Millennium Post

Open letter to Muslim friends

Dear Muslim brother, When I read about the riots in Assam, I was slightly perplexed. Why now? And then I was bewildered when riots broke out in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, a town that was spared communal violence and divide even at the peak of the Babri Masjid crisis. I was shocked when I saw visuals of a mob rampaging in Mumbai, desecrating and destroying even the Amar Jawan Jyoti at Azad Maidan. I was boiling with anger  and helplessness by the time I read about how bonafide Indian citizens belonging to the northeast felt so threatened that they were fleeing cities like Pune, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai. And I felt really bad when I saw pictures of a mob trying to destroy a statue of  Buddha in Lucknow.

These are truly dangerous times for India, perhaps even more dangerous than the 1980s when the Shah Bano and the Babri Masjid controversies eventually resulted in insane communal violence across the country. India had been spared the madness of communal riots since 2002. Suddenly, they loom again over India like a malevolent cloud. Predictably, the demoralised, dispirited and disgraced United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh has sought to evade taking responsibility for this mess by blaming Pakistan for it. Apparently, morphed and false visuals of Muslims being allegedly persecuted and killed in Assam and Myanmar originated in Pakistan and were deliberately spread across India through social networking web sites and text messages. That may be true.

But my question is: is that justification for molesting lady constables, desecrating the Amar Jawan Jyoti, randomly attacking people from the northeast and threatening them and also destroying a Buddha statue? This is where my blunt question to my Muslims brothers, who are also fellow Indians, must be asked: why are you getting so worked up over the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar? Why are you not holding rallies and organising protests against the daily massacre of Muslims in countries like Syria? Why are you not protesting against the senseless manner in which Shias are being butchered in Pakistan? Even more important: is there any dearth of real problems that Muslims face in India, while they remain one of the most economically marginalised sections of the society?

Most of the English speaking media is too conditioned to be politically correct to speak out things in a blunt manner when it comes to Muslims specially. But I urge all of you to rethink and contemplate the message that these actions are spreading across the rest of India. There is no dearth of extreme right wing Hindutva types who have an irrational dislike for Muslims. These very people are now shouting loudly that Muslims are more concerned with their own religion than the nation. How will that help the Muslim community in India? Surely you are aware that in most of the recent riots, most of those killed were Muslims. What purpose are all these provocative acts and gestures across India serving? Who will suffer the most? The merchants of hatred of all communities make hay while poor people become victims. What suicidal madness is propelling you on that path of death and destruction and more prejudice and more hatred? Muslim community leaders have repeatedly sought to provoke Indian Muslims to stand in solidarity with Muslims across the world. Nothing wrong with that. But when you keep doing this, and keep completely silent when other minorities across the world face persecution and discrimination, you are painting yourself into a sectarian corner. And it is incorrect to portray and keep repeating that Islam is in danger. It is one of the greatest religions of the world and has more followers now than the Catholic Church. There is perhaps not a single country in the world where the population has actually declined. And the brutal and sad fact of today is that an overwhelming number of Muslims being killed over matters of faith are being killed by fellow Muslims. How about a protest march and rally at Azad Maidan condemning the way Pakistan is persecuting Ahmediyas and Shias?

The fact is: strategists in the Congress and other so called secular parties want to continue misusing, abusing and exploiting Muslims as vote banks. Then there are the so called Muslim leaders who continue to impose a separate identity for Indian Muslims and perpetually portray them as victims. They are helped to a large extent by a large section of so-called intellectuals of India who actually loathe the very idea of India. The Muslim as the persecuted victim is the favorite theme of these India baiters and haters. But my earnest appeal to Muslims is to stop this nonsense once and for all. It is time the Indian Muslim said a bold and emphatic no to these purveyors of victimhood and persecution. Don’t you think it is time Muslim leaders started paying more attention to things that really matter: education, jobs, healthcare, human rights, equality and financial security?

I have a very simple fact to present to fellow Muslim brothers and sisters of India. That simple but brutal fact is: the Indian state treats all marginalised and weaker Indians very badly. They include Muslims, Dalits, tribals, landless labourers, poor farmers, workers, tea stall and other push cart owners....So please do not fall prey to this wrong propaganda that only Muslims are singled out by the state for discrimination. The most potent and effective tool of empowerment is always education. It was way back in 1875 that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had recognized the value of modern education and established the Aligarh Muslim University. Why cannot the Indian Muslim community find more such visionaries?

My earnest appeal to Indian Muslim brothers is: please build on the positives rather than wallow in the negatives. You have been hoodwinked too long by merchants of hatred and vote bank politics. Your destiny, and that of our children and of India, is also in your hands. It is time you decide where you stand and where you want to move.

Arindam Chaudhuri is a management guru and hony director of IIPM think tank
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