Posts Tagged ‘Raoof Mir’

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.


The Resentment Persists in Kashmir

Recently I was asked by one friend of mine who works as a reporter in a ‘reputed’ regional Telugu daily, the reasons for ‘gun culture’ and ‘stone pelting culture’ in the Indian administered Kashmir valley. “Why is it that people of Kashmir don’t peacefully complain about their problems to the government?” I replied to him that it is the cynicism and the distrust of the people with the system. My friend didn’t ask me what actually that meant. I wanted to explain to him about the life of common people in Kashmir, the diabolical role of Indian army, their impunity for human rights violations. I wanted to explain to him how a knock on the door late at night or sneaking away to smoke a cigarette at night sends spasms of anxiety through the people, afraid that this might be their last breath.  I made up my mind that I need to grab his attention by hook or by crook to my story of the pain and suffering of Kashmiri people. I wanted to explain to him what distrust with the system meant. But my pal didn’t show even a trivial interest. He was content with my one line answer to his question to fill the space left in his story.  Writing this piece I thought might help me to fulfill my yearning.

Past is never dead, past in one sense or the other lives in the present. E.H Carr says in his monumental work ‘What is History’, that we can view the past and achieve our understanding of the past, only through the eyes of the present. By putting it the other way around I think we can view the present and achieve our understanding of the present only through the eyes of the past. But to have a better picture of the past we need to know who has narrated the past and why s/he has narrated the past. We need to go back to the time of the event and interpret the mind that has narrated that event. Looking at the nationalist narratives for reality won’t help one to arrive at the truth. It is thus important to bring the history and its making under the scanner.  In determinism they say everything that happens has a cause or causes, and could not have happened differently unless something in the cause or causes had also been different. Similarly there is a cause to the phenomenon of stone pelting in the valley. It is impossible to heal this problem without curing the cause of it. Merely making assertions that normalcy has returned to the valley can’t conceal the cause.

After the killing of youth in the valley and the commotions over a period of one month, most of the Indian newspapers have started claiming the return of normalcy to the valley, which is not the case. You can not heal the gash just by trying to put it out of sight. Kashmir is burning and will continue to burn unless the government of India repeals its draconian policies on Kashmir. The difference between Nazi Germany and Indian State’s draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Provinces Act is that Hitler was open about his idea of crucifying Jews, while the Indian government does not define itself openly. Indian state always has been able to hide its heinous crimes under a facade by calling itself a liberal, democratic and secular country. May it be the continuation of Gujarat’s Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister or the inability to bring the terrorists responsible for the blasts in Mecca Masjid, Gokul Chat and Lumbini park in Hyderabad to book, the Indian state and the its mainstream media have always remained indifferent.

Most Indians formulate their assumptions and ideas on the basis of reading of reports carried by TV channels, newspapers, watching Bollywood Films and magazines having some ideological stand. Rarely is there any Indian TV channel, paper or magazine having an empathetic understanding of the Kashmir issue. Hardly can one see stories like ‘State of Discontent’ written by Siddharth Vardharajan on the cold blooded murder of five innocent civilians at Panchalthan near Anantnag in March 2000. Otherwise it is always people like Praveen Swami, whose reports are constantly crammed with bias and get maximum legroom to write the claptrap in the national newspapers. As people are prone to amnesia, lest they forget the cause, I would like to refer to few instances which to a considerable degree can be related to the question of the current stone pelting phenomenon in the valley. To answer my friend’s question, I would hereby like to provide him a slight idea about the reasons for gun culture and stone pelting culture in the valley.

1987 Elections: Whether it is Sheikh Adbullah, who had originally led popular dissent against Maharaja Hari Singh or Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, it is always Delhi that has decided to choose the ruler for Kashmiri people.  This can be understood clearly by the following sentence which Nehru wrote to Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, “It would strengthen your position much more if you lost a few more seats”. Both Sheikh Abdullah and Bakshi when they fell out with their mentors in Delhi, were arrested.  In 1984 Farooq Abdullah’s popularly elected government was dismissed at the behest of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Farooq Abdullah was found to have built  links with Indian Opposition parties like NDA to create an India wide alliance against the ruling Congress Party.

