When Samnan would rather be Somnath

With communities such as the Muslim butchers discovering how their Hindu counterparts have prospered under the protection of the title of SCs-social groups - they see no reason why this title should not be applied to them, too.

Priyanka P. Narain

Mumbai: Samnan Nawaz, the son of a butcher, grew up dreaming of three things: a white lab coat, a stethoscope and an abbreviation (Dr) in front of his name.

In 1994, he applied for admission to medical colleges under the scheduled caste (SC) category. His friends from the Hindu butchers’ community —who were from a similar social and economic background—had told him he was sure to get admission in the reserved category. He did.
“I will never forget seeing my name on that computer screen, informing me that I was accepted at Grant Medical College and Sir JJ Group of Hospitals in Mumbai. All I had to do was to get a validity certificate from the government confirming that I was (from) a scheduled caste. That’s it. I was two days away from officially becoming a doctor-in-training,” says Nawaz.
But when a government official in Pune told him he did not qualify for the SC seat because he was Muslim, he could sense his dream unravelling. “Give me an affidavit (signed legal document) saying you profess the Hindu faith, I will give you the certificate,” the official reportedly told Nawaz.
“I was so young. This was the first time I realized my religion could work against me.” He refused to sign any such affidavit, pursued an MBA degree and now works in the marketing division of ICICI Bank Ltd in Mumbai. But even today, he says, he cannot help wondering—what if?

The demand for reservations for Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians under the SC category has become louder in the last few years, especially after the Rajinder Sachar Committee, appointed to evaluate the social, economic and educational status of Muslims, in its 2006 report exposed the backwardness of the 138 million strong community, of which 31% live below the poverty line.
There are no statistics available on the number of lower class Muslims in India, says V. Chandrashekhar, research officer at the National Commission of Backward Classes, because, “after 1931, there has been no caste-based census in the country since we aspired to become a casteless society”.

Religious bias: Samnan Nawaz, the son of a butcher, with his mother at his house in Mumbai. Muslim and Christian leaders and activists now assert that the SC status cannot be reserved for Hindu Dalits alone. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint

Social reality
With communities such as the Muslim butchers discovering how their Hindu counterparts have prospered under the protection of the title of SCs—social groups that were treated as untouchables and segregated in the old Hindu society and often abused by the upper castes—they see no reason why this title should not be applied to them, too.
“It is true. Islam has no caste system. But the social reality is such that caste is very much a part of Islam in India,” says Shabbir Ahmad Ansari, founder, president of the All India Muslim OBC Organization. OBC is short for other backward classes.

“While growing up in Jalna in Maharashtra, I have seen how badly the Muslim nawabs and zamindars treated the lower caste Muslims like the weavers, garbage collectors and butchers,” he says. “I know that even today, there is no beti-roti (food and marriage) relationship between most of these communities.”
Arguing that discrimination is also a part of Muslim and Christian societies in India, their leaders and activists now assert that the SC status cannot be reserved for Hindu Dalits alone. “What president Rajendra Prasad did in 1950 was absolutely unconstitutional,” says Syed Shahabuddin, a former member of Parliament, at a national convention on Muslim reservations in New Delhi earlier this month.
He was referring to a presidential order, issued by president Prasad in 1950, that laid down that “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu (the Sikh or the Buddhist) religion shall be deemed to be a member of a scheduled caste.”
It is because of this order that Muslims and Christian Dalits have remained more backward than Hindus, several Muslim and Christian leaders say. “Such discrimination is against the spirit of the Constitution that prevents religious discrimination in a secular country like ours,” says Shahabuddin.

The butchers’ community
The reason why this argument resonates with a large section of poor Muslims is that they are witness to their Hindu counterparts becoming wealthier and more educated than them because of the benefits offered by the SC status.
In the Hindu butcher community in Mumbai, the difference is obvious. Bhalchandra P. Gaikwad, vice-president of the Maharashtra Hindu Khatik (butcher) Mahasangha, lives in a largely Hindu colony on one of the main thoroughfares near JJ Hospital in Mumbai.
His furnished, one-room apartment has a little kitchen and marble floor. His son is a practising doctor with his own apartment in another part of the city. His daughter goes to dental school and hopes to set up her own practice someday. His wife, member of the Congress party’s women’s wing in the city, actively participates in issues of importance to women and her community. “Our children are not forced into our profession any more,” says Gaikwad.
Not far from here, on Mutton Street and Chicken Street, where the Muslim butcher community resides, goats wander in and out of ramshackle buildings with broken staircases. “We have been promised an OBC status. But very few of us have been given the certificate. Those who have a certificate, have not been given the validity certificates, so they cannot use any benefits that we are supposed to have,” says Hasan Mia Ahmad Mia, a mutton seller in the Nal Baazar area of Mumbai who lives in a 250 sq. ft room with eight others.
“These days business is also bad. Mutton exports have driven domestic prices up. So no one buys from me. They are all eating chicken,” he says stroking his bright-red hennaed beard. “Our children have to leave the profession and find something else to do,” he says, looking at his son, who is hunched over a small table near the wooden window to fix orange fairy lights that had to be used to decorate a home for a wedding that evening. “My son has become an electrician. My business—who knows what will happen?”

Competing for benefits
Gaikwad explains that even though a lot of backward Muslim communities are given OBC status, they compete for those reserved seats with many other communities. “So, sometimes they get the benefits, sometimes they lose. In case of scheduled caste, the benefits are more and the number of people competing for them is less. So, there is a greater chance of succeeding in getting admission, or a house, or a job.”
Nawaz says it is critical not to deny such help to Muslims. “Sixteen years ago, I could have become the first doctor of my community. You have not seen them. They know nothing. They don’t know how to talk to outsiders, how to explain their problems to a doctor. Even today, there is no doctor among the Muslim butchers of Mumbai.”
By contrast, the Hindu butchers have at least 100 doctors, says Gaikwad. “But I don’t know the entire community and there may be more.”
Nawaz says his grandfather was the first person to clear the 10th grade exams in the Muslim butchers’ community of Mumbai. “He saw how education changed him and made sure to educate all his seven children. My father and his siblings are all postgraduate degree holders,” says Nawaz.

“He had wanted me to become the first doctor of the community. And when you are young your own dreams are shaped by the dreams of people around you. I will tell you honestly. I was tempted to sign that affidavit and change my name to Somnath or whatever to be able to become a doctor,” he says.
“If my parents had agreed I would happily have done it. I could always change my name and religion back to Islam after my degree, couldn’t I?”
This is the first story in a three-part series on the quest of non-Hindu communities for caste-based reserved quotas.



  1. i don't really get the story of this person or your perspective. Caste system is the single most bad thing that is there in our country; and sadly it is something very intrinsic to Hinduism. As you said, Islam does not believe in division between man and, if I am not wrong so does Christianity. Then where does the term "dalit Muslim" or christian come? Either you are a dalit (which means you are from a Hindu caste) or you are a Muslim. Both can't mix!

    The reservation that SC and ST gets today are there so that somehow the Hindus can remove this biggest bloat from their religion. These reservation is a way to somehow compensate these people who have really suffered in the hand of their own religion. Many who could not tolerate the attitude of the upper caste changed their religion because they thought that by changing that they can become equal to others and Islam was the first choice because it promised equality. Then how come their descendant want to milk their buried past and ask for reservation? It rightfully belongs to those who stayed despite the humiliation and retained their Hindu identity!

    What you say in the last paragraph is the reality. Caste system is intrinsic to Indian sub continent and not just to Hindus. That is the truth and in that case, you should speak against your own religion that promised you equality but never gave rather than demand a mixed status of being a Muslim and a dalit. You really cannot be both; that is part of the minority and also part of the majority.

  2. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 10, 2009 at 11:34 AM

    Presently, the notion of 'majority' and 'minority' in Constitutional terms is constructed on the basis of religious identity. That is there is an assumption that somehow religion is the overarching category and our primary identity. And that solidarity between people takes place largely on religious lines. The picture completely changes as soon as we privilege some other identity, for instance class or caste, as our primary identity. In the case of former all the rich, irrespective of their religion, will form a minority and the rest, the working class, will form the majority. In terms of caste all the upper castes (irrespective of their religion) will form a minority and the rest bahujan will form the majority.

    So taking on the 'defender of faith's' argument and concern, 'You really cannot be both; that is part of the minority and also part of the majority', let me lay down my position as well. I think he is correct. The dalit / pasmanda muslims will have to choose between religion and caste as their primary identity and in my opinion they should foreground caste instead of religion. If they choose the latter they will get out of this minority-majority (communal) trap and get a breathing space which will allow them to rethink their priorities.[This choice of caste over religious identity, for me is only a tactical and instrumentalist move to counter the hegemony of upper castes/classes who use religious identity to hoodwink the subaltern masses. It is not an ideal choice per se.]

