Posts Tagged ‘Hyderabad Old City’


The All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) registered its first impressive debut performance in a region outside its area of influence i.e. Hyderabad by bagging two seats in the recently held Maharashtra state legislative elections. It has stirred up a contentious debate across various circles in the country.

The representatives of the right and far right organizations currently dominating the social, cultural and political scene in the country are demanding an outright ban on the Hyderbad-based political organization. These groups compare the agenda of AIMIM with the Muslim League of Jinnah and therefore consider the success of the party pernicious to the idea of Akhand Bharat (undivided India). Given by the standards of the current polarization of politics on sectarian lines, this demand emanating from those who see in Muslims a challenge to the fascist project of envisaged Hindu self is plausible.

But what, in fact, is more puzzling is that the success of AIMIM has raised few eyebrows in the secular, liberal circles of the Indian public sphere which considers the rise of AIMIM as an unhealthy sign for democracy in India.

The deep sense of fear attributed to the burgeoning AIMIM springs from that party’s burden of being a casualty rooted in the history of partition and integration of Indian states into Indian Union. AIMIM is historically linked to Razakars, “the private militia that resisted the integration of Hyderabad state into the dominion of India”. The debate on the question of Razakar movement and its aftermath in the form of “Police Action” continues to remain the most unresolved issues for the historians dealing with it.

Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), which was founded in 1927, is seen by some historians as a socio-religious organization aiming for the educational and social upliftment of Muslims in the state. For this group of historians, MIM symbolises a movement that stood for cultural and political rights of the Muslim community. For other historians, predominantly favouring the nationalistic paradigm of history, the current AIMIM continues to seen as an offshoot of infamous Razakar legacy that terrorized many Hindu villagers. Due to the complexity of issues hidden in the pages of history, the integration of Hyderabad state into the Indian Union of India on September 17, 1948 is simultaneously termed as a Liberation Day by some and Black Day by others. What is common to all narratives is that the period of 13 months preceding the Liberation or Black Day of Hyderabad was exceedingly violent.

In the post independent India MIM was banned while its leader Kasim Rizvi was imprisoned in 1948. It was only in 1957 Rizvi was released on the pretext that he would leave for Pakistan in 48 hours. While leaving for Pakistan, Kasim Rizvi passed on the mantle of the president of MIM to Abdul Wahab Owaisi. It is Abdul Wahab Owaisi who is credited with re-writing the new constitution of the party according to the provisions of the Indian constitution. The MIM was thus renamed as AIMIM in 1958 and made its first electoral debut in 1959. From here onwards the party has always attempted to reinvent and reassess itself on the lines of linguistics of parliamentary democracy in India. Therefore any attempt to see AIMIM as a manifestation of its past will not only be hollow reductionism but also misleading.

The Razakars who are seen as the predecessors of the modern AIMIM were situated in a context where the aim was to wrestle for the state power. The current AIMIM does not in any way hold such illusions. The upswing in the fortunes of the AIMIM politics since 1970s therefore makes it imperative to see the rise of AIMIM in the present context of the larger political scene in the country.

AIMIM being a Muslim party aiming to represent the rights of Muslims bears the burden of operating in a milieu where it is daunting to be secular, democratic and Muslim in chorus. Many sections in the society see combination of Muslim political party and secular politics mutually exclusive to each other. Therefore a single political error committed by the party is susceptible to be seen as an imminent threat.

We live in the crucial times in the history of postcolonial India. For the first time in the post-independent India, a right wing Hindu political formation called BJP has secured a political majority of its own in the 2014 parliamentary elections. This has raised several questions concerning the plight of Muslims in India comprising a significant proportion of the minority populations. The near annihilation of the oppositional parties from the national political scene which could in the past claim to represent the case of Indian Muslims has amounted to manifold increase in the already prevalent fear psychosis among the Muslims. This existential dilemma posed to Muslim communities in India by the rise of Hindu wave politics has to do a lot in relation to the success of AIMIM in Maharashtra.

As per the Sachar and Post-Sachar studies on Indian Muslims, it is evident to conclude that the Indian Muslims have so far benefitted very less by taking refuge in the comparatively secular outlook of Congress or other such political formations. Majority of the Muslims in India continue to live in ghettoes across the country. Muslims are perpetually branded as anti-national and forced to prove themselves as true Indians. In this context, coupled with the absence of representative Muslim leadership until this day, Muslims can be expected to pin their hopes on the AIMIM strand of politics.

However, there are many nuances and caveats appended before jumping to conclusions.
First of all, it would be a brazen travesty of truth by assuming that the Muslims of India are going to wholeheartedly accept the politics of AIMIM. This can be clearly understood by the way in which Muslim population of Hyderabad negotiate their relationship with AIMIM.

Despite its strong hold over the Muslim votes in Hyderabad, the Muslims in Hyderabad have an ambivalent relationship with the party. Majority of the Muslims in Hyderabad are skeptical about AIMIM when it comes to the question of socio-economic development of the community in Hyderabad. Majority of the Muslims in Hyderabad, very much like the other Muslim communities in other states of India, continue to be abysmally poor and live in the ghettoes of old city of Hyderabad. The strong voice of certain section of unemployed educated Muslim youth and other members from the community in the form of Siasat group till today remain the unforgiving critics of AIMIM politics.

Then, what actually works for AIMIM is nothing but the language which provides shelter to the concerns over the rising insecurity of Muslim community in the country. In addition, what phenomenally works for AIMIM is the easy accessibility of its top leadership to all sections from the Muslims community in Hyderabad.

The role of AIMIM in representing the case of illegally detained Muslim youth of Hyderabad is a perfect example of this politics. The erratic politics of AIMIM therefore for all right or wrong reasons poses a concern for varied sections of population across the country. The vitriolic speeches of Akbaruddin Owaisi, the second in command of the organization, have done a catastrophic damage to the party in the imagination of mainstream Indian public. This has allowed some to compare the politics of AIMIM with the politics of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. However this pairing of AIMIM with Shiv Sena by those who see these two parties as mirror images of each other is fallacious. The ideology of Shiv Sena theoretically represents an ideology which has fascist leanings and therefore essentially dangerous. But the ideology of the AIMIM represents the case of social and cultural interests of the most vulnerable community in the country and hence in essence is essentially democratic.

The fate of AIMIM as a democratic, secular party lies in the hands of its leaders. The more the focus remains on polarization, the more detrimental will be its consequences for the Muslim community. The agenda to be set by AIMIM should focus more on the recommendations of the Sachar committee than resorting to the speeches of vitriolic type.

In the recent past, the extension of the party to accommodate other deprived communities of India to its fold is a welcome step. This extension to other groups would be decisive to strengthen its secular base.


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.