In 1986, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah signed a new political alliance establishing an electoral partnership. This added to a sense of betrayal among Kashmiris who were shocked at Farooq Abdullah’s compromise with the very Congress party that had pushed him out of power in 1984. Congress Party and the National Conference jointly contested the elections against a conglomerate of smaller political parties under the umbrella of Muslim United Front (MUF). There were mass arrests of MUF candidates. The candidates of Muslim United Front (MUF) which was in the opposition had no choice but to pick up the gun. Sumit Ganguly in ‘The Crisis in Kashmir’ says ‘there were some six hundred opposition workers in those areas known to be MUF strongholds.’  Without going into more details, what we can conclude is that the elections of 1987 were a turning point in the history of valley. The disillusionment and enormous resentment against electoral politics and the victorious National Conference- Congress coalition can be called ‘the beginning of the end’ as Tavleen Singh puts it. That is how the gun culture started.

Bijbehara Killings: 37 innocent people were killed on October 22, 1993 when Border Security Force opened fire to disperse  a crowd of nearly ten thousand people, who were demonstrating against an earlier incident of firing on protestors near Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar. The Indian government said that the people who were killed ‘died’. Though National Human Rights Commission took the case into their hands, it was not able to do any justice to the people who were killed. The incident was one more shock for the people and they started to doubt the reliability of state institutions.

Pachaltan Killings: On March 20, 2000, on the eve of a visit by then US President Bill Clinton to India, armed men in Indian army uniforms entered the village of Chittisingpora in Anantnag district at night, killed 36 Sikhs and left several injured. Immediately Pakistan was blamed for the incident. Indian government said that it had evidence that the Pakistan based Lashkare Toiba was behind the killings. On March 25, 2000, the security forces claimed that five militants responsible for the massacre had been killed in an armed encounter at Pathribal.  As Siddharth Vardharajan says “even Home Minister L.K Advani triumphantly announced that the five (those killed) were Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists responsible for the Chittisingpora carnage”.

At that time, a number of villagers especially youth were missing. The villagers lodged a complaint at the police station. Later, it was found that the so called five militants killed in the army encounter in Pathribal were not militants but the men who were missing. On the demand from the public after massive protests, the bodies were exhumed. The army had mutilated the bodies of these five innocents badly. It was then insisted by the state government that DNA verification be carried out. Later it was seen that even the blood samples were tampered with. As Vardharajan rightly  puts it “ In any civilized country, tampering of blood samples in a case relating to the cold blooded killing of innocent civilians would have been treated as a serious criminal case involving charges of accessory to murder. Not so in India or Kashmir.” So in this case also the system was corrupt and irresponsible. What will the people do? Is it not right to come out on the streets and throw stones? The thing called accountability is not even present in theory here.

Shopian Case: Home Minister of India P. Chidambaram gave a clean chit to the army and the paramilitary in the Shopian rape and murder case even while his own agencies were still carrying out the so called investigations into it.

Recently it has been seen that cinema halls in India, prior to screening the movie,  play the national anthem with accompanying visuals of the Indian army hoisting the national flag. In this situation, the people are supposed to give a standing salutation to the army hoisting the flag. Most of people salute and don’t question it.

Recently while watching a movie I refused to stand. I was shouted at from behind by few English speaking urban middle class youth and told to pay respect to the brave Hheros on the screen. I replied to them “they raped my sisters, how I can salute them”. The guys who shouted were frozen by my argument. After the movie got over, I explained to them the reasons for my inability to salute their heroes. At that time I had in my mind the Shopian rape and murder case in which two girls were raped with the involvement of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). No justice was done to the victims. There was huge resentment among Kashmiris with the inability of the system to deal with the issue.