    Besides, religion should now be seen less as an identity and more as a world view and ethical system which is open to all irrespective of birth. I am of course hinting at liberatory versions of faith, not outmoded, patriarchal and regressive interpretations of the same.

    In the words of Jotiba Phule:

    'In the many religious books written by great Men of Truth on this globe according to their own undersyanding there is something or another of truth. In fact if some human woman in any family read the enlightened religious books she could choose whichever religion suited her fancy and her husband in the same family could read the old and new contracts and choose according to his fancy, if he wanted to be Christian and the daughter in his family wanted to become Muslim after reading the Koran it should be possible. And the son in the same family should be able after reading the Sarvajanik Satyadharma Book according to his own choice could beccome a Satyadharmi;' and all of this together, mother and father, son and daughter could carry on their daily affairs without scorning or hating any religion and all of these should be able, as the children made by the Creator of all understand that they are of his (the Creator's) family and behave towards each other with love and sweetness.'

  3. I came to this blog because I was intrigues by the term "Dalit Muslim". I have read the papers about the plight of this class as shown in the Sachar report and so wanted to check out. I really liked the answer to my comment and the argument put forward by Mr. Ansari.

    Caste as I said is a social evil which has to be fought by all mainly by the educated ones. What I find amusing is that, there are many sites I have come across of Christian evangelist who claim that Hindus want to convert to other religion because they are from the lower caste and as long as caste system with its evil will be there, people will like to convert. Your argument takes the wind out of that sail, does'nt?? If what you say is true than no matter which religion you are you will always bear the brunt of being a lower caste in India.

    But I like to differ with you in another point. I am also in favor of reservation but not in the line of religion or caste. But in the line of the economical status of the person concerned. Let me give you a example. My father's boss was a SC. He was one of the first person from his family to reach this position and that too due to reservation. He needed that and I think it was right. His son got admitted in an government engineering college in quota though his rank was not that high. My point is, given the economic status of the father, who was a ED in an government undertaking, he could have easily got into a private college with money.

    but a poor boy from upper caste who may have better result than this boy got denied admission in government college and he (let's say) does not have the money to go to a private college. Don't you think that we are being unfair to this boy??

    that is why i say reservation should come with a rider. If you have money, your admission to educational institutes should be totally based on merit and merit can come from anywhere. It is the meritorious poor of any caste who need support to go to schools and college. When you have such system in place, then only the "bahujan" can get benefited as most of Indians are poor.
    P.S. I am not a "he" :)

  4. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 10, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    My apologies to 'Defender of the faith' for addressing her as 'he' in the earlier comment. I think her concerns are genuine but I would like them to be put in some kind of a perspective. I have found the following links helpful personally. I wonder if they would be useful for her too.




  5. I agree with Khalid Anis Ansari.

    Religion is supposed to be something global and independent of a person's social and economical identity, something which may unite people from all over the world but still remain their personal affair, something which should not affect the society they live in and even the society should not discriminate with them on this fact.

    Just because a person choose his religion by his will, the constitution can’t discriminate with him on the privileges and help he deserves and his equivalents get under the rule of the land.

    Previously the reservation was indeed started with an intention to upbring backward caste people economically and make them socially acceptable but it’s a pity that now all this reservation and privilege thing is not working on the line it was supposed to be implemented but has reduced to a mere toy in hands of some politician and those running around with an SC/ST certificate sans expiry date.

    Islam and Christianity do not support casteism is true, but the society in India does and it does so irrespective of religion. Dalit Muslim and Christian struggle the same way as Dalit Hindus but they do so without any tool or support or help form constitution or society. They battle for recognisition and a better living sans any assurance.

  6. I have to tell both Khalid and Imraan that they are wrong. I would say that this concept of "Dalit Muslim" is not valid. Either you are a dalit or a Muslim. Our religion recognises no division between its adherents. By creating this new identity it will only serve to divide the Muslim identity.
    I would like to point out that the whole history of Islam has shown that people were repelled by the blatant discrimination of caste and converted in droves to Islam. To claim that you still retain the caste identity in the same socially disadvantageous sense is to render injustice to Islam.

  7. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 18, 2009 at 12:43 AM

    Mr. Altaf suggests that 'people were repelled by the blatant discrimination of caste and converted in droves to Islam.' Now if his theory of conversion is correct then Islam would have the most converts from the Dalit (SC) castes on whom the incidence of caste oppression was the sharpest. However, most estimates put the percentage of Dalit Muslims from 0.6% to 1.5% of Indian population (Muslims being about 13.4%). The rest of the Muslims converted from either intermediate Shudra castes (OBC's)or upper castes or claim their descent from outside India. How does he explain this low proportion of converts to Islam from the dalit (formerly untouchable)communities if Islam was primarily a liberatory force in India?

  8. I appreciate Mr. Khalid Ansari's point.
    Let me begin by clarifying the thrust of my argument, which was that Islam does not recognize castes or class. We are Muslims first and Muslims last. This was the thrust of my argument, not the numbers per se.

    Let me look at the numbers now. In fact the answer lies in the numbers he gives itself. The percentage of Dalits is 15% of the Indian population (at least that is the reservation quota in government jobs). The percentage of Muslims is 13.4% (let us round it to 13% for the sake of convenience). As per Mr. Ansari's own figures the percentage of "dalit muslims" (there is no such thing but let us accept this nomenclature for the sake of argument) is 1.5%. Thus the percentage of muslims who are dalits is 11.2% (1.5% divided by 13.4%).
    This 11.2% number is quite close to the percentage of scheduled castes in the overall population which is 15%. Thus the conversion percentage of Dalits to Islam was not low but quite in keeping with their percentage of the overall population. You shoudl also keep in mind that there is a substantial number of Muslims who can claim their descent from outside India and there is a large chunk of Buddhist converts. Thus the numbers do not deny my claim, that dalits converted in large numbers to Islam.
    Let me again reiterate my main point: Islam does not recognize your earlier identity. once you leave your Hindu identity behind, you also leave your caste identity behind.There is absolutely no ground for caste based division of Muslims. If you are a dalit (or a brahman or anything else) then you are not a Muslim. A "dalit muslim" is a contradiction in terms.
    I would definitely want to know the answer to the rhetorical question which he raised, "How does he explain this low proportion of converts to Islam from the dalit (formerly untouchable)communities if Islam was primarily a liberatory force in India?" Because I am sure he has some theory which he thinks explains it.

  9. I am sorry to do a follow up post even before getting a reply but I thought people might want to look at this also in order understand the cohesiveness of my arguments.
    Here is an article from Mumbai Mirror. http://mumbaimirror.com/article/4/2009041820090418022350505c8c7ba47/Taliban-advancing-deeper-into-Pakistan-NYT.html?pageno=1
    Here is the original one from nytimes
    As we will all agree, the social structure of Pakistan, Indian, Bangladesh is quite similar. if there are no castes among Muslims in Pakistan? how can there be castes among muslims in India? was caste suddenly introduced among muslims in the last 60 years?

  10. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 18, 2009 at 9:21 PM

    I find Mr. Altaf's logic intriguing. He is confusing theological reality with social reality. Islam does not theoretically believe in nationalism too. Hence, even 'Indian Muslim' or 'Muslim Indian' (whichever order he prefers) is a contradiction in terms too. I wonder if he has any thoughts on this. But for him and other readers of this blog I recommend these two links. The first is on approaches to conversions to Islam in India and the second is a report on Dalit Christians and Muslims.
    LInk 1: http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~sj6/eatonapproachconversion.pdf

    Link 2: http://ncm.nic.in/pdf/report%20dalit%20%20reservation.pdf

  11. Mr Ansari finds my logic intriguing, but chooses not to refute it. Instead he chooses to shift the goal posts and dwell on the question of nationality! I can only presume that he is convinced of the validity of his position and hence does not even deem it fit to answer my queries directly or to refute my logic. Unfortunately for him, what he deems as received wisdom is not so apparent to the rest of India (let alone the Muslims in India).By his own accounts "DM" are 0.6% to 1.5% of the population, thus approximately 99% of the population does not agree with his contention. But pure conviction on his part, no matter how strong, cannot carry the day for him. Unless he seeks to launch a revolution he will have to convince the 99% of the validity of his arguments!

    Let me quote from the report he so kindly shared:

    "Universally practiced forms of discrimination and exclusion include
    social and cultural segregation, expressed in various forms of refusal to
    have any social interaction; endogamy, expressed through the universal
    prohibitions on Dalit-non-Dalit marriages, and through severe social
    sanctions on both Dalits and non-Dalits who break this taboo. Social
    segregation extends to the sphere of worship and religious rituals, with
    separate churches and priests being almost the norm among DCs and not
    uncommon among DMs. Forms common to both DMs and DCs include
    various modes of subordination in churches and mosques, as well as
    insistence on separate burial grounds. Occupational segregation and
    economic exploitation are also very common and usually related
    practices, though somewhat less widespread than segregation or marriage
    bans. Untouchability proper is sometimes practiced, but is not
    widespread, and its forms vary greatly."

