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Social stratification in India: reason why Muslims bear the brunt of Hindutva frenzy?

The writer is of the view that the fanatic Hindu harbours the misconception that every Muslim is polygamous and that each Muslim household has 25 kids. The author also states how social stratification in India has divided the Muslims.

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Since independence, over 40,000 Muslims have been killed or injured, including looting Muslim property to the tune of thousands of crore. Major anti-Muslim riots occur in towns and cities where the Muslim have achieved affluence through their artisanal and entrepreneurial skills.

In the Gujarat pogrom, over 1,000 Muslim were killed. The police are biased against the Muslim community and remains a silent spectator. Several documented cases reflect that in some riots more Muslims were killed by police bullets than by Hindu fanatics. The Delhi riots are a recent testimony to police brutality.

Modi 2.0 slogan ‘sab ka Vishwas’ (all-inclusive) caricatures ongoing persecution of the Muslim in India. In post-election India, the Muslims are being lynched, shot at and told to “go back to Pakistan” simply for having a Muslim name, carrying or eating beef or wearing a prayer cap.

Read more: Modi and his empty promises: Did Modi’s slogan sab ka vishwas ameliorate the Dalit in India?

They are also made to shout slogans in praise of Hindu gods. Hindus even demanded that eid prayer-goers should not spill over on adjoining roads.

State’s failure to protect the minority

BJP President Amit Shah referred to undocumented Muslim immigrants as termites. Nathu Ram Godse killed `Mahatma’ Gandhi `for supposedly cowing to Muslim demands’.  He is being glorified as a patriot.

Narendra Modi himself as then chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 presided over a pogrom that killed over 1,000  people; in 2011, a senior police officer testifying in the Indian Supreme Court stated that Modi defended this violence at the time as a legitimate route through which Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger. He described refugee camps housing Muslims displaced by riots as “baby-making factories”.

The condition of the Muslim in India is no better than that of the dalit (downtrodden). A new excuse coined to “punish” the Muslim is love-jihad which is marrying a Hindu girl.

Read more: Many Indians don’t consider Dalits, Muslims and Tribals to be human, Rahul Gandhi

Not only the police but also the municipal administration is biased. The garbage-removal trucks do not remove garbage from Muslim localities. As such, these localities have been ghettoized.

Several provisions in the Indian Constitution provide for fundamental rights, non-discrimination in educational admissions, and employment besides religious rights. But, the golden words have failed to protect minorities. These provisions are: Articles 14 to 30, Article 16, clause (1) and (2) of Article 29, Article 30 (1) and (2), and articles 25 to 28.

A major myth to witch-hunt the Muslim

The BJP, hands in glove with the RSS, have propagated the myth that the “Hindu-ness of India is under threat” because of the “higher Muslim-population growth rate”.

Read more: BJP-RSS’ ‘koota yuddha’ on Muslims and misinformed Islamophobia

Typically, high fertility goes hand in hand with high death rates. Instead, Hindu nationalists stick to a common stereotype about Indian Muslims that the men all have four wives which, in turn, produce 25 children per family.  

The annual growth rate of Muslims has averaged 2.7 per cent over the period 1960-2001, above the national average of 2.1 per cent. The 2011 Census figures show that the Muslim population in India grew more slowly in the last decade relative to the previous decade.

In a speech, he delivered in May 2016, Narsinghananda is heard saying that India will collapse in 20 years if the Muslim population continues to grow at the same pace. Speaking to The Print, he said he went on a hunger strike for the cause in 2017 and only ended it when one lakh youths pledged to have five children each.

Read more: Muslims in India continue to suffer at the hands of Hindu nationalism

Military training in temples and Hindu religious schools

Several priests, including Narsinghananda, have now started imparting military training to Hindu volunteers to prepare them for a final yuddha (war) against the Muslim. To support the misguided Hindus like him, the RTSS has passed a resolution to enforced strict population control in India.

BJP MLA Narendra Mehta, affiliated with the dangerous Bajrang Dal, started live weapons training at his Seven-Eleven Academy.

A Facebook user Prakash Gupta shared pictures of live-weapons training on Facebook from May 25 to June 1. NGO, Democratic Youth Federation of India, filed a complaint with Navghar police station (Thane Rural police station).

