Jadeed Hindustan: Chand Tasveerein
Author: Shabi Uz Zaman
Publisher: Ibn Khaldun Study and Research Centre, Shivaji Nagar, Jalgaon, Maharashtra-425001
Reviewed by KAMRAN MIRZA
Indian Muslims are going through a tumultuous phase. The daily dose of insults, harrowing experiences and stripping off their identity bit by bit, riots, lynchings, economic and social boycott, choice of dress, prayers, places of worship, and food infringed. The situation is alarming. Though Indian Muslims form the world’s second-largest Muslim population yet they are subjected to the worst form of persecution and maligning in their homeland. Many in the international media are terming this as the end time for Indian Muslims, some others put it as the impending ‘Genocide’ of Muslims in India.
“Under BJP’s leadership, India became one of the most dangerous countries for Muslims and Christians in the world. They are being persecuted physically, psychologically, and economically,” activist and academic Apoorvanand wrote in an Op-ed for Al Jazeera.
Gregory Stanton, who founded the Genocide Watch group, is sounding the alarm on violence against Muslims in India. Stanton said genocide was not an event but a process and drew parallels between the policies pursued by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the discriminatory policies of Myanmar’s government against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Where did it all start, how do we comprehend the realities of today in a coherent framework, and what does the future holds or may look like, these are some of the questions that Shabi Uz Zaman’s new book offers to address.
Shabi Uz Zaman is a prolific Urdu writer on contemporary politics and has published more than 200 articles on Hindutva, Hinduism, various movements, culture, civilization, Islamophobia, etc. His latest book “New India: A Few Glimpses” is an anthology of selected 40 essays and book reviews which have been strung together to build a coherent historical narrative and provides a consistent framework for evaluating the happenings of our times. It retrofits the politics of today in their historical contexts, paints a grim future for Muslims in India, suggests course corrections beyond regular rhetoric of Dawah and Amaal ki kamzori (weakness of religious action) to Indian Muslims.
These essays have been composed against the backdrop of various eventful happenings in India over the last three to four years. Some articles have been authored especially for this book. The essays are stark punchy, lucid but eye-opening. They not only narrate the events but also elucidate the ideological underpinnings which shape them. Right through the book runs the leitmotif: Hindutva, Indian society, Indian Muslims, and Politics.
The author is wary of conclusive statements. He curiously examines the RSS’ vacillations, contradictions, and its relentless and patient march towards turning India into a Hindu Rashtra while relegating Muslims to subhuman savages. One valuable aspect of this book is the focus on issues of this century, rather than the last one. It speaks of events still fresh in our memories.
The book has been broadly categorised into five major subjects
1. Hindutva – Genesis and Evolution
2. Indian Muslims in the new context
3. CAA and NRC case studies
4. Indian Society – an analysis
5. The new horizon of Indian Politics
Hindutva Politics, Hindu Renaissance, RSS Appropriations, and policy shifts.
Decoding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the politics of Hindutva has been a preoccupation of academics and journalists alike for decades, and there is no dearth of writing on it. In recent years, as the Sangh Parivar moved to the centre stage of politics in India, there have been several new tomes.
The essays in the first section of this book majorly discuss Hindutva’s political evolution in the context of RSS from its inception to the field action of the day. Shabi Uz Zama mentions that the Sangh evolved from being a socio-politico organisation to a politico-socio organisation going full circle, citing several sources. It traces the journey of RSS and Hindutva politics, and Hindu renaissance movements in detail. It delves into RSS’s ostensible policy shifts by evaluating Sangh’s narratives and action on ground, exposes contradictions therein.
The book offers insights into many pertinent processes, narratives and undercurrents set forth by Hindutva politics, some of which includes Indianisation of Muslims, question of who a Hindu is, RSS appropriation of Gandhi and Ambedkar, outreach to Muslims and Dalits, Ram Janam Bhoomi movement to Babri Masjid Martyrdom and Bhoomi Pujan, History of Hindu renaissance in post-Independence era and Muslim intransigence, Usage of religion in Indian politics, so on and so forth.
Mohan Bhagwat’s 2018 speech about Muslims was hailed by intellectuals who jumped the gun, stating that RSS has changed fundamentally. But did it really change?
Shabi Uz Zaman mentions that to understand RSS holistically we must not just see its literature but also the ground actions. He details several contradictions between the RSS narratives and ground realities. Citing Dinesh Narayan, he says that contrary to popular understanding, the RSS has transformed to become more technologically savvy and socially inclusive, making the message of Hindu nationalism appealing to a large section of Indians. It has been actively mobilising Dalits, tribals and other marginalised communities to assimilate them into the Hindutva metanarrative. Instead of wiping outcastes from electoral politics, the RSS plays up the identity of disadvantaged groups, which translates into votes for the BJP.
