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Earlier I was Indian First but now I am only a ‘Muslim’

By Almas Naseem

A newly established thought of being a minority has been engulfing in my thoughts from past few days. Belonging to a minority group in a secular and democratic state must not make a difference in an ideal world; but it does.

Disclaimer: We are here talking about the biggest democracy in the world. Like many other minority communities in India, I have constitutional rights of being equal like all other citizens in the country. However, these rights and status of being equal now lay in vain.

Living in the national capital of India, from past 23 years, born and bought up in a very secular and democratic environment, the change in scenarios around the world especially in this country becomes dangerously evident. I still remember the feeling of being proud I would feel in school when my teacher would talk about India being a secular and democratic state. The fundamental right of being Equal before the law (Article 14-18) gave a feeling of living in the best world in the mind of a 7-year-old child.

Right to equality includes equality before the law, the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, equality of opportunity.

The feeling of “other” has been a realizing fact especially after 2014. Assemblies in school would include all prayers from different religions from Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam, celebrating different festivals in my locality was the norm. Every aspect of being an Indian was an endearing moment for me.

Now, I am an Indian Muslim. My identity is my religion before my state. I have been living in denial that a bill like CAB and NRC, which tarnishes the constitution, will not be a reality. The denial which I have when friends I have grown up with, share social media posts about “Hindutva being in danger because of growing population of Muslims”, when I meet people and they ask my full name to know which religion I belong to, and the reluctance they show when I tell them “Yes, I am a Muslim”. The extreme intimidation caused by one statement of our respected Home Minister: ‘Buddhist, Sikh and Christian refugees ‘need not be afraid’, not mentioning the majority of these minority groups. The denial is over now. The reality of being “other” in this country is getting on the verge of breakdown now. Times when Politicians should talk about inclusion, development and climate change, they still propagate on Religious Minorities.

The worst part among this is that the majority do agree and take side with such ministers and politicians. We must acknowledge how the world is bringing a wave against Islam followers. Concentration camps meant for a particular religious community is the hard-hitting reality of the world, From Uyghur Muslims in China to newly formed concentration camps in Assam.

However, my hope of being as equal as my constitution promised will be enlightened always. The lyrics from Tarānah-e-Hind By Allama Iqbal will be my most cherished memory from school.

Maẕhab nahīṉ sikhātā āpas meṉ bair rakhnā
Hindī haiṉ ham, wat̤an hai Hindositāṉ hamārā

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