Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah’s much advertised article was published on Friday in Hindustan Times as its concluding part of the series titled, #BeingMuslimNow. I am saying “much advertised” because before it was actually published twitter was abuzz with the message: “Don’t miss Naseeruddin Shah’s piece #BeingMuslimNow in @htTweets tomorrow. His deeply felt, personal, powerful account will move you.”
— Prashant Jha (@prashantktm) June 1, 2017
Naturally, it was the first thing I read as soon as I woke up on Friday. After reading, my first reaction was: it is nothing more than rant of a privileged Muslim, which irked some of my friends. Title of the article was in the form of a statement, ‘I cannot recall a time when Muslims were suspected en masse of being unpatriotic’.
To begin with, I found Naseer Sahab’s statement quite ironic. Because, what he does not tell us is that his own industry is partly responsible for creating this environment of distrust and suspicion about Indian Muslims. There are dozens of films which directly or indirectly try to convey that, “All Muslims are not Terrorist, but Every terrorist is a Muslim.” In fact, Naseer sahab’s own much celebrated film “A Wednesday” is a classic example of it. “A Wednesday” not only demonise Muslims (by portraying them as terrorists) but also promotes vigilantism. While reading Naseer sahab’s piece I was reminded by Kabir’s famous doha :
Karta raha so kyo raha, ab kari kyo pachhataye
Boye ped babul ka, so amua kaha se paaye
Of Constant Suspicion
Naseer Sahab, you might not recall a time when Muslims were suspected en masse but the fact is that majority of Muslims across India are seen and portrayed as unpatriotic and potential terrorist for decades now. It was your privilege (and up to some extent mine) that you were not subjected to such treatment till few years ago. But that will not change the reality. Just to give an example, I am sure you must have heard of Bengali speaking Muslims from Assam? If not, please try finding out about their plight. I am sorry, if I am asking you to inquire about a ‘far removed’ subject. Alternatively, you can visit Mumbra and Shivaji Nagar localities of Mumbai.
About Sanitation and Hygiene
Naseer Sahab, you say: “Indian Muslims’ indifference, particularly among the economically weaker sections, to education or hygiene need not be reiterated nor the fact that they have no one but themselves to blame for these ills.”
Really, Naseer Sahab? Apart from blaming the victims and under privileged, have you have ever wondered why that is happening? Forget Sachar Committee Report, just read brief baseline surveys (conducted by the government funded ICSSR) of Muslim concentrated areas such as Seelampur (Delhi), Araria (Bihar) and Pakur (Jharkhand). All easily available online free of cost and I have hyperlinked the above. Research suggests Muslims are more likely to use toilets they have lesser infant mortality despite being poorer. You can have a look of the research paper here.
Religion as Solace
Naseer sahib, for you and many of my non-practicing, non-believer, agnostic and atheist friends religion might be the/a problem. But we must not forget for masses it is a solace, an instrument to maintain their sanity in wake of injustice. To illustrate my example, let me cite just two examples:
1. Victims of Hashimpura massacre (22, May 1987: UP) believe that if they don’t get justice in this world, they will certainly get it in life after death on the day of judgement. And this what have kept them fighting for justice.
2. Similar is the case of victims of Nellie massacre (18 Feb 1983, Assam). If you don’t believe me please watch Subasri Krishnan’s documentary, What the Fields Remember ( a PSBT production : 2015).
I often feel had it not been their faith in religion/spirituality they would have killed themselves long back. I know, it can argued that there is much violence because of religion. True. But to say violence is only because of religion is not true.
Beyond Celebration of Victimhood
Naseer sahib, you write: “It seems essential for Muslims in India to get over the feeling of victimisation they are in now; it is a trap all too easy to stumble into – we must determine to stop feeling persecuted, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding…”
Here once again, you are totally removed from the ground realities. Muslims across the country, have been working ‘Beyond Celebration of Victimhood’, from Gujarat to Assam. We just have to come out of comfort zones and cocoons in order to understand these developments. In this regard, to begin with I would request you to have a look of two research based book: 1. Being Muslim and Working for Peace (Raphael Susewind) and Justice Before Reconciliation (Dipankar Gupta).
For your information, Muslims, especially youth—across gender, are claiming and reclaiming their rights as equal citizens of this country.
‘Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se’
Like you, I also feel reform is needed in our societies. However, unlike you I am not ‘dejected’. That’s because I can see thousands of Muslim youth working on the ground silently, removed from media hype. There are lots of positive stories and that’s what give me hope. Since you have referred to (Allama) Iqbal towards the end of your article, let me also quote him. I am not dejected because, I strongly feel, as Iqbal said:
Nahin Hai Na-Umeed Iqbal Apni Kisht-e-Weeran Se
Zara Nam Ho To Ye Mitti Bohat Zarkhaiz Hai Saqi.
I sincerely hope soon you will join this ‘Kisht-e-Weeran’ in order to achieve the required reform. I will be more than happy to assist you, if I can at all!