Hindus draw inspiration from the Jewish state of Israel. They want Hindus to be given preferential treatment and minorities, particularly the Muslim be relegated to a lower class of citizenship.

Read more: Why India’s Hindu nationalists worship Israel’s nation-state model

The Muslim literacy rate ranks well below the national average and the Muslim poverty rate is only slightly higher than the low-caste Hindu. The Muslims make up only four per cent of the undergraduate student body in India’s elite universities. They fall behind other groups in terms of access to credit. This is the case despite the fact that the self-employed Muslim population exceeds other groups.

The baneful caste system

According to Islam, Muslim society is homogeneous. There is no hierarchical caste-system in Islam, like the Hindu varna system of social stratification in India. In Sanskrit, varna means type, order, colour or class. The term refers to social classes in dharma-shastra (religious text) books like the Manusmriti.

Hindu literature classifies society into four varnas: (a) Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers (b) Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators. (c) Vaishyas: agriculturalists and traders (d) Shudras: labourers and service providers.

Communities that belong to one of the four varnas or classes are called savarna. The dalits and scheduled tribes, who do not belong to any Varna, are called avarna.

This four-fold division is a form of social stratification in India distinguished from jāti or the European term “caste”. The varna system is discussed in Hindu texts and understood as idealised human callings.

The concept is generally traced to the Purusha Sukta verse of the Rig Veda. Contrary to these textual classifications, many Hindu texts and doctrines question and disagree with the Varna system of social stratification in India.

Read more: Muslims in India: who is responsible for their suppressed voices?

The downtrodden Muslim deprived of reservation

Unlike the Hindu caste system, where it is easy to discern the stratification, caste identities among Muslims are not defined rigidly. As such, the reservation quota and other benefits, available to scheduled castes, do not trickle down to the needy Muslim.

It is a bitter reality that the Muslims in India could not remain immune from the Hindu caste-system. The Muslims is divided into ashraf (Muslims of foreign lineage) and ajlaf (local converts).

The ashraf is regarded as the superior group and are mainly endogamous, while the ajlaf are considered to be inferior. Some scholars use another category, arzal, to denote the Muslim who converted from the lowest strata of society (bhangi, doom, choora or sweeper).

Read more: Parasitic Hinduvta Ideology, Tearing Secular India Apart

Like the Hindu caste-ridden society, relations between Muslim social groups are governed by social taboos; sharing a table, marriage, sociability, and spatial restrictions (access to domestic areas and places of prayer, segregation in cemeteries and neighbour-hoods.

To ameliorate a lot of the downtrodden Muslim (arzal or ajlaf), there should be a caste-based census to identify those deserving `reservation’ in scheduled caste.

The ashraf opposes the caste-based count of the Muslim community, but the ajlaf and arzal support it. The ashraf, being a “creamy layer”, obstruct any step that may improve a lot of the downtrodden.

The Indian Supreme Court took a decision to exclude the “creamy layer” from the quotas in 2008 but it was never implemented. Questions about Islam mostly relating to ibadat like hajj are asked in the Indian parliament by the non-Muslim. No question about economic justice for all and sundry is asked.

Read more: Babri Mosque case: Indian courts are no longer immune to Hindutva frenzy

What should Muslims do?

The fanatic Hindu harbours the misconception that the Muslims have a phenomenally high growth rate of population and they would soon outnumber them. Though Islam preached homogeneity, social stratification in India among the Muslims is a fact.

The Muslim caste system has hampered their progress in the various realm of life. The Indian Muslim is impervious to whatever happens in Kashmir, Delhi borders owing to farmers’ protest, or in the world.

The paradox of belonging to Islam, a religion that is premised on the notion of equality, and at the same time imbibing local traits which affirm inequality has to be admitted. Muslims are segmented into different status categories on the basis of income, occupation, education and lineage.

It is the Muslim himself who can change his lot by following Islam in full. They should resist social stratification in India and demand equality from their community. The Muslim world at large should help them with funds.

Read more: Op-ed: Future of Muslims in India

Mr Amjed Jaaved has been writing freelance for over five decades. He has served the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is the author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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