Recent Killings: A Nine year child, walking amidst the crowds of peaceful marchers to Sopore looking for his mentally challenged brother was gunned down in firing on protestors by the CRPF and police. In a similar fashion, about 18 people were killed recently followed by some of the Indian TV channels and newspapers relating it to the backing of Lashkar e Toiba.  Even India’s home secretary appeared on the television and maintained that the slain boy was not “innocent” but a “paid miscreant”.  Two days later, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram maintained that the mobs in Srinagar were being instigated by Lashkar e Toiba.

Whatever wrong happens is related   to Pakistan. By constantly engaging peoples’ priorities Vis-à-vis Kashmir and thereof the rest of India, the aim has always been to define and solidify the nation state itself. It is clear that there exist festering contradictions in the form of Naxalism and the North East, leading to shallowness of any monolith called India; it has been thus very helpful for India to create the “other” in the form of Pakistan via Kashmir. If people of Kashmir are asking for justice, they are being told “you are suffering because of Pakistan.” India wants to incorporate Kashmiris, but considers them as part of the ‘Other’.

Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Impunity: Those responsible for abuses rarely get investigated, let alone tried and convicted. The laws like AFSPA which allow the lethal force to be used against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area has bred deep resentment among Kashmiris towards India. The most alarming factor that is responsible for the situation is high number of unlawful killings by security forces. These perpetrators and violators of human rights are not held accountable by the state for their actions. The immunity provisions in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act are used often in Kashmir to prevent civilian prosecutors from prosecuting soldiers. Whether one is raped or slaughtered by the army, it is important to get the sanction from the central government to prosecute any army person. No prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings shall be instituted, except with previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act. This Draconian law gives the army men the license to kill anyone.

Conclusion: This is not the end. There are a plethora of such instances which can be associated with the stone pelting phenomenon in Kashmir. Indian Press might claim the restoration of normalcy but the anger  of the people over the recent killings in Kashmir can’t be covered up. The resentment still persists. It is important for Indian state and its media to introspect and at least give a compassionate thought to the cries of pain. The State government which is running at the behest of Delhi had always been unable to hear their cries of pain and suffering. As I mentioned earlier, everything that happens has a cause and here the cause is the indifferent attitude of Indian government to the Kashmiris. All the events are related to each other. We cannot separate one event from the other. Though my story of pain and suffering of Kashmiri people and their distrust with the system is incomplete, I hope it will give my friend a better idea about what I think is the reason for the so called violent protests in the valley and why the people of Kashmir don’t go to the government asking for its help.

Identity is performatively constituted by very expressions that are said to be its results- Judith Butler

There is a proverb in Arabic “Al Tikrar Biallem il Hmar” (By repetition even the donkey learns). The depiction of Muslims by far and widely circulated media as ‘Cultural Other” has become a conventional and legitimized practice to engage with understanding the Muslim world. With the repetition of images portraying Muslims as ‘Other”, masses are so caught up in the images that access to reality has become impracticable. People’s knowledge and understanding of Muslims has been channelized in such a manner that the images have replaced reality, thus becoming an uninterrupted conduit for describing Muslims. The Reel Muslim has never been characterized as a guy that you would like to have as your next door neighbor, because he is also like you. The Reel Muslim has always been portrayed as intimidating, a carrier of primitivism, upsetting the pleasant modern world with strange habits and desires. When was the time that in a movie a Muslim was shown as a guy working 12 hours a day, coming home to a loving family, drinking coffee, listening to music, sharing jokes with friends? This repetition of images portraying Muslim as pessimistic value possessors has essentially led people to believe that it is always only Muslims who have a problem with Others – Jews, Christians, West, Hindus. It is often that when people talk about Muslims, they talk of what they have read in the newspapers or of images they have seen in the media which always condition their thoughts to believe in a particular way.

