If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Monday, 7 November 2011

To be a Muslim in India

Yesterday's Indian Express carried these stories.

“Nadeem Saiyed, a key witness to the Naroda Patiya massacre during the 2002 Gujarat riots, was brutally killed on the main street of Juhapura on Saturday. He was stabbed 25 times, just steps away from the anti-terrorism group headquarters.”

Saiyed gave evidence in the Naroda Patiya mass murder case, which had been a ghastly incident even by the standards of Gujarat riots. The official death count was 39, but it was actually much higher. Tehlka magazine’s spy cameras caught some of the mass murderers gleefully boasting – with gory details – about how they had killed defenceless people at Naroda Patiya Housing Society. On Headlines Today, I saw a similar footage, but I am not sure if it is their in-house footage or that of Tehlka.

Saiyed was under police protection since 2009. The newspaper added, “But it is not clear why the PSO [personal security officer?] and another guard assigned to protect him were not around at the time of the incident. … A few days ago, Saiyed met Ahmedabad police chief S K Saikia and sought more security.”

The second story is actually a positive development, but distressing if viewed in totality. A Special court granted bail to all the nine men accused in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts in which 37 persons were killed and hundreds injured. The blasts had occurred in and around a mosque in Malegaon in Nashik district during the afternoon prayers on Shab-e-Barat.

The accused, all Muslims, had filed fresh bail applications after a Hindu priest, Aseemanand confessed in late 2010 that the blasts had been set off by Hindu extremists. Indian Express went on to add that the NIA [National Investigation Agency] said that after the confession of Aseemanand, it reviewed the evidence of other investigating agencies and then collected fresh evidence before arriving at its decision not to oppose the bail plea. The families of the nine men insist they are innocent and were framed by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad which first handled the probe, and later, by the CBI, which took over the case.

Gujarat government has systematically, blatantly, and shamelessly tried to derail the process of justice for the 2002 riot victims, including arresting whistle-blower IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt. The murder of Saiyed is possibly the latest paragraph in that long, sordid saga of sabotage. If a key witness, supposedly under police protection, can be killed, what are the chances that the Naroda Patiya killers would be brought to justice?

As regards the second case, who will pay for the lost years of the men framed by the state?

It cannot be proved mathematically, but there are strong indications that in both cases, the state has proactively hurt a community which has no protection other than from its own tormentors. At least in parts of India today, being a Muslim may guarantee that you won’t get justice from the state.

Fortunately, the Indian story is neither so simple, nor one-dimensional. The same paper carried the following report too.

Nineteen year-old Sweety Abdul lives in a tarpaulin-covered shanty beside the Cross Maidan in Mumbai, where she grew up watching boys playing cricket. She helps her sister run their small unauthorised shoe shop in nearby Fashion Street, a Mumbai flea-market. The shack that she shares with her ailing mother and sister — her father died when she was nine — has little space and no electricity. Sweety dropped out of school after Class VII.

Yesterday was the proudest day of Sweety’s life because she was selected to play for the senior Mumbai cricket team. The Mumbai under-19 coach said she had bailed out her team several times, including against Gujarat when she hit a 50 with her side five down.

Sweety told the newspaper, “(But) when batting, sometimes my worries are not about tackling opponent bowlers, but about the municipality vans which routinely come and try to clear away the stalls. If they raid our shop, it is tough.”

During the monsoon, she prays for rain to go away, as otherwise, her cricketing gear would get spoilt: “Hum dua karte hain barsish zor ki na ho.”

For every game she is paid Rs 2,500, from which TDS is deducted, says Sweety. The difference with men’s Ranji team is stark. The men get over Rs 1 lakh per match. The reporter added, rather poetically, “But there are days when everything seems possible, like when she boarded a flight to return from Ahmedabad or when she gets to stay in an actual room with walls during hotel stays for cricket matches.”

Sweety hopes to find a job, though she knows it won’t be easy. And she wants to see her family in a proper house where they don’t have to worry about thieves and junkies. In the India of Infosys, Sachin Tendulkar, and Narendra Modi, it will be tough, but not impossible. Let’s wish her luck.

[Photo and information - courtesy The Indian Express]


  1. With a virtual tinpot dictator at the helms, one finds it so difficult to believe that Gujarat is also the home state of Mahatma Gandhi!
    The nine men wrongly incarcerated for the Malegaon blasts ought to sue the authorities for shoddy investigation and the loss of so many years behind bars. Every time there's a blast, our 'experts' claim that it's a Muslim outfit! This is not just ridiculous, it's highly dangerous!

  2. Jyoti Prosad Chakravarti1 December 2011 at 10:38

    Dear Shantanu,
    Without endorsing the brutal murder of Nadem Syeed,I suggest we must not be super sensitive to the sufferings of only one community-historically all communal sufferings have been unleashed by the irresponsible and vested interested politicians. Muslims are far better protected in India than their counterparts in our neighbouring countries .You are aware how Bengalee Muslims suffered in erstwhile East Pakistan and how the Ahmediya Community are persecuted in Pakistan to this day.

  3. Thanks, both of you for your comments.

    Jyoti, Maybe, Muslims are better protected in India compared to many other countries, but can we say that about Gujarat? The riots were bad, but there had been riots in the past. What is totally unacceptable is the way an elected government in a democratic set-up, which was oath-bound to protect every community, went after Muslims in a systematic manner. Later, the same government pulled out all the stops to protect the guilty. Just yesterday (1/12/2011), the Gujarat High Court handed over the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case to the CBI and the Supreme Court rapped the state government for withholding facts in the Shorabuddin murder case.

    More than the fate of Muslims, which is an important issue, what should bother us is the future of the Indian democracy. If the protectors of the law deliberately break law without showing the least sign of remorse, it puts a question mark about the future of our democracy itself.


I will be happy to read your views, approving or otherwise. Please feel free to speak your mind. Let me add that it might take a day or two for your comments to get published.