I was just reading a heart-felt piece in the Tehelka magazine, regarding how Muslims are made to feel like outsiders, and worse, like traitors, in their own country. She recounts two incidents:
Once she was returning from Ghaziabad to Delhi with her mother, they choose to board in a private bus which was full of Rajasthanis. Her mother was a Rajput and excited to see her ‘own’ people. They both were giggling and talking about beautiful Rajasthani jewellery passed to her by her grandmother. Conductor came and gave a weird look to her mother as she was wearing burqa, he handed over them tickets and said “sala do musalmano ne sari bus ko Pakistan banadiya”.
I met a lady-principal and a young director of two well-known private schools respectively. After discussing urban slums and Bangladesh, Lady Principal asked me what I want to become. I laughed and replied, in 5th grade our teachers used to ask this. Now, I am what I am in front of you. But she insisted me to answer. As a joke, I said ‘youngest Prime Minister of India’. She unexpectedly asked, ‘why India?’ Smile disappears from my face but I managed to ask, ‘Well, I am an Indian and in which country do you think I am eligible to be a PM?’. She said ‘any country, there are so many countries for you guys’. I politely asked her ‘so many countries such as…?’ She shamelessly answered, ‘there are neighboring countries you know…’
First, people who behaved in such manner needed tight slaps. Second, this is not a Muslim specific problem, especially in our country.
Being a Sikh I’ve had my share of stupid remarks made on my identity. In fact my brother-in-law used to get so upset that he often used to regret being a Sikh. His colleagues and classmates (all Hindus) would specifically exchange crude, insulting “Sardar jokes” in his presence, especially in his presence. Making fun of Sikhs is legendary in India.
And, when Sikhs get a chance, they ridicule Biharis and UPiites. Similarly, people from different regions are addressed to disparagingly by people from other regions. Everybody knows the plight of Dalits
We are basically a nation of bullies. There is some fundamental flaw in our values and psyche. So the next time you’re being “targeted” as a Muslim, keep in mind you’re simply being targeted for being, or appearing, different.