One of the enthusiastic producers of these images is cinema. Cinema plays an important cohesive role, constructing a pan world identity. People relate to each other watching particular versions of cinema. Jack G. Shaheen, in his book “Reel Bad Arabs” documents and discusses virtually every feature that Hollywood has ever made – more than 900 films, the vast majority of which portray Arabs by distorting at every turn what most Arab men, women, and children are really like. According to Shaheen, for more than a century, Hollywood has used repetition as a teaching tool, tutoring movie audiences by repeating over and over, in film after film, insidious images of the Muslim world. The trend was adapted by Bollywood (national film industry), which also started dealing with the same subject but in a different way. Bollywood reflects India and has subsequently become an inseparable part of people’s imagination, lived experiences, customs and traditions. Bollywood and its engagement with the Muslim as a subject has encountered an imperative shift over a period of time. From lethargic Nawabs, Badshahs and nobles, Muslims have been reduced to people having blind faith in Jihad. The historicization of Bollywood’s long Muslim obsession is thus an exploration of how this obsession fits into the relationship between Indian Bollywood and the Muslim subject.

The historicization of Bollywood’s obsession with Muslim can be broadly and loosely classified into four different phases. In the movies of the fifties to the seventies like Mughl-e-Azam, Shah Jahan, Nikah, Bazaar etc, Muslims were characterized as a community which can be assimilated into the fold of Hindu India but always with suspicion. The second stage which started in the eighties with focus on Mumbai’s underworld mafia depicted Muslims as central characters dominating the underworld. Smugglers wearing Arab robes, puffing cigars, carrying briefcases were a common element in these films. The third phase started with Mani Ratnam’s flamboyant narrative of guns and roses – Roja. The Muslim as “other’ in the form of Pakistan through Kashmir was manifested in a series of movies that revolved around this topic. In these films, it was the Indian ‘Self’ investing all its energy to protect the motherland from the attack of the ‘other’, Enemy Number 1, Pakistan. These films largely helped to divert the attention of the Indian masses by concealing the prevalent socio-political inequalities of Indian society behind images of nation and nationality. The fourth stage of Bollywood’s engagement with Muslims is the post 9/11 phenomenon. Here, it is not India that is fighting with the ‘other’ but a replacement in the form of the West. The Indian Self has been replaced by its Western counterpart while the enemy has remained the same. Films like New York and Kurbaan fall under this category.

In the films that were made in the fifties with the Muslim subject at the centre, an attempt was made to portray Muslims as a faintly differentiated section of Indian society. In films like Umrao Jaan, Mere Huzoor and Pakeezah, Muslims were revealed as an aristocratic class, delighting themselves watching mujrahs and splurging money on the girls performing mujrahs. The apparatus used in these movies was to depict the Muslim as a category madly in pursuit of pleasure and hungry for wealth. Some movies like Mughl-e-Azam scaled the graphs of fame with the Muslim as an essential character confirming what the general masses accepted – Muslims as creatures that can be assimilated as a part of Hindu Indian society. It was evident through these movies that there lies a regional blend that distinguishes Indian Muslims significantly from Muslims of the Arab heartland. Religious tolerance and the tendency among Indian Muslims to synthesize with local customs were distinctive features of these movies. In this genre, Muslim men were shown wearing Aligarh cut Sherwanis, chewing betel nut and reciting Iqbal’s or Ghalib’s poetry at the drop of a hat. The moment such caricatures appeared on the screen, the audience knew that it is time for a Qawwali, h or Ghazal. Qawwalis and Mujras became synonymous with Muslim culture.

Later Bollywood film makers with films like Elan and Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro took a slightly different turn by disparaging the aimlessness of lower middle class Muslim youth. Films like Bazaar and Nikah with their high dose of Muslim social melodrama tried to reveal the domestic customs and traditions in Muslim society. While Nikah represented Talaq (divorce) as a means of suppression and marginalization of Muslim women, Bazaar on the other hand depicted the cruelty of poverty stricken Muslim families in marrying their under aged daughters to elderly Arab men. These movies stand as a watershed in highlighting Muslims as negative quality bearers with ‘unsophisticated’ dreams. Finally, the connection was ‘instituted’ between Indian Muslim and Arab Muslim.

