You could say that a Muzaffarnagar Muslim predicted my arrival. In winter 1976 my parents visited ‘Hari kurti wala’, a Sufi mystic who wandered around my mother’s family’s farm. Hindu or Muslim, if you wanted your fortune told, you went to him. When this couple—a military man and his memsahib—landed before him, they were told, to their surprise: “You will have a daughter next September. Then, your worries will disappear. You’ll become rich!”
Muzaffarnagar meant “where Mummy comes from”, a wealthy, liberal, well-educated clan with more than its share of troubles. “Papa” emerged from the same region too, but my “real” hometown near Shamlee we never visited.
Muzaffarnagar was a comfort zone between Meerut, where the relatives had moved, and Kurmali, where the roots once were. Not far from Kurmali is a village of ‘Pathans’. Lore, and maybe history, has it that these pathans sheltered my father’s forefathers for months after a particularly bitter ‘internal’ feud.
In January 1993, Moinuddin, a carpenter who had developed a fondness for the now-retired military man and his memsahib’s cups of tea, brought news. His neighbours, all Muslim, had beaten him up “nicely” immediately after the Babri Masjid fell in Ayodhya a month ago. As news of the mosque’s collapse arrived on liberalised cable TV, Moinuddin’s doubts about becoming a member of the BJP grew. He laughed off the bashing-up, but quit the party.
After that day Muslims seemed different. Not dangerous—how scary can they be if their Mosque just “fell”? But ‘Islamabad’, the part of Meerut where, it was rumoured, Hindus “couldn’t enter” seemed like a good, sensible idea to a child of 13. You keep yours, we ours. Meerut, not Muzaffarnagar, is where I discovered I am Hindu and Jat. The latter were perpetually eulogised in our tales of 1857 and the freedom movement. The ‘in’ jokes of Jats I grew up on constantly pulled Brahmins—and women—down a notch. Rajput “supremacy’ was questioned heartily—using “history”. All this is ironic in today’s Modi-lore.
I don’t remember, in Meerut or Muzaffarnagar, being told not to go to a “Muslim area”. No, to us, Muslims were the folks who once lived in those crumbling havelis. Desperate, they sold their hand-crafted family jewels, which we bought—reasonably priced—in Sarafa Bazaar. Otherwise, the Noaibs, Shoaibs and Danishes were as much a part of me as anything else.
This is unlike Delhi, where some friends expressed “concerns” about the “safety” of visting Chandni Chowk or Jamia Nagar. My class in Meerut had one Muslim student, a boy. Delicate-skinned, shy—we never spoke—he sang Hindustani classical. I never thought, then or now, that he had got “too much” from India and I, less.
A slightly shorter, edited version of this appears in print
Pragya Singh’s was a beautiful account of life in the Muzaffarnagar area (Memories of Home). The BJP’s aggressive Ayodhya agitation changed the tolerant culture and social fabric of the region forever. Muslim families also migrated to the cities in search of work and security. The recent clashes, engineered by Hindu and Muslim outfits with extremist views, along with political parties, will result in the complete alienation of the two groups. What the British, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Muslim League could not achieve, the selfish electoral politics of democratic India is doing rather well.
Thanks Pragya Singh for real and vivid account of the areas, now epicentre of 'communal'or 'ethnic' violence.The BJP aggressive politics on Ayodhya changed the demography as well as social matrix of the villages and town.Most of the muslim families migrated from the villages to the ghettos of nearby town in search of security and employment.The recent clashes engineered by pro-muslim and pro-hindu political outfits will result in complete alineation of two population spatially and psychologically.What the divisive policies of British Raj,Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League could not do is accomplished by electoral politics of democratic India.
@ George Cheriyan - "I am calling them dogs because they are loyal to one family"
Brilliant. I hope that the canines do not object.
Poorly written article by an authoress, whose mind is muddled. She is taking the words of an uneducated muslim, Moinuddin here, very seriously. Muslims, unlike the Hindus, do not need a place to worship.They can stand anywhere, turn towards Mecca and pray. My understanding is that a masjid is not a sanctum sanctorum. The razing of Babri Masjid should be celebrated rather than decried. The simple truth is that it was built by an invader on the walls of a Hindu temple. Left to the muslims, they would not have objected. But then there are maulvis, maulanas, samajwadis and congress dogs (i am calling them dogs because they are loyal to one family, to stoke up fires.
13 D Anwaar
"beaten him up “nicely” ..."
"beaten him up “nicely” ..."
Thanks to anti-male stereotyping by the media, Males are becoming INSENSITISED TO
I had paraphrased what the article says: "His neighbours, all Muslim, had beaten him up “nicely” immediately after the Babri Masjid fell in Ayodhya a month ago. As news of the mosque’s collapse arrived on liberalised cable TV, Moinuddin’s doubts about becoming a member of the BJP grew. He laughed off the bashing-up, but quit the party. After that day Muslims seemed different. Not dangerous—how scary can they be if their Mosque just “fell”?"
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