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25 years after riots, Mumbai’s Muslims look for way forward

Riots have taught Muslims the value of self-empowerment, economic growth, educational upliftment and to not trust politicians, say community members

mumbai Updated: Dec 06, 2017 11:50 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman
Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
Mumbai riots,Babri masjid,Mumbai news
Current generation of Muslims want development and economic growth for the community.(HT File Photo)

“It’s not like Muslims are scared to venture out on December 6. The community was affected badly, but we have learnt our lessons and the biggest one is that of self-empowerment,” said Feroze Mithiborwala, national co-convenor of Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy, as he reflects on the changing scenario for an average Muslim living in Mumbai, two decades after the riots.

The violence not just changed the way one of India’s most cosmopolitan city lives, it also created and strengthened ghettos, which continue to exist even today, in Mumbai. Even 25 years after the riots, Muslims in the city find it difficult to get homes or jobs, with housing societies and companies banning them on basis of their religion.

However, today there is whole new generation that has only heard about the violence from their parents and grandparents. Their agenda is to not fight on religious lines, but look at the community’s development and economic growth.

Shahid Lateef, editor of Inquilab, the largest read Urdu daily in Mumbai, said: “The riots have left a deep scar. It was an event where the community suffered like never before. Mumbai’s composite culture was shaken but for community, it was a lesson to look at what ails them, to look at economic growth and educational upliftment. After 25 years, there are visible signs of educational awareness.”

Sarfaraz Arzoo, editor of the Hindustan Urdu Daily newspaper, said the community is learning to not trust political parties. “All successive governments have failed the community. We know it’s an on-going fight for survival, but somewhere, the community has realised that educational and economic upliftment is the way forward. There is no looking back.”

Some members of the community, however, are still waiting for justice to be delivered for what happened two decades ago. While some have lost hope, some continue to run from one court to another. Farooq Mapkar, who became the face of the Mumbai riot victims, said, “Even if the verdict is against us, we will accept it. But let there be some decision. How long will the victims wait?”

Mapkar was shot on his left shoulder as the police force led by sub-inspector Nikhil Kapse opened fire, killing seven Muslims, at Hari Masjid in Wadala in January 1993. He was 24 then.

Over the decades, consequent government data has also presented a poor picture of the community’s growth. The 2006 Sachar Committee report submitted to the Parliament stated that Muslims in India were more backward than even the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Even a decade after the report was submitted, there has been no major change in the condition of India’s Muslims. Workforce participation has shown a minimal rise and Muslims continue to have a poor representation in decision-making bodies.

Add to this, the changing political scenario in recent years – the re-emergence of Hindutva as an ideology and the rise of vindictive politics. “The country had passed the post-Partition phase, but then the kind of fear and hatred that Muslims are facing today is rather hard to believe,” said Mithiborwala. His organisation consists of liberal, progressive and reformist Muslims. “The absurd debates on who is a patriot, who is an anti-national, the mob lynchings have created an atmosphere of fear in the minds of Muslims again in the past couple of years, a scenario I had not seen in my life yet,” Mithiborwala said.

First Published: Dec 06, 2017 10:54 IST