In the midst of the ongoing farmers’ strike, there is a raging discussion within the Muslim community in India, as to whether they should take part in the farmers’ protest or not. There is a sort of apprehension within the community especially the community elders about the repercussions of participation in the ongoing protests.
Muslims are visible among the protesters not just at Delhi’s adjoining borders with Haryana and Punjab, but also Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and elsewhere too where the protests have been most visible. Even the women donning hijab are joining the farmers, addressing the gathering and sitting in the protests for entire days. Muslims have been serving food to protesting farmers from day one since the beginning of the anti-farms protests. The images of people of Sikh faith standing in solidarity with Muslims offering prayers at farmers' protest site near Delhi have gone viral. There are physicians from Aligarh Muslim University’s medical hospital who are set to reach the protest and take care of the health of the protesters.
However, the numbers are limited and there is a sort of discomfiture within the community about the protests and the future of the people from among the community joining the farm protest. Many Muslims seem to be somewhat unnerved by what happened in the aftermath of the anti-CAA protests. The Shaheen Bagh and other similar protests across the country, according to Muslim activists were necessitated due to the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act. The CAA and the National Registry of Citizenship, according to the Muslim activists were discriminately and inherently anti-Muslim.
The act passed in Rajya Sabha on 11th December last year ignited nationwide protests, beginning with the students protests in Assam. However, there are many among the community who believe that the police and administration are hounding many protesters who were part of the anti-CAA movement and that many activists are being willfully targeted merely due to the fact that they were part of the protests. According to them this is not just happening in Delhi but Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other places too.
A group of eminent people in an appeal against the police crackdown a few months ago said, “Instead of engaging with the protestors, the state has chosen, if predictably, to unleash its naked power on them: detaining, and arresting them under harsh penal provisions…the anti-CAA protests mark a poignant moment of constitutional recovery, and reclamation of the republic from a turgid and toxic hyper-nationalism.”
This apparently has frightened and unsettled many people within the community. Now many activists who were ever ready to be part of any social movement are not just apprehensive about it, they tend to think twice before coming forward to even join the protest. Apparently they have seen the high-handed attitude of the administration and arm-twisting by the police when it comes to protests by the community.
This is the reason that many are apprehensive about the Muslim youth joining the farmers’ protests. They claim that the community is already at the receiving end of the police excesses, and now they should take a break and not get embroiled in another round of witch hunting. A community activist who was formerly an office bearer of the Aligarh Muslim University’s (AMU) students union and was very active in Shaheen Bagh protest, when asked about his plan to visit Singur or other prominent farmers protest sites said he hasn’t planned. When asked why he says there are multiple reasons for him not being ready to join the protest but the basic reason is that he doesn’t want another round of crackdown against the community activists. “It is not just about me. There are any number of people, including women from within the community who will be ready to join the farmers protests, but why to invite more bullying and threats. There are a huge number of farmers and others at every rally and given what we have been through till very recently, I don’t see any merit in inviting any more trouble”, he tells me.
Shahkeel Shamsi, the editor of Inquilab while writing in his editorial says “ever since the BJP government came to power, it has made it a habit to label any protest as anti-national and communal. It even goes to the extent of labeling protests as terrorist activities. Students protests become ‘tukde, tukde gang’, Dalit protests become ‘urban Naxals’ and if Muslims protest, even BJP ministers go to the town shouting slogans like ‘desh ke ghaddaron ko, goli maro ….ko’. Now when farmers are protesting against the anti-farm laws passed by the union government, they are being called Khalistanis”.
He goes on to add that “My advice to Muslims will be to desist from any action that may allow the administration to label this farm protest something other than a farmers’ protest. Muslims shouldn’t go out and organize protests to give Godi media a ruse to claim that Muslims actually forced the shut down in the garb of the farmers. This shouldn’t be allowed at any cost. The people who are feeling sympathetic with the farmers’ protests and their plight should invariably keep their businesses and shops shut. But Muslim youths shouldn’t join the protesting groups going out to force the shops shut during the shutdown. If Muslims are part of a political party and they are part of the protests they should stick to their political leaders’ plan and shouldn’t go out separately. Muslims shouldn’t needlessly organize separate sit-ins and protests within the Muslim localities. I also request Muslim farmers that they should hold protests along with Hindu and Sikh farmers and not try to organize separate protests of their own, lest it is labeled otherwise. We should make efforts that this nationwide protest isn’t labeled anything but farmers protest”.
However, there are many people within the community who believe that enough is enough and that the high handed attitude of the administration mustn’t cow down the youth from exercising their democratic rights. Nadeem Khan, a founding member of India Against Hate while writing on his Facebook page says, “There seems to be an effort to create a fear psychosis within the Muslim community where they become silent on all issues surrounding them and where they are completely isolated from others. When this isolation is complete, there will be no support left for the community. They will be completely isolated with no one to support them. We should ensure that this doesn’t happen at any cost”.
Despite apprehensions and fears, this is surprising to see community activists making a beeline to take part in the farmers’ protests and provide whatever support they could lend to the movement. An abaya wearing female Muslim activist who came all the way from Hyderabad in her peculiar Deccani accent assured the protesters all the support from Hyderabad. There are many like her who are coming to the protest site. However, the fact that there is fear and apprehension in the air cannot be denied. The good thing is that it is not stopping many activists from going forward and joining the farmers protest, though certainly in a much diminished number.
More Columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman:
Prophet Muhammad's Milad and Blasphemy
Sir Syed's jihad against religious orthodoxy continues today
NEP 2020 and Muslims: Aspirations and apprehensions
Ahmadullah Shah: Hero whose head and body are buried
Syed is a New Delhi based author and commentator. His forthcoming book 'Ulema's Role in India's Freedom Movements with Focus on Reshmi Rumal Tehrik will be out in October