I read with a lot of trepidation the thoughts of Yasin Merchant in today’s edition of the Times of India. Yasin Merchant is the two time Asian Snooker Champion and Asian Games Doubles Gold Medallist who did India proud. Yasin was saying that he was born in Mumbai, his father, grandfather and fore fathers lived in Mumbai, and that all of them had contributed their bit to Mumbai. In spite of this, he needs to prove, time and again, that he is an Indian, just because he happens to be a Muslim.
I suggested to my wife, Seema, and my niece, Priya, that all of us go through an exercise of imagining that we were Indian Muslims, and then share our experiences. This piece is an outcome of this exercise and some of our thoughts and feelings are being put onto paper.
At a personal level, our feelings were of rejection, indignation, anger, frustration and exclusion.
At a reaction level, feelings of proving oneself time and again despite being a true Indian, no different from others, came to the fore. There were also feelings of not being accepted accentuating the need to belong when there was no iota of doubt of ‘belonging’ in our minds. Added to these were feelings of discrimination for and against which meant that if something was achieved, it was because one belonged there and not because one deserved it, and in certain spheres of life one was not even being included just because of the label ‘Muslims’. Many a time, names and surnames proved as turning points because of the association these had in some minds. Stereotyping the majority of Muslims as traitors became evident because of a few overzealous and misguided miscreants who indulged in reprehensible acts of violence and killing . During our conversations we wondered whether the label ‘Muslim’ was written on foreheads for others to see.
At the third level we were groping with the type of mental image that the majority of the citizens of this country carried of Muslims. This image has been formed and built assiduously by those so called leaders who have an axe to grind . These power brokers to achieve their personal ends and to detract citizens from other significant issues, instigate the citizens against Muslims to sharpen the Hindu - Muslim divide. They have understood the psyche of the majority of our citizens, and are clear most of them are indifferent. They know very well that the ordinary citizen has no time to sift the wheat from the chaff, and gather data to call the bluff. Thus, they thrive, but at whose cost?
The answer, of course, is begging the question. The conclusions that we arrived at was that all of us in this great country need to think beyond the mundane where enlightenment and education of the masses is the key. It will dawn on us through this heightened awareness and consciousness to appreciate that we are human beings first and only later Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Sikhs. Today it is Yasin, tomorrow it will be John, sometime later Balwinder, and finally Iyer. These hurting and painful narrations need to be stopped and a crying need exists to uphold the self esteem of those who shed their blood, tears, toil and sweat for our motherland.
Of Borders and lines
3 weeks ago