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Others Among Us

By Suroor Mander

04 October, 2008

I opened newspapers today, to be frank, after many days. Newspaper after newspaper had articles on Eid. It had to be, Eid was just yesterday (October 2). I went through article after article, my heart sinking as I read. What have we done I wondered. So much fear in Muslim community, that too in secular India, on Gandhi Jayanti.

It seems as if the community is under siege, trying hard to keep watchful eyes at bay. Speeches from every Imam, cries from every Muslim ghetto begging people accept them.

It isn't as if these voices weren't around earlier they just became more prominent after the Jamia encounter in the heart of the national capital. Floodgates opened. Every Muslim who could write, be it teachers, journalists, techies tried every forum – the newspapers, internet, television, in one way or another imploring people to stop hating them. They tried hard to explain that they weren't the terrorists, some even adding that those young boys also might not have been terrorists. The more I would read, the more I was disgusted with us.

What have we done? We have let the Hindutva forces win. Golwarkar didn't want the Muslims to be banished to another land or exterminated; they wanted them to live in fear as second class citizens.

Since when was it a curse for people to believe in their faith? Why it is so bad if the Muslims believe in their faith, staunch about their namaaz, rozas guided by the tenets of their religion, aren't all believers? Hindus who pray everyday, leaving their house with a tika or stop eating meat and other things during Navratras etc aren't viewed with contempt then why Muslims? If secular Indian gives Hindus the freedom to walk out of their homes with Tikas, then why do we stare at every skull capped and bearded Muslims?

We have forced a community to stand up and condemn every act allegedly done by their fundamentalists; expecting this from the educated, the literate, the clerics and the ignorant. However, we don't have any such expectation from Hindus against violence perpetuated by fundamentalists from their community.

We are thriving on the grief of terrified mothers beseeching people to give their children a chance to access justice; gloating on the fact that even "famous Muslims" find it difficult to find a house." Strangely none of this has horrified us. We are happy to let the community reiterate their secular identity while none of us ever have to.

We have become complacent in this hate, allowing our silences to be read as our consent. If we truly believe in the secular identity of this country we have to actively voice our dissent against hate.

I am still haunted by the words of that man in Thane "Where will I go? This is the place where I was born. This is the place I will die." I wonder how many agonised voices it would take for us to speak what our hearts feel.

Suroor Mander is attached to the NGO Aman Biradari in new Delhi.

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