Kash­mir: Re­li­gious dec­i­ma­tion - From Sheikh to Shub­ham

Views from Sri­na­gar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHMIR -

FIRDOUS SYED N In­dia, Mus­lims seek­ing a due con­sid­er­a­tion of their po­lit­i­cal rights, val­ues, cul­ture and iden­tity, now sim ply seems im­pos­si­ble; even to vi­su­al­ize. Par­tic­u­larly Modi at the helm of af­fairs the sti­fling con­di­tions have no­tice­ably ex­ac­er­bated only. Mus­lim ex­is­tence in In­dia vir­tu­ally stands re­duced to a day-to-day bat­tle for mere sur­vival now.

Sen­si­tis­ing news that “Rick­shaw driver’s son forced to change sur­name from Sheikh to Shub­ham cracks UPSC” has cre­ated a buzz all over the place. In­deed it’s an oc­ca­sion to cel­e­brate much de­served suc­cess of a real un­der­dog. An­sar Ah­mad Shaikh comes from a most back­ward and cur­rently severely draught hit Marath­wada re­gion of Ma­ha­rash­tra. He be­ing poor­est of the poor cer­tainly was a de­bil­i­tat­ing fac­tor for a 21 year old Mus­lim boy. Be­ing a Mus­lim has been his real trep­i­da­tion, how­ever. To pur­sue suc­cess, An­sar was “forced to adopt a Hindu iden­tity” to find ac­com­mo­da­tion in a Pune neigh­bour­hood. Sheikh is not ac­cept­able and Shub­ham only could be an en­abling fac­tor to “get ac­com­mo­da­tion and food with­out has­sles”.

IFor three years a Mus­lim boy had to adopt a Hindu iden­tity to sur­vive in a so­ci­ety that claims to be egal­i­tar­ian and sec­u­lar. That needs no fur­ther elu­ci­da­tion to de­scribe how deep the prej­u­dice against Mus­lims has seeped in or­di­nary In­dian mind­set. Yes the or­di­nary man har­bour­ing in­tol­er­ance to­wards a com­mon Mus­lim is a real cause of worry. Elite classes, having mul­ti­ple vested in­ter­ests, are in­vari­ably found to be con­tam­i­nated with one bias or the other. It’s also in­dica­tive of how deep down the mal­ice against Mus­lims has per­co­lated.

Af­ter toil­ing re­ally very hard and brav­ing in­grained dis­crim­i­na­tions and in­her­ent hand­i­caps, fi­nally a happy be­gin­ning seems to be in sight for young An­sar Sheikh. Suc­cess­fully over­com­ing the hur­dle of UPSC, the young Mus­lim boy is con­fi­dent to as­sume his nat­u­ral iden­tity: “now he is de­ter­mined to proudly flaunt his Mus­lim name and mi­nor­ity back­ground and work for com­mu­nal har­mony as a govern­ment of­fi­cer”. What a trav­esty, a young Mus­lim in In­dia has to be tal­ented, la­bo­ri­ous, more­over, suc­cess­ful to feel con­fi­dent to as­sume his nat­u­ral iden­tity.

An­sar Sheikh seems to be for­tu­nate enough to claim his iden­tity back. How many amongst the 160 mil­lion In­dian Mus­lims can muster such a con­fi­dence of as­sert­ing their iden­tity, freely? Ob­vi­ously the odds are heav­ily stacked; 34 against 160 mil­lion. 34 Mus­lim can­di­dates only were able to clear the UPSC this year. The con­se­quences are not dif­fi­cult to an­tic­i­pate if a stead­fast Mus­lim in con­tra­ven­tion of present pre­vail­ing con­di­tions in In­dia de­cides to as­sert his/her iden­tity. He/she will get surely cen­sored hence os­tracised as ex­trem­ist if not ter­ror­ist straight­away. Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity stu­dent Umar Khalid af­ter his re­lease from Jail posed a very per­ti­nent ques­tion: I had de­fended my­self that I am not a Mus­lim. But I thought what if I were a Mus­lim? What if I came from Aza­m­garh, wore a skull cap? I felt like the guy in the book ‘re­luc­tant fun­da­men­tal­ist’. And still you can’t ask me such ques­tions.” Umar Khalid has suc­cinctly por­trayed the or­deal of perilous ex­is­tence an In­dian Mus­lim is go­ing through.

What would have been the fate of Umar Khalid, if he hap­pens not to be a self-pro­fessed athe­ist? Was he not ini­tially pro­filed as a Pak spon­sored Jaish ter­ror­ist? If he had been an ob­serv­ing Mus­lim, it would take him at least ten years to prove his in­no­cence. The ac­quit­tal of Male­gaon ac­cused af­ter ten long years, sim­ply “is a re­minder of a re­cur­ring in­jus­tice”. There can be no two opin­ions about the fact that: “The Male­gaon case also in­di­cates how sim­ple it is for in­ves­ti­gat­ing agen­cies, ei­ther the or­di­nary po­lice, or the Anti Ter­ror Squad (ATS) as in this case, to charge Mus­lim youth with acts of ter­ror”.

An­sar Sheikh is one of the for­tu­nate 34, amongst the 160 mil­lion In­dian Mus­lims. The ar­tic­u­late Umar Khalid is only one amongst the 160 mil­lion In­dian Mus­lims to be able to garner some de­gree of sup­port from lib­eral in­tel­lec­tu­als. His JNU teacher in an ar­ti­cle in In­dian ex­press “Umar Khalid, My Stu­dent” ar­dently mounted a de­fence in his favour. While men­tion­ing host of his other qual­i­ties the wor­thy teacher, still found it fittest to em­pha­size Umar Khalid’s lit­tle knowhow of re­li­gion; “I re­mem­ber how he grinned at his own ig­no­rance when there was a dis­cus­sion on Is­lamic ju­rispru­dence. “Ma’am,” he laughed and said, “I know noth­ing of all this.” And an­other ar­ti­cle in IE in the same vein “Umar Khalid, my son” seems to be more forth­right in cel­e­brat­ing Umar Khalid’s os­ten­si­ble ab­sence of faith “Umar chose not to take the path of his fa­ther. A pol­i­tics that thinks only for Mus­lims is not for him. Break­ing away from his fam­ily, he turned an athe­ist and an ul­tra-Maoist”. Umar Khalid chooses his path no qualms about that, “Unto you your re­li­gion, and unto me my re­li­gion”.

Will they also re­spect a Mus­lim for what he is? This priv­i­lege seems to be re­served for a Mus­lim only who chooses to be­come their mir­ror im­age. The so-called lib­er­als and pseudo in­tel­lec­tu­als equally in­tol­er­ant to­wards the unique Mus­lim char­ac­ter­is­tics too are no less than chau­vin­ists. Fas­cists af­ter all are closed minds; in case of Mus­lim iden­tity, lib­er­als also be­hav­ing as ab­so­lutists, sums up the real irony of In­dia. To hell with such en­cum­ber­ing con­di­tions, those ham­per a Mus­lim to as­sume his/her iden­tity, with­out any fear of in­tim­i­da­tion or invit­ing prej­u­dices. Where there is no dig­nity in life, is that a life worth of liv­ing? And the place that by de­sign de­nies the dig­nity of life, is that place wor­thy of liv­ing? —Courtesy: GK

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