“To the Muslims and other concerned citizens of the world, I call on you, and I believe I can say this on behalf of two hundred million Muslims living in India, to amplify our voices, support our cause and join us in our fight against the RSS and its terror.”
Jailed for Speaking Out in India: ‘Know That We Are Not Going To Surrender’
A graduate of Jamia Millia Islamia University and one of the numerous Indian activists arbitrarily jailed in India for simply speaking out, Sharjeel Usmani took part in the anti-CAA student protests before being met with police brutality and his eventual arrest. Sent to jail because of his participation in the protests, Sharjeel was one of many Indian Muslims who were thrown in prison without any evidence or explanation in many cases.
Although released from jail on bail initially, Sharjeel has now been forced to go into hiding as BJP officials have openly called for his immediate arrest again. Sending in a speech and statement while he is in hiding, Sharjeel powerfully explains the severity of the situation for Muslims in India today, and the reason behind why Modi’s government is leading India into destruction.
Here is Sharjeel Usmani’s inspiring and moving speech in full:
The pandemic has forced us all to acknowledge the fault lines in our societies or as many like to call it… ‘civilizations’ that until yesterday we believed stood on the principles of equality, justice, and universal brotherhood. The pandemic has revealed that there is equality and justice and brotherhood but only for some privileged beings. The rest of us are, at best, numbers for these so-called great civilisations to compile in their list of potential buyers or potential threats or potential modern slaves, who may die, or may live but they shall do so at the liberty of the ones in power.
It is they who will make decisions about our life. As you may all be knowing already, as I write this, India’s farmers, and more particularly the minority Sikh community, would complete 82 days on road, protesting against three farm bills that would give the corporates free will in monopolizing the market and destroying the livelihood of millions. Amidst the ongoing protest, the ruling BJP government has physically attacked, vilified, and arrested several farmers. I pray for them and formally extend my support to their struggle.
It is in this context; that I shall speak about the Hindutva in India. Until very recently, India’s imagination by the West was that of a spiritual and exotic distant land where people say ‘Namaste’ and do Yoga. It is the land of Saints and Mahatmas, of spices and colours, of Gods and festivals. Many also view it as an extremely poor, over-populated developing, but world’s largest democracy. But all in all, it is one of the most fascinating ‘markets’ for the world.
These notions about India, carefully crafted, have been existing to empower a militant, supremacist, and extremely dangerous ideology that believes in the institutionalization of mass killings, mass rapes, and the dehumanization of the majority of its citizens. These notions represent the oppressors of India’s Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, and numerous other indigenous communities that have lived here since forever. If the marginalised communities in India do not stand up against this India, that for long we’ve been asked to accommodate in, we’d be an accomplice in our own murders.
India is none of that. India is as much about Assalam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah Wa Barakatuhu as it is about Namaste. It is a land of Islamic seminaries, Madrasas, Mosques, and Dargahs. It is a land of Islam and numerous other faiths that have been invisiblized by the inaccurate and oppressive popular notions about India. The foundation of modern India stands on misrepresentations, myths, and appropriations of forgotten struggles, silenced cultures, and the blood of its non-Hindu citizens. The Mahatmas were not as honest and upright as the world knows them to be.
As I write this, a new Mahatma is being created in India. He is known as Narendra Modi. He represents and is a dedicated cadre of, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the RSS. The RSS – a supremacist paramilitary terror outfit, was founded in 1925, with the aim of converting India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, that is a land of Hindus, by Hindus and for Hindus. The RSS took its initial inspiration from Hitler’s Nazi and now they’re flirting with the Zionist Israel. However, RSS is bigger and more dangerous than Hitler’s Nazism and Israel’s Zionism. I shall elaborate more on that some other time, if given chance, but now, I really want you to know about Narendra Modi and the politics he represents.
