside home, in school, in play areas, owing to her Muslim name and identity.

Amid all this gloom, fortunately, we still have heroes who do not let communal hatred get the better of them. Like the Ghaziabad father who defied Hindutva leaders to ensure his daughter’s marriage to a Muslim man. Or, like the father of young photographer Ankit Saxena in Delhi who has refused to communalise a crime and name-call his son’s alleged killers. They are heroes because they refused to see Muslims in India as Pakistanis, even when they were forced to transcend a certain worldview, or face the tragedy of losing one of their own.

Owaisi may want a law, but a law is only as good as the people it is made for.

saba.rahman@indianexpress.com

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  1. N
    Nadir Shah
    Feb 15, 2018 at 12:01 pm
    Hindus are being unfair , narrow minded , prejudiced to Muslims
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      Sumit Bose
      Feb 16, 2018 at 6:22 am
      Most amused to have a brain neutered person named after a historical personage, whose ONLY real achievement had been to brutalize and ransack our then capital city , spreading so much death and destruction , that the stench of rotting corpses blanketed the city for weeks, as there were no humans left who could remove the corpses , while crows, vultures, dogs , jackals were free to feast on the corpses of humans and farm animals. Shameful and spitworthy is the mindset of your origins (pa al mental make-up) that you are perpetuating the memory of that jihadi vandal.
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        Sumit Bose
        Feb 16, 2018 at 6:48 am
        Most amused to have a brain neutered person named after a historical personage, whose ONLY real achievement had been to brutalize and ransack our then capital city , spreading so much death and destruction , that the stench of rotting corpses blanketed the city for weeks, as there were no humans left who could remove the corpses , while crows, vultures, dogs , jackals were free to feast on the corpses of humans and farm animals. Shameful and spitworthy is the mindset of your origins (family mental make-up) that you are perpetuating the memory of that jihadi vandal.
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      2. Mohan Vagul
        Feb 14, 2018 at 5:24 pm
        It is but a fact that wherever muslims are there in any part of the world, they have created trouble and procreated in plenty. Even in their own countries in West and Middle East Asia they live by the blood. They lack education and common sense refuse to integrate. Let them first introspect and then blame other Hindus. As about the reporter, her bias is obvious. Hope she doesn't get married as fourth wife and bear 10 children..
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          Nadir Shah
          Feb 15, 2018 at 11:28 am
          what a stupid response, Muslims enlightened world with knowledge , good governance, justice and equality ,, lot of scientific development in all fields,, while Hindus gave concept of caste system , accountability , social segregation
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            Sumit Bose
            Feb 16, 2018 at 5:17 am
            CutbullaNadir, The British insti-tutionalized the caste system from the 1891 census, Bharat always had the varnas based on one's profession how else can one uneducated forest dalit bandit named Ratnakar, have a change of heart, educates himself and become MahaRishi Valmiki, where MaSita spent her years on being asked to move from the Royal Palace. Ditto with MahaRishi Vyas (fisherman), Sant Tulsidas (abandoned child) etc. Regarding Islam, who better than Kamal Attaturk would be the best to give the final quintessence: "Islam is a poisonous, rotting, diseased corpse spreading bedouin filth in our society". The "our" can be transposed on each and every section of human society , all over the world where this cancer has taken root , pandering only to the worst sections in that society.
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            Nadir Shah
            Feb 15, 2018 at 11:42 am
            hindus gave caste system , concept of untouchability to the world ,, while Muslims gave justice , equality to the world
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              Sumit Bose
              Feb 16, 2018 at 4:02 am
              CutbullaNadir, The British ins utionalized the caste system from the 1891 census, Bharat always had the varnas based on one's profession how else can one uneducated forest dalit bandit named Ratnakar, have a change of heart, educates himself and become MahaRishi Valmiki, where MaSita spent her years on being asked to move from the Royal Palace. Ditto with MahaRishi Vyas (fisherman), Sant Tulsidas (abandoned child) etc. Regarding Islam, who betetr than Kamal Attaturk would be the best to give the final quintessence: "Islam is a poisonous, rotting, diseased corpse spreading bedouin filth in our society". The "our" can be transposed on each and every section of human society , all over the world where this cancer has taken root , pandering only to the worst sections in that society.
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            Sumit Bose
            Feb 12, 2018 at 3:22 am
