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Indian Dystopia: Fear, Feat and Failure of Indian Muslims

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The present paper intends to first of all describe some of the iconoclastic attempts – rife in Indian ‘writing’ – that are made and mandated to dehumanise Islam and its followers, in order to qualify how Indian Muslims are marginalized. The paper begins with the description of ‘ceaselessly concocted and continued’ differences that are manipulated humorously but harmfully in the post-independent India against Muslims and Islam – Islam being the second major faith of the nation. Further, the paper presents fear, feat and failure of Indian Muslims in the backdrop of a utopian world (‘Hindu Rashtra’) turning into dystopia. The paper concludes with a plea to remove the host-guest binary by upholding Constitutional Socialism and, to willingly suspend disbelief in the ideal of secularism.

Dystopia: A Bird’s Eye-view:

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The word ‘Dystopia’, which ‘evokes disturbing images’ (Claeys) and ‘landscapes defined by ruin, death and destruction’ (Claeys), is derived from two Greek words, dus and topos, meaning a diseased, bad, faulty, or unfavourable place. In common parlance as well as from both literary and historical viewpoints, the noun Dystopia functions (allegedly) as the opposite of ‘utopia’, the bad place versus what we imagine being the good place, the secular version of paradise. The adjective Dystopian implies fearful futures where chaos and ruin prevail (Claeys). In short, we can say that dystopian literature probably revolves round science and society that threaten to dominate and/or destroy humanity. Amongst the three types of dystopia – political, environmental and technological – mentioned in the book Dystopia: A Natural History (2017) by Gregory Claeys, it is the totalitarian political dystopia which is chiefly associated with the failure of utopian aspirations as well as received the greatest historical attention.

Let us consider this for the sake of argument that one’s utopia may be another’s dystopia as any society is mixture of both the elements. Like snake in the Garden of Eden, dystopian elements seem to lurk within utopia (Claeys). Even if utopia is understood as a virtuous society heading towards altruistic ends, one must not forget that utopia is built on repressive mechanism and remains, most of the time, an imperial power. So we can sum up with a say that dystopia can be studied as a ‘failed utopia’. Indeed organized repression in the name of some exalted cause does end in dystopia. It needs to be mentioned here only that dystopian work is as much about present as it is about future it envisages, rather it is an extension of prevalent political conflicts and social anxieties to extreme.

George Orwell’s great dystopian work 1984 remains paradigmatic in this case. India writing pivoting dystopian society has least attracted the attention of native literary critics. Nevertheless no list of Indian dystopias can be complete without the journalist-turned-writer Prayag Akbar’s Leila (2017), a novel set in the near future in an India where the obsession with purity in terms of caste, class and community has reached its zenith. Other works such as Indira Sinha’s Animal’s People (2007) and Majula Padmanabhan’s Escape (2008) are also interpreted as dystopian works.

Indian Dystopia: Discourse against Indian Muslims:

Dystopia is visible everywhere, from heightened surveillance to the constructed fear of citizens seen as ‘foreign’ due to what they eat, watch and wear.India has become a dystopia of extremes. But resistance is rising.Fear and guilt are components and/or characteristics of dystopian society. The agencies of organized violence depicted in many dystopian works evoke and engineer fear (thus, socially formulated) in the minds of individuals not only to team up with ‘their imagined friends’ but also to tarnish ‘their imagined foes’. And in this way, individual fear once organized systematically and expressed persuasively gets magnified and intensified to an extent that it becomes collective fear of a group culminating the former into hatred and the latter into mob against the ones who are unlike them.

Indian Muslims are termed as ‘outsiders’ (for the fact that their religion is non-Indian in its origin), ‘Pakistanis’ and, are advised to leave ‘Hindustan’ if they criticise its vulgarity . The cheap shots such as “Indian Muslims have problem in even calling India ‘Hindustan’” and “Pakistan was made home for Muslims of the Indian sub-continent and there is no need to say more what is meant by this’ question their loyalty towards their native land and, term them as unpatriotic. Indian Muslims are also termed as ‘converts’. With no rational foundation or historical analysis, V. S. Naipaul, for example, in his travelogue Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted Peoples generalizes that all current non-Arab Muslims are ‘converts’.