    You see, this report has an agenda to begin with. That there are DC and DM who need some sort of "reservation". But let us keep this prejudice of the authors of the report aside for the time being and see what they are saying. Even after diligently searching for discrimination they could not come up with "untochability" definitely.

    As far as inter marriage goes, that is a fact of life globally. Most marriages happen to take place amongst similar people. Even marriages in the western world, which are rarely arranged. That is the norm, the reality of life that people get married with people they feel comfortable with. Which means having similar linguistic, regional, financial backgrounds.
    That is not the same as caste discrimination.
    The same is true about social interaction, globally.
    So unless someone has an obsession with marrying persons belonging to what he identifies as a specific "Muslim caste" there should be no problem. We all have to learn with our fetishes, just because they are not met does not make the society segregated.

    To be fair let me answer the "rhetorical" questions that Mr Ansari choose to raise. Modern world is divided into countries, that is a political reality. Hence, a person has to have a passport, and in a democracy caste a vote (unlike Mr Ansari who it seems would rather vote his caste). That Islam believes in Universal Brotherhood is not disputed. Everyone (even someone who is as "ignorant" of the intricacies of Islam as yours truly knows that). However, countries are not the creation of Islam. And we have to accept this political reality.

    I have to say that this looks like an attempt to break up the solidarity of the Muslims in India and divide us into small groups. I would request you all to desist from doing this. This is not in your interest. This is not in anybody's interest. Our interests are the same. Let us stand united. That will keep us strong and relevant.

  12. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 20, 2009 at 2:00 AM

    My sincere apologies to Mr. Altaf for deliberately evading his questions. It is largely because of some professional deadlines that I have to meet and so I am in no position to refute his arguments in writing here as I feel that would be fairly long and require more time than I can spare now. More so because my general feeling after reading his queries is that he is hardly conversant with the ‘pasmanda discursive space’ at all. I request him to read up a bit on Pasmanda Politics and perhaps this blog would be a good resource to start with. My own discussions on some of these issues can be accessed at:
    1. 'Pasmanda Movement and the Question of Secularism', Mainstream, 26 July 2008 [Link: http://www.mainstreamweekly.net/article847.html]

    2. 'A Tale of Two Mosques', Himal SouthAsian, 1st January, 2009 [Link: http://www.himalmag.com/A-tale-of-two-mosques_nw2762.html]

    3. 'Segregate and Rule', Communalism Combat, February, 2009 [Link: http://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2009/feb09/forum.html]

    4. 'Rethinking the Pasmanda Movement', Economic and Political Weekly, VOL 44 No. 13 Mar 28 - April 03, 2009 [Link: http://epw.in/epw//uploads/articles/13335.pdf]

    But I will try to catch up with him as soon as I am done with the present assignment.

  13. Mr. Ansari, please take your time.
    It is apparent that you have worked a lot more and thought a lot more on these issues than I ever have or ever will. I applaud the fact that rather than sit on the sidelines you took an active part and yours is not just armchair criticism. Yet I feel obliged to challenge the conclusions you have reached and the methods you advocate. Because it is not necessary that your honesty of attitude and sense of purpose will necessarily lead you to the correct conclusions.

    In the meanwhile I went through your article, "A tale of two mosques". There are several interesting aspects I notice:
    1. You seem to consider the Babri masjid demolition by Hindu extremists at an equal footing to perceived rivalries within villages which might result in arson. I would say that the latter is like a fight between brothers in a family, everything is forgotten but things get heated up, however the former was an event in a different class itself. Don't you think, you thus trivialize the Babri Masjid episode? and unnecessarily sensationalize the other episodes?

    2. You have identified "possible" stratification within Muslims. Which is good. We need to get rid of this menace. But your solution is not aimed towards removal of such disadvantages, real or imagined. The thrust of this website and your argument seems to be: "give us reservation in government jobs and educational institutions". Don't you think that instead of removing discrimination (real or imagined) what you want is just patronage of government jobs? To what end? To indulge in corruption by members of a particular "caste"? Would it not be better if you diverted your substantial talents (mathematical talent being not one of them! but then I think you more than make up for it by your genuine concern (maybe misplaced) on "caste" and social inequality in general), your fervour,and enthusiasm towards eradication of social inequalities? Why this yearning to replace one form of social inequality by another one of bureaucratic inequality where the masters change only?

    More questions for you above, I guess! Let me try to go through the other articles, though of course I suspect I get a sense of your theme. Once again, I applaud your work, I would not inconvenience myself and go to villages unless I absolutely had to. But then you apparently derive satisfaction from this, and to each his own.

