A girl, who was proud of being an Indian and used to salute her tricolor flag no matter where she sees it, is skeptical about her identity nowadays. Her faith was private matter some years ago, however now it is considered as her sole identity.
Once she was returning from Ghaziabad to Delhi with her mother, they choose to board in a private bus which was full of Rajasthanis. Her mother was a Rajput and excited to see her ‘own’ people. They both were giggling and talking about beautiful Rajasthani jewellery passed to her by her grandmother. Conductor came and gave a weird look to her mother as she was wearing burqa, he handed over them tickets and said “sala do musalmano ne sari bus ko Pakistan banadiya”.
The girl felt something has shattered inside her. She consoled herself with the belief that conductor was an uneducated man. That girl was me. Later I realised that bus conductor’s views are shared by many educated people as well. It seems like Amartya Sen’s theory of ‘human identity’ doesn’t fit on Muslims. I am amused to see that people think that a Muslim is only a Muslim can’t be Guajarati, feminist, vegetarian and most importantly a patriotic Indian.
The height of intentional ignorance was, once in an interfaith programme, I met a lady-principal and a young director of two well-known private schools respectively. After discussing urban slums and Bangladesh, Lady Principal asked me what I want to become. I laughed and replied, in 5th grade our teachers used to ask this. Now, I am what I am in front of you. But she insisted me to answer. As a joke, I said ‘youngest Prime Minister of India’. She unexpectedly asked, ‘why India?’ Smile disappears from my face but I managed to ask, ‘Well, I am an Indian and in which country do you think I am eligible to be a PM?’. She said ‘any country, there are so many countries for you guys’. I politely asked her ‘so many countries such as…?’ She shamelessly answered, ‘there are neighboring countries you know…’ Our conversation was terminated due to the commencement of the meeting. In the end the director said ‘we hope that you didn’t mind anything’. I replied, ‘no, not at all, it was my pleasure to talk to you’. The lady chipped in “She just told me that she is an Indian. Come on, she would not mind.” Till now, I thank them for accepting me as an Indian.
Last year, I got a chance to visit Pakistan. I was more thrilled to cross the Wagah border than visiting Lahore or Karachi. Shortly, I discovered being an Indian Muslim is more exciting (if you know Pakistan’s politics), risky (if you can’t prove that Indian Muslims are proud to be Indian) and dangerous (if you associate Pakistan with Israel and the legitimacy of their state).
Several Pakistani friends questioned me ‘what do you think about partition?’ I replied, ‘For me, it was blessing, because I don’t want my country to be a battleground’. Later I encountered with many queries and questions such as, master mind of Gujarat’s riot is still free, is this not a biasness of the Indian state? You are being treated as secondary citizen, do not you feel frustrated? As a Muslim, don’t you want to live in Pakistan? so on and so forth. I tried to answer them smartly, posed shrewd questions and sometimes left them unanswerable. I was astonished to notice that Pakistanis think that they got freedom from India, instead of British.
You must be thinking, why I am sharing my personal encounters? It is just to inform that absurd minds exist both sides of the border and to bring your attention towards the Indian Muslims — a community which wants to be accepted and belonged to its motherland. Not being accepted generates frustration among young Muslims. Fake encounters proves, state intentionally tag Muslim youths as a potential threat for the country. It creates stereotyping and hatred among fellow Indians. No one can understand how tough it is to defend your country in front of other, especially if you are labeled as traitors and your people accuse that you belong to ‘others’. However, the truth is those ‘others’ look at you as lesser Muslim since you choose to live with non-Muslims.
Both the group ignores the fact that Indian Muslims such as Maulana Azad and his followers stayed in India during toughest days. It proves their indisputable loyalty to their country. As far as issue of being lesser Muslim is concerned, I believe Indian Muslims are more (not sure whether better) Muslim as they live the way Prophet Mohammed lived with people of different religions.
I sympathies with Shahrukh Khan, many Indian Muslims goes through this. If an Indian Muslim criticizes Indian policies/government/system, why Pakistan believes that they don’t want to live in India? And why some radical Hindus treat it as unpatriotic instead of acknowledging the problem. Why doesn’t both understand that Indian Muslims also want their country to be safe and better place to live? They too have a right to state their grievances and even a responsibility to do healthy criticism.
Indian political leaders slammed Rehman Mallik for his unnecessary comment over Shahrukh Khan’s article. Certainly Mallik need soul searching however if Indian majority thinks that Muslims are playing perpetual victims without any reason, then they also should do self reflection. I empathise with Pakistani minorities as we share same grievances and status. Day by day space is shrinking for religious minorities in both the countries conversely they are busy in the blame game.