Such diatribes against Islam and its Indian followers are repeated by people of the ‘dominant faith’ who carry in their hearts a utopian world once lived but now lost due to the invasion and expansion of Muslims in India. Such announcements are made from public platforms and, on mass-media so suggestively but shrewdly that the majority gets worried of their culture waning. Consequently it goes wild. Indian Muslims when made feel ashamed of their foreign lineage undergo identity-disorder and feel dislocated. As the result of it, they either escape into margin or escalate into easy mark – similar that of any dystopian protagonist.

From Babri to Dadri and Aftermath: Fear and Anxiety of Indian Muslims:

The concept ‘Indian Secularism’ was introduced in the partitioned India to tackle the Hindu-Muslim problem. But the demolition of Babri Masjid brought into sharper focus the issue of whether people belonging and deeply committed to different faiths can live together. This act of demolition was a sound proof that believers of the ‘dominant’ faith had already started to suspend ‘secularism’, thinking of it as ‘anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim’. Indian Muslims saw it as a frontal attack on the promises granted by the secular constitution of India. The former started (re)formation of Hindu Nationalism based on opposition to Islam and Indian Muslims. By creating a system in support of the imagined ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (a utopian world solely based on exclusion), the communal minds started unfurling fear and undoing friendship – similar as depicted in dystopian literature pivoting a totalitarian regime.

Indian Muslims get (dis)oriented either to seek ‘brotherhood’ abroad or earn their ‘survival’ from their patronizing host. The terrorist attacks in the name of Islam even more create an atmosphere of suspicion toward Muslims. As a result, Indian Muslims have lost their identity somewhere between their angst due to the fear of ‘banishment’ and their ardent sense of ‘belonging’. They see themselves sometimes from the lens of ‘the detractors’ and suppress their voice and agitation. M. J. Akbar has captured the fear and anxiety of Indian Muslims very succinctly when he wrote about how the change in patron/host changed conditioning of Indian Muslims:

“The Congress formula for Indian Muslims is rooted in colonial legacy: divide and rule. The BJP approach has been shaped by rage at partition: avoid and rule. All Muslims want from both claimants to national power is provide and rule; not because they are Muslims but because they are largely poor.”

By looking at the ‘hospitality’ of the ‘majority’, Indian Muslims feel that their struggles for inclusion have failed. The thought of resistance produces fear of being labelled as traitor by ‘The Big Boss’ and the servile attitude makes them feel guilty of living life with no individuality and no dignity guaranteed by Indian Constitution. The freedom of Indian Muslims’ right to their own culture is compromised under the banner of sustaining Hindus’ right to culture.

Conclusion: 

1) In the dichotomy of host-guest, I would say that true hospitality is not present without an acceptance of another’s role as host. Then only, the social integration will not be seen as cultural invasion.

2) Let us place a heavy stress on dialogue over reflection in the creation of identity. Even though one’s culture is truly unique, and has a unique variant, or even an entirely novel culture (or even still the potential to form one), still one must not put others into ‘that’ culture without the other’s consultation.

3) No opinion is safe from refutation, says postmodernism. So in order for the open society to work, all must be masters and subjects simultaneously. Secularism endorses the same idea. So, develop the arguments in favour of it rather than destabilizing it.

1) Let us privilege human relationships at work. How well one goes along with others is a key marker of one’s anxiety and/or sense of well being. “We may be at ease with one another in a markedly hierarchical society, secure in our places if prosperity and tolerance prevail. Alternatively, we may be anxious, paranoid, and fearful in an egalitarian society where nonconformity is suppressed.” (Claeys)

2) This is the only hope of saving India’s march towards Utopia aka Achhe Din or securing Indian Utopia from turning into dystopia. 

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