//'Muslims in Gujarat living as 2nd-class citizens'

'Muslims in Gujarat living as 2nd-class citizens'

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal, August 7 (IndianMuslims.info) Muslims in Gujarat, especially in the rural areas, are living as second-class citizens. Even after post-Godhra pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 the situation is further deteriorating with the scenario in the whole state appearing to be more dangerous than it was four years back.

A “counterfeit" peace prevails in Gujarat today wherein though no violence appears on the surface but underneath there is hate campaign of the saffron outfits against Muslims continuing and they are living a life wrapped in fear and terror. The second-class citizen stigma thrust on Muslims can only be felt and experienced after visiting Gujarat villages and seeing things with one's own eyes.

This was the observation of Harsh Mandar, the IAS officer who quit the service protesting against the failure of the state machinery to check the violence in Gujarat. He shared his experiences in Gujarat villages, where he worked for last nine months, at a function organized by the Association of Indian Muslims, (AIM), in Bhopal on Thursday evening at the Acharya Naredradeo library building. He is a retired IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre and worked for 20 long years in the state before quitting in disgust. He is now working as a social activist fighting fascist forces for the cause of secularism.

Well-known social activist Prof. Ram Puniyani of Bombay presided the programme. Activists Ms Shabnam Hashmi (sister of slain activist Safdar Hashmi) of Anhad and Vijay Pratap of World Social Forum also expressed their views on Gujarat situation. Prof. Hanuman Singh Yadav, Head of the Department RPEG & Dean Social Sciences, Barkatullah University, Bhopal conducted the programme while Owais Arab, president AIM, proposed a vote of thanks.

Mandar moaned: “The poison of communal hatred and threat engineered by the fascist forces has percolated in the environment of villages of Gujarat so deeply now that it has seeped down into the Muslim community’s soul and it lives in total isolation left to its fate”.

He informed that in the wake of Gujarat carnage about two lakh Muslims had fled their homes. More than 50 per cent refugees are still unable to return to their villages. Many of these refugees are rotting in ghettoes created after the carnage. They want to return to their villages but are afraid to go back. They are threatened or blackmailed to withdraw the cases, he revealed.

Either they are not being allowed to enter or they are allowed conditionally – withdraw the cases in the court. The other pre-conditions for return include: keeping quite about the atrocities perpetrated on them, to live separately, no freedom of Azan (call for prayers from mosque) loudly, to live with social-economic boycott etc.

Mandar lamented that there are heart-rending stories. Those who have returned live in fear and total isolation. No one talks to them, no one invites them, no one even looks at them. So scorned, they find it difficult to live there. Villages are small units of population and quite interdependent. In big cities one can live in such situation but not in small villages. These victims say we can live even with economic boycott but not when everyone hates us or neglects us.

He said that all this is due to hate campaign going on by VHP and Bajrang Dal cadres. Other political parties just do not exist including the Congress. Even if it does, it dare not speak up. The Congress at the Center is not bothered. The Hindus are not real obstacle in general, but militant Hindu organizations. They have acquired high stake in hate politics.

He said the degree of hate perpetuated by the saffron brigade in Gujarat can be gauged from the fact Hindu womenfolk as a daily routine under directions dump part of the cow-dung, collected in the village for making "kanda" (dung-cake) used as fuel, in graveyards of Muslims. It is probably done to convey the message to Muslims that they despise their dead also.

Mandar said India is passing through a very difficult time wherein saffron forces have spread their tentacles far and wide and are hell-bent to carry out their agenda by marginalizing minorities and keep them as second-class citizens. The social-fabric structure of society is on the verge of being blown away. If efforts are not made straight away to stem the rot that has set in then in another five to seven years time total anarchy would prevail in India and fascism would rule the roost, he remarked.

"We are fighting second freedom struggle not on roads but in the minds of the majority community of Gujarat to change their perception and attitude towards minorities, " he quipped.

He expressed apprehensions that other Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP), ruled states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are also following the footsteps of Narendar Modi-led Gujarat pattern as how to marginalize minorities.

He said the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 was not an attack on a mosque but on the Indian Constitution's provision of religious freedom. It was not at all an issue of Ram's birthplace, he emphasized.

He expressed desire to develop some module of active intervention to bring Muslims into village mainstream again. “We put our heads together and try to evolve some ways to effectively intervene to bring about some interaction between Hindus and Muslims”, he said.

He suggested there could be inter-community dialogue after carefully selecting villages, which are more prone to the message of peace. It is undoubtedly a slow process but there is no short-cuts in such matters. Hate and suspicion are easy to create but difficult to remove, he stated.

There is also need to bring about reconciliation in the spirit of forgiveness. The majority community should be brought about to say sorry for what happened and victims should show generosity to forgive. That perhaps will show the path for long-term peace in Gujarat, Mandar opined.

Vijay Pratap of World Social Forum said that in this era when evil forces are calling the shots to subjugate mankind, Quran is a powerful weapon for the betterment of whole mankind. A ray of hope is there as humanity is still alive to take on the evil forces that are taking long strides, he added.

Prof. Ram Puniyani in his presidential address warned that if the common man does not wakes up now and puts resistance to the designs of saffron forces of creating misunderstandings among majority and minority communities then the gap between the two would increase and democratic freedom would be in danger. The Mumbai blasts are another pointer in this direction, he added.

Defining terrorism, he said it is a phenomenon wherein violence is visible outside but communal politics is latent in it. Muslims and Islam are being tagged with terrorism in order to deny them their rights and justice. If only Muslims were terrorists then Indonesia with highest Muslims population in the world would have been the headquarter of terrorist activities. However, LTTE is the biggest terrorist organization in the world whose activists are all Hindus, he pointed out.

Terrorism is only a symptom and not disease itself, Prof. Puniyani explained. He said it is the United States that had spend 8,000 million US dollars and 60,000 million tonne weapons to establish Al-Qaida organization to drive away the invading Russian troops from Afghanistan.

He appealed people to save democracy and it is the duty of all in society to raise their voices against injustice of any type while bringing different communities together. He asked the assemblage to understand the difference between religion and politics of religion and not remain confused about it

Ms Shabnam Hashmi speaking on the occasion said that the defeat of NDA's Central Government in 2004 had rekindled the hope that Hindutv politics will now end and secular values would prevail
. However, Congress has belied that in more than two years rule of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Center.

She said under federal UPA rule saffron forces gaining ground and strengthening their positions to launch further assaults on the minorities in various part of India. She appealed to the people to close ranks shedding their inhibitions of caste, creed and religion and fight unitedly the forces of fascism.