By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, May 28 (IANS): Accounting for 17 per cent of the population - and the second largest Muslim community in the world - Indian Muslims seem to be under "severe pressure, on the verge of fear psychosis, and harbour dark doubts over their future as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party pushes its much-vilified '80:20' strategy".
Prominent minority leaders and intellectuals like Maharashtra Samajwadi Party President Abu Asim Azmi, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen state President and MP Syed Imtiaz Jaleel, social activist Shabnam Hashmi and intellectual Prof. Zeenat Shaukat Ali open their hearts out as Prime Minister Narendra Modi completes nine years in office.
These dignitaries generally admit how this is the first time in the past 75 years that "Muslims feel insecure and are made aware of their 'religious background', and avoidable schisms are being created by certain majoritarian forces".
"It is visible... Muslims are being pushed to the wall, they are being jailed, implicated in false cases, and subjected to atrocities in many states. Systematic efforts are underway to erase their historic contributions or sacrifices - not just during the Independence struggle, but way beyond spanning several centuries. Terror is being created in their minds and the age-old 'Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb' and traditions have been destroyed," said Azmi.
Jaleel feels that the "sole reason the BJP and Modi have gone totally against the minorities is to consolidate the Hindu votes for their electoral politics, scare the minorities, and even others, especially if they don't vote for the BJP".
"In 2014, many Muslims and Christians voted for Modi, showing confidence in his loud proclamations of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas', which has gone for a toss. The PM keeps mum whenever Muslims are attacked, terrorised or killed anywhere. We expect him to be the PM of the whole country and not just the BJP or the majority community," Jaleel declared.
Hashmi, the younger sister of the slain folk hero Safdar Hashmi, said, "Under Modi, India has already become a 'semi-fascist state', with blatant hatred being spread against Muslims or even Christians in the hearts and minds of the ordinary people."
"All democratic and Constitutional institutions are subverted, the Parliament has become a joke, there are lynchings, attacks on Muslim women, convicted rapists are released by a BJP-ruled government, sending shockwaves among all sections of people. Muslims who used to carry out their small trades or businesses for ages are now being restricted or hounded out of many markets or religious places..." said Hashmi.
Ali said that in any democracy, there must be equal treatment to all sections of society, "but that delicate balance has been tilted against the minorities under the Modi rule".
"There were so many welfare schemes for the Muslims that have been stopped or starved of funds, the education system is under attack with Muslim students deprived of many benefits, bulldozers are selectively razing Muslim homes, the Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar Commission Report (2006) remains unimplemented. There are so many other issues like yanking off the Haj pilgrimage subsidies, though the Muslims have quietly accepted it," said Ali.
She cited a report of the Indian American Muslim Council listing 15 prominent schemes for Indian Muslims where the budgets have been "drastically reduced this year (2023-2024), which directly hampers the progress of the community at all levels, particularly the youth".
Azmi apprehends that if the BJP returns to power in 2024, "it will need to add just one word to the Constitution -- 'Hindurashtra' -- and that could spell disintegration for the country".
Referring to the spate of communal riots that keep rocking different parts of the country, especially in BJP-ruled or border states, Jaleel said that even the authentic news reports about such disturbances "are being diluted or suppressed due to the possible involvement of the ruling party, and the blame is shifted to the other side, and the minorities are further vilified and demonised".
Hashmi pointed at the stray incidents of discrimination being reported from the education sector or the job market where "Muslims are denied their dues, in certain cosmopolitan areas they are not allowed to buy homes or properties". He worries that this could "lead to not only 'ghettoism' but fuel fundamentalism on both sides unless checked immediately".
She also frowns at how the government is now "tinkering with the personal laws of different communities and attempting to push through the CAA and a Uniform Civil Code sans proper debate, which may not augur well for the country"'.
Asmi and Ali call for the BJP government to focus on all 'Indians' rather than any particular 'communities', similar to the norm in all developed countries - as the possible way forward to emerge unscathed from the current hate scenario.
"It is not yet too late... All Muslims and other minorities must join hands with the secular Hindu brethren and other enlightened sections to ensure that the future of democracy and India is safeguarded for the coming generations," the duo appealed.