9514News about Islam and Muslims in India: The history of violence against Muslims in India
- Feb 14 9:56 AMThe history of violence against Muslims in India
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Wednesday, 05 February 2014
The controversial remarks of Narendra Modi, who is the prime ministerial candidate of India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party for this year’s parliamentary elections, sparked a political uproar in the country last year. In an interview with Reuters news agency, Modi compared Muslims to a "puppy" while referring to the 2002 riots which claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Muslims who were burnt or beaten to death at the hands of Hindu communalists in the western Indian state of Gujarat where Modi was then the chief minister, a post that he continues to hold until now.
In the interview, Modi said: “If we are driving a car or someone else is driving a car and we're sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I'm a chief minister or not, I'm a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”
These remarks drew massive outrage and protest not only from Muslims but also from a large section of the people of India. A number of political leaders, including the secretary general of the ruling Indian National Congress party, demanded that Modi apologize to the entire nation. The Janata Dal-United Party leader described him as a dangerous person.
These remarks were followed by the communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in which scores of people were killed and thousands displaced. Most of the riot victims were Muslims. It was alleged that police did not act in time to quell the riots and that they even connived with the attackers, and as a result the army has been deployed in the city. There were reports that dozens of children died due to extreme cold in relief camps for the riot victims.
Communal clashes occur in India at regular intervals. In most cases, victims of these riots are mainly Muslims, especially due to the laxity on the part of the security forces in taking timely action. The irresponsible statements of hardline political leaders and the lack of penal action against the culprits, including the mobs who commit atrocities or the politicians and police officials who give protection to the perpetrators are apparently among the reasons for such riots recurring.
The BBC recently carried a report about the deadly incidents that rocked the city of Hyderabad after the country won independence from British colonial rule. The Nizam of Hyderabad refused to surrender sovereignty to the new Indian republic and instead insisted on remaining head of the princely state as he had been during British rule. Consequently, the Indian Army invaded Hyderabad and annexed it. In the so-called “police action” the Nizam’s forces were defeated after just a few days without any significant loss of civilian lives. But word then reached New Delhi that arson, looting and the mass murder and rape of Muslims had followed the invasion.
Determined to get to the bottom of what was happening, an alarmed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru commissioned a small mixed-faith team to go to Hyderabad to carry out a thorough investigation. The team, led by a Hindu congressman Pandit Sunderlal, prepared a comprehensive report after investigating all aspects of the situation and then presented it to Nehru. However, the report that bore the name of Sunderlal was never published. Nehru directed that the details of the report not be disclosed and thus no one knew about its content.
The BBC report pointed out that historian Sunil Purushotham from the University of Cambridge obtained a copy of the report as part of his research in this field. According to the report, Sunderlal's team concluded that between 27,000 and 40,000 died in the violence. The Sunderlal team visited dozens of villages throughout the princely state. In each village, the team carefully chronicled the accounts of Muslims who had survived the appalling violence and massacre. The report said: “We had absolutely unimpeachable evidence to the effect that there were instances in which men belonging to the Indian Army and also to the local police took part in looting and even other crimes. During our tour we gathered, at not a few places, that soldiers encouraged, persuaded and in a few cases even compelled the Hindu mob to loot Muslim shops and houses.”
The team reported that while Muslim villagers were disarmed by the Indian Army, Hindus were often left with their weapons. The mob violence that ensued was often led by Hindu paramilitary groups. In other cases, the report said, Indian soldiers themselves took an active hand in the butchery: “At a number of places, members of the armed forces brought out Muslim adult males from villages and towns and massacred them in cold blood.”
The investigation team also reported, however, that in many other instances the Indian Army had behaved well and protected Muslims. In confidential notes attached to the Sunderlal report, its authors detailed the gruesome nature of the Hindu revenge: “In many places, we were shown wells still full of corpses that were rotting. In one such we counted 11 bodies, which included that of a woman with a small child sticking to her breast. We saw remnants of corpses lying in ditches. At several places, the bodies had been burnt and we could see the charred bones and skulls still lying there.”
The BBC concludes its report by pointing out that no official explanation was given for Nehru’s decision not to publish the contents of the Sunderlal report. It was unclear why this file remained under wraps for so long.
The Sunderlal report, although unknown to many, is now open for viewing at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. There were demands to make the report more widely available so that people would know what really happened there. There was also apprehension that the disclosure of the details might risk igniting tension between Muslims and Hindus.
Some people still wonder what really prompted Nehru to keep the report, prepared by a panel constituted by him, a secret. Did he really want to refer the entire file to a court for disposal? Was he afraid of the political damage caused by its disclosure or by referring it to the judiciary? Was he haunted by the apprehension that disclosure of the details might ignite more tension between Hindus and Muslims?
All of these questions need to be answered by analysts and observers in order to reveal the truth as well as to thwart any misinformation campaign and promises made by politicians who want to be elected. This would help one to know who treats people like human beings and who behaves to them like beasts.
— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@...
Muslim representation in India’s civil service
Submitted by admin4 on 26 January 2014 - 7:15pm
By Aakar Patel,
What is the reason for the poor representation of Muslims in India’s civil services? The community’s leaders say this is because of prejudice against them; that their access to the professions is deliberately blocked because of their faith. On the side of politics, the communists and the Congress accept the data on poor Muslim representation, though they do not publicly articulate the reasons for this. They want to redress it through legislation and such things as reservation. The BJP does not refer to the data for the most part. To the extent that they accept it, the party’s leaders say that all Indians must be treated alike. To see some as disadvantaged is incorrect, in this view, and everyone will benefit the same if the state is neutral and competent. I have speculated in the past that one reason for the backwardness of Muslims is the castes that Muslims are drawn from. Most of the subcontinent’s Muslims are converts from the lower castes.
Even among Hindus, these communities have poor representation in the professions because — according to me — of their culture.
An article in the current issue of Economic & Political Weekly looks at it another way. Written by the former chairperson of Aligarh Muslim University’s Economics department, it analyses the data of applicants to the civil services from select colleges. The writer, Naseem A Zaidi, starts by framing the problem. In the announcement of May 3, 2013, “out of the 998 candidates recommended (for selection) for various services, only 28 were Muslim — 2.8 per cent of the total. This story is repeated year after year and crossing the three per cent barrier seems insurmountable.”
'Muslim kids being excluded from growth economy'
TNN Feb 12, 2014, 04.16AM IST
HYDERABAD: Muslim children have low enrolment and retention rates in schools and are getting excluded from India's growth economy on account of "self fulfilling prophecy" of discrimination which is connected to the lack of education in the community, said eminent human rights activist Harsh Mander on Tuesday.
Addressing a gathering of academics and activists at a the Muslim Children's Issues and Right to Education workshop at Maulana Azad National Urdu University (Manuu), Harsh Mander, while maintaining that discrimination was a reality in public and private sectors, said, "This prophecy is the idea that 'I will be discriminated against' and that 'there is no point in getting educated.' 'The only option I have left is to get self employed in small businesses.' This, is causing the exclusion from India's growth economy."
He said that discrimination in school was linked with terrorism and violence which is reflected in the treatment of children by teachers and peers and is also manifested in a communalised history. Quoting NC Saxena, a member of the Planning Commission, and highlighting the biased content of school textbooks, Mander said, "Indian soldier Abdul Hameed was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously in 1965. A text book in Uttar Pradesh said that despite being a Muslim he was a patriot."
Listing ten recommendations to combat child labour, Mander said that 100% scholarships "across all levels" be awarded to Muslims in addition to setting up residential schools for street children and child labourers. "
Around 500 such schools are needed in Hyderabad. School curriculum should be more pluralistic. There should be stronger enforcement of labour laws and Muslims-concentrated areas should get more polytechnics," he said.
Prof Kancha Ilaiah from Manuu's Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy said that comparative studies showed that emphasis on education in Muslim community was less than SCs and OBCs. AP State Minorities commissioner Abid Rasool Khan noted that there was only 3% implementation of the PM 15-point programme for minorities in only 16 districts of the state. "The chief secretary has not convened a single meeting. The remaining districts have no information to show as administration has not even taken initiative," he said.
Politicians suddenly 'realise' the significance of Muslims
TNN Feb 2, 2014, 02.24PM IST
ALLAHABAD: Realising that Muslims could make or mar the political fortunes in Uttar Pradesh, especially eastern UP districts like Allahabad, Kaushambi, Pratrapgarh and Azamgarh, all the major political parties, including AAP, are eyeing the 20-22% votes of the community to ensure victory in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Extensive exercises have begun to woo the community.
Once a hub of Prime Ministers in the country, the parliamentary seats Allahabad and Phulpur in the region have always remained top on political map of the country as well as political parties. With strength of Muslim votes crossing 3.5 lakh mark (about 20-22%) in both the constituencies, parties like Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress are leaving no stones unturned to bring the voters into their fold.
Even for BJP, Muslims are not untouchables and the minority cell of the party is making efforts to educate the community about BJP and its policies. Former BJP state president and senior party leader Keshari Nath Tripathi said: "Anyone wanting to join the party, is welcome." He maintained that the volunteers of BJP minority cell are working on the same line and educating people about the party and claiming that only BJP could bring development in the state as well as country.
Statistics point out that except Handia , Meja, Koraon and City North assembly seats, eight out of 12 assembly segments of Allahabad district have adequate strength of Muslims voters, varying from 25,000 to 50,000. Political experts claim there would be over 3.34 lakhs and 3.28 lakhs Muslim voters in Phulpur and Allahabad parliamentary constituencies respectively and no political party would ignore this fact.
