Currently I am working on a project related to the study of Hyderabad Muslim youth. In my experience of the interviews with more than 250 Muslim youth of Hyderabad, most of the Muslim youth see around them prevalent systemic discrimination. While reviewing the portrayal of Hyderabad Muslim youth in media and popular perceptions, I was able to locate two trends attributed to the backwardness of Muslim youth. One trend depicts Hyderabad Muslim youth as indolent, lackadaisical Nawabis without any aspirations. This trend attributes the backwardness of Muslim community to their innate denial for engagement with modernity and modern development. The other trend incessantly portrays Hyderabad as burgeoning terrorist hub with its Muslim youth as potential terrorists. It is in this second trend where gobbledygook like that of Praveen Swami (For Details, see Swami on Behind the Mecca Masjid Blast) can be situated. Both these trends have in the past collapsed the image of Hyderabad Muslim youth and have firmly fixed their place in the minds of outsiders as different, other worldly. To understand the conditions of Muslim youth in Hyderabad, one must disband the above mentioned trends and try to understand the situation in which they are living their overall life.
Like majority of the Muslim populations in India as noted by Sachar Committee, even in Hyderabad city, which was the centre of Nizam rule, Muslims are abysmally poor and backward. The Muslim community of Hyderabad has a distinct regional identity with their food, dress, aesthetic sense and even dialect, quite different from other Muslims of India. After the Bristish India was partition into India and Pakistan, and Hyderabad was annexed by India, the Muslims of this richest princely state of India lost their privileged position and a significant portion of the community migrated to other counties. Muslims trained in Nizam’s legal system began to feel the narrowing of the prospects due to change in the court language from Urdu to English. The Hyderabad city presently is generally classified into old city and the new city. Muslims in Hyderabad largely inhabit the Old city part of the Hyderabad city, which tells a story of exploitation and stands out in sharp contrast to the new city. Though the information technology and biotechnology boom has brought people from different parts of the country to the new city of Hyderabad and gives outsiders the impression of Hyderabad as a flourishing metropolis but the Muslim population largely has not been able to get benefited from the highly praised potential of their native city. Though the old city part of Hyderabad has a rich past, but, its present is murky. The old city is poor, backward, lacking in basic civic amenities and divided into areas where some pockets are entirely Muslim-dominated, others have a mixed Hindu-Muslim population. It is disputes over temples and mosques, graveyards and religious processions that determine the politics here. The discrimination is meted out to almost all public utilities like drinking water, electricity, education or other civic amenities such as parks, cinema theatres etc.
Most of the Muslim children in Hyderabad are in no position to progress in any front given the deplorable condition of schools. The unconcerned politics, bureaucratic structures has deeply infected primary education scenario of Muslims in Hyderabad. Muslim minorities are lagging even behind the weaker sections and backward classes. The presence of Muslim undergraduate and postgraduate students in reputed colleges and universities of Hyderabad is proportionately nominal. Given the widespread notion of role of Madrasas in the lives of Muslims, only a miniscule section of parents in Hyderabad prefer to send their children to Madrasas. There is dearth of facilities for teaching Urdu and other subjects through Urdu medium. The lack of proper English education system among Muslims of Hyderabad is widespread. Most of the Muslim students in Hyderabad lack access to computers.
Compared to other Socio-Religious Communities, Hyderabad Muslims have a considerably lower representation in both government as well as private sector. The level of Muslim employment compared to their proportionate population is scarce. Similarly Muslim participation in professional and management cadres is quite low. Dropouts are high among Muslims of Hyderabad. Most of the schools in Muslim areas are running in rental buildings. The encroachment of government land continues unabated. The fate of Urdu schools is much more pitiable.
Due to meagre chances of getting employed in their native place, most Muslims of Hyderabad consider working in Gulf as a preferable option. The major occupations of Muslims of Hyderabad include petty traders, artisans, small repairing centers or workshops, etc.
The current economic condition of Muslims in Hyderabad can be improved only if they can be provided legitimate support by state and private agencies. On the contrary to that, areas of Muslim concentration in Hyderabad have been marked by many banks as ‘negative’ or ‘red’ zones where giving loans is not advisable.
The high costs of health care confronts majority of poverty stricken Muslims of Hyderabad. Most of the Muslim population in Hyderabad is relatively uninsured. The areas peopled by Muslims lack proper health care facilities.
The public transport in the old city of Hyderabad is fast shrinking. Given the narrow roads in the old city of Hyderabad, there is a high increase in transport, leading to traffic problems and pollution. Only one or two bus stations are effectively operating in the old city.
The ghost of communal uprising affected Hyderabad in early 1940’s and ever since the city has encountered several clashes at regular intervals. Several times the city has been brought under curfew following large scale violence in the city. This communal milieu of the city attained new heights in 1990’s in the time of Channa Reddy government. Hundreds of people including children were butchered by rampaging mobs. After a mob of Hindu zealots destroyed the sixteenth century Babri Masjid on 6 December 1992, the incident had cataclysmic impact on the relation between Hindus- Muslims in the Hyderabad city. Thus Hyderabad, especially old city part of the city continues to be one of the tension points, with high security presence during ‘sensitive’ times like the Ganesh festival, Eid Milad, Bonalu, Ramzan, and the 6th of December.
Hyderabad Muslim youth have remained most vulnerable victims of this state of affairs in Hyderabad. This perpetual experience of communal tension has over the last decade mostly affected Muslim youth of Hyderabad and has put them in a colossal quandary. Several youth in Hyderabad have found themselves automatically and falsely accused of terrorism. Muslim youth in Hyderabad are seen with suspicion by the police and linked to almost all terror activities if any, in the city. In 2007 Mecca Masjid blast Hyderabad police launched a mop-up operation against local Muslim boys. Hundreds of Muslim youth were booked related to Mecca Masjid blast case and were tortured only for being Muslims. In a span of two weeks, over a dozen of innocent Muslim boys were picked up by the police and were subjected to third degree tortures. As now it has been established that the right wing Hindu militants were behind the Mecca Masjid blast, it has brought back into spotlight the ingrained discrimination against Muslim in the criminal justice system.
Most of the youth our team interviewed cited examples of Muslims being attacked in media and other forms of public discourse, while other religions with similar practices are not attacked or attacked with less vehemence. The common example that was given in this regard was that of Mecca Masjid blast case.
In these circumstances, most of the interviewed Hyderabad Muslim youth sees in India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) a saviour. All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is considered to be the chief political party for Muslims in Hyderabad. The party has strong grasp over the Muslim population of Hyderabad and claims to be represent their interests. Majority of the interviewed youth have unfathomable belief in AIMIM and consider the party as a real armament of Muslims in Hyderabad. Some youth even look forward to see this regional party to flourish into a full-grown national party. Even though some youth admit the failure of AIMIM in developing the socio-economic conditions of Muslims compared but they give AIMIM the credit for their success in ensuring the safety of Muslim youth in Hyderabad.
A major issue thus afflicting Muslim youth in Hyderabad is that of enforced ghettoization. Muslim youth in Hyderabad see discrimination in social, religious, and political spheres of life. The lack of education in particular hurts these Muslims youth most. Most of these Muslim youth feel that Muslims are being singled out for discrimination and held to a different standard than other religions because of deep rooted prejudice and the growing ideology of majoritarianism.