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Jaziya in the 21st century – the Indian response

May 29, 2009

Jammu saw a spate of rallies by Sikhs and Hindus protesting the imposition of Jaziya by the Taliban in the Orkazai agency in the north-west Pakistan on the Sikhs. A few Sikh and Hindu families still live in the North West province of Pakistan. While some Hindus migrated to India sometime back and were given a temporary visa for one year by the Indian government, the Sikhs who had been asked to pay Jaziya are taking shelter in Panja Sahib, the holy Sikh shrine in Pakistan.  Jaziya is a tax imposed by Muslims where they are in a majority or rule a region, on non-Muslims especially the Hindus and Sikhs. During the time of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughals, Jaziya was imposed on the majority Hindu population. It was much resented and many of those who could not afford to pay the tax were given the option of either embracing Islam or face death. Islam spread in India with the help of the sword. Akbar in the later part of his reign abolished Jaziya and this is one of the main reasons why he is hailed as the most liberal of Mughal rulers. Later Aurangzeb re-imposed Jaziya which was much resented by Hindus. Sikhism sprang out of Hinduism for the protection of the Dharma. History is repeating itself, as it usually does. In the 21st century we find Jaziya being imposed by a fundamentalist Islamic regime of Taliban. I must add here that the few Sikh families there are mainly cloth merchants and they did pay more than 2 million rupees as Jaziya but the demand of the Taliban was much more. When they failed to meet their demands they were forced out of their houses and shops and they had no option but to seek refuge in the holy shrine of Panja Sahib. Manmohan Singh’s government raised the issue with the Pakistan government but Islamabad curtly told New Delhi that this was an internal matter of Pakistan and that India had no business meddling in their internal affairs. The press here failed to raise the issue and downplayed it as is their wont. They shamelessly call all parties that have a concern for Hindus – be it the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Shiv Sena or the Akali Dal as communal and brand all Hindus as communal. The fact is that all religions of the world be it Christians, Muslims, Jews or Zoroastrians have found refuge in India. How was this possible? Was it because the Hindu majority was parochial or was it because of the basic Hindu ethos of pluralism and sarva dharma sambhav?  And yet there is an unwritten law in this country that Hindus are communal and Muslims secular. The worst of fundamentalist Muslims in India are treated by the media and the ‘intelligentsia’ as secular. Representatives of such parties as Jamaat-i-Islami, MIM and the Muslim League, which was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan are treated with respect while such proven administrators like Narendra Modi are treated with contempt, as if he is a common criminal. Is there any Muslim country that is secular? People will turn around and say Malaysia – but that is far from true. There also Hindus and Sikhs are treated as second class citizens. Hindus in Kuala Lumpur have repeatedly demonstrated and have been brutally suppressed by the police there. The condition of non-Muslims in Muslim nations is pathetic. Taliban is just taking forward what is the norm in all Muslim countries. If they have imposed Jaziya, it should surprise no one. It could very well be that other Muslim countries take a cue from the Taliban and impose taxes on non-Muslims under another garb. Contrast that with the imposition of the NSA on Varun Gandhi for the ‘hate speeches’ that he is supposed to have made and one can understand where we are heading. The fact is that the Varun Gandhi tapes have still not been verified by the forensic experts. But were we to assume that what is on the tapes is true, it was just words. Here are a people who brutalized the non-Muslims and there is not a murmur from the secularists and the Muslims of India who are supposed to be secular. Not one Muslim has come out to condemn the Taliban and its treatment of the minorities. If you point this out to any Muslim, he will retort that he and his community have always condemned such acts. But that is post enquiry. Condemn they will not, but point this out to them and they turn around and say with absolute innocence that they had always condemned such acts, while still not condemning. Muslims are secular only if they mouth inanities against the Hindus. Sometimes it is important to give back in the same coin. Should we not disenfranchise non Hindus in India? We must further ask them to pay taxes for not being a part of the mainstream Hindu faith. I guess that will be fair enough, looking at the way Hindus are treated in Muslim countries.  The Taliban have taken us back to the Middle Ages. The Taliban do not realize this but if they could pass through Pakistan and enter India they will be treated as heroes not only by the radical elements among the Muslims – the Ulemas and the Muslim political class, but also by those hallowed secularists led by Kuldeep Nayyar who will be there to receive them on the border with garlands. Little would they know that greeting with garlands is un-Islamic and for that their hands will be chopped off!

