In school when we used to take the India pledge and proudly say – “India is my country and all Indians are my brothers and sisters.
I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage”, we did not know that it wasn’t true. We did not know there were people much more powerful than us dreamy eyed teenagers. What we failed to understand was a bigger nexus of politicians and media persons who wouldn’t essentially want us to be ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.
Today when a columnist brazenly says – hanging Yakub Memon would send a wrong signal to the Muslim community; I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed because we are inching towards 70 years as an independent nation and yet we haven’t looked beyond this politics of appeasement. What are these handfuls of people hinting at? Why would the Muslim community be insecure at the hanging of a man responsible for the death of hundreds of people? Didn’t Indian Muslims die in the 1993 blasts in Mumbai? Or is he trying to say Indian Muslims have soft corners for terrorists?
Just a few months back, there was a hue and cry about the Kasab and biryani incident, with the media trying to make biryani a solely Islamic dish. This reduced the entire narrative to a mere religious symbolism.
Now in the holy month of Ramzan, we see a run to throw Iftar parties. Did anyone even ask a common middle class Muslim about how he or she feels? Why would a non Muslim even have the right to an Iftar party? He or she, might if they complete all the rituals and fasting. But without that, isn’t it an insult to the faith? Yes. If a non Muslim is invited by a friend who is following the rituals of the holy month, it is up to them to attend. Without that it is just a brazen attempt to encash on vulnerable religious sentiments.
Talking about reservations, talking about doles etc, is just an attempt to marginalize the community. And no my dear politicians and media, Indian Muslims are not minuscule minority. Look at the other way; they are the second largest majority in the country. They do not need rescuing from you. They are doctors and engineers and they are soldiers who have died for this country.
Desperate to get a ‘secular’ tag, now we even see columns on films, pointing out which is Muslim and which is not. This is a big embarrassment for not just Indian Muslims but for the entire community. Haven’t we idolized Dilip Kumar and the Khans? How many of us thought we would be a little more secular if we tweeted in favour of a Salman Khan film? Haven’t we prayed for Lagaan to win at the Oscars?
Isn’t it sad that even the Indian cricket team wasn’t spared? An analyst aggressively pointed out that if India were to win the World Cup, it would be a high point for the Hindu Males. What about Mohammad Sami, the star of Indian bowling at the contest?
In a multicultural nation like India, we have all erred. I have seen multiple ethnic riots when I had just barely started recognizing the alphabets. I have also seen terrorists form a very close quarter. What I have realized is we move on. We don’t even want to remember who belongs to what religion and ethnicity. But the media and politicians never want us to move on.
I know many of my Muslim friends do not think hanging Yakub Memon is sending a wrong signal to them. Because they are as much Indian as I am. They have also taken the India pledge at some point of time. They have also seen terror and want India to give out a strong signal.
The Mumbai blasts were not ‘Muslim vigilantism’. Naming an act of terror as ‘Muslim vigilantism’ is a shameless branding of the entire community who lead as common lives as we do. It is segregation of the community, because deep down the people who play divisive politics want that. They want to give out doles, but never will give a hand to pick them up.
Today, years later when the news of Memon’s hanging comes, shouldn’t we be happy that some justice is being meted out? Yes we can debate on whether capital punishment is an answer or not, but can we stop these irresponsible statements and stop the disservice to the Muslim community?
Rattled and ashamed of our language of divisive politics, I apologize to Indian Muslims. I apologize because I need to. I apologize because when I shared a pencil or learnt a recipe or heard a song or watched a film; I did not learn to differentiate. I apologize because I just uttered the India pledge, but I did not know that I would also have to teach more people to fully understand the meaning of it.
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