  14. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 20, 2009 at 4:27 PM

    I am glad that I could manage some time today itself to respond to Mr. Altaf’s argument. This is a quick and provisional response to his earlier queries. I will try to do a response to his latest interventions at the first possible opportunity.
    To start with allow me to interrogate the notion of ‘religious identity’ in the first place.
    But first let me travel back in time to the earliest community of Muslims in Mecca and the City State of Medina. Quite clearly all the Muslims at that point of time were first time converts to the faith called Islam. Moreover, it was a faith which was revealed through the Prophet Muhammad in the form of the Holy Quran in a period spanning 23 years. The very fact that the Quran was revealed gradually in a period spanning a little more than two decades reflects the sensitivity of God to the context of the then Arabia. Apart from various plausible reasons for conversions at that point of time the most attractive was the Quran’s message which addressed the social contradictions better than most other competing theories (in Islamic discourse the false Prophets were a dime a dozen at that time). The Quran itself talks of truth propositions of a general nature with an eternal validity (din) and more concrete and specific legal and social interventions (mazhab) keeping in view the context of that time. Hence, it speaks of the concept of Tauhid (Unity of God and Mankind), Nabuwwat (Prophethood) and Maad (Hereafter) as the tripod of eternal principles and various temporal rulings and laws informed by these eternal principles to address the question of women, orphans, slaves, old-aged people, war, distributive justice, and environment and so on and so forth. Both the eternal principles and their concrete and specific articulation in the then Arabian context pitched Islam as a libratory vision and an attractive proposition for the majority of the oppressed earliest converts (mustadafeen). Hence, the unity of the first Muslims was a unity for a libratory value system and way of life. It was not an ascribed (birth based) unity rather an achieved or acquired ethical unity. No wonder the early history of Islam saw many a kin fighting against each other: sons against fathers, sisters against brothers, wives against husbands, brothers against brothers etc. So the Quran was not only a uniting force: it was also a divisive force. But it divided or united the people and communities on an ethical basis and not on parochial self-interest.
    So following this logic when one talks about the ‘unity of Muslims’ today we must have the courage to ask what that means. Not only that, we must have the courage to ask what ‘Muslim’ means in the first place in the world today. Hence, we must ‘contextualise’ and perhaps ‘relativize’ the term ‘Muslim’ itself.
    Let me fly back to the Indian context and attempt the same. When we say that the population of Muslims is 13.4% what does that mean? Does it mean that these 13.4% people are willing to fight injustice and oppression in the same way as the early Muslims in Mecca and Medina tried to do? Are these 13.4% people ‘Muslims’ because of a realisation and awareness of the libratory message of Islam or just because they happened to be born in a so-called Muslim family? If the answer to the questions I pose above is negative (I do not see why it should be otherwise) then what is this talk of ‘unity of all Muslims’ all about? My humble contention is that the term Muslim or Communist or Democrat or Socialist is not a fossilised inheritance that one receives from the family but something that has to be earned. These are value-laden identities which come with a certain responsibility. They should not be used loosely and in an ethnic sense. It is only then that, to use Mr. Altaf’s words, one does ‘render injustice to Islam’!
    But let me move further. When one talks of unity of Muslims in the Indian context today why is that done? The argument is that Muslims are discriminated by virtue of their religious identity and hence they should fight the same employing that identity. Fair enough. But then are Muslims a monolithic identity? Are all Muslims discriminated just on the grounds of religion and on no other grounds? Are not poor Muslims discriminated on the basis of class?--not only by non-Muslims but by rich Muslims themselves. What happens in the bidi industry of Western UP, the carpet industry in Bhadohi, the leather industry in Chennai or for that matter the brass industry in Moradabad? And are not Muslim women discriminated owing to their gender?--not least by Muslim men themselves often aided by the patriarchal interpretations of Islam perpetuated by the male ulema. And are not lower caste Muslims discriminated by the elite upper-caste Muslims? It does not require acute sociological wisdom to realise that various sections of Muslims perceive and face discrimination differently. Hence, oppression can be understood only as an intersection of religious, caste, gender and class identity (among other identities) in a theoretical and ideal sense.
    Much also depends on our definitions of ‘community’. The ideal thing would be to complicate this definition and underline that we are members of different communities in different contexts. For instance, we may be members of a professional community (doctors, lawyers) in one place and members of gender, caste, class, region, and linguistic, religious communities in other circumstances. But the modern nation state has a tendency to ‘singularise’ the complex notion of community and define it in monochromatic terms. It arbitrarily chooses to foreground some identities (in the Indian context national and religious identity) at the expense of other identities (like caste, gender, class etc.). And this ‘primary identity’ may work very well for some and not for all. The latter will undoubtedly challenge these constructions, legitimately in my view, to further their own sectional interests (howsoever they may view it) as far as issues of distributive justice are concerned. This is far from an ideal situation and cannot be transcended unless we redraw the contours and concerns of modernity and nationalism in themselves. Until that is done identity politics is here to stay and different sections will organise on the basis of the identities they chose to foreground.
    For instance: when the Muslim upper caste (ashraf) elite talks of reservations for Muslims as a bloc, the backward and dalit caste Muslims fear that all the benefits will be cornered by the same owing to their historical cultural capital. Hence, they challenge this logic and prefer a policy of positive discrimination based on caste. One should not be surprised if in the coming days a strong gender movement among Muslims emerges which argues for affirmative action on the basis of gender and not on caste or religion. In a liberal democratic politics this is to be expected and various movements, which wish to organise on different identity planks as far as distributive justice is concerned, will sprout eventually.
    So one must not really lament the apparent disunity of Muslims. Primarily, because the Muslims are already divided in sects, classes, castes, languages, cultures, regions and so on. Secondly, this unity which is called for by many self-proclaimed Muslim spokespersons is not an ethical unity against oppression (as in the case of earliest community of Muslims in Arabia) but an ethnic, parochial and interest based unity. It may work for some and not for others. So whichever section of Muslims (lower caste, women etc.) feels it does not work for them will legitimately walk out of it [As Bangladesh dissociated itself from Pakistan on the basis of language. This does not make them any less religious or Muslim vis-a-vis Pakistanis.]
    So I disagree with Mr. Altaf when he says that: ‘We are Muslims first and Muslims last.’ I think he is guilty here of a certain kind of social reductionism which defies all sociological wisdom. We are all informed by multiple identities and there is always politics involved when we chose to foreground some particular identity as the overarching identity at the expense of others. He is as guilty of privileging the religious identity as someone would be when s/he privileges caste, gender or class for that matter. Moreover, rather than accusing anyone I feel this politics of identities is the part and parcel of a liberal democratic politics from which one can scarcely escape in the present system. Regarding utopias: I have nothing to offer as of now.
    As far as the question of Islam in the Indian context is concerned, I think Indian Islam is largely informed by the imperialist tradition. My own understanding is that Prophet Muhammad never waged an offensive war and all his wars and battles were aimed at self-defence. And this is in contrast to the later record of caliphs, sultans and monarchs of Islam some of whom invaded India. I strongly disagree with the tone and tenor of various verses by Allama Iqbal which celebrate the same.
    In this context the simple story parroted by the Muslim elite that Islam was primarily a libratory force in India must be discounted. Historically, ‘Muslim’ imperial rulers who stormed this land made an easy compromise with the caste system and the Hindu caste elite of that period and never challenged it head-on. And one must not be really surprised at that. They were here to rule and loot not to liberate the oppressed. Moreover, the Sufis preferred to propagate the message of monotheism (even this was libratory in a cultural sense) against polytheism and not challenge caste system as such. Surely, some of the lower castes would have found the new religion attractive but that was not the dominant story as it is often made out to be. The essay by Richard Eaton I have recommended in an earlier communication in this series complicates the story of conversion convincingly.
    Now let me move to the more concrete questions he raises. Broadly I do not see the caste movement among Muslims to be concerned only with ‘Dalit Muslims’ (0.6%) as such. When I use the nomenclature ‘Pasmanda Movement’ it entails dalit (converts from erstwhile untouchable castes) and backward caste (converts from shudra castes) Muslims both. This is quite similar to the shudra-atishudra (bahujan) unity propogated by Jotiba Phule. Moreover, both these caste blocs form over 75 % (pasmanda estimates) of the Indian Muslim population. [I would avoid the politics of numbers for the moment because each figure is contested as caste based census was halted post Independence]. The numbers are just for correcting him that its 1 percent against 99 percent (in term of convincing the latter)!
    Moreover, I do not see India to be divided into approximately 80% Hindus and 20% religious minorities. I see it divided into 25 % upper castes (irrespective of religion) and 75% lower castes (irrespective of religion). And I have no objection to gender movements if they see it to be divided into 50% men and 50% women. Just as I have no objection to class movements if they see it divided into 80% working class proletarians and 20% ruling class bourgeoisie. And I have no objection to Mr. Altaf’s privileging of religion as the primary identity also. I have an objection only when Mr. Altaf denies me the democratic right to define my own ‘community of interest’ and when he by playing the high religious priest undermines my wisdom in doing so.
    And I am not arguing that caste among Muslims operates in the same manner as in the Hindu or even the Sikh and Christian communities, not to speak of regional variations in the same. It would be too naive for me to do so. On untouchability, endogamy etc. there are large variations as recorded by some recent sociological studies. As Prof. Imtiaz Ahmad says:
    ‘It is clear that caste exists as a basis of social relations amongst them but its form has been greatly weakened and modified and differs from the Hindu caste model in certain details. …Firstly, the acceptance of caste principle among the Muslims is considerably weak and does not enjoy any sanction or justification in their great traditional religious ideology, Secondly, while both the Hindu and Muslim systems of social stratification resemble each other in the pattern of endogamy, a keen sense of pride of birth and descent and a notion of hierarchy, caste among the Muslims has not attained the degree of elaborateness characteristic of the Hindu model. Thirdly, caste status among the Muslims does not rest on an ideology of pure and impure so that Muslim castes observe social distance on the basis of deference, privileges and descent. This allows for a greater interplay of wealth and other secular factors in status determination. Lastly, among the Muslims there is no ritually pure caste like the Brahmins with dispensations and obligations which may be peculiar to them’.
    But despite all these cultural variations and forms at its heart caste remains a principle of social exclusion. And this holds valid for all religious communities in India. No wonder, the majority of the spokespersons and managers (and profiteers) of religious identity and institutions in the Indian context remain unarguably upper castes.
    I am intrigued also because on the question of nationalism Mr. Altaf says: ‘Modern world is divided into countries, that is a political reality.’ I would add that the modern world is also divided into class, race, caste, gender, language and so on. These are also political realities. Why is he willing to take cognisance of and by default condone one form of divisive reality (nationalism) and suppress the others? Let me loudly ask here: What is his agenda?
    Lastly, I sympathise with his plea that: ‘I have to say that this looks like an attempt to break up the solidarity of the Muslims in India and divide us into small groups. I would request you all to desist from doing this. This is not in your interest. This is not in anybody's interest. Our interests are the same. Let us stand united. That will keep us strong and relevant.’
    But I strongly object to his tone where he reminds us of our interest. We know our interests too well as you know yours Mr. Altaf. And whichever strong and relevant ‘we’ you are talking about in a futuristic sense, my view is that it will not be constructed on any artificial unity but on the basis of the substantive solidarity of the marginalised (of any religious persuasion) against the powers-that-be.

  15. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 20, 2009 at 7:10 PM

    Who am I to trivialise the Babri Mosque issue? The issue has been trivialised by none other than our honourable Muslim elite leaders (should I say politicians instead) themselves. The Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid issue was a deliberate ‘shadow boxing’ manufactured by both our ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ elite classes to subvert the potential challenge of subaltern communities (read: lower caste) in the wake of the acceptance of the Mandal Commission Report by the VP Singh government in 1990. If the Muslim politicians were sincere in contesting the demolition how many of them actually resigned from their Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Sabha/Vidhan Parishad memberships in protest, if I may ask? And I am not sensationalising anything: just underscoring the exaggerated response of our upper caste Muslim politicians to issues of religious identity and their conspicuous silence on issues of caste within the religious community. All I am saying is that for all practical purposes ‘mainstream Muslim politics’ is synonymous with upper caste (ashrafiya) interests. And the so-called unity of Muslim community so often demanded by some Muslim leaders is also geared towards that end.
    What Pasmanda Movement demands is a ‘right’ of lower caste Muslims and not a ‘charity’. Besides, they work within the Constitutional logic and the principle of positive discrimination. Unless a better principle is evolved, that is the best recourse open to lower caste Muslims and other subaltern sections within the framework of a liberal democracy in India. I don’t see any problem with that.
    And the issue is not just jobs and a share in corruption or power. It is to challenge the monopoly of upper castes in the organs of government: legislature, executive and judiciary. And: largely because monopoly is itself an inefficient principle and distorts the functioning of a market democracy to say the least.
    Even if systemic changes have to be brought about they cannot be done out of thin air. The systemic corruption and inefficiencies hurt the weakest members (lower castes and women) most. Hence, the latter will have to win the state first in order to transform it. The good news is that India is not an Islamic dictatorship but a constitutional democracy where somewhat peaceful access to power is possible.
    Surely, in pursuing this aspiration the subaltern sections may lose focus and become corrupt in the process. Just like the upper castes have already! But that does not mean that they should not take a chance at that. I think they must march ahead keeping in mind always Ambedkar’s words: "Ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality."
    If the lower caste leaders and politicians (like Mayawati, Laloo Yadav or Mulayam Singh Yadav) lose their focus and betray the people they will teach them a lesson finally. Just like upper castes are being taught a lesson now for their historical and present misdeeds.

