It has become a part of our nationalism to highlight communal trouble in India. We don’t realise that this kind of thinking is not good for the Muslims there. Scholars think that if India and Pakistan proceed on their hostile course and threaten each other with nuclear weapons, Muslims in India will face the possibility of subordination, expulsion and genocide.
This is gleaned from the history of what happened to such minorities elsewhere in the world. But if things remain normal, the Muslims of India will face the following four options: assimilation, pluralism, secession and dominance. This is the thesis of the volume Living with Secularism: The Destiny of India’s Muslims: Edited by Mushirul Hasan; (Manohar, India, 2007).
The following Indian states have Muslim minorities, as indicated by percentages: Assam (28 per cent), Kerala (23 per cent) West Bengal (23 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (17.3 per cent), Bihar (16 per cent) and Karnataka (16 per cent). Needless to say the largest number live in UP, where the total population is more than that of Pakistan.
Indian scholar Mushirul Hasan wrote, Will secular India survive? (2004) and challenged the doctrine of Hindutva spread around by the BJP. After 2004, Hindutva has not gone away. It threatens the Muslims more than the other communities because: 1) Muslims are the largest religious minority in India and the latter has the second largest Muslim population in the world; 2) Muslims are erstwhile rulers of India and the memory presents them as a threat to the Hindu majority; 3) Muslims are considered as members of a settler colony by Sangh Pariwar; 4) Muslims get excluded because of majoritarian nationalism with Pakistan as the ‘other’, and because Indian Muslims are seen as a separatist population; 5) Muslims are targets of all communal riots; 6) Muslims serve as instruments of Hindu unity under Hindutva because India is presented as being under threat from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir; 7) Muslims spoil the Indian monolithic identity as a Hindu Rashtra and are an obstacle in India’s unification.
What will happen to the Muslims of India? Muslim threat is expressed by the fact that their population, although only 13 per cent of the total, has grown to this number in fifty years, more quickly as compared to the Hindus. Is this fear comparable to the Christian fear of ethnic supersession by Muslims through birth rate, aroused in Lebanon after 1943, ending in the civil war of 1975-88? There is a Muslim majority in Kashmir and large Muslim minorities in West Bengal and Assam near the border of an adjoining Muslim state that equally arouses fear and loathing.
Southern and coastal India don’t hate the Muslims as much as the Indian north and northwest, but may begin to have communal riots as the BJP and its friends spread their influence there. It is possible that the Muslims may actually be squeezed into the coastal areas in the South to join the non-threatening ‘middlemen Muslims’: Memons, Khojas, Bohras, Navayats, Marakayyars, Lebais, Rawthors and Mapillas. They pose no threat to the majority dominance.
Muslims in Hyderabad, Bhopal and Junagadh are humorously equated to past elite but they are, in fact, local poor Hindu converts who can never challenge Hindus unless they step out of poverty and acquire education.
But the final solution lies in Indo-Pakistan relations. Conceptual solutions don’t appeal in South Asia because the social sciences have been neglected here. Indirect solutions, like free trade that brings prosperity to the masses, and getting rid of the paranoia of the state — read dominance of intelligence agencies — could normalise relations and remove the fear of war and save the Muslims of India from being persecuted.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2011.