Modi, unlike previous Prime Ministers of India, is not just a politician. He is a godman, a thug, excelled master in the art of deceit but he is also cruel, inhuman, and capable of overseeing and planning an orgy of rapes, loots, and killings…. His loyalty lies with the RSS and like all the cadres of RSS, and he is a strong believer in the idea of ‘Hindu Rashtra’. Hindu Rashtra is a mythical land that once existed thousands of years ago.
This mythical land, according to leading BJP leader as well as PM Narendra Modi, was home to the world’s greatest geniuses who knew the craft of plastic surgery, could cure complex diseases with cow’s urine, and used the internet. Oh, and they had airplanes. The rest of the world, at that time, was struggling to invent the simple wheel. The wheel, moreover, was invented 1500 years later. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his organisation, the RSS, have taken it up to themselves to bring back that mythical for us and glorious for them Hindu Rashtra and its advancements.
The only hurdles in the manifestation of Hindu Rashtra, according to their texts, are Muslims, Christians, and Communists. The RSS believes that in order to make their dream of Hindu Rashtra a reality, Muslims and Christians and the Communists have to be eradicated completely. It is in this context should we understand the danger that the Modi government’s recent Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizenship poses.
This is an attempt to disqualify Muslims from their membership in Indian society. Thereby, making millions of Muslims virtually stateless, without any privileges or rights that ‘citizenship’ offers. These stateless Muslims must either convert to Hinduism and accept it as their faith or be unpaid slave laborers who would work without any pay or privileges to make India a super economy as RSS dreams of. The other two enemies of the RSS, the Christians and the Communists, pose less danger to their plans, partly because Christians are less in numbers and Communists have culturally adopted the Hindu imagination of India. That said, I do not intend to whitewash the oppression they face. The RSS has not shown any mercy to none from them, who untiringly continue to resist their agenda.
Even before Narendra Modi was elected to power in 2014, Muslims in India were already living on the margins. Muslim representation in almost all the public sector is negligible except in jails where they outnumber. The previous successive governments, over decades, did little, if not nothing, to improve the socio-economic status of Muslims in India. Rather, these governments brought laws to criminalise innocent Muslims under terror charges. With that, the portrayal of Muslims in India, first initiated through Hindu right-wing propaganda, as invaders and foreigners, in the nineteenth century was never remedied. Instead, it was promoted and institutionalised.
Year after year, Muslims in India have survived planned pogroms, arbitrary arrests, and institutional killings. Narendra Modi himself planned and oversaw the 2002 Gujrat pogrom as the then Chief Minister of Gujarat. Thousands of Muslims were killed, gang-raped, and burnt alive in broad daylight on the streets of Gujrat by the Hindu mob supported by the police.
The other national party in India, the Congress, has governed India for more than sixty years, more or less. It is in their rule did the most draconian laws were tabled and passed and implemented. Thousands of Muslim youths have spent their entire lives in prison cells, faced extreme tortures, and not to mention… the label of ‘terrorist’ in their government. Hundreds of such youths were from the city I belong to. I know some of the families personally.
The Muslim economy was structurally destroyed, either through planned pogroms or government policies. Muslims in Congress’s era were forced to live in fear, a fear of pogrom or carnage always lurking over our heads, so as to ensure Muslims could not demand anything except their safety and well-being and that of their children. These are our living experiences in India. It cannot be forgotten, cannot be appropriated, and cannot be overlooked.
Now today… Congress is the single largest opposition party, which is, as many believe to be the only party capable of countering RSS’s political wing Bhartiya Janata Party or BJP electorally. We are asked to support and not speak up against Congress for what it has done. I see it as an extension of what has been happening here for decades… Muslims being threatened to choose ‘another evil’ for the greater good. ‘If you fear BJP… vote for Congress’ is a trap. Perhaps in a first, Congress can begin by apologizing for what it has done. It can plan to visit the families who lost their brothers and sons and sisters and daughters in the mass killings under their government. It can never ensure or promise justice to Muslims. Nor can the state. The state is incapable of ensuring justice to Muslims. Its fragile foundation will crack, if that happens.
