Let me begin by narrating a small incident to you; the incident that is the inspiration behind this article. I remember talking to one of my friend recently. She is a Muslim. The September 13 Delhi Blasts had just happened over the weekend, and like any other concerned, worried citizens, we were discussing the tragic incident during one of our free lectures in college. Initially it was the usual talk- commenting on the sad state of affairs in the country; the lack of appropriate measures by the government, etc.
Suddenly however, during our conversation, my friend made a remark. She said “Do you know how hard it is to be a Muslim these days in India, Mallika?” Now, we all have heard this comment or something to that effect, so many times in our lives, especially these days. News channels and papers show us interviews of famous people like Shabana Azmi, talking about the hardships a Muslim has to face living in India.
But never before had such a comment have such an impact on me. I remember my friends face; her expressions. She had fear in her eyes; anxiety; but mostly- sadness. It felt so strange. For me, she was my friend -free from any boundaries of religion, language or caste; like so many of us she was any other young college going girl; and yet here she was, in a completely new light to me- scared for herself; scared for her loved ones; scared by her own fellow countrymen.
It is no secret that our country is brewing with communal tension; the same country that proudly declares itself to be secular in the very beginning of its constitution. But why just communal tension? In a diverse nation like ours which has become sort of a ‘melting pot’, there are no limits to the number of social, religious and cultural biases. From the Hindu-Christian riots in Karnataka, to cases of Dalit exploitation, and to inter-state disputes, India sure does top the list of ‘Intra nation disputes’. However surprisingly, when it comes to the Muslim community, a sudden common bitterness swells up within the rest of us Indians, and for once, forgetting our infinite ‘upper-lower caste’, language, etc differences, we seem to join hands and hate the Muslim community as a whole!
However, I definitely do not accuse everyone of this. We do not lack broad-minded, tolerant people in our country that choose to look above such differences and prejudices. Unfortunately, they are defeated by a larger number of prejudiced people, harboring intense hatred; a hatred that might not perhaps take the violent form of openly waging a war against the Muslims, but slowly yet vehemently turns up on perhaps hearing the news about the many bomb blasts in our nation(the blame of which more than often goes on people from the Muslim community), or may be seeing a woman dressed in a ‘hijab’ or even during something as simple as a classroom discussion on religion!
How many times haven’t we heard of instances where young working men were denied accommodation just because the landlord had suddenly noticed the presence of the word ‘khan’ or ‘hussain’ in their surnames? Haven’t we heard of women from villages change their names from a ‘nida’ to a ‘radha’ just to be able to seek a job in urban homes? (Funnily, people who otherwise are very cautious and fussy about such religious differences, rather easily fall prey to this con job!)
I am ashamed to see such hatred; such deep antipathy towards people of our own country. Why are the acts of some individuals being used as weapons against an entire community? Why blame all the Muslims? Are all of them evil minded people? No they aren’t! Perhaps a lot of us often forget that they are as ‘Indianish’; as ‘Bhartiya’ as the rest of us.
Every community has its own evil and its own good. What in today’s time ‘Bajrang Dal’ is doing for the Hindu Community, some individuals are doing for the Muslim Community; and so for every other culture, caste and community in India. With a diverse nation like ours, clashes and disagreements are bound to happen. Accusations will fly and blames will be put; a chain that keeps on going without an end. So why not look beyond our differences for once? Why not stop taking religion, caste and such infinite differences so personally and putting each other down? Why not, for once, look at everyone as ‘Indians’ first, and together, celebrate our diversity?!