To be a Muslim in India today

Musliminindia Harsh Mander in The Hindu (via bookforum):

“In so many ways, I feel reduced to a second class citizen in my own country, only because of my Muslim identity. I fear we are losing every day the India we love.”

These words, with small variations, echoed in many diverse voices from far corners of the country. In a national meet on the status of Muslims in India today, organised by Anhad in Delhi from October 3 to 5, 2009, many individuals and representatives of organisations gathered from several parts of India. They spoke of negotiating life, relationships, work and the State as members of the largest religious minority in India. The predominant mood in these intense deliberations, which continued late into the evenings, was of sadness and disappointment, and of growing despair. Muslim citizens shared their mounting disillusionment with all institutions of governance, and more so with the police and judiciary, as well as with political parties and to some extent the media, and of a sense of fear that never goes away.

There is, on the one hand, the constant dread of being profiled as a terrorist, or of a loved one being so profiled, with the attendant fears of illegal and prolonged detention, denial of bail, torture, unfair and biased investigation and trial, and extra-judicial killings. There is, on the other hand, the lived experience of day-to-day discrimination, in education, employment, housing and public services, which entrap the community in hopeless conditions of poverty and want. This is fostered in situations of pervasive communal prejudice in all institutions of the State, especially the police, civil administration and judiciary; and also the political leadership of almost all parties; large segments of the print and visual media; and the middle classes, and the systematic manufacture of hate and divide by communal organisations.