Cornered and demonised , the Indian Muslim struggles between fear and hope. The Indian Muslim is dealing with a silent, undeclared psychological war that the State has unleashed on it.
Our guests on the day of Eid had absolutely nothing to do with what Junaid suffered, and I hate and condemn myself for resenting them. This wasn’t me. This isn’t me. And I wonder at the distance my heart has travelled from exactly a year ago, when I would be filled with excitement at our whole family preparing dishes for our Hindu guests (we have no Muslim guests for Eid as they are busy in their homes). Not too long ago, when I used to work in Delhi, I would sometimes carry a pot of biryani from Lucknow after Eid for my non-Muslim colleagues and friends. The sight of Hindus enjoying Mughlai/Awadhi cuisine at Karim’s in Delhi or Tunday Kababi in Lucknow swelled me with pride at our Ganga-Jamuni culture.
So, why did I now begin to resent a woman with a bindi on her forehead or a man with a kalava tied to his wrist enjoying a kebab at Tunday Kababi? Because I suspect he/she hates me. Hates my people. Hates the Muslim owners and cooks of Tunday even though he/she loves their food. Loves it that they had to shut shop during the crackdown on meat suppliers in UP. Loves it when the business of Muslim butchers is stifled even though he/she buys meat from them. Hates my co-religionists who wear topis and grow beards. Loves it when they are lynched in trains, in the fields, on the highway, inside their homes. Hates women who wear burkhas but pretends to support them on triple talaq. Shares fake videos about ‘evil’ Muslims on WhatsApp. Rejoices at the arrest of 15 Muslims after India’s loss to Pakistan in a cricket match on the basis of a false complaint.
No, I don’t hate them. They hate me. I am only angry they hate me. And I resent them for their hatred towards me. They pretend to fear me and my people, but in reality, it is I, and my people, who fear them. We are 14 per cent, they are close to 80, so we are the ones surrounded by the mob. And I fear that in their hatred, they will support the mob if it lynches yet another Muslim. Or, they will vote for a party that felicitates the killers or those who incite them to such murders by giving them Z-Security or a ticket to contest elections. I dread the plans that such parties may have already drafted for late 2018 or early 2019, a few months before the next general elections.
These fears are not exaggerated or unfounded. Between Akhlaque in 2015 and Junaid in 2017, each time a Muslim has been lynched in this country, every other Indian Muslim has died a slow death. The death of her confidence in the State which is supposed to protect her but doesn’t, the death of her trust in fellow countrymen who keep voting for the unabashedly anti-Muslim BJP, the death of her will to dispel the fears of the majority, and assure them that she is not the ‘other’, the ‘enemy’, but as Indian or even as human as they are.
I am acutely aware that not every Hindu is a supporter of Hindutva. His vote for the BJP could be based on promises of vikas, or the incompetence of other parties. As a Muslim, I am painfully aware of the pressure of stereotyping. I have lost count of the number of times I have asked non-Muslims to look at me, at their Muslim neighbours, friends and co-workers, at their Muslim tailors, at Muslim actors and filmmakers to clear their misconceptions about us being terror sympathisers.
So, when my mind slips into the realm of stereotyping, I pull it back and look at my Hindu neighbour whose NGO employs underprivileged Muslim women, at my Hindu cook who did not take a single day off during Ramzan and would prepare iftaar for us, at the Hindus who helped me put together an art exhibition I recently curated, at my former Hindu colleagues who supported me when I was going through a rough patch, at my Facebook newsfeed filled with posts by liberal Hindus denouncing cow terrorism, at the writers who returned their awards to protest against Akhlaque’s killing in 2015, at the recent Not In My Name protests triggered by Junaid’s murder.
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