What solace for the hopeless

Smriti Irani and Meenakshi Lekhi

As an Indian  Muslim  I have  never  felt  so  hopeless as in the last  four  and a half years. Mind you, this sense of despair cum hopelessness is peaking every single day or week. In fact, earlier the numerous lynching incidents shook one; compounding the fact that the culprits seemingly got State protection and the relatives of the lynched victims were more than often detained by the police force.

Then came along one  incident after another of  college and university level Muslim students and   even young school going  children getting targeted and  humiliated …not to overlook the latest  two incidents where two  hijab wearing students were  not allowed to sit for the UGC Net examinations. Needless to mention that these are only the reported cases. There are hundreds of cases where entire Muslim families have been discriminated against, if not targeted and hounded.

And  last week’s Uttar Pradesh  government’s  clamp-down on namaaz  being  offered in a particular park of  Noida, once again  reeks  of the  communal tactics that the  Yogi  government is infamous  for. There are several  disturbing dimensions to this order. For one, the  Noida  police  has  proclaimed  loud and  clear that if a Muslim  employee of any of the  Noida based  companies is spotted offering namaaz  in and around  that  park,  then his company  will be held responsible. This clause rather too automatically relays a very negative message; as though the Yogi administration is making  sure that the companies will think a  hundred times  before employing/hiring Muslims  in their work force.  Another  significant  offshoot  is the  fact that non- Muslims could  or would view  namaaz  as something dangerous or  offensive  or  even criminal,  so as  to be  halted in a public park. After all,  other activities such as  RSS meets and  drills and marches  do take place in  public  parks.  Not to overlook the kawariyas and their processions that run along highways and even along parks. And the most hitting offshoot of this order is that the Muslim stands pushed to the wall. Yes, even the space to offer prayers is getting snatched away. Here let me also add that though any  religious  or semi – religious  activity is  highly personal, and so  ought to be  conducted  within the  confines of  homes or within the set  religious  place, s  but what happens if  one is travelling or away from the home confines fo`r work or  business?  Also stands out the fact  in this particular Noida  casethat  the nearest  masjid is  several  kilometres  away, so  office-goers cannot spend a couple of  hours  commuting to and from  to the masjid. Also, the concerned persons are only praying,  only for 10 to 15 minutes. Namaaz is a combination of prayers and exercise and that’s about it. For God’s sake they are not indulging in some criminal activity!

Of course, the Muslim community realizes that pracharacks and maha pracharacks happen to be the current political rulers.  That explains the double standards. I, as an  Indian Muslim, cannot offer namaaz  in parks or along  the  road otherwise  I would be  made to  appear a  criminal, but , on the other  hand, several government set -ups and   work places, namely  police-thanas  and  ministerial  offices, more than resemble mini-mandirs. Not to overlook that the RSS shakhas and training camps are held out there, in the open.

Tell me why these double standards! Tell me, why does the government  insist and  persist in using these  tactics to drill  into my psyche that I’m from a  minority  community and so  will have to  forgo my  fundamental rights as a  Muslim  citizen of this country!  Tell me, why is this government insisting on  heaping  new  laws, to frame and harass as  many  Muslims as possible. If those who can’t be booked   for offering namaaz in a park can be booked for any of the domestic upheavals.

In fact, this brings me to focus on the Triple Talaq Bill, recently passed in the  Lok  Sabha. As a  Muslim woman  I  find it  not  just  flawed but reeking of  an  obvious  communally charged  Right-Wing angle to it…I have personally not  come across a  single case where a Muslim man has left his wife uttering talaq- talaq- talaq  at one go.  Even if  such  cases surface, they  would be rare and arising more out of  ignorance  of the religious  guidelines and  coming  along the  strain of  poverty  and backwardness. Instead of making  sure that the  Muslim community  does not  lag  behind on the  educational and economical fronts (which it is), the  establishment is seemingly ensuring that more and more  Muslim men  languish in the  prisons and jails of the country.

Did any of the Smriti  Iranis  or  Meenakshi Lekhis  shout and  scream and reach out to the  Muslim women when  riots and  pogroms  raged in  Gujarat and  in the  other  locales of the country …where  Muslim women and  even  girls were not  just  hounded  but  even raped and  molested by   Right  -Wing  goon  brigades.  Why is only now, when the Triple Talaq Bill was to be passed in the Lok Sabha that these politicians thought of the Muslim women! What about protecting Muslim women from the Right – Wing goon brigades who are getting trained out there in the open, to target and terrorise the ‘other’!  What about making the Muslim women financially and socially strong! What about ensuring that Muslims are on par with the other communities where education and jobs are concerned! Why is it that the Muslim feels not just discriminated and bypassed,but also sits insecure and  apprehensive of the  State machinery.

In fact, the truth is that in today’s polluted political atmosphere, a Muslim’s  faith in any of the  governmental  machineries is nil.  Questions are  getting raised on the NIA  raids  conducted in the  Muslim populated locality of  Delhi’s Jaffarabad, where Muslim men have  been  picked  up for  questioning in the  so called  terror plot!

I have  been speaking to  several Muslims and they told me that  if only the media  bothered to hear the parents  and  neighbours and  also the  lawyers  of those  arrested, then perhaps, the  glaring  loopholes in the  police  theory would  surface.  To quote one of them, ”Its  become a strange  norm  that around  August 15 and  before January 26,  the  police will catch hold of Muslim men and then say they have  caught terrorists, busted a  terror  plot! Can’t the media see a clear pattern in this!”

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