The identity of an Indian-Muslim carries a political burden entailing bloody historical events that still continue to cast a shadow on their existence. Especially in the contemporary political times, the Indian-Muslim identity has become critical, and the community is constantly under supervision from the particular lens of religion.
“Your heart is being sundered. Yet you stay”, says the taangewala to Salim Mirza in Garam Hawa, as he returns home after what seems like his nth trip to the railway station, dropping off yet another one of his family members to board the train to Pakistan, the new country for the Muslims. After repeated suggestions from what is left of his family in the newly-independent India, and probably the resultant chaos in his mind, he decides to stay back in the place he was born- and there where he wishes to breathe his last. This decision he makes- not once, not twice, but repeatedly fights off all instincts to once and for all succumb to the calls of those who have left. Is he an Indian first, or is he only a Muslim? This dilemma, echoed by most others like him culminates in the birth of an identity, the repercussions of which are much larger than what the brain could process at the time of making that one decision- to leave or to stay.
“Indian-Muslim”, an identity perhaps born in 1947 that would entail a political burden not even diluted by bloodshed every other decade, a burden that would question the validity of the former part of that name at every step, a burden that initially felt lighter under the garb of a certain sense of belongingness, and that would turn into the heavy weight of being orphaned, and one that would eventually become more and more painful with every unsuccessful search for representation with the passage of time.
Today, what the major part of the nation sees in the Indian-Muslim is the uncivilized barbaric invader that has been painted on their faces by propaganda, a leech that is sucking on the resources it has no rights to, a servant that has not been loyal enough to the master and has failed to, so to say, pay the price of the consumed salt. The community today, looks like the various stones scattered in a river that are no doubt great in numbers but their strength is not visible. And for every agenda, they are stepped on to successfully navigate through the ripples that cause or have the potential to cause unrest in the river. From blaming the spread of the coronavirus on the Tablighi Jamaat to the arrest of dissenting voices, religion has been a determining factor. Their perception has rather become a two-dimensional and flat image that on one hand appropriates the deliciousness of Biryani and the spirituality of Kun Faya Kun, but on the other, finds ways to justify the framing of the jamaat members, and arrest of the dissenters.
“You guys have colonised the entire world. Why can’t you let us have a temple on our spiritual land?” These were the words spoken by an NRI woman, who referred to the ones not celebrating the “historic day of 5th August 2020”, as the ones who were “spewing hatred.” Besides the statement having numerous problems, the way of addressing is what has to be noted. She isn’t alone. “You guys”, “you people”, and other such ways of addressing have become common to the Indian-Muslim ear. These addresses not only entail other-ing and differ-ing, but discriminating as well.
Not that all this is new today- it has always been there, but it existed in fragments and was hidden. Today, it has not only been structured and unified, but also normalized and idolized. The politics of (re)naming and coloring has, if not completed then definitely accelerated the process that aims at replacing the hyphen (-) in the Indian-Muslim with an oblique (/). It is a process that now succeeds at making the Indian-Muslims feel alien in a country they chose, a process that makes the “unity in diversity” lesson from third grade falser with each passing day.
People, that are being morphed into a topic of debate, an issue of elections, or a bankable story for the media-houses (even Bollywood), continue knowingly or unknowingly to make an effort to be more than their names and their portrayed pictures and narratives as a consequence of that name. They are, however, time and again being reduced to that name, believers, non-believers, the confused folk, all alike.
Alfisha Sabri is a student pursuing English Literature at University of Delhi.
Edited By: Shaireen Khan
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.