By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2019-12-30 11:37:07
Why Indian Muslims are regularly asked to "go to Pakistan"? It was the Hindutva protagonists who started it. Later, BJP politicians used it whenever Muslims protested against any policies of the party. But now, disturbingly and dangerously, senior police officers are also using the same to target Muslims. It was a major slip on part of Akhilesh Narayan Singh, Superintendent of Police, Meerut (City), to ask Muslim protestors who were protesting against the CAA to "go to Pakistan".
But that slip showed which way he was leaning and how his mind worked. Is this the way a law enforcement officer supposed to behave? It was clear from his bias that in a situation where there would be a dispute between Hindus and Muslims under his watch, he would favour the Hindus. Such biased officers are not good for the police force in a multi-dimensional society like India. Police officers are supposed to enforce the law and the law is expected to treat every citizen equally. By asking Muslims to go to Pakistan, Singh was, in effect, saying that they would not receive the same protection under the law that was available to Hindus.
Why should Indian Muslims "go to Pakistan"? Pakistan is not their country, India is. Their forefathers had made a conscious decision to stay in India (which promised them a secular nation where they would not be treated as second class citizens) during Partition. They have contributed as much to the development of the nation as Hindus or any other community. Yes, they have protested against things that they thought would either make them lose their identity or would take away a privilege granted to them by the Constitution, but that is normal. Any minority community would forever be aware of, and vigilant against, any attempt to subdue it.
Yet, they have (barring certain issues like the Shah Bano case) bowed before the laws of the nations and have accepted the decisions of the Supreme Court without demur as law-abiding citizens (the latest example being the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid issue). If they are now protesting against the NRC and the CAA so vocally and with such force, it is because they believe that the BJP is trying to do away with the Constitutional guarantees provided to them and turn India into a Hindu rashtra. Instead of oppressing them or taking away their democratic right to protest peacefully, the government should reach out to them and explain why they should not be worried and how the CAA or the NRC will not affect their current status, now or in the future. This the minimum courtesy that should be extended to the community in order to make them understand the provisions and prevent them from being 'misled'.
Yes, there have been attempts of turning them into vote banks and some politicians have pandered to the community (raising questions about appeasement) but as Muslims get educated and new-age leadership emerges, this is also going to end. Not many Muslims genuinely like to be appeased. They know what is available to them under the Constitution and they try to live within that. The problems arise when some politicians unnecessarily promise them the Moon just to get their votes. This will also change with the emergence of new leadership that will be more focused on lifting the community out of the poverty and ghetto mentality that the old leadership and the politicians had bestowed on them.
But as Muslims fight hundreds of biases and still try to make an honest living in their homeland, no person has the right to question their patriotism and ask them to "go to Pakistan". Leaving aside the usual Hindutva allegations (like burning crackers to celebrate Pakistan's win over India in a cricket match), has anyone seriously found a majority of Indian Muslims to being unpatriotic? Most Indian Muslims do not subscribe to the Pakistani brand of Islam. The Indian Muslim is at peace with his religion and with being an Indian. It is officers such as Akhilesh Narayan Singh who have not reconciled themselves into believing that they are as much Indians as he.
Pic credit: Amit Dave/Reuters