By Nasima Islam
Here I write about the 21-year-old young man, Ansar Ahmed Shaikh, who cracked the civil services exam (UPSC) in his first attempt. In one of his interviews, he reveals that he had to camouflage his Muslim identity under the pseudo-name of Shubham in order to find accommodation in the city of Pune. Having cleared the exam and tasting success, now an ecstatic Ansar wants to assert to the world that his name is ‘Shaikh’ and not ‘Shubham’.
This ontological human instinctual urge to assert the Self in the universe however sets the social media on fire, exposing critical questions on how Muslims in India have to face discrimination on a daily basis. At this point, an IITian from Bombay enters the scene and writes an open reply to Ansar in quite an aggressive manner, demonising the latter and calling him almost an animal, even a ‘jihadi’ (quite a loaded term in the post-9/11 world). What I find appalling is that this person’s reply is doing the rounds on social media under headline, “Thrashing Reply to Muslim UPSC Ranker from a Respectable IIT-Bombay scientist”.
Now let me start writing my reply to this ‘thrashing’ reply to a ‘Muslim’ UPSC Rank-holder by a ‘respectable’ IIT Bombay scientist. Let me start my reply to this ‘reply ‘ of Mr. Respectable by referring to the suicide note of Rohith Vemula, the scholar from the University of Hyderabad (who had to sacrifice his life due to the campus’ saffron atrocities towards the subalterns): “My birth is my fatal accident.” In this statement, Rohith clearly howls out in pain describing how his whole existence was reduced to his “immediate identity”, i.e., that of a Dalit, a subaltern, a marginalised, an outcast, a lesser human. Just before hanging himself from the ceiling fan of his hostel room, the scholar (let’s not please address him as “a Dalit scholar”) wrote how a human being is denied his due dignity and right to free-thinking and unhindered living. This has given lakhs of sensible people so many sleepless nights.
Why am I referring to Rohith? Well, I find the cases of Rohith and Ansar very similar. The only difference is that while Rohith had to physically sacrifice his existence in his ontological quest to establish the Self, in the post-Rohith India, Ansar rebels with his physical presence. While the former had to meet the fated Skyfall, the latter causes a collision in the sky. Yet both of them are made of the same “Glorious Stardust”.
For now, let’s come back to the case of our young bright, shining star of tomorrow’s India (I don’t see much hope for my country when IITians like this person educated by public money display such a mindset). From Ansar’s life-story, we come to know that he belongs to the poorest non-creamy layer of his community in an India, where they are bound to a hand-to-mouth life of absolute misery and struggle. Still with the “wings of fire”, he has been able to continue his wonderful udaan by coming out victorious. The fact that Ansar’s father has two more wives, apart from his mother, becomes the attacking point of this IITian from Bombay, who brings the whole of Quran, Hadith, and Islamic religion, along with accusing the 21-year-old Ansar. Now let me ask him: has he ever read the Quran in order to know its stand on polygamy, women and other related matters? Let me clarify strongly that the Quran doesn’t force nor does it encourage one to exercise polygamy. It just gives consent to circumstantial cases of polygamy, which is also under strict terms and conditions, ensuring the consent and wellbeing of the first wife. Moreover, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan is fighting hard for the amendment, updating and modification of Sharia law. I consider this movement as an absolute sign of progress taking place within the community.
But being un/misaware of all these, our Mr. Respectable IITian goes on to demonise Ansar and Islam. He goes on to blame Ansar as if he was an adult during his father’s multiple marriages. See his birth certificate. He is now just 21. So how can you blame him for his father’s acts? I would speculate that his father’s three marriages are a result of his father’s non-education. Mr. Respectable’s argument would have gained currency had Ansar himself committed polygamy (after having received proper education, unlike his father).
Now, here is some reality check. Have you, at all, gone through the surveys in order to know how many Muslims in India actually exercise polygamy in our generation? Let me put forward the survey reports: “A study (1971) shows that percentage incidence of polygynous marriages (where a man has more than one wife) is 5.80 per cent among Hindus. The incidence among Muslim is in fact slightly lower at 5.73 per cent. The incidence of polygynous marriages is highest among certain tribes (15.25 per cent) followed by Buddhists (7.97) and Jains (6.72 per cent).” (Source: Here)
However, our IITian seems to have no clue about it. I must assert that it is because of these so-called upper-class, upper-caste, xenophobic, ignorant and uninformed people of India, there is so much discrimination in our country against the Dalitised subalterns in general and Muslims in particular. It is people like him whose minds are so closed that there is no place for people from other religions. It now makes sense that some fanatics conducted puja for the Presidential win of Donald Trump. Indeed, people with such mentality will find in some mindless Trump their long-lost American ideological brother. It’s interesting to note that not even once in his ‘reply’ does Mr. IITian congratulate the young man, who has just emerged victorious, and cracked the UPSC in his first attempt defeating all odds at such a young age. What unsettles Mr. IITian is the poor fellow’s revelation of a bitter truth. That he was denied a house for being Muslim. He finds offensive not the discrimination the boy had to face but the way the boy exposed it. How dare he! How ungrateful a fellow must this young boy be!
Well, I assume the IITian himself may be among the prejudiced people, who never give their house on rent to a Muslim by virtue of the person’s name. I am also eager to know his behaviour with his fellow Muslim scientists, his Muslim colleagues in Bombay. Seriously speaking, as I went through his reply, I could sense every word of his stinking hatred for Muslims. In fact, his letter nakedly puts forward the deep-rooted hatred and prejudices against Muslims lurking within the perverted psyche of people out there. The fundamentalists like him are a threat to the ideal pillar of a multicultural country like India, whose motto is and must be “unity in diversity”. These are the people who are responsible for the minority witch-hunting, for Dalit oppression, for the ossification of the process of otherisation, for the dangerous proclivity towards ethnic-cleansing, for the nourishment of the Brahminical manuvadi hierarchy where a Dalit, a Muslim, a tribal will always be at the manholish bottom of the social structure, at the very receiving end. I am also amused by the scientist’s not-so-scientific attempt to single out Muslims, who get discriminated by the Brahmanyavadis. Doesn’t he have the least idea how Dalits are murdered, raped, tormented and ghettoised Indiawide?
Let me once again go back to Rohith. Very few of us are aware of the fact that Rohith was a leader of the ASA (Ambedkar Students’ Association) which was working for establishing a solidarity between Dalits and Muslims in terms of their suffering at the hands of majoritarian fascist forces. This is where Rohith proved to be critically problematic to deal with because solidarity among all the subalternised, minoritised oppressed groups in India would mean the death-knell of Hindutva, which the upper-caste Brhamanyavadis are hell-bent on saving.
To conclude, when we read some well-known IITians, doctors, engineers, businessmen or teachers advocating for caste and religion-based discrimination, we need to realise that these are the ideologues carrying forward the larger saffronising mission (a mission which they find not so impossible now in the wake of the NDA regime at Centre). And they have no consideration for Rohith’s and Ansar’s sufferings. Actually these people are those who won’t stretch their empathetic hands to people belonging to different underprivileged communities and work for a unified India. All they attempt is to further the discrimination and demonize the counter-hegemonic voices (here the voice of the 21-year-old Ansar), the voice of the long-suppressed underrepresented Subalternised Other.
Nasima Islam is pursuing M.A. in English Literature at Kazi Nazrul University (KNU), Asansol, West Bengal, India.
Read our previous posts on housing discrimination against Muslims in India:
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