Muslims Use Hindu Names to Survive

Institutionalized discrimination against Muslims in India is promoting many Muslims to adopt Hindu names and identities just to be able to eke out a living.

Muslims Use Hindu Names to Survive

Institutionalized discrimination against Muslims in India is promoting many Muslims to adopt Hindu names and identities just to be able to eke out a living.

"Fifteen years ago, when I came to Calcutta in search of a job, almost all street restaurants in the city refused to employ me because I was a Muslim," Shaikh Salim told the Washington Times on Tuesday, August 21.

"But soon I met a Muslim man who worked as a cook in a Hindu-owned restaurant under a Hindu identity. I followed his advice, picked up a Hindu identity, and soon an upper-class Hindu employed me to run a food stall."

Salim, who goes by the common Hindu name Shankar Maity, now runs a food stall in a busy street in Calcutta, which he calls "Shankar's Fast Food."

Nearly all of his customers are Hindus and he fears his business would suffer disastrously if they found out about his Muslim identity.

"I know that [many Hindus] hate Muslims simply because of their religion. So, I have done nothing wrong by lying about my religious identity."

There are nearly 140 million Muslims in India, constituting over 13 percent of its billion-strong population.

Muslims have for decades complained of social and economic neglect and oppression.

They account for less than seven percent of public service employees, only five percent of railways workers, around four percent of banking employees and there are only 29,000 Muslims in India's 1.3 million-strong military.

Tormented

Shaokat Ali, who came to Calcutta to complete his master's degree in English, was forced to hide behind a fake name to ovoid the discrimination in a Hindu-dominated society.

He can never tell any of his English language students his big secret of being a Muslim.

To them he is Saikat Das, a famous Hindu name.

He even keeps a large picture of the popular Hindu goddess Kali hanging on the wall in his room in a guesthouse complex, which accepted him as Das after 29 others refused him as Ali.

"It pains me that I cannot tell people that I am a Muslim," lamented 24-year-old Ali.

"I am restlessly waiting for the day when I shall be able to get out of this religious guise."

Official figures show Muslims log lower educational levels and higher unemployment rates than the Hindu majority and other minorities like Christians and Sikhs.

Ali is not alone in the identity trap.

Every day as she prepares to go to work, Jahanara Begum takes off her silver talisman embossed with the word "Allah" and puts vermillion powder on her forehead.

She has to maintain a Hindu appearance among her customers in the fish market where she is known as Parvati — the name of a Hindu goddess.

Institutionalized

Analysts admit that the need for fake identities is a natural outcome of the institutionalized anti-Muslim prejudice in India.

"In everyday life, Muslims in almost all spheres of life face a communal discrimination by powerful Hindus," Anjan Basu, a veteran social analyst and executive editor of the Bengali daily Pratidin, told the Times.

"They are denied many of their basic rights and freedom in an unjustified way."

Basu, a Hindu, said many Hindus believe that Pakistan was created for Muslims and they do not have right to live in India.

Six decades after the partition, Basu added, Indian Muslims still face deep-seated discrimination.

He warned against the repercussions for such a situation.

"As Indian Muslims strongly feel they are being unjustifiably denied their share in developing India, their grievances could snowball into severe anger against the state and society, forcing many to resort to terrorism one day."

IOL, Agencies

Last Mod: 22 Ağustos 2007, 17:08
Add Comment