Hafiz Junaid, a bright young man, who had memorized the whole Qur’an at a rather young age of 15, is not the only person to have met this fate. There are many, and the number of such incidents is steadily going up across North India. The lynch mob that seems to wait for the victims and decides to pounce upon the unsuspecting people, are rather sure that the agencies meant to maintain law and order will do nothing to discourage them or go to the extent of apprehending them.
Such violence has spiraled so fast that to many people this seems simply unbelievable. The same trains where people of Hindu and Muslim faiths traveled together in utmost bonhomie and remarkable camaraderie, have started looking rather unsafe to some Muslims.
If someone wanted to know how this mindset is changing the society need to just look at the latest incident where a young Muslim engineer was caught travelling while wearing a head to toe veil, burka. When he was caught while travelling suspiciously he confessed of being too terrorized to be found out that he was a Muslim man and lynched in a running train.
Although the Prime Minister, after maintaining silence for several days, spoke out against the killing in the name of cow protection, his ‘admonition’ wasn’t accompanied with stern warning to discourage such elements, who apparently belong to the larger right wing apparatus spreading across the country.
An IndiaSpend report claims that 28 people have lost their lives while as many as 124 people have sustained injuries in such attacks. Muslims comprised as much as 86 percent of the victims in as many as 63 incidents.
It is needless to say that the deteriorating law and order situation is creating a sense of insecurity among the Muslim community. Many people have started fearing for their and their relatives’ safety. And the most important and immediate impact of this increasing lawlessness across north India and the lack of sense of security may prompt Muslims to ghettoise further.
Historically there is a clear trend that every major incident of violence increases ghettoisation in the eye of increased insecurity. In Mumbai, Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully, side by side in largely mixed colonies till late eighties. But then L K Advani’s Rath Yatra and the subsequent Mumbai riots changed it completely, almost overnight. The riots that were followed by Mumbai bomb blasts that together killed around two thousand people, built a separation wall between Muslims and Hindus. Muslims started looking for safer places, and many Muslim ghettos sprung up in the following two decades. One of them is Mumbra that lies between Thane and Borivali.
Basharat Peer, while writing in his inimitable style in The Hindu says, “Mumbra expanded with great velocity in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The Bombay riots of December 1992, which overwhelmingly killed Bombay Muslims, and the retaliatory bomb blasts in January 1993 by the Muslim underworld, reconfigured the social geography of the city. Bombay Muslims from riot-hit areas sought safety in numbers and found it in Mumbra, where Muslims from the Konkani coast had a long-standing presence. Through a combination of the desire for safety among Muslims, the relatively cheaper price of apartments, and continued rural-urban migration, Mumbra’s population grew 20 times from about 45,000 before the 1992 riots to more than 9,00,000 in the 2011 Census — possibly one of the fastest expansions of an urban area in India”.
Apparently, Mumbra is not the only Muslim ghetto that has sprung up in the post Babri Masjid demolition and the murderous riots that followed in its aftermath. In Mumbai alone there are numerous other ghettos that cater to people of different socio-economic standing from among the Muslim community. One of them is Mira Road. Millat Nagar, in Andheri caters to a bit affluent section among Muslims. While it may have all the amenities available to the other prosperous housing societies in upscale Andheri, Millat Nagar, without doubt is a ghetto rose due to feeling of insecurity among Muslims. Most of the people who bought home in Millat Nagar, were the ones who lived in cosmopolitan, mixes societies in different parts of the business capital in the country. Things are not much different in the national capital, New Delhi.
While Mumbai may have Mumbra, the national capital has numerous ghettos of its own, with hundreds of thousands of people filling in a small space, that may not house more than a few thousands people in the neighboring residential societies.
Jamia Nagar, a ghetto in the heart of national capital that lies between Noida and upscale New Friends Colony in South Delhi has a population of more than half a million people. The concrete blocks with small flats, bereft of any civic amenities that cost a pittance compared to surrounding societies saw a surge in its population following the Babri Masjid demolition and the increased sense of insecurity among Muslims. The pot-hole ridden roads, muck overflowing all over huge, open nallah that flows in much of the locality, with no greenery, no civic amenities, health services or good schools, Jamia Nagar looks forgotten by authorities. While some residents have tried to clean the place, in the absence of civic services this is simply impossible to accomplish. Therefore, despite all the efforts of some denizens, nothing has changed in the locality.
If Jamia Nagar is a God-forgotten place, Jaffarabad and the nearby ghetto of Welcome in East Delhi are far worse. While there are some good up-scale Muslim ‘ghettos’, similar to Millat Nagar in the national capital too, the number of people living there is miniscule compared to more than a million people living in ghettos like Jamia Nagar and Jaffarabad. The dwindling number of people, who continue to live in mixed colonies, have bought flats in Jamia Nagar for safety reasons.
While there have been no major riots in New Delhi or in Mumbai after riots in the wake of Babri Masjid demolition, the sense of insecurity continues to force Muslims to take up home in ghettos, despite the fact that many people can afford home in better places. The specter of riots or sense of insecurity continues to force them live in a place they abhor and can hardly relate to.
Ghettos have sprung almost everywhere, both in major cities and small towns across the country, particularly in North, Western and Central India. Now, the sudden surge in violence in the name of cow protection across the country, will force more people to take up home in ghettos. Government needs to come up with some tough measures to stop such violence to deter such elements from creating terror and an environment of fear.
More columns by Syed Ubaidur Rahman: