In the five years that I studied in Delhi University I did not encounter a single Muslim classmate neither did I find any Muslim teacher except in the last year of my MA class. When we went for a protest outside the BJP office exactly a year after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, there was no representation of the overtly Muslim people, neither burqa nor skull cap, there was a street play by Habib Tanveer that's all. This subtle exclusionism is the bane of the Muslim community. The Hindus are aware of them but there is distance, the Muslim friends know more about the traditional practices of Hindu homes but Hindus are oblivious to the traditions and culture of Islam. Even us so called secular types know nothing other than that lipsmacking biryani and kebabs are made on Id in our friends' houses which we go to eat. This isolationism and ignorance informs our views about the Muslim community. In Jamia burqa clad girls walk around with girls in jeans, classes comprise of students of all religions and teachers are from all faiths too. This is the true national university. My daughter saw a burqa clad woman for the first time in her life when I took her to Jamia, mind you we had visited quite a few markets including C P and cinema halls with her-nowhere had she seen the burqa. It is not so in the south where women can go about her business in her burqa, it is visible in the upmarket malls and in the narrow lanes of crowded marketplaces.
I had a friend during the BEd days who said she could not take up teaching jobs as schools would order her to remove her burqa! This girl was used to her dress for so many years, leave alone the religious part of it, doesn't it seem like asking a person who has worn nothing but saris to appear at work in jeans? Why can't we accept that there are other cultures present in this country and all have the right of moving about freely-and we don't give a thought to this, we move about content in our freedoms oblivious of the rights of others.
When i heard that the VC of Jamia was planning to provide legal aid to those students of Jamia who were arrested for terror activities after the recent encounter in Jamia nagar I was taken aback. On the one hand the VC claims that the university has nothing to with the activities of the youth captured from the colony near it and on the other hand he is coming out in support of the very same youth. One of the boys were from Arindam Choudhary's IIPM but the man did his best to dissociate himself and the institute by saying that they did not have any inkling that the boy may be up to these activities and there the matter ended. Jamia however, due to the proximity of the encounter site and the religion of the boys, could not brush itself free of this burden. There was a program on CNN-IBN yesterday where I saw one of the Jamia profs speak of the isolation of and suspicion against Muslims- the same feeling of exclusion was voiced by one after another of those who were interviewed. Today in the papers there is news of several fact finding teams (Non government organizations like the Janhastakshep and People's Union for Democratic Rights,PUDR) finding discrepancies in the police's encouter stories. This news is tucked away in the middle pages of the paper whereas the sensational encounter and the other details regarding the personalities of the terrorists made first page news, so did the funeral of the hero policeman who died in the encounter. I know that PUDR is a responsible organization doing good work for many years, a friend of mine is a member and I know she will not associate with inefficient or dishonest people. What is it that they have found? It would be more useful if their findings were properly disclosed, instead of the ramblings of the police. We have TV journalists reporting from outside hotel rooms where the boys stayed and all that inane stuff, get down to it folks- what is the truth you guys? Do you even care? In this light the Jamia VCs decision does not seem strange anymore. Whatever happens the truth must be told, otherwise injustice will occur, already Muslim students are having difficulty in finding accommodation in colonies outside Jamia. One of the values of PUDR as an investigating agency is that it is not associated with any religious group, it must be paid heed to. All said and done I still believe that the VC is taking a risk. Something did happen in Jamia Nagar, the police could not have shot themselves, these guys were definitely armed- but why? If the boys are proved innocent then the VC's stance will be vindicated, if any terror link is established, Jamia will forever be embroiled in it. One of those interviewed said-" The Naxals are also Hindus, we do not hold all Hindus responsible for the violence they perpetrate, why do we do so with the Muslim population due to the activities of terrorists who happen to be Muslims?" the answer is probably the use of religious rhetoric by these guys. What I want to say is that the persons who died in the blasts were not responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid so why kill them and enough deaths have been brought about to avenge that incident- can we move on please? But the fact of the matter is that 90% of educated Muslims identify with India inspite of all the exclusion, they want their freedoms they want to be recognised as citizens of this country who have a different culture which can enrich the composite culture of the nation. They want to belong- so guys on this Id non-Hindus can you please befriend a Muslim family, partake of the joys of the only big festival this community has and really know and understand the significance of it. My mouth has started watering already with the reports of the delicious haleem that is prepared at an eatery near my house. Ah, the bliss of coming to know each other's culture!