The Hindu Lit Fest 2024 | Muslim identity in the age of anti-Muslim hate

Almost all the victims of lynching since September 28, 2015 have been Pasmanda Muslims. How many times has the government announced compensation for them or a rehabilitation package for them, asks Ziya Us Salam

January 26, 2024 02:02 pm | Updated February 14, 2024 02:59 pm IST - Chennai

Arjun Appadurai, Revati Laul, Ziya us Salam in conversation with Varghese K. George about the Muslim identity and politics at The Hindu Lit for Life festival 2024. (right to left)

Arjun Appadurai, Revati Laul, Ziya us Salam in conversation with Varghese K. George about the Muslim identity and politics at The Hindu Lit for Life festival 2024. (right to left) | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

The vitiating atmosphere of hate and scrutiny faced by the minorities in India, especially the Muslim community, particularly in the last 10 years since the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power were explored in the first session at The Hindu Pavilion in The Hindu Lit For Life 2024 here at Lady Andal school in Chennai on January 26.

A panel consisting of Arjun Appadurai, Emeritus Professor in Media, Culture and Communication at New York University; Revati Laul, author of The Anatomy of Hate, an account of perpetrators of 2002 riots in Gujarat, and veteran journalist Ziya Us Salam discussed the topic, The Faultlines of Faith, which was moderated by Varghese K. George, Resident Editor, The Hindu, New Delhi.The panellists discussed the complicated relationship between religion and politics in India today.

Mr. Ziya Us Salam said Muslims, particularly those living to the north of the Vindhyas, were being scrutinised for their every action and that riots of yesteryears have been replaced by lynchings today.

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Speaking about her book, The Anatomy of Hate, Ms. Laul said she wanted to explore the question of why politics of hate is mainstream and attractive. “My book The Anatomy of Hate came out of one question: Why ‘politics of hate’ is now mainstream and why was it so attractive? And we all know that in 2002, there was a pogrom against Muslims in at least 18 districts of Gujarat. As a journalist, I was more interested in knowing why this hate was so attractive. I decided to ask that question through the telling of the stories of three persons who were part of the pogrom,” she said.

Mr. Appadurai explained how the need to ‘fix things’ in terms of identity almost always results in brutality. “Modern state as well as other modern apparatuses need to ‘fix things’. And the colonial period notoriously said ‘You are this, you are not are upper caste’. There was hierarchy before but there was some fluidity and life and death did not depend on what answer you give. Once that rigidity sets in, the next step is that the mixture (which is already in the society) becomes a problem. So, the bigger apparatuses need stability, fixity and order.... this is what is going on with new laws such as CAA, which says, ‘You are this you’re not that’. And in every case, you encounter the history of mixture, and, so, brutality follows because the state is telling you ‘Sorry, you cannot be that’,” said Mr. Appadurai.

On the question of the need to homogenise the identity of the Muslims in India and the attempt of the current dispensation to address the issues of gender and caste within the Muslim community, the panellists said the government should be more proactive.

“As a Muslim, I don’t think anybody buys that argument that the government (BJP) has done anything for Muslim women. The Triple Talaq petitions started coming up in different courts across the country from 1980 onwards and Narendra Modi was nowhere on the horizon. And even in the latest case, all the petitioners were women and they were supported by Muslim Mahila Andolan,” said Mr. Ziya Us Salam. He added, “So it was the Supreme Court which invalidated instant Triple Talaq and this was according to the letter and spirit of the Quran, it had nothing to do with the government of the day. What is important is the law which the government made afterwards, after the Supreme Court had asked for a law on those lines to be made. The law is still full of loopholes – it goes against the concept of reconciliation, which is the hallmark of any marital arrangement. Any two partners can have their bad days or good days, but Islam gives the opportunity to reconcile after divorce. There is a period of three months during which the partners can speak to each other. Or if nothing else, that man doesn’t even take back his Talaq, they can resume cohabitation. The new law which has been framed by the Parliament takes away that opportunity of reconciliation. It makes it a crime for the Muslim community.”

Mr. Ziya Us Salam added, “Almost all the victims of lynching — barring Dalits — since September 28, 2015 to January 2024, have been Pasmanda Muslims; how many times has the government announced compensation for them or a rehabilitation package for them? Or even the Prime Minister has he ever tweeted in support of them?”

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