We have heard enough of the wailing, of the innumerable wrongs and injustices done to us. But where has it taken us? Isn’t it time we honestly asked where WE went wrong, what we lack – and ought to do? This series is an attempt to provoke introspection, invite critical self-assessment.
The author’s credentials ought to matter little as we were told to consider what is said, not who says it. That he narrowly escaped being killed in the service of the community during the Gujarat genocidal days may be some credential, nevertheless.
The author makes no claims to academic excellence or scholarship. Presented here is a sincere, common-sense point of view consolidated from two decades of close personal observations across the length of India. A course of corrective action will emerge from an honest analysis of the present condition. Therefore if a judgment is reserved till the end, the feeling of hurt will hopefully be replaced by desire for action.
This series is largely based on the author’s Urdu audio presentation KHITAB available from MG.
n a warm March afternoon in 2002 a two-year old boy, Yaqub, was trying to erect a minaret by standing pebbles of varying sizes on one another. Perched atop a dilapidated grave in Ahmedabad’s Char Tola Kabrastan surrounded by some 6,000 victims of Gujarat genocide that had taken refuge in this make-shift relief camp, he was oblivious to the destruction around: murders, rapes, widespread arson. His effort to construct, rebuild from the ruins made a profound impact on me, it showed me the light in the darkness of frustration and anger.
And there was plenty of anger. I would have been a terrorist out to punish the guilty had I not been aware of matching barbarities elsewhere, including by Muslims, and its futility. But there was this huge urge to belong, to fortify, to claim justice. Reports of how innocents – rickshaw drivers, commuters, workers, small traders, students – were done to death merely because they were Muslims. M H Jowher became Hasan Jowher.
But simultaneously questions arose. Who brought this situation about? Who threw the little Yaqub onto the ruins where the dead had more per capita space than the living? “Modi and Togadia” appeared the obvious but not complete answer. Somewhere, someone else was even more responsible, primarily responsible.
How would you picture a community that was so unjustly, gruesomely treated to behave in the relief camps? As the food and clothing was supplied on the house and they had no where else to go, what did some of them do? Picture this: Chewing tobacco, increasing the litter by heaps, playing cards, loitering around gossiping, squabbling for relief material and doing little constructively, not even helping the organizers. That here was a complacent community, devoid of self respect, unconcerned for its own welfare and unwilling to work for its own upliftment was as manifest as their pitiable condition. True, there were also those that invested their time constructively. But how could there be so many that did not? Who and what were they waiting for to deliver them from this mess?
This camp generally represents the condition of the umma worldwide. Unsure of its destiny, unclear of its approach, unwilling to alter its lot. The likes of Narendra Modi are only claiming victory for a process that was actually initiated and nurtured by the Muslims themselves, viz, of an unproductive, dispensable existence.
Ahmedabad, for instance, boasts of over a million Muslims spread across five geographic clusters. In a century the city’s Muslims built just one girls college, none for boys, no more than half a dozen high schools and barely two tiny public hospitals. They have no worthwhile hostel, orphanage, park, club, community centre or distinguished school that would attract Hindus. No wonder that a whole generation of Hindus has grown bypassing the Muslim habitation. Ours is not a single model colony of flats or bungalows that is distinct for its amenities, orderliness, cleanliness or plantation.
Christians constitute barely around ten per cent of Muslim population. Not just a top college, but Ahmedabad’s two best high schools and two best girls schools are managed by Christians, where for years Hindus and Muslims have craved to admit their ward. Remember that Gujarat is no more hospitable to Christians. Even the city’s best known minority rights activist is a Christian. Isn’t this a case of quality winning over quantity?
So, who wrought wrath on Yaqub, or for that matter on Bilkis and Kausar and Yasmeen and thousands of other victims? Can Muslims escape responsibility for the desecration of Quraan, of mosques and dargahs, for the disrobing of our sisters, massacre of our men and children? Hard questions call for hard answers.
Around the time of Yaqub’s story, the UK parliament was discussing a bill to codify the rights of cats and dogs. These included provisions against even psychological torture or stress. Compare this with the pitiable lot of Muslims. Or consider the fact that the killing of Graham Steins in Orissa’s tribal belt earned the accused Dara Singh death penalty. And contrast this with the freedom with which the butchers of over 3,000 Gujarati Muslims roam about.
No, not just in India but globally the Muslim life is cheaper, dispensable. Two Jews slain by Palestinians deserve a BBC headline but a wedding party of 60 innocents bombarded by US air force in Afghanistan doesn’t. Didn’t the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah invite the destruction of much of Lebanon?
Even nature might seem to discriminate against Muslims. The hurricanes, typhoons, tornados and Tsunamis that rage on the western shores of the Atlantic or Pacific barely claim no more than a few dozen lives usually. But on the Arabian Sea or in the Bay of Bengal they kill by thousands in Bangladesh or Indonesia. Death by disease, malnutrition, famines, floods and earthquakes in the Muslim world across Asia and Africa render counting meaningless.
Was the fate of Muslims always as such? Were they always so dispensable? If they ever mattered to their times what was so different about them and how do we compare with them? What led to this mess? Watch this space.