The third remarkable shift in the late seventies and eighties was the portrayal of Muslims as characters central to Mumbai’s underworld. The Muslim characters since then also started becoming negative in Bollywood movies. Movies like Ghulam-e -Mustafa and Angar started this trend and became popular with the masses. The innate criminal instinct within the Muslim psyche was the central ideology circulated through these movies. The Muslim as a bohemian character with unnatural desires for accumulating wealth remained the core theme in these movies. In this genre, people were made to believe in perceiving Muslims as a threat to institutional apparatus of the state. The minor connection between Indian Muslims and Arab Muslims instituted through movies of the early seventies was permeated profoundly through these images. In these images, the Indian Muslim’s underworld connections were shown as impossible without the support of Muslims carrying out the same activities at the international level.

The 1965 war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir and the 1975 war over Bangladesh facilitated Indian Bollywood to successfully and legitimately portray Muslim as ‘Other’ through Pakistan. The multi-ethnic, multi-national composition of India and absence of shared culture and symbols among Indian people made it necessary for Bollywood to construct images of India depicting the Indian state as sustaining and restraining the festering contradictions.

By constantly engaging people’s priorities vis-à-vis Kashmir and thereby of Pakistan, the aim was to define and solidify the nation state. For ordinary Indians possessing layers of identities, their identification with the Indian state operates in different contexts. An inclusive Indian gains pre-eminence when confronted with Muslim Pakistan. The unique thing about jingoistic films was their core theme of presenting Kashmir as atoot ang (integral part) of India. In 1999, the Kargil War played a distinctive role in making Kashmir central to the definition of Indian national unity. The Kargil episode, for the first time inspired a Post Independence India which for the first time during and for a short while after the Kargil episode stood together, shoulder to shoulder – something which had never occurred before. Advertisement of national pride through films enabled for the first time in 52 years, an image of this nation truly united as one, cutting across all barriers of caste, class, creed and community.

In order to liberate Kashmir from Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, the Indian armed forces were portrayed as the male protagonists, battling for the cause of humanity. It thus became inescapable to make films on Kashmir, without incorporating the message of Kashmir as national project. In almost all these movies, Muslims were branded either as terrorists or fanatics whose desires were pre-modern, not fitting into the Western democratic liberal model. There was a flagrant significance in the titles of movies itself – Mission Kashmir, Fannah (Destruction)), Dhokha (Betrayal).

It was with Mani Ratnam’s Roja that for first time the Kashmir problem was publicized on the big screen. According to Nicholas Dirks, there is one scene where hero, Rishi Kumar saves the flag and rises, still on fire, to avenge the perpetrators of symbolic violence, with the soundtrack building in momentum to a song by Subramaniam Bharati that evokes the geographical unity and integrity of the Indian nation. The scene is framed in a manner that seems clearly to set Islam against the principles of Indian nationalism – by shots of the main terrorist calmly praying to Allah. Various reports from viewers around India suggest that the visual pleasure of national spectator is at its peak and that audiences are most demonstrative during this scene of patriotic self sacrifice. In films like Dhokha and Chak De India, it was the loyalty of the Indian Muslim that was put to question. If Kabir Khan as the National hockey team Coach in Shahrukh Khan starred Chak De India raised doubts regarding the loyalty of the Indian Muslims towards the Indian nation, in Dhokha it is Zaid Ahmad Khan (ACP), a true, secular Muslim struggling to prove his credentials of being a loyal citizen of India that audiences are faced with. Mukesh Bhatt’s Muzammil Ibrahim starred ‘Dhokha’ or ‘Betrayal’ is a Bollywood offering that raises several questions about Muslims and their identity in India. Coming out of the rhetoric of his fluffy musicals for the first time, Mukesh Bhatt’s Dhokha tries to get to the bottom of the delicate question of Hindu-Muslim antagonism. On the night of a lethal bombing at the New Century Club in Mumbai, Zaid helps the horrified victims in the blast. Zaid offers to donate blood to one of the injured, believed to be a Hindu. The dilemma mounts when the father of the injured disdainfully refuses to receive any aid from Zaid saying he would rather see his daughter dead than let the blood of a Muslim, ‘a traitor, perfidious creature’ flow through his daughter’s veins. Though the film progressively engages itself with denouncing the people who spread terror in the name of religion and tries to find reasons for the root cause of terrorism, it fails to provide a solution to the Islamophobia that is deeply inculcated in the psyche of the general masses. With Dhokha which begins with the cataclysmic 9/11 attacks, a link is created between Bolloywood and the Muslim subject that has been borrowed by other film makers. This defines the entry of Bollywood’s rendezvous with the Muslim Subject into a new stage. Kurbaan and New York are the examples of this genre, where it is not India but the west that is fighting the same ‘Other’.

