A good introduction for those who seek to know the history of Muslims in India.
Through his book India’s Muslim Spring: Why is Nobody Talking About It?, Hasan Suroor raises a much-needed voice in the nation’s cultural and political discourse. He posits that quietly, internally, the next generation of Muslims in India is on a journey of social mobility that emancipates them from the clutches of extremist elements, defies the victimhood syndrome and the resulting appeasement at the hands of governments. It allows them to be comfortable with their identity and symbolism and, most importantly, focuses them on the pragmatic essentials of education and securing livelihoods. The generation believes that India is the best country for Muslims to live in and prosper. These changes are neither noticed enough nor reflected in the media.
He challenges the stereotypes that the Muslim community has suffered since independence and attempts to rectify the prejudiced prism through which the Hindu majority sees the Muslim minority. Suroor presents the not-so-uncommon argument that the creation of Pakistan robbed the community of a leadership that could have provided a framework to establish its own Indian identity. The community fumbled, became vulnerable to vested interests, and could not assert itself as equal citizens or fill the vacuum to pursue goals of social justice. He invokes the Sachar Committee report 2006, which proposes methods to overcome these inadequacies and laments that the suggestions have still not been implemented in right earnest. He exhorts the media to project a balanced view of the community. All these are much-needed arguments and Suroor’s intentions are right.
Any argument against established thinking needs to be bolstered by an adequate showing of the ground reality. Here the argument is of the reduction of the identity conflict in the minds of the Muslim youth. This is against the popular ‘us versus them’ conflict argument. Yet, the sample data is small, both in breadth and in depth. There is absolutely no mention of voices from South or East India. There is hardly a probing of the class, which is not as upwardly mobile as the upper or upper middle classes. Much of the book, except where historical facts are discussed, reads more like opinion than a slice of the voice of the 177 million-strong community that represents 14 per cent of the nation’s population.
The fact is that each microcosm of Indian society needs to be assessed on the triple matrix of religion, class and caste and their permutations. Else, however much it may extol a particular trend, the study will remain incomplete. Call it a much-needed editorial intervention, but a significant section of Part II of the book, which is based on real interviews, also seems to be talking in the author’s voice. This lack of sample data, admittedly cultural, inhibits the book.
The title is sexy but not fully adequate because at best the community is in transition and we might be celebrating the Spring a bit too early and prematurely. The book could make a good introduction for non-Muslims who seek to know the history of Muslims in India in a voice that is open and self-reflexive and not accusatory.
Amandeep Sandhu is the author of Roll of Honour.
India’s Muslim Spring: Why is Nobody Talking About It?; Hasan Suroor, Rupa, Rs.395