At least three of the four major political players in the country and the newly-formed political outfit are eying the 19-22% Muslim votes that may determine the fate of the candidates to a considerable extent.
Until a few months back, it seemed that a good chunk of Muslims were tilting towards the Samajwadi Party, thanks mainly to young chief minister and many welfare schemes being launched for the community. But with the SP losing credibility on account of poor governance and Muzaffarnagar riots, the Muslim votes are e up for grab again.
Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party was seen as the natural choice for the community before the Muzaffarnagar riots. However, party leaders claimed that they have been making efforts to keep the community votes intact and have already carried out 'image makeover' exercise by giving three Muslim ministers cabinet berths and one the rank of the minister of state.
SP MLA from Phulpur assembly constituency Saeed Ahmed says: "Muslims could only trust SP. Mulayam Singh Yadav had always remained their well-wisher. The party had launched several beneficial and welfare schemes for the minority community and more schemes are in pipeline."
However, BSP and Congress leaders think otherwise. Former BSP MLA Mohammad Mujtaba Siddiqui quips: "In the current prevailing scenario, more and more Muslims are attracting towards BSP as the ruling party had failed to protest the interest of the community. The deteriorating law and order situation is going against the SP. Unabated inflation caused by the faulty economic policies of the Central government had forced the community to see towards BSP. Ours is the only party which could bring prosperity for all sections of the society and the 2014 parliamentary elections would prove it."
Senior Congress leader Javed Urfi says: "Muslims are again back in Congress fold. It is the only party which protests their rights. The community had witnessed the rule of all political parties. Muslims now realize that only Congress could save their rights. I am confident that the community would vote for Congress."
Muslims are about 19% of state population and can tilt balance in around 30-35 out of 80 parliamentary seats in UP. In 2012 Assembly elections, the community had determined the fate of as many as 103 out of 403 MLAs.
Political pundits say in around 150 out of 545 Lok Sabha constituencies Muslim votes can tilt the balance.
In recent assembly elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Congress suffered heavy losses even in areas with heavy Muslim voter concentration. In Rajasthan, there was a significant jump of Muslim votes for Bharatiya Janata Party, despite Modi campaigning intensively in the state.
The adequate presence of Muslim voters in Phulpur, City South, City West, Pratappur and Phaphamau assembly segments of Allahabad and Phulpur parliamentary segments would be a deciding factor. Keeping this in mind, Muslim leaders of all major political parties too have intensified their campaigning silently in support of their party. They do not want to miss any opportunity to grab the attention of the community. Political experts claimed that apart from Allahabad and Phulpur, Muslim voters are in good strength in neighbouring Kaushambi and Pratapgarh parliamentary seats.
There are 22 districts in the state including, Allahabad, where the population of the minority community is more than 20%. Out of 123 Muslim-dominated assembly segments listed with the Election Commission, the number is as high as 40-45% in regions like Moradabad or Rampur. And each vote counts for the parties.
Urfi claims: "Muslims have seen the regime of BSP, SP and BJP in the past 22 years in UP and found that these parties had done nothing for them. During 2007 and 2012 assembly elections, the community voted for BSP and SP respectively but these parties failed to do much for the community. Now, the community pins hopes on Congress. Muslim youths are today inclined towards Congress."
Beyond Mullahs and Marxists
Updated: February 1, 2014 00:54 IST
India's riot-displaced decry 'evictions'
Muslim victims refuse to return home, saying Uttar Pradesh authorities cannot protect them from sectarian violence.
Sophie Cousins Last updated: 13 Jan 2014 10:29
Shamli, India - As temperatures continue to plummet in northern India, about 4,000 people displaced by recent riots have refused to leave a relief camp, saying they fear further sectarian violence if they return home.
In September, rioting between Muslims and Hindus in the Shamli and Muzaffarnagar districts of Uttar Pradesh state killed more than 50 and left 50,000 displaced. Many among the Muslim community fled their homes seeking shelter at relief camps.
Residents at the Malakpur camp in Shamli told Al Jazeera they were fighting eviction by the Uttar Pradesh government, and refusing to return to their villages over fears of further communal violence erupting.
Standing in a crowd of about 40 camp residents, a young woman named Shaista accused the state government of trying to push them out.
"I left everything in my village, but we don't want to return because we are afraid of what might happen to us," she told Al Jazeera. "The government is pressuring us to leave. We all know what happened at Loi [relief camp]. The [Uttar Pradesh] government doesn't want to help us."
Another resident interrupted Shaista and pulled out a blood-stained shirt - a reminder of the violence that destroyed his home last year.
"Look at this," the man said, holding up the ripped clothing. "Four people died in my family. We are very afraid. We are never going to return to our village. Even if our tents get knocked down, we will not go."
A kilometre down the road at the Khuragon relief camp for other riot victims, the same sentiment was expressed.
"I left everything in my house. All my money is in my home," Bablu Kamalaudin said. "I feel comfortable living here, but it is so cold at night and we have no blankets."
Another man, Javed, said he would not return to his village. "People were firing at my house. I am not going back. We have not received any government help. They're pressuring us to leave. They told us to go anywhere but here. We won't leave."
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akilesh Yadav has come under fire for his handling of the situation, with the media taking him to task for holding an expensive cultural festival in the area, featuring Bollywood stars, while reports of the struggles of those displaced in freezing temperatures captured headlines.
"The money spent on this jamboree could have been better spent on trying to rehabilitate those in camps," the Hindustan Times said in an editorial. "It is no-one's case that people should not enjoy entertainment, but it is another for the state to fritter away money on this when people are suffering so much."
Last week, officials visited the Malakpur relief camp and urged the displaced to go home. "We have appealed to them to shift to a safer place due to the biting cold," Shamli District Magistrate PK Singh was quoted as saying.
Residents, however, say they are being coerced into leaving and have refused to budge.
New Delhi-based lawyer and activist Shehzad Poonawalla told Al Jazeera he was campaigning on behalf of camp residents against the "forcible evictions".
"The Uttar Pradesh government wants to get rid of all the camps," he said. "They don't want them to exist anymore because the longer they exist, the more journalists write about the horrific living conditions here. It is an embarrassment to the government."
He said people also did not want to return to their villages because police have failed to investigate complaints of rape. At least six people have reportedly given statements to police alleging they were raped, but no arrests have been made.
Only 294 people have been arrested over the September violence, despite nearly 6,000 being named as suspects.
Poonawalla has called on the government to move the displaced people to empty government schools and buildings to protect them from the cold. He has also demanded that the government give people two months' food rations, that their damaged property be repaired, and they be adequately compensated for financial losses.
"The forcible eviction is taking place, against the wishes of those living in these camps, and is being done in a pressing haste by the Uttar Pradesh government and administration without making any concrete, sustainable and viable alternative arrangements for the riot-affected persons," Poonawalla wrote in a letter to the chairman of India's National Commission for Minorities, Wajahat Habibullah.
"Dismantling of the camps and [the] forcible evictions of its inhabitants, without proper identification and payment of compensation, in this bitter cold, would amount to the grossest form of human rights violations."
Poonawalla recently met with the Shamli district magistrate, but he said the meeting failed to elicit any assurances from the authorities to halt the evictions.
As a result, Poonawalla said he and about 30 Malakpur residents were fasting indefinitely until the government gives written commitments to help those affected.
Loi relief camp
The hunger strike comes amid fallout from the eviction of residents at Loi relief camp in nearby Muzaffarnagar.
That camp, which housed about 6,000 riot-affected people, was destroyed last week.
Residents alleged their makeshift homes were demolished in order to avoid negative media attention, following a report that revealed 34 children had died in the relief camps since September 7.
Officials denied reports that children had died from the cold, but some families have said otherwise.
While the Uttar Pradesh government had promised compensation for victims of the deadly riots to build new homes, less than half of those at Loi camp had received any money. As a result, many are now living in abandoned buildings, or on the side of the road.
In a run-down vacant factory in Barasholi, a small village in Shamli district, more than 100 people tried to protect themselves from the cold. Young boys crowded around the only gas stove, cooking roti for their siblings, while men set up tents for their families.
There is no running water or electricity.
"We don't have any money. We are hopeless, we don't have anything. We feel very insecure here," said Islam, who was evicted from Loi relief camp, giving only his first name.
"The future for us is very scary, no one cares about us. The government said that if we left Loi we would receive rations. But it has been a week and we have not received anything."
Follow Sophie Cousins on Twitter: @SophCousins
Muslims suffer in frigid northern India
Deaths of 34 children highlight the plight of thousands displaced by riots in September.
Sophie Cousins Last updated: 02 Jan 2014 13:17
Muzaffarnagar, India - A woman wearing a gold and blue sari weeps uncontrollably as she clutches a photograph of her daughter in the bitter cold of a relief camp in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Her daughter Sasyat, 13, died in the camp in Loi village from malaria and exposure three months ago.
The distraught woman's husband Mohammad Harun said the family - which includes his elderly mother-in-law and four other children - are desperately trying to protect themselves from severe weather conditions.
"There's no medical facilities here," Harun told Al Jazeera outside his makeshift home that includes a tent and mattress. "After children started dying other NGOs and political parties started caring. The government doesn't give us any medical facilities. The quality of the medicines was not good."
Four months ago rioting between Muslims and Hindus in two communities in the Shamli and Muzaffarnagar districts left dozens dead and about 50,000 displaced. Many from the Muslim community fled their homes seeking shelter from the violence at camps in the two districts.
Sixty-five people died in the clashes in September 2013, sparked by the killing of three men who had objected to the harassment of a young woman.
The rioting was the worst violence in Uttar Pradesh in recent memory with the army deployed to the state for the first time in two decades. In the aftermath of the riots, as many as 40 camps were temporarily set up to house those affected.
Today, Loi is officially the last camp but there are still 18 unofficial ones in Shamli and Muzaffarnagar with about 20,000 people living there.
The existence of the camps months after the violence erupted and the poor living conditions have come under intense scrutiny from concerned citizens and India's media.
As many as 34 children aged below 15 have died in the relief camps since September 7, a recent report by a government-appointed panel said.
Officials have denied media reports that most of the children died from exposure to the cold, saying the deaths were caused by dysentery and pneumonia, among other illnesses.
The panel, set up by the Uttar Pradesh government, did not report a lack of facilities at the relief camps could have played a role in the deaths.
A senior official of Uttar Pradesh state, AK Gupta, said most of the children who died "had been taken outside the camps for treatment by their parents or were referred to government hospitals for treatment".
However, Gupta caused outrage when he also declared: "If people died of cold, then nobody would survive Siberia."
Upon visiting the Loi relief camp, where about 6,000 people live, it was apparent the severe cold weather likely played a role.
It was only after the official report of deaths was released that conditions at the camps gained attention among political groups vying for votes in this year's general elections.
Congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi's unscheduled visit to the camps before Christmas - and just two weeks after his party's defeat in Delhi's Assembly election - was widely seen as a move to reaffirm support from the party's traditional base.
Dr Akbar Khan, neonatologist and child specialist, went to work at the Loi camp following the press coverage of the children's deaths.
"There's so many people living here in unfair conditions," Khan told Al Jazeera in between checking a baby's chest at his open-air examination room. "There are poor medical services. What about medicines for people? There are a limited number of drugs."
Elsewhere in the camp, a group of doctors from the Hamzah Imran Medical and Educational Trust handed out boxes of medicines. Positioning themselves on chairs around an open space, dozens of sick children and adults lined up for health checks.
"We're here because of the media attention following the report into the child deaths," Dr Mohammed Imran said.
"We heard there was a child with scabies all over his body. We will also treat those with gastro, diarrhoea, iron deficiency and give pregnant women medicine. The weather is very cold here."
Dozens of sick children lined up for medical attention with coughs and wheezing among the most common symptoms.
Three men with greying beards sat together in their shop at the camp selling the most basic of goods. Between them they had lost a grandmother, mother, son and brother because of the freezing weather over the last few months, they said.
"They died from the winter cold. We tried [to save them] but unfortunately they didn't make it," said Kasem, who lost his seven-year-old son.
Like the Harun family whose daughter Sasyat died, none of the men have received any government compensation.
While the Uttar Pradesh government had promised compensation for victims of the deadly riots to build new homes, less than half of those at Loi camp have received any money.
Some families at Loi, meanwhile, have said they are being forcibly removed from the camp. Residents have alleged makeshift homes are being demolished to force victims out in order to avoid negative media attention of squalid conditions and the lack of medical facilities at the camps.
Officials, however, said people were leaving voluntarily.
"We want people to return [home]. We don't want to force anyone to leave," Uttar Pradesh's Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was quoted as saying.
Families here say they are reluctant to move back to their villages for fear of more communal violence erupting.
"I don't know what's going to happen to us now," camp resident Moin Deen said. "The government says we can't live out here in the open anymore, but there aren't enough houses in the village for all of us to move into."
Muslims masquerade as Hindus for India jobs
Facing religious discrimination in the Hindu-dominated job market, many are forced to assume fake identities.
Shaikh Azizur Rahman Last updated: 10 Dec 2013 08:25
After taking off her silver armband embossed with the word "Allah" in Arabic, Ayesha Begum puts red-and-white conch bangles on her wrists and vermillion powder on her forehead - the signs of a traditional Hindu woman in eastern India.
Begum, a Muslim, changes her appearance every morning before she leaves her home, 50km east of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state, where she works as a housekeeper in a private hospital.
"Through the day in the hospital I maintain this Hindu appearance. Everyone there knows me as Hindu and calls me 'Lakshmi' - a popular Hindu moniker," Begum, in her early 30's, told Al Jazeera.
"When I did not succeed in getting a job, I followed the advice of some friends and posed as a Hindu. Soon I landed this job in a hospital."
Hospital officials asked her to get more female housekeepers from her village. "When I told them there were Muslim women who were looking for jobs, they said it would be better if I brought non-Muslim candidates," she said.
Begum's case is not unique. Many Muslims in India complain they face religious discrimination in the country's Hindu-dominated job market. Muslims who have secured jobs pretending to be Hindus are fiercely secretive about their place of work.
Noorjahan Khatoon, 42, who lives in a suburban slum and works as a domestic cook in a Hindu household in a posh Kolkata neighbourhood says none, not even her close relatives know where exactly she is employed.