A plethora of movies have been made by Bollywood where actresses have played much more audacious acts prior to Kareena’s bare backed posture. It is a matter of concern why it was only Kareena Kapoor who was censured for her bare backed pose in the film. The film was released at a time when the theme of ‘love jihad’ was circulating rapidly in the media. Kurbaan which depicts Kareena Kapoor playing a Hindu girl falling in love with Muslim Saif Ali Khan raises a doubt as to whether it was the blaze of ‘Love Jihad’ that incited the Shiv Sena goons to object to Kareena’s bare back. After its rival MNS did its job of screwing Karan Johar’s happiness over Wake Up Sid, the Shiv Sena’s men marched to Kareena’s house to gift her a saree, and followed this up by going around Mumbai covering her back with sarees on posters of Kurbaan. Karan Johar could have thought of an even better way than this to turn heads. Kurbaan, which deals with the post 9/11 Muslim identity, widens the gap in Muslim stereotypes. In the film, Muslim women are shown as feeble and submissive, as victims of a patriarchal and misogynistic religion. Muslim men are typified as creepy, scary looking creatures who physically abuse their wives. The next offering by the director of Kurbaan, Karan Johar is Shah Rukh Khan starred ‘My Name is Khan’, probably revolving around the Muslim identity yet again.

Bollywood’s obsession with Islam thus far has always created a clichéd image of Muslims without having done much research on the subject. People have succumbed to the images produced by Bollywood thereby losing a healthy understanding of Muslim society. Now ask a director or story writer whether it is ethical to perpetuate ethnic and racial stereotypes and in a majority of cases, you will hear a big “NO”. Then why is it that the very same individuals who don’t intentionally believe in stereotyping fall in the trap of stereotyping Muslims? The major reason is that what these filmmakers and writers read, hear and see originate from print, radio and television. Modern day media fundamentally is about one sided flow of information –from West to Rest. In the dominant discourse, it is the West, portrayed as a civilized, sophisticated and modern civilization fighting ‘Just War’ against primitive, uncivilized Muslim aggression. The filmmakers in Bollywood also surrender to this west – oriented, magic bullet impact of the media and in this manner get ensnared in an invisible cage. The major obstacle is that these films are watched by less informed people and children having a rudimentary ability to differentiate between right and wrong. Not only children and the common masses, but even the relatively more well-informed cannot escape the power manifested in these images. Even though these films try sometimes to empathize with the Subject, they no longer help to reduce the bias but only make the categories Muslim and Hindu more stark. A child watching any of these films will for obvious reasons ask several questions regarding for example, the Hindu-Muslim dichotomy and the West-Muslim antipathy. What answer can the parent give? Will the answer be framed based on his/her prejudiced interpretation of Muslims in cinema or will it be one shaped by reality, which hardly anyone has access to?

There is no denying the fact that there are Muslim terrorists. There are also other terrorists who are everywhere and can be of any religion. Why it is always that the term “terrorist” is always attributed to Muslims while not to others who commit much more heinous crimes? Why it is that those committing such crimes are characterized as people fighting a ‘Just War’. What distinguishes a “just war” from an “unjust” one? In both cases, it is thousands and thousands of common people who are being massacred. What makes the prosecutors of Guatemala Bay and the slaughterers of Gujarat different from those attacking the twin towers? If there is a difference, then everyone can have a claim to be fighting a “Just War”. If Bollywood successfully carries the messages of Muslims as Other, why is there a lack of enthusiasm in portraying the reversal of the subjects of violence? How many films have been made by Bollywood on America’s War on Iraq? How many films have touched upon the issue of Guantanamo Bay?