            Mericless times for the cutbullas, just because they are being shown the mirror to their devious and brutal ways. That millions were forced to leave (after rampant loot, torture etc etc) the then newly created Papistan , were just "normal" times. Lakhs of Hindus having to run out of Kashmir was also "normal" times. Hindus living under the mob tryranny of cutbullas in two districts of Kerala , three districts of West Bengal and 4 districts of Assam are just "normal" times. This wail of victimhood is just the repeat of the process in the European countries, when a lady's hijab is pulled is a magnified into howling outrage, but rampant killings in the Islamic world of minorities or disgusting brutality of the jihadis of ISIS etc etc are not even fit to be ventilated
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              Nadir Shah
              Feb 15, 2018 at 11:35 am
              sub continent was par ioned due to narrow minded and prejudice of Hindus, they forced Muslims to seek independence, read history
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                Sumit Bose
                Feb 16, 2018 at 4:13 am
                NadirCutbulla, do I read the testimony of the bandit murderer, who blames the wealthy women for wearing expensive jewellery in public, and having the temerity for resisting robbery for his own brutal crimes????? Get some brains from some jhatka muttonwala, the brutal cutbulla rulers had sapped the blood and vitals of our lands over nearly 650 years. Brain damaged to adulate a caravan-bandit, hostage taker, ransom collecter, slave merchant, torturer, ra-pist, mass-murderer, pedophile, etc etc etc as the "most exalted human ever", little decency/rationale is expected from you!
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                  Sumit Bose
                  Feb 16, 2018 at 5:18 am
                  NadirCutbulla, do I read the testimony of the bandit murderer, who blames the wealthy women for wearing expensive jewellery in public, and having the temerity for resisting robbery for his own brutal crimes????? Get some brains from some jhatka muttonwala, the brutal cutbulla rulers had sapped the blood and vitals of our lands over nearly 650 years. Brain damaged to adulate a caravan-bandit, hostage taker, ransom collecter, slave merchant, torturer, ra-pist, mass-murderer, pedophile, etc etc etc as the "most exalted human ever", little decency/rationale is expected from you!
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              2. mtv
                Feb 11, 2018 at 7:38 pm
                Muslims in India should not be called Pakis. They are as patriotic as any other Indian citizens. That is why they did not go to PAK or now Bangladesh at the time of par ion. Having said that, Muslims in India also should introspect if lot of damage has been done to them by their orthodox mullahs, dress habits imported from Arab countries, child marriage, multiple wives, loud speaker based prayers, untidy skull caps, their bias against education especially for girls etc. Certainly, ordinary people are bound to be biased against the people practicing the above habits. We cannot expect majority of ordinary citizens to be saints to accept everything thrown at them. Add to that the treatment given to non-Muslims by countries such as PAK.
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                1. Ram Anand
                  Feb 12, 2018 at 7:22 am
                  Indian Muslims invented and far a long time were the force behind the Pak-i-stan agitation. They stayed behind to keep causing trouble in India. They would have merited respect if they had gone to Pak-i-stan. Muslims in what is now India were until nearly the end of the Pak-i-stan agitation the originators and the MAINSTAY of the Muslim League. The Pak-i-stan slogan was far more popular in the United Provinces and much earlier than it was in Punjab. Jinnah was a Gujarati. It is fabricating history in claiming Muslims from what is now India had nothing to do with the Muslim League agitation for a separate state. It was an INDIAN MUSLIM movement originally.
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                    Nadir Shah
                    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:46 am
                    non sense, Hindus are most narrow minded, prejudiced people on earth
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                  Inder
                  Feb 11, 2018 at 4:22 pm
                  Stop playing this dirty political with religion , we all are one and we will be forever . Who doesn't believe in this , they can surely change there Passport .. Jai hind
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                    Nadir Shah
                    Feb 15, 2018 at 11:47 am
                    what about calling Muslims as PAKISTANIS ??
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                      Sumit Bose
                      Feb 16, 2018 at 5:29 am
                      Cutbullas agitated for their PAPISTAN, our B ish overlords granted to our cutbulla converts , who were 24.6 percent of the Crown dominion, and were granted 30.2 percent of our landmass. Then like prodigioals, they stay back !Drawing inspiration from their bandit popat, they attempted to snatch Jammu and Kashmir ( thanks to our duffer "panditJi", they are yet squatting over a third of that Kingdom's landmass) gets a bloody nose, turns around and goes on to usurp the Kingdom of Baluchistan ( Kalat), both of these Kingdoms, the Provisional Government of Papistan had in 1946 signed a "standstill Agreement" with both these Kindom's rulers, and yet goes on to usrurp the territories. Its a clear rerun of the Popat's conduct of the Treaty of Hudaibiya.
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