"My children do not know in which colony I work, let alone the identity of my employer. I don't share any information about my workplace with anyone," said Khatoon, who puts on conch bangles and vermillion powder on the partition of her hair to keep up a Hindu appearance.
"I am sure if my employers learn I am Muslim, I will be fired."
Muslims posing as Hindus are mostly found in menial jobs in the unorganised sector where worker's identity documents are not usually sought.
Some placement agencies across the country are helping Muslims find jobs in Hindu workplaces by introducing them as Hindus.
Recently, when a domestic helper was found dead at the residence of a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) member of parliament in New Delhi, police discovered the victim was a Muslim woman from West Bengal working there while wearing Hindu attire.
During interrogation, the manager of a New Delhi-based private placement agency told police he had introduced the woman as a Hindu - and he had done likewise with several other Muslim candidates to get them jobs in the national capital.
Sudhin Bose, who managed a domestic help placement agency in Kolkata until recently, agreed that a good number of Muslims work in the city pretending to be Hindus.
"Nearly all clients in my agency are Hindu and most of them prefer not to employ Muslims," Bose told Al Jazeera.
"More than half the job-seekers our agency placed were Muslims from nearby villages and city slums. Often we introduced them as Hindus to our Hindu clients - and they got the jobs."
"I am sure many placement agencies adopt such secret policies out of mutual interest to help Muslims find jobs in the city," he said.
In 2005, the government appointed the Sachar Commission to investigate whether Muslims were disadvantaged in social, economic and educational terms.
The commission concluded the socio-economic condition of most Muslims was as bad as that of the Dalits, who are at the bottom rung of the Hindu-caste hierarchy, also referred to as the "untouchables."
Ayesha Pervez, who works on minority issues and has authored reports on India's working Muslims, said job-seeking Muslims face the hurdle of discrimination even outside unorganised sectors.
"The discrimination - which is nothing but religious identity-based exclusion - exists in organised government sectors too. In West Bengal, Muslims constitute 27 percent of the population. But their representation in state-government jobs is as low as four percent," Pervez told Al Jazeera.
"Workplace discrimination forces Muslims to adopt fake Hindu identities. Because of this discrimination, most Muslims are unable to upgrade their standard of living."
Widespread prejudice against Muslims also keeps them from living in urban India, Pervez added.
Although most agree that anti-Muslim prejudice has long existed in predominantly Hindu Indian society, the situation for Muslims has turned increasingly hostile in several states in the past couple of decades. This is a result of increased aggression of Hindu nationalist organisations, says social activist Ram Puniyani.
Soon after 2002 communal violence in western Gujarat state - when more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in riots - several Hindu organisations launched a propaganda campaign asking Hindus to boycott Muslims in all day-to-day dealings.
"Such a phenomenon leads to fear psychosis amongst the targeted community," said Puniyani, who campaigns in support of communal harmony.
"This feeling of insecurity [among Muslims] is intensified by the increased economic challenges to make both ends meet - with livelihood issues on one hand and a social divisiveness, leading to ghettoisation on the other.
"Such ghettoisation of Muslims in cities like Mumbai and Ahmadabad clearly shows how the mutual trust among communities has vanished. And so the socio-economic enhancement of the minority community has stalled."
Many Muslims say they feel awkward at having to masquerade as Hindus.
"Sometimes I feel I have done something morally wrong by faking a Hindu identity, and have downgraded my own religion," Begum said.
"I shall be very happy if some day I get a good job where I shall be free from this guise."
Madrassas in India attract Hindu students
Islamic seminaries with modern curriculum in eastern Indian state of West Bengal are helping to bridge religious divide.
Shaikh Azizur Rahman Last updated: 02 Dec 2013 12:15
Clad in white and blue salwar kameez (traditional Indian dress) and translating an Arabic verse from her Islamic studies textbook into Bengali, 15-year-old Puja Kshetrapal could pass for a Muslim. But she, along with almost half of the 200 tenth graders in Chatuspalli High Madrassa in Orgram village in India's West Bengal state, are Hindus.
"Although it is called a madrassa (Islamic seminary), people in the area view it like a good regular school. So, my parents chose to send me to this institution," Puja told Al Jazeera.
Anwar Hossain, the headmaster of the Orgram madrassa located 125km north of the state capital, Kolkata, says that it is mostly its modern curriculum that has made the institution increasingly popular in the Hindu-majority society.
"Ordinary people believe that a madrassa is a place where students are taught only religious subjects, and that it has no connection with modern education," Hossain said.
"For some years we have been working to change their notion. We are teaching our students all general subjects as their counterparts are studying in regular schools," he said.
"After studying in our madrassa, children can plan their career in any field of their choice. This is the main reason why more than 60 percent of more than 1,400 students at the madrassa are non-Muslims now."
Even, 11 of the 32 teachers in the madrassa are Hindu, Hossain added.
Madrassas are usually thought of as Muslim-only schools where children study only theology and end up as religious teachers or clerics.
After 9/11, many in the non-Muslim world viewed South Asia's tens of thousands of madrassas with suspicion, regarding them as a breeding ground for radical strains of Islam.
But in recent years, defying the stereotype, nearly 600 government-recognised madrassas in West Bengal have introduced a mainstream school curriculum, and non-Muslims are studying in almost all of them.
Currently, about 15 percent of the students in the state's modernised madrassas are non-Muslims, and many of them are expecting to become engineers, doctors, scientists and other professionals.
Orgram and other madrassas in the state have undergone modernisation offering courses in physics, chemistry, biology, geography, mathematics, computer science, English language and literature and other regular subjects.
Islamic studies and the Arabic language course form a small part of the curriculum.
Funded by the state, the madrassas which are located mostly in rural Bengal charge no fees, and offer free school uniforms and mid-day meals, making them especially attractive to students from poor and lower middle-class families.
Examples of Muslim students who attended the madrassas and are now successful in their careers have spurred many non-Muslim families to send their children to the madrassas, many say.
"In Hindu-dominated society until some time back, madrassas - identified as Muslims only institutions - carried a stigma. Non-Muslims and even many Muslims used to stay away from them," Dr Khandkar Fariduddin, an eye surgeon and an alumnus of a modern madrassa told Al Jazeera.
"But, now that they have known that a madrassa student can also become a doctor, engineer or other good professional, they are shedding their inhibitions and sending their children to these modern madrassas," he said.
"Now the modern madrassas are part of mainstream education infrastructure in West Bengal."
In 2006, the federal government-appointed Justice R Sachar Committee recommended in its report on Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India that the madrassas in the country needed to be modernised in efforts to boost development in the backward community.
In 2007, West Bengal became the first state to begin the modernisation of the traditional madrassas with support from the federal government as part of the Prime Minister's 15-Point Programme for Minorities.
Two years later, the process of modernisation of the madrassas earned West Bengal international accolades.
Uttar Pradesh rocked: Hindu-Muslim violence erupts as India's electoral battle looms
ANDREW BUNCOMBE Author Biography KUTBA Saturday 21 September 2013
The streets are stilled, the doors shuttered. Hundreds of people have fled. Over the course of a day, up to 1,000 Muslims left this village in fear for their lives. A number were killed, several homes were torched and someone tried to set alight to the mosque.
“Our home was set on fire and eight people were killed,” claimed Rahisha Begum, one of hundreds of Muslims taking refuge in a emergency shelter in the nearby town of Shapar. “Our women were molested. People were cut into pieces.”
The people of the twin villages of Kutbi and Kutba are among more than 40,000 Muslims forced from their homes in some of the worst Hindu-Muslim violence in western Uttar Pradesh for decades. A smaller number of Hindus have also fled and at least 48 people have died.
Communal violence is nothing new to India or to UP, the huge, impoverished but politically crucial state which returns 80 members to the national parliament. But what has created particular concern about the latest bloodletting is the central role local politicians apparently took in turning a localised incident into something much more deadly, and doing so for political gains.
There are fears that ahead of an upcoming general election, which will see the controversial Narendra Modi - a politician whose name is associated with one of the worst massacres of Muslims since 1947 – try to wrestle control from the ruling Congress party, such incidents could become more frequent.
Kutba, 15 miles from Muzzaffarnager, is one of 90 villages affected by the violence. As with most of the other villages, sugar cane is among the most important of crops grown here. And as with the other villages, members of the Hindu jat caste have traditionally owned most of the land, while Muslims have worked as agricultural labourers.
Unlike in other parts of UP, members of both communities here said they had always coexisted without violence. That ended following an incident on August 27 in Kawaal, 25 miles away, when a young Muslim man was killed after an altercation with two Hindu youths. The following day, the two Hindus were killed in revenge.
On September 7, tens of thousands of Hindus gathered to demand justice for the two young men killed. Several local politicians addressed the rally, some of them reportedly making inflammatory speeches.
Over the following 48 hours, more than 25 people were killed, including a cameraman with a local news channel. Hindus said they were attacked by Muslims as they left the rally. Muslims said they were set upon by Hindus. The violence spread, and dragged on, and the authorities sent in the army.
Those who fled say they are too terrified to return. “We will not be going back there,” said Muhammad Usman, who was also at the emergency shelter.
Muhammad Abrar, who said a brother and three uncles were killed, referred to Mr Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Though he was unable to offer any proof, he claimed the BJP, which last week named Mr Modi as its candidate for prime minister, had been paying people to attack Muslims.
“We don’t want Narendra Modi as prime minister,” he added. “He would be very bad for Muslims.”
