Anxiety or indifference? UP Muslims speak out on Yogi government

Last Updated: Mon, Jul 10, 2017 17:47 hrs
Indian Muslims offer prayers during heavy raining on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan outside the Tipu Sultan mosque, ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr in Kolkata

The Bhartiya Janata Party-led government in Uttar Pradesh has scrapped all traditions that were carried out by almost all previous government to convey the unique confluence of Hindu Muslim unity in the state.

The state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath did not hold an Iftar (breaking the fast) party at his official residence, during Ramzan. Yogi did not visit the Eidgah, where Muslims congregate to offer festival prayers, either.

Such blatant moves have not gone well within a section of the community that feels threatened. Although there is no overt protest, a disturbing silence is brewing deep down somewhere.

“We are anxious and feel insecure under this government,” a Muslim cleric speaks, pleading anonymity. “The livelihood of a large number of Muslims has already been under threat as the government decided to tighten noose around small slaughter houses; now we want to wait and see how the government moves further, before expressing our anguish.”

The above fear was manifested on 26 June, the day of Eid. A few miscreants threw pieces of pork meat, and empty liquor bottles in the compound of a mosque, in Amethi - the constituency of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The community, instead of being provoked, sought the intervention of the district administration. The case subsided without any clamour or communal tension.

Reports of lynching and mob persecution by the self-proclaimed gau rakshaks  are already flooding the media.

Meanwhile, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in its Central Governing Council meeting, held in Gujarat on 24-25 June, passed a resolution that demanded scrapping of both the Minority Commission and the Minority Affairs Ministry.

“The very idea of the Minority Commission and Minority Affairs Ministry gives credence to a separatist mindset, and a false feeling that the minority communities are being persecuted,” the Joint General Secretary of VHP, Dr Surendra Kumar Jain mentioned in a written statement.

An organisation, Minorities Education and Empowerment Mission, appealed to the community to wear black bands while offering prayers on Eid, to express their repression. Again, there was no assertive agitation.

“Our purpose was to only put across the fear under which the community is currently living,” the explanation came from Abdul Hannan, the State Secretary of MEEM.

However, not everyone is feeling the same. There is another section of the community, which does not find the current scenario threatening or hopeless in anyway.

“It is only uneducated who are feeling and also creating an environment of insecurity for the whole community,” says Zaheer Mustafa, a Lucknow-based political commentator. “If one’s activities are within the law, there is no need for one to feel terrified.”

On the contrary, he believes that the previous governments provided only lip service for the appeasement of Muslims and used them as vote bank, whereas the BJP government has been treating minorities as any other citizen.

“There was no shortcoming in the routine preparation for Eid, be it cleanliness or security arrangements, and the festival was celebrated without any untoward incident,” he says. “On the other hand, under the Akhilesh Yadav government, in 2015, stone pelting took place on the procession of 21st Ramzan, while the police remained a mute spectator!”

Mustafa does not find even the cases of violence by gau-rakshaks or closing of slaughter houses by the government, to be termed as acts of atrocities. He says the unrest in people, in general, is the manifestation of frustration.

“People in India have the tendency to not respect law, but now they are peeved because they are being asked to go by the rulebook,” argues Mustafa.

He concludes that a government can be termed anti-Muslim only if it creates hindrances in a community’s religious practices, which this government is definitely not doing, Mustafa concludes.

“On the contrary, I am seeing a reverse trend; at least 10 Muslim boys have found place in the top 100 Indian Administrative Services list of pass out this year, and this has happened under the Modi government, and never before,” he adds.

However, Mustafa’s optimistic arguments fail to convince the community at large.

Maulana Khalid Rashid Farangi Mahali, a cleric at the India Islamic Centre, does not find the present circumstances very encouraging for the minorities, although he says the only way forward is through education.

“The base of fear and frustration lies in illiteracy amongst Muslims, and we have begun to address the issue.”

As per the plan shared by Maulana, he along with like-minded people will set up educational institutions and ensure that Muslim children join these institutions and get education.

“For next 3-5 years, we will be concentrating on educating our community instead of indulging in any protests or remonstrations,” Maulana expresses his sentiments.

Alka Pande is an independent journalist, travel blogger & photographer based in Lucknow. She writes on issues relating to government policies, environment, health, business, and human resources.