The only resistance that they will face will be the nationalist Hindus and the millions of educated Indian Muslims that see their future in the fast development of the nation and are keen to be a part of the system. The secular intellectuals, most of whom are Hindus feel very proud when they whip their own selves and pat themselves when they do so. They think that all Muslims are anti-Hindu and anti-India. They fail to understand that the aspirations of the common Muslims are no different from those of the Hindus and other communities. They abhor being talked about separately and reject it when they are treated as a separate people, though pampered and indulged. What they want is to be a part of the whole, a seamless part that amalgamates with the whole so naturally that one cannot make out as to who is what. An average Indian Muslim wants basic necessities which every Indian wants but they particularly want education, clean surroundings and being a part of the mainstream. They hate being categorized as a community, a vote bank. There was a reporter from one of the English language TV channels and she went into Dharavi, the biggest slum in Asia, in Mumbai to find as to who the Muslims will vote for in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. She was surprised to find that while the older generation still wanted to vote for the Congress, the younger generation was keen on voting for the Shiv Sena. The reason was that they did not want to be labeled and did not want to live in the squalor that their parents did. They wanted cleanliness, they wanted modern education which they rightly believed was their passport for a better life and they wanted jobs. They knew that the Shiv Sena candidate was more dynamic and therefore could meet their expectations. They were not swayed by the ‘communal’ rhetoric and had no qualms in voting for a party that the media regularly condemns as ‘communal’. And they seemed very vehement in their assertion of choice. The poor reporter of the TV channel got a fright of her life. The editor did the rest.

 The younger generation of Muslims is very clear as to where their future lies. They abhor being treated as a vote bank to be used and thrown into the dustbin after the elections, their plight no better than what it was during the last election, lagging behind, un-alphabetic, ignorant, doing menial jobs, living in dirty shanties that is a pit hole, mouthing wretched slogans that have lost meaning in this ever-changing world. I see thousands of Muslims here in Bangalore working in companies, doing well for themselves and having a decent lifestyle. They have nothing in common with the radicals and the Taliban. What is true for Bangalore is true for the rest of the country. There will come a time when Muslims will come forward to call the bogey of this secularist lobby that has infiltrated the media in a big way. They want to be known as Indians first and then anything else.  While the secularists and the radical Muslims may be awaiting the arrival of the Taliban on India’s doorsteps it is the common Muslim that will come forward and say that he is Indian first and last and that as an Indian any infringement into our land or our way of life is absolutely unacceptable.  Muslims are changing and changing very fast. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu and others have been jolted out of their stupor. The political class will learn the hard way that it is impolite to talk of religion and caste in modern India. For us Indians, it is our Indian identity that is precious. Mayawati has learnt that if she decides to be the leaders of all Indians she has a better chance of success. Others will also learn to their dismay that India has changed and these religious and caste distinctions are blurring. Muslims were ready to build the Ram temple for their Hindu brethren in Ayodhya but the secularists found that dangerous, Hindus were ready to build a mosque some distance further where the Muslims could pray, but again there were forces that did not let this happen. If Afzal Guroo is hanged tomorrow, there will not be a murmur as the Supreme Court has found him guilty. There are nationalist Muslims that would appreciate that the law of the land is taking its course. What they do not like is that his hanging is being postponed just because he happens to be a Muslim. These are hard truths that most political parties find difficult to digest.

In 2004, the NDA gave the ridiculous slogan of India Shining. They did not realize that there was poverty and unemployment galore and islands of prosperity did not make India shine. Massive development and economic prosperity is the priority of the common Indian.  The common Indian wants security along with development that will ensure them a better standard of living. Those who thought that they could fool all the people all the time have been rejected without a thought. The mantra is – perform or perish. Those who thought that inane slogans would carry the day for them have been rudely jolted out of their stupor. Religion and caste matter little. The country must move forward – this is the decisive verdict of these elections. Anyone who comes in the way will be set aside. Those who still live in times past will be left behind. This country can wait no more. We know ye all – cry the Indians in unison!! The leaders better pay heed to what the common Indian has said loud and clear. As for the Taliban and their ilk, India says – keep orf!!

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