But in Kutba, on the road to which dozens of egrets flashed toothpaste-white amid the green of the sugar-cane, there was a different story. Here the Hindu villagers claimed Muslims had left in an attempt to secure government compensation. They had even set fire to their own homes, they said.
“All the Muslims came together to plan this,” said 78-year-old Harbir Singh, seated on a rope-strung bed. “They think they will get their own township.”
The villagers led the way through the quiet streets, pointing out deserted Muslim homes, one which had been destroyed by fire. Even amid the charred debris at the house apparently owned by a man named Idriss, the villagers stuck to their claim that Muslims were responsible.
At the village mosque, there was more evidence of arson; someone had thrown kerosene over a door and lit a match. Why it had not taken hold was unclear.
Asked if Muslims had also set fire to the mosque, one villager, Chaudhary Vikas Balian, said Hindus from another village were responsible. As it was, he said, the people from Kutba had driven them off and saved the building.
The BJP’s selection of Mr Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, has electrified India’s election campaign. Even though he has not visited this part of UP and while there is no suggestion he was behind the violence, his name is mentioned by those on either side of the clashes.
Swapan Dasgupta, an analyst, said Muslims in western UP had built Mr Modi into a bogeyman while Hindus projected him as someone who would protect them against Muslim advancement. “It’s paranoia in the mind,” he said.
The situation has been further complicated by local politics. Several major parties are looking to make gains in the election and the Samajwadi Party, which runs the UP state government and which draws much support from Muslims, has even been accused of failing to stop the violence in order to cement the community’s support for the party.
Reports suggest that 16 politicians face arrest; four BJP politicians have already been detained. Arun Kumar, a senior UP police official, said a team had been established to probe the killings. He said five deaths in Kutba were being investigated. He said: “We have set up a special cell to look at all these cases.”
India deploys army to quell communal violence
At least 31 people killed after rival communities attacked each other with guns and knives in Uttar Pradesh state.
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2013 18:22
Racial Profiling Destroy Muslim Lives in India
OnIslam & Newspapers
Saturday, 06 July 2013 00:00
CAIRO – Tagging them as possible terrorists, the Indian government has been accused of racially profiling the Muslim minority, holding many youth for years in captivity without charges.
"There are a lot of people like me in jail,” Mohammed Amir Khan, who was released by court after five years in jail without a charge, told Deutsche Welle
“Those who are guilty must be punished but let the innocents out. Because it is not the question of one individual, the entire family suffers," he added.
Khan is one of hundreds of Muslim youth who were held for years without charges in Indian jails.
Walking as a free man in January this year, Khan, 32, realized how much the world outside had changed.
He was first captured at the age of 18 after being branded a terrorist by Delhi police.
The son of a Delhi toy shop owner was accused of masterminding 19 bombings in Delhi and three other places between December 1996 and October 1997.
He spent 14 years of his prime in a solitary cell in the capital's Tihar jail and other state jails. A Delhi court finally acquitted him this year for lack of evidence, yet the terrorist tag has destroyed his life.
Khan was not alone in this misery.
Earlier this year, a dozen Muslim youth were let off by a court the southern city of Hyderabad after spending five years in jail on trumped of charges of being involved in a bomb blast in the historic Mecca Masjid mosque.
"They were arrested, tortured and falsely implicated in the case. And ironically they got compensation from the same government machinery which had labeled them as anti-national," social activist Shabnam Hashmi said.
“It is as though a new wave of counter-terrorism has been launched to terrorize youth belonging to the Muslim community.”
According to information obtained under Right to Information (RTI) Act, out of 1,222 under trial in Alipur Central Jail as of December 2011, 530 were Muslims.
Similarly, out of 2,200 under trial in UP’s Ghazaibad jail, 530 were Muslims. Data received from other prisons of states are equally disquieting.
There are some 140 million Muslims in Hindu-majority India, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
The innocent release was not enough for some Muslims.
Late justice came to Ishrat Jahan who was found innocent nine years after her death along with three others by the Gujarat Police.
"The shooting was a staged encounter carried out "in cold blood." the Central Bureau of Investigation in its final report this week.
“The killing was a joint operation between the Gujarat Police and the state's Intelligence Bureau," said
The case has galvanized the Muslim community again who are angry over the unfair targeting of Muslims in the name of fighting terror.
"What was my sister's crime that she was labeled a terrorist? Who is to blame? She has been vilified right through and now we demand the death penalty for the culprits," Mussarat Jahan, the younger sister of Ishrat, told Deutsche Welle.
Sixteen of these cases were documented by civil right group, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Action.
Another compilation titled "What it means to be a Muslim in India today" documents atrocities committed against Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism and testimonies of those who were released after being tortured in jails across the country.
“Is it not strange that whenever there has been a terror attack, a bunch of Muslim boys are arrested and their names aired in the media as masterminds?,” G. S. R. Darapuri, a former police official, said.
“This current ugly phenomenon of racial profiling has to stop. There is certainly a bias.”