  16. Let me address the second write-up of Mr. Ansari first. First, assuming his claim is correct and Muslim leaders trivialized the Babri episode, does that mean that we should take the mistake further? Second, would resignation be the only way to protest the demolition? Would it not have left the field wide open to our enemies?
    But by writing article such as the tale of two mosques, we only provide ammunition to our enemies to target us. This is analogous (I use this as an illustration and not to hurt Mr. Ansari's sentiments) to Egypt providing support to Israel during the recent Gaza massacre by not allowing relief supplies or free passage. The problem with Islam has been that Muslims have not supported each other. Otherwise, today we would have a American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, drone attacks in Pakistan and Gaza massacre.
    I would hardly call states with Islamic law dictatorships. Dictatorship is distinct from Islam. Would you rather live in India, or in a country where Islam is the state religion?
    The upper castes being taught a lesson seems to be a very strong undercurrent which informs this blog as well as you. Tell me Mr. Ansari, should the sins of the fathers visit the sons?
    Let me now come back to the first write-up. The way Mr. Ansari approaches the issue of “unity of Muslims” seems to suggest several themes inform his view. One of the themes is that while Prophet Muhammad’s period was one of true believers the caliphs and sultans who followed later on were informed by imperialism. May I delicately remind Mr. Ansari that the mere fact that he is a Muslim in the Indian sub-continent is because of all these caliphs and sultans whom he considers imperialist and seems to suggest that they were not really the soldiers of Islam. Islam would not be the great religion it is, were it not for all the sultans and caliphs. By Mr. Ansari’s standards it would seem that Akbar and Aurangzeb’s period would be a period of loot and oppression and not the period of glory for Muslims when we had just Islamic jurisprudence in Hindustan.
    Let me answer the question he asks so loudly. Why would I condone one form of divisive reality (nationalism) and what is my agenda. Is it a question of condoning or is it a question of a state of being? The world is divided into nations. That is a political reality. My acceptance or non-acceptance of this means nothing. How should I refute the concept of the city state? By refusing to carry my passport? This argument is similar to the argument he made about Muslim leaders resigning to protest Babri demolition. My agenda is simple. Unity among Muslims. Which is not artificial but based upon our faith. May I ask, Mr. Ansari, what is it that makes you so bitter? and that too against your own?

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 21, 2009 at 10:20 AM

    Let me revisit the question of mathematics again.
    My argument was that the proportion of ‘dalit’ converts to Islam is very less in comparison to ‘shudra’ and ‘savarna’ converts and therefore its asks questions of the theory of conversions which suggest that lower caste Hindus converted in droves to Islam because of its egalitarian message. My argument is also that though Islam is an egalitarian religion that message was not foregrounded by the Turko-Afghan-Arab forces that stormed India. Hence, if the egalitarian message of Islam had been genuinely carried across we would have seen more converts from these communities as the incidence of caste oppression on them was the sharpest.
    Now let me do a quick data check from the report I have mentioned before [http://ncm.nic.in/pdf/report%20dalit%20%20reservation.pdf]. For the sake of consistency I will employ numbers from the NSSO (2004-05) because it takes cognisance of castes within religious communities unlike the Census which dropped caste as a category immediately after Independence.
    Now according to NSSO data the rural % and urban % of Scheduled Castes (Dalits) is 21.32 and 15.02% respectively. That takes the dalit population to 18.17%.
    Moreover, it says that the population share of Muslims is 13.94% [11.5% (Rural); 16.38% (Urban)]
    Besides, it says that share of SC (Dalit) population is 0.6% in Muslim community in comparison to 9.95% in Christian and 18.17% in Hindu community.
    Let us relook at the numbers now. The percentage of Dalits is 18.17% of the Indian population. The percentage of Muslims is 13.94%. The percentage of "dalit muslims" is 0.6%. Thus the percentage of Muslims who are dalits is 4.3% (0.6% divided by 13.94%).
    This 4.3% number is not even remotely close to the percentage of Scheduled Castes in the overall population which is 18.17%. Thus the conversion percentage of Dalits to Islam was indeed low when compared with their percentage of the overall population.
    In fact, Christianity fares much better in this regard when compared to Indian Islam.

  19. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 21, 2009 at 2:04 PM

    To begin with please do not assume that just because we share a Muslim (or rather Arabic) name (we would not have perhaps had we been based in Indonesia which are more tolerant of ‘Hindu’ names) we also share our ‘enemies’ and ‘friends’. Moreover, I do not believe in the concept of an ethnic ‘Ummah’ in the sense you and many Muslims do. For me the concept of Ummah is an ethical concept which can include many non-Muslims (Christians, Hindus, Jews, Tribals, Aborigines and even atheists) and exclude many so called ‘Muslims’. The ground for solidarity is not birth based religious affiliation but a shared ethic which is just and progressive. And as far as this ethic is concerned no religious theology can claim a monopoly on the same, not even Islam per se. God revealed His truth to all people and everyone is informed with a basic morality. The rest is mere cultural mumbo jumbo and holds a very secondary place in my scheme of things.
    Further, I am not very enthusiastic about the Babri Mosque episode as you would have gauged by now. It was a folly but nevertheless a logical culmination of the political processes put in place in India during the colonial era and supported nonetheless by the Indian upper caste elite. Rather than the demolition which was a ‘symbolic’ attack and with which I am not concerned as of now (I have dealt that in detail in my essay ‘Segregate and Rule’), my heart bleeds for the numerous people who lost their lives in the wake of the event. Their massacre is indefensible and a shame.
    The ‘Islamic Law’ you talk about is just a mere interpretation of Islam. There are other interpretations possible. For each Abul Ala Maududi, Syed Qutb or Hasan Al Banna there is an Ali Shariati, Farid Esack or Amina Wudood Muhsin. There is no absolute Islam. There are many Islams. You can choose according to your interests and tastes or you can prefer to reinterpret it. So when you ask: ‘Would you rather live in India, or in a country where Islam is the state religion?’ I would say which Islam are you talking about? But overall I would prefer the Islam of Fareed Esack or Asma Balras or other progressive Islamic interpretations. And since these interpretations have no problem with religious pluralism and cosmopolitanism in general I think India is very, very fine. If compared to Taliban I would say it’s really great. And I thank God for that.
    And, yes: surely the sins of father’s must not visit the sons. That would be gross injustice. But some sons are consciously perpetuating the game their fathers started. And it’s a game which is not innocuous: it hurts and marginalises other people. So these sons will have to be brought to justice and taught a more inclusive and friendly game. I think they will resist the game due to force of habit and their parochial interests in the initial stages but hopefully they will learn to live with it eventually.
    And Islam is not a great religion because of caliphs, sultans and monarchs. It is great because of the Prophet Muhammad, the Quran, and the innumerable martyrs and saints of Islam who sang the songs of love, compassion and justice. And I have grave doubts as to how and why my forefather’s converted to Islam. I do not have a genealogy. The lower castes do not have one: it is the privilege of the upper castes. But am I grateful for being born a Muslim? I do not know. Does it really matter? I would have been afterall born in some tradition, is it not? And I would have perhaps engaged with that tradition in the same manner as I am doing now.
    And please read Ziauddin Barni’s Fatwa-e-Jahandari—a famous historian of the 14th century and this document on political philosophy in the early days of Delhi Sultanate is instructive. You will get a good idea of how just the Islamic jurisprudence in India actually was. Alternatively, for some select quotes from the same please refer to Ali Anwar’s Masawaat Ki Jung.
    I do not share the same enthusiasm about Babur, Akbar, and Aurungzeb...as you probably do. I have explained earlier the reasons for the same. Here are some sample quotations from the holy mouth of some upper caste Muslim figures:
    (By contrast) lowly, rascal, incompetent, coward, unknown, stingy,
    lazy, lowborn, bazaari people do not have any association with
    history; neither can its study be their profession...Reading and
    knowing of it (history) is harmful rather than beneficial to the stingy
    and lowborn people.