Perhaps… a simple sorry by its leaders will be enough. Perhaps it would not be. But that is how you take people along… by accepting mistakes and apologizing. Threatening that BJP or Modi or RSS will kill more of us and hence should we forget their crimes in a threat nonetheless. We have stopped allowing ourselves to be threatened anymore. The Congress and its supporters must understand for their own good, and the good of this country.
In February 2020, another pogrom was planned and executed in Delhi, just a few miles away from the official residence of the Indian Prime Minister. Thousands of Muslims were displaced, numerous killed, and countless continue to live in police custody. Dozens of Masjids were reduced to ashes, using cylinders and petrol bombs. The Hindu bhagwa flag was placed on the minaret of one of the Masjids.
In March 2020, when the world was fighting COVID 19 pandemic, India was busy demonising Muslims as Corona Bombs and Corona Jihadis. In addition, India’s liberals or so-called friendly Hindus joined the propaganda to vilify Muslims. Sports stars, actors, leading Media professionals, elected legislators – all used this opportunity to target Muslims. Poor Muslim vendors were not allowed in Hindu localities, boards that read ‘Muslims not allowed’ were displayed at the entrances of housing societies, and several Muslims were lynched and attacked for spreading corona.
From Madhu Kishwar, a well-known Modi supporter and conservative, to Madhu Trehan, a well-known opponent of Modi and self-claimed liberal, all showed their ingrained Islamophobia and legitimised RSS’s social terror against Muslims. Both of them, at that moment and even now, with or without their political leanings, do look to me as the representatives of the oppressor community. So does every stranger policeman in their khaki dress, every stranger judge in their black robe, every stranger uber driver with a car having Hindu symbols, every stranger Hindu passenger in a train. It’s not my paranoia… it is what they have let their religious symbols and their Hindu identity become.
In rural India, mosques are frequently attacked and vandalised. Radicalised Hindu mobs leave no opportunity to attack Muslims. The government institutionalises these attacks by bringing out laws against what they call ‘Love Jihad’ – a conspiracy, this government accuses, Muslims have hatched to convert Hindu girls by luring them into marriage. Local Hindu militias have been formed in each city and town to…in their words… ‘keep Muslims in check’.
These militias enjoy state support, and let Muslims survive at their mercy. No one knows who can be attacked, when, and for what reason. No one even knows who will be arrested by state, when, and for what reason. Just a couple of days ago, a 22-year old activist Disha Ravi was arrested for allegedly sharing a google doc file that had instructions to support the ongoing Farmers protest. Earlier in December, a Muslim journalist Siddique Kappan was arrested on terror charges. He travelled to Hathras city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh to merely cover protests against the rape of a Dalit girl by caste Hindu men.
India’s Hindu majority gave the RSS powers that it should not have had, to harass and torture Muslims. I know that someone with so much power and no accountability is bound to become a monster and so has it become. I know because I can see the monster. As James Baldwin once said, “it is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have”.
Therefore, by only looking at the recent developments of India from this perspective, can we locate the disease that this so-called ‘largest democracy’ is inflicted with. Most of the commentators on India often neglect or overlook or simply choose to ignore the passive consent of India’s Hindu majority that lets the state, now completely overtaken by the RSS, to lay out the groundwork for the genocide of Muslims. India’s Muslims are living amidst a genocide.
The Hindu majority has been completely radicalised to the point that public lynching of Muslims on roads, in suburbs, running trains, and everywhere else is completely normalised. The public killings of Muslims, now, do not even make headlines in newspapers. Hundreds of Muslims have died, thousands are jailed, and countless disappeared. The similarities of India’s Hindu majority with that of Rwanda’s Hutu majority are appalling.
The world needs to look into the biggest mass radicalisation of the 21st century. Collective efforts by international organisations to deradicalize India’s Hindu must be an immediate concern. With