Two very important book reviews have been included in this section, “Republic of Hindutva” by Badri Narayan and “RSS and the making of the deep nation” by Dinesh Narayanan.
On Revivalism of Hinduism, Shabi Uz Zama opines that past revivalism was a direct result of sudden power change whereas the current “revivalism” post-Modi win 2014 is due to systemic plan churned from the Hindutva ideology.
The second part of the book puts the spotlight on Indian Muslims. It highlights the dire need for developing a Muslim Political leadership. Post-fall of Mughal rule there is no constructive national plan offered by the community. He writes that Muslims never felt the need for a separate political party since Independence and voted and relied too heavily on so-called secular parties. Post-2014 there is a dire need for a political platform. A perception has been established that Muslim political viability doesn’t hold anymore, furthermore this has created a state of political untouchability for Indian Muslims to an extent that even the so-called secular parties are cautious of even cursorily mentioning Muslim aspirations. He mentions that India’s Muslim issue is a political one and hence needs a political solution.
The book then delves into the “Question of Population explosion”. There are three arguments put forward about the Muslim population: that it prevents economic development; Muslim religious zeal prevents them from birth control and a pure political objection that Muslims are expanding as to hatch a conspiracy to overtake India. However, none of these claims is ever substantiated by statistics or research by all parties and sides alike. The author debunks the entire population myth quite impressively.
The author further discusses at great length the historical scourge of Covid pandemic which further laid bare the hypocrisy of our society. The incompetence of the government was camouflaged by Muslim hate and they were labelled super spreaders. The author cites the entire process of vilification in this context. Despite the propaganda, the Muslims quite impressively acted as Khair e Ummat, risked life by performing last rites of patients whom the society had disowned. However, on the other side they too became victims to conspiracy theories, and unscientific narratives pertaining to Covid.
The author further delves deep into the history of “Dawah” or proselytization efforts in the subcontinent and how it has changed today, where it lacks. He traces the spread of Islam in this subcontinent to several historical factors.
CAA and NRC, Attitude of Global Powers: In the purview of the discriminatory citizenship amendment bill this section deals with the reasons why Muslims have been singled out and what may unfold soon as a result. He further discusses the apathy of Global powers and Muslim nations. How the vested interests and politics of power balance leads to taciturnity and wilful oblivion of the global powers when it comes to voicing for injustice in the Indian society be it against the Muslims or the lower caste.
Indian Society, Seeding Islamophobia in the deep state, The specificity of Indian Islamophobia: Indian society and its various institutions are discussed at length. The author highlights the conditioning of the society and its institutions, be it political, educational, courts, election commissions, science, and tech. He dedicates several pages on institutionalised seeding of Islamophobia into the Indian psyche, outlining the specificity of Indian Islamophobia. In contrast to the west, Indian Islamophobia stems from altered historical narratives, oriental historiography, Politics (majority stepping into minority mindset), Culture differences have been weaponized, Islam first India second in the context of Nationalism and so on, all this with the open support of the government. For Hindutva, the fear and hate of Muslims are given an ideological narrative and fed to all educational institutions which are seeding the RSS deep state.
He also discussed at length the Poona Pact which is a turning point in Indian politics, and presents data to show the atrocities suffered by Dalits and Adivasis and why the upper caste enjoys all the perks and positions, albeit being still in minority.
INDIAN POLITICS ON THE NEW HORIZON
In the final section of the book, the author discusses the state of Indian politics. How India is being re-shaped and there are active efforts to replace the architects of modern India with Hindutva idols. The secular idea is substituted by Hindutva mouldings. Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a Sangh idealogue, who was anti-Constitution and vilified Muslims, has been presented as a modern philosopher; his idea of integral humanism has been propounded as a novel idea for India.
This section also discusses the crisis of Dynastic politics. It presents the Critique of Congress. It can be argued that the book is monotonous when it comes to the Hindutva and spends less time on other political factions. Still, it should be borne in mind that the intention of the book is to address the more urgent and imminent issue at hand.
In conclusion, the book offers course corrections for Muslims. Shabi Uz Zama reiterates that Indian Muslim issue is a political one, and hence we must go beyond oversimplification and regular rhetoric of religious action alone; a political issue needs political resolution. Muslims need to develop a national agenda and national vision for our nation. They need to pro-actively develop a strategy to counter the Hindutva narrative, correct the mistakes of history, oriental historiography both on academic and social levels, employing all possible tools and technology, outreach and collaboration with every section of our society, build bridges between communities, work relentlessly to uplift the educational and economic status of the community – as economic upliftment creates literacy, and literacy creates strong political understanding and foster a strong political leadership. These changes won’t occur overnight but need sustained and concerted efforts.