    (Ziauddin Barni')

    The position of the Julahas had got thoroughly undermined and
    this inferior-lowly people (badzaat) were most active in the uproar
    (1857 rebellion).

    (Sir Syed Khan)

    Gentlemen! So long as religious knowledge was with the Sheikhs
    and other nations (read castes) remained under subjugation, there
    was no disaster. However, ever since qasaai, naaee, teli, lohaar
    bisaati, kalaal,julaha etcetera have become maulvi.mudarris, qari,
    sufi, hafiz, the wave of problems has begun to arrive because Hadis
    proves that those who would believe in dajjal would verily be

    (Ahmad Usmani)
    Does that explain my bitterness, Mr. Altaf?

  20. You have grave doubts about why you forefathers converted to Islam? Well, I would not want this to become personal so I am trying to refrain from commenting on this on a personal note.
    But let me phrase my response more generally. The only reason a so called dalit muslim can run a blog and access a computer in India today is because of what you call the caliphs and kings who decided to come into toe sub-continent. Would the socio-political system ave changed a bit, if it were not for the arrival of Islamic forces in India? Indeed the dalit muslim might never have been born, let alone run a blog today.
    differences arise in every society between its members because of inherent differences between their abilities. it is like the difference between horse and man. i do not think that you will see a day when a horse will ride a man. because that is how Allah designed them. one to serve the other. does it mean that man exploits the horse? or is that the horse's divinely ordained destiny in a way? the same difference exists between human beings. there is nothing which should make a person bitter once he understands this. rather he should be grateful. Grateful, because a just system is organized in the society which prevents anarchy. the whole concept of western constitutional democracy (which informs india and which you seem to admire) is an external imposition on Islamic states. the only thing worth protecting is our deen. the rights and freedoms of individuals as embodied by constitutional democracy are not that relevant if islam is threatened. today's incidents when Iran's president is being criticised for voicing his opinion is an example of the threat we face. need i say more to convince you about the need for a united front?

  21. Khalid Anis Ansari, PatnaApril 22, 2009 at 5:19 PM

    What a travesty of logic, Mr. Altaf. You are not following my argument closely. My point is that the arrival of the Turk-Afghan-Arab forces did not change anything consciously in India, least of all the caste system with which they effected a happy compromise. Whatever change occurred (not always for the better I would say) happened by default, by the logic of statecraft and ruling a people and not due to the lofty Islamic ethics. That was hardly their consideration, in striking contrast to the work of saints and mystics. If these armies and sufis would not have arrived then dalit Muslim would not have been born. If Muhammad had not arrived the Muslims would not have existed. If Adam had not arrived humanity would not have come into existence. Where are you taking us anyway?

    And perhaps I am more grateful to the European Renaissance and scientific revolution for the computer and blog than our 'Muslim' (I am not really proud in calling them so) predecessors you are so emotional about. In the contemporary context, I would be grateful to Gandhi and Nehru (despite my issues with them) for subsidising and supporting the handicrafts in the post-Independence period and thus laying the ground for the development of a small middle class among the Pasmanda population. I am an unhappy result of that (ha ha ha).

    And thank God for the external imposition of Western Constitutional Democracy. God works in mysterious ways afterall. He understands our needs better than our 'Muslim' pulpit lions.

    On abilities: the debate has been resolved by and large. The blacks did not lack in IQ; it is the social structure that held them down. Change it and you have Obama. In the Indian context the lower castes do not lack in abilities. Give them a level playing ground and they will prove themselves. As I suppose they are already, thanks to the policy of positive discrimination included in the Constitution by Dr. BR Ambedkar.

    And to support Iranian President one need not necessarily be a 'Muslim'. Lots of Muslims hate Iran as it is a Shia state. And even the Iranian President seeks the help of the Latin Americans (Chavez is not a Muslim by your definition) in his fight against American Imperialism.

    So that's it I suppose...from my side. And God knows best!

  22. First of all I would like to apologies readers and others for my sudden disappearance from last couple of weeks. I had to break the virtual world connection to enjoy the only yearly off from work (basically, I couldn’t access net all this while).

    Coming back to the real issue. I went through all the comments here mainly of Mr. Khalid Sb. and Mr. Altaf.

    Mr. Altaf,
    As I fully agree with the former I will chose to reply you rather correct your understanding on Dalit Muslims issues and the purpose of this blog going by answering your own statements.

    “You have grave doubts about why you forefathers converted to Islam? Well, I would not want this to become personal so I am trying to refrain from commenting on this on a personal note.”

    The debate on why and how people converted to Islam in a given civilization can be only understood by going through the full history, socio-political and economical aspect of the particular civilization. Talking about India, there are a lot of theories including condemning the Mughal emperors for forcefully converting masses to Islam and one of the widely accepted (or say in our case) to evade casteism. On a more general note there is a unique reason behind every person converting/reverting to Islam. And yes as you accept it is more of a personal choice. And we better refrain from commenting on the same.

    Having said that, I would also like to point out that whatever the reason it was, Dalit Muslims today can’t be denied of the rights which their fellow Hindu/Buddhist/Sikh Dalits are enjoying and getting benefitted from, just because their forefathers choose a religion primarily alien to the land. One of the Fundamental rights in Constitution gives us right of equality. This doesn’t mean that all should be equally treated rather as far as my understanding goes it means treating everyone in such a fashion that they all are almost equal. And that’s what we’re fighting here for, for an equal right to Dalit muslims to step ahead a bit and live a decent and happy life, which is only possible if the state sop discriminating on the basis of religion on such a sensitive issue.
    “The only reason a so called dalit muslim can run a blog and access a computer in India today is because of what you call the caliphs and kings who decided to come into toe sub-continent. “

    Either I am not able to understand the logic behind this or this statement is a result of plain ignorance and an attempt toward senseless humor. Why and how a Dalit muslim is able to access a computer and run a blog today has nothing to do with Caliphs and Kings invading the subcontinent rather it would be better if you give the credit of such “an impossible job” to the Dalit himself, his intelligence, his struggle and his fate. May be you don’t step out of your house much, for now even kids as young as 5 graders know how to run a blog and access computer. The statement of yours had a hint of envy, proud or let’s say i-am-from-upper caste-and-dalits-should-not-match-me attitude. Rest I guess you can enlighten us better.

    “Would the socio-political system are changed a bit, if it were not for the arrival of Islamic forces in India? Indeed the dalit muslim might never have been born, let alone run a blog today.”

    The socio-political system of India has been evolving and changing every other instance. It has been influenced by many big and small historical events. The Islamic forces did change a lot of things in India but more than that remained even after their arrival. The religion might have changed for some but they were unable to leave the culture. Dalit Muslims have not evolved because of Islamic forces but because of the casteism prevalent in India. It was only Muslims which were the product of Islamic forces. The equality of caste was a bit hard for the upper caste people to digest and hence though Islam does not encourage casteism , people were deemed to live with the tag of belonging to the lower caste in spite of changing to Islam. And as such they remained backward and are now in the worst of situation sans government recognizition.

    Off the topic : why are you so disturbed on the fact that a Dalit can actually run a blog???

    “It is like the difference between horse and man. i do not think that you will see a day when a horse will ride a man. because that is how Allah designed them. one to serve the other. does it mean that man exploits the horse? or is that the horse's divinely ordained destiny in a way? the same difference exists between human beings.”

    One thing for certain: you have to have a better understanding of humor or sarcasm. I don’t see any logic in comparing Upper caste people as HUMAN and the lower caste people as ANIMALS. What else a proof do we need to show the effect of casteism and its poison filled in people’s mind. It’s even not close to mixing apples and oranges (at least both are fruits). It’s just spitting venom of casteism on Dalits.

    Do you want to say that lower caste people are made so that the upper caste people have a ride on their back, use them for their benefit, and keeping them away from enjoying the privileges bestowed on all equally by the state? Allah designed the Horse to serve the human but for sure he dint designed the Dalits to be slave to the upper caste people. It’s not Dalits destiny, it’s how you chose to give the Dalit a destiny of Horse rather than of human, what actually Allah made him. This is how the Dalits are look down by upper caste people. I am not aware of your personal identity but I need no more introductions thanks to your comments.

    Continuing the series of senseless humor, a simple effort of observing things around will let you know that a woman hailing from Dalit background, Mayawathi is riding on ruling class and all upper castes are forced to please her or say they feel secure in pleasing her. You were again wron here. The day is not far away when Horses (Dalit and Backward Muslims) will ride the humans (so called Upper Castes). LOL

    “there is nothing which should make a person bitter once he understands this. rather he should be grateful. Grateful, because a just system is organized in the society which prevents anarchy.”

    What system are you talking about? The Almighty made us all human, we divided ourselves and some of us chose to suppress other and other chose to continue this tradition. What Just system?? What anarchy?? First of all a system where a set of humans are regarded as horse can never be, in any era, just. Second the anarchy is formed because some people chose not to recognize other as Homo Sapiens.

    “the only thing worth protecting is our deen. the rights and freedoms of individuals as embodied by constitutional democracy are not that relevant if islam is threatened.”

    How can we run saving our Islam if we can’t recognize our own brothers and sisters in Islam, if we can’t help them, if we chose to deny them, if chose to compare them to animals? How can we help Islam? Islam doesn’t teach us Casteism. True, very true. But it teaches us to give all equal right not to steal the right or a chance from others to be equal t all. Bowing your head five times or fasting for 30 days in a year alone won’t make you the savior of Islam. Islam is all what you do in your life not just what you are told to do. Protecting deen will come automatically if we learn to protect our fellow brothers and sisters.

    Ending all I would like you to refer some better sources and facts on Dalit Muslims and stop using Islam or Allah’s name to justify lame arguments of yours.

  23. Comparing Men with Upper Castes and Horse to Lower Castes by Altaf is laughable. The logic given by Altaf only shows the mindset of upper castes who hardly care about their fellow Muslims and they won't agree to give share of Dalit Muslims until unless Dalit Muslims will stand and snatch their parts with them forcefully.

    The Holy Quran says,
    "O mankind! We (God) created you from a single pair of male and a female; and made you into peoples and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous among you…
    (The Holy Quran, Surah al-Hujuraat, verse 13)

    This verse makes it quite clear that though Islam accepts differentiation based on gender and tribe, it does not recognise social stratification. But in reality, the Muslim community remains diversified, fragmented and as caste-ridden as any other community of India (Alam, 2003: 4881). In fact the levels of stratification witnessed within the Muslim community of India totally negate this Quranic edict. Imtiaz Ahmad's seminal work, Caste and Social Stratification Among Muslims in India (1973) and more recently, Ali Anwar's Masawat ki jung: Pasemanzar Bihar ka Pasmanda Musalman (2001) in Hindi have convincingly demonstrated the reality of caste among Indian Muslims. However, it should be acknowledged that this discriminatory practice among Muslims, observed more in North India than South India, is not as much pronounced, oppressive and widespread as amongst the Hindus. But that is hardly comforting. The fact that discrimination based on caste lines exists within the Muslim community of India is cause enough for consternation.

  24. ashok yadav, patnaApril 24, 2009 at 8:24 PM

    One will have to understand the basic principle of reservation.
    reservation can never be given on economic criteria. reservation on economic criteria will mean reservation to all irrespective of one's social position. thus brahmins and dalits, syeds and halalkhors, sheikhs and julahas etc. both will enjoy reservation. when all will get reservation reservation will have no meaning at all. it will be like scholarships awarded on the basis of merit and means.in that case reservation will carry no social value and meaning, it will have no teeth and no social role to play.i donot know if the poor white gets the benefit of positive discrimination in the usa.
    that reservation should be given on economic criteria is a very old argument put forward by anti reservationists. the history of reservation in india is sufficient to bring forward the basic priniciple of reservation.
    the reservation in india was for the first time implemented in jobs and education in 1902 in kolhapur riyasat of maharashtra by the king of the riyasat famous in history as sahuji maharaj.so the question arises why did sahuji maharaj implemented reservation in jobs and education in his princely state.sahuji maharaj was a descendant of great maratha warrior shivaji who had heroically battled against the mughal empire during the reign of aurangzeb.it is well known in history that the brahmins had refused to do his coronation because he belonged to shudra caste.prior of the reign of sahuji maharaj the people belonging to shudra and ati shudra (dalit)(shudra and ati shudra is the term used by the great social justice crusader jotiba phule)had been ravaged in all respects by the peshwa rulers of maharashtra. peshwa were the brahmins and had sucked the blood out of the veins of the shudra and ati shudra. the brahmins of pune, pune being the seat of orthodox brahmins and it will not be out of place to mention that it were the pune brahins who first created hindu mahasabha and then RSS, were hugely challenged by jotiba phule. in the modern india he was the first person to establish an organization of lower caste people known as satyasodhak samaj.sahuji maharaj was greatly influenced by the works and ideology of jotiba phule. it will not be out of place to mention that it was sahuji mahraj who had been instrumental in sending dr ambedkar in sending him to the usa for higher studies and about dr ambedkar he had predicted in an open meeting that one day dr ambedkar will emerge a great leader of the shudra and atishudra people.so sahuji maharaj did not fail to notice that more than ninety percent of all posts, whether high or low, in the administration of his princely state was occupied by a single caste i.e. brahmins. due to the monopolisation of administrative structure by one caste no benefit of welfare schemes of state reached to the lower strata for whom such schemes were formulated. all attempts of general human welfare by the king bore no fruit as his all attempts were made futile by the brahmin dominated bureaucracy.the king and his bureaucracy were always at loggerheads. the king had no choice but to dismantle the brahmin monopoly on the administration and democratise the state apparatus. jotiba phule had already demanded reservation in jobs and reservation to the lower caste people from the british rulers so as to democratise the state apparatus. taking cue from his guru the king implemented reservation in his princely state so as to break the caste monopoly on the administration and in the process democratise the same. the brahmins of the day raised great hue and cry and even attempted to kill the king. sahuji maharaj has many times written in his letters to the british officers that to break the monopoly of the brahmins in the society was his childhood ambition. to this day reservation is nothing but a mean to weaken the domination of a handful of castes, called as upper castes, on the state apparatus. that is why any attempt of reservation in the government sector is so vehemently resisted by the upper caste people. if reservation was only a mean to give jobs to the disadvantaed sections of society then it would have not evoked such fierce reaction from the dominant castes/classes of our society. reservation in jobs and education is the greatest challenge to the brahmin and upper caste rule in india. just analyse what happened in the wake of mandal. mandal did nothing but gave only 27%, much less than the actual proportion in the population, reservation in jobs and reservation to the people called OBCs or the shudra in the classical terminology.were not the backward caste people getting job in the pre mandal period. of course they were getting. but there were no murmur from the upper caste people if the backward caste people were getting job without rules of reservation because without reservation the number of bcs getting jobs were few and far between. but the implementation of mandal threw them in such a rage that they began putting themselves on fire. not only this one of the protagonist of the upper caste took out rath yatra. why was mandal so much resisted? why to this day the ghost of mandal is haunting the upper caste elites of india? i think that it was because the mandal was and is a powerful instrument to break the stragehold of the upper caste people on state power.it marked the beginning of the end of their despotic rule.after 1947 when the upper caste assumed power of india the caste system remained no longer a domain of the hindu scriptures. the caste system was no longer flowing from manu smriti and gita and vedas and upaishads and scores of other hindu scriptures.the caste system was now flowing from the central secretariat, the judiciary, the planning commission, the bureaucracy, the police force etc. the caste monopoly on the organs of state meant that neither on the policy level nor on the implementation level anything could be done to ameliorate the conditions of the dalit, the adivasis, the shudra effectively. so no five year plan spent more than three/four/five percent of the total expenditure on education. this in a country where half of the world's total population of the illiterate reside.this was deliberate so as to keep the lower castes of india in perpetual state of illiteracy. in legislature the number of backward caste people is increasing thanks to the parliamentary democracy. but their attempts to give benefits to their people is not bearing fruit because of hold of upper caste on administration. sahuji maharaj like situation.just as sahuji mahraj implemented reservation to democratise the state so the present crop of the dalit and backward caste leaders are battling to implement reservation in jobs and education.
    rest in the next posting.
    ashok yadav,patna.

  25. Completely agree with Mr Ashok Yadav. This is how Upper Caste is demanding for total reservation to all muslims. They know very well that it can't be implemented.
    It is important to understand the Upper Caste conspiracy against Dalit/Backward Muslims. Dalit/Backward must come on a single platform with sole intention to uplift their own people.

  26. So there is another Mr. Ansari! Do you mind if I call you Mr. Shahanshah, just to distinguish you from Mr. Khalid Ansari.
    First of all, apologies if you felt I was insulting someone by comparing someone to animals. The point I was trying to make was that social stratification is inevitable. It always happens because different people have different capabilities. I used the analogy of the difference between horse and man to illustrate the fact at some level we are all living beings created by God. Differences arise because of inherent differences in abilities and various other reasons. And to answer Mr. Ansari's point: the mere factor that someone needs to ask for a level playing ground means that that someone must have once lost the game so that the playing ground was leveled against him. We did not descend from heaven, dear Ansaris. We were born here amongst you, we grew up on the same planet as you did and by the vision and foresight of our ancestors we won various territories from Europe to India. We won it because of our wisdom and our strength. And we were gracious in victory. We invited all the converts to participate and live peacefully with us. Don't forget how we reached here. In brief, we all started with a level playing field. We won and yet were gracious. So it is not the playing field is not level. Maybe their was something lacking in the other players that Muslims were able to cover the entire canvas from Europe to India! That is all I have to say now on the level playing field.

    Let me come back to my theme and again extend a hand of friendship. The problem is with the whole Muslim community. The demand for reservation, presuming we all agree that reservation is useful, should then be for all the Muslims. Let us join hands and raise the demand together. We will add to each others strengths and together we will succeed.

  27. ashok yadva, patnaApril 27, 2009 at 2:06 PM

    In continuation of the last posting.

    Monopoly in any form is directly antithetical to democracy. If monopoly capital leads to concentration of capital in a few hands and ultimately leads to fascism, so does monopoly state structure wherein state power is the monopoly of certain sections of society which in Indian context are certain castes. The monopoly state structure is the biggest stumbling block in the path of the forces of democracy. So the democratization of Indian state, at least in terms of participation, if not in terms of restructuring of state organs, of all sections of people in proportion to their percentage in population, becomes the first principle of any democratic movement in India.
    The reservation question is not mere a social question. It is also a state question because the provision of reservation prepares the ground for participation of all castes and communities in running the state. The more open, the more inclusive, the more participatory the structure of state even in the existing system, the more conducive and less forbidding it will be for the growth of democratic movements and processes. The presence and participation of men and women from socially deprived communities irrespective of their class status, who are free from caste prejudices against the low caste people, in the higher rung of state apparatus, will tend to democratize the state. It is not without reason that both monopoly capital and monopoly social groups have joined together in resisting any move to give reservation in the private sector to the SC/ST/OBC.
    Historically, reservation in job and education has emerged as the most effective way to break the stranglehold of traditional dominant castes/classes in state power. Why did Shahuji Maharaj implement reservation? What was the necessity for doing so? To quote Shahuji Maharaj himself in his letter dated 19th February, 1919 to Col. Wodehouse, “You know since my boyhood it has been my pride and a cherished object to over-rule and breakdown brahmin bureaucracy.” In another letter marked September, 1918 to Lord Sydenham, Shahuji Maharaj wrote, “Although the British are the rulers of the country, the real power rests with the Brahmin officers who pervade every rank of the service from the meanest clerk and the village accountant, the kulkarni, to the highest offices and predominate even in the councils…Very few can realize the influence of the brahmin bureaucracy as your lordship does. Being very strong in every branch of the service, high or low, it has its ways and means to keep other communities down, who have to submit to their exactions and dare not raise a protest even when flagrant injustice is done to them. A merchant of Kolhapur was cheated by a Brahmin pleader. When asked to prosecute the latter the former said that he had no chance of success as the judges were brahmin , the police were brahmins, the clerks were brahmins and that instead of getting any redress of justice he would make himself a marked man and that he would have to bear the consequences of brahmin revenge. Even when I asked him to prosecute the pleader he begged to be excused and refused to move in the matter….The best way to break down this citadel of brahmin power is to grant communal representation, not only in the councils but also in all branches of the service, high or low. It will not do to appoint a few non-brahmins to important places. This remedy is worse than the disease…The remedy lies in granting proportionate communal representation in the subordinate and clerical staff also. Recruitment for the posts of the lowest clerks should be made from non-brahmins and for this purpose a list of eligible candidates from those communities should be maintained, and appointment made from among them until the non-brahmins get a percentage of posts in proportionate to their numerical strength…Communal representation is the only remedy.” Shahuji Maharaj was also instrumental in releasing the non-brahmin manifesto in 1916. It will be educative to quote a portion of this manifesto so as to know the motive behind the promulgation of reservation policy in various states of British India. “The Hon’ble Sir Alexander(then Mr) Cardew, now a member of the Madras Executive Council in his evidence before the Public Service Commission in 1918, described in detail, the relative positions of the brahmins and the non-brahmins in the Public Service of the province.. He is reported to have stated that in the competitive examinations for the Provincial Civil Service, which were held between 1892 and 1904, out of sixteen successful candidates fifteen were brahmins. In the Mysore state where open competitive examinations for Mysore Civil Service were held during the preceding twenty years, brahmins secured 85% of the vacancies. In the competition for the appointment of Assistant Engineers in Madras the number of successful candidates during the same period was 17 brahmins and 4 non-brahmins. Out of 140 deputy collectors in Madras at the time, 77 were brahmins, 30 non-brahmin hindus and rest Muhammedans, Indian Christians, European and Anglo-Indians. It is curious to note that even where competitive examinations did not exist, as for instance in subordinate judicial service of the Presidency, the major portion of the appointments were in the hands of the brahmins…From these and other figures of a like nature he naturally concluded that an open competition for the civil services in India would mean an almost complete monopoly of the service by brahmin caste and the practical exclusion from it of the non-brahmin classes…We do not deny that in these days of fierce intellectual competition the skill to pass examinations is a valuable personal possession. But it passes our understanding why a small class which shows a larger percentage of English-knowing men than their neighbours, should be allowed almost to absorb all the government appointments, great and small, high and low, to the exclusion of the latter among whom may also be found, though in small proportions, men of capacity, enlightenment and culture.” (Source of these quotations of Shahuji Maharaj is Kashinath Kavlekar’s Non-Brahmin Movement In Southern India.1873-1949)
    So historically reservation in appointments and education was employed as a means to break the monopoly of a certain caste in the state apparatus. Mysore and Madras were other states apart from Kolhapur that promulgated reservation in appointments. Situations have not improved, rather deteriorated, in the last hundred years and the struggle for reservation continues to be as much intense, protracted and bitter as it was during the time of the pioneers of reservation movement. In a way twentieth century can be termed as a century of struggle for reservation. Barring a few states like the left ruled West Bengal the OBC have clinched the struggle for reservation in their favour though partially. Due to limit imposed by the Supreme Court on reservation to the extent of fifty percent the states except Tamilnadu could not implement reservation in state services and educational institutes in proportion to their population. Only when OBC, SC and ST will be able to get reservations in services and educational institutes, in government as well as in private sector, in states as well as in centre, in proportion to their population, then only the struggle for democratization of Indian state and polity would be said to have completed the first stage of democratic revolution.
    Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the great social revolutionary, wrote of reservation as, “The reservations demanded by the servile classes are really controls over the power of the governing classes…The reservations do no more than correlate the constitution to the social institutions of the country in order to prevent political power to fall into the hands of the governing class.” He wrote at another place,
    “Whenever the servile classes ask for reservations in the Legislatures, in the Executive and in public services, the governing class raises the cry of ‘nationalism in danger’. People are told that if we are to achieve national freedom, we must maintain national unity, that all questions regarding reservations in the Legislatures, Executives and the public services are inimical to national unity and therefore for anyone interested in national freedom it is a sin to stand out for such reservations and create dissensions. That is the attitude of the governing class.’ Who were the governing class in view of Dr Ambedkar? Dr Ambedkar wrote that the governing class in India consisted principally of the Brahmins. (All quotations from Dr Ambedkar’s ‘What Congress and Gandhi Have Done To The Untouchables: A Plea To The Foreigner’)
    Thus reservation in posts and education for the lower castes is not a reformist agenda as many people, most prominent among those being the Indian leftists, believe but a radical step to weaken the monopoly of certain castes in positions of power, privileges and decision making. Radicalism of reservation is also enforced by the violent and venomous opposition to reservation by the upper caste ruling elites. Nature and quantum of reaction of the ruling elites against any measure is an effective indicator to judge whether that measure is reformist or radical in nature. Reservation to the underprivileged castes have always been violently and vitriolically opposed by the ruling elites. We just need to remember the ruling elites’ reaction to the V P Singh government’s decision to implement Mandal Commission’s recommendation to implement 27% reservation to the OBC in central government jobs. We the backward caste people of Bihar cannot forget the widespread incidents of arsons and violence that upper caste ruling elites resorted to when Karpoori Thakur government implemented reservation for the backward castes in state government jobs in 1978. The upper castes ruling elites’ reaction to Mandal II took place only recently and are fresh in our memory.
    People often equate reservation in India to the positive discrimination or affirmative action policies in the USA. But there is a fundamental difference between reservation and affirmative action. While the majority white people bestow certain rights and privileges to the minority black people, it is the reverse in the case of the reservation system in India where majority people belonging to the lower castes demand reservation in jobs and education from the minority people who form the ruling elites of this country. While giving benefits to the black people under affirmative action programmes the white, who form majority population of the USA, are free from any fear that the minority black people can erode their dominant position by using posts and positions that they get under affirmative action programme. But the situation is quite reverse in the case of India where the minority upper caste ruling class people are fearful of the majority people from the lower castes who will corrode their dominant positions by getting reservations in education and jobs.
    regarding exclusion of the creamy layer from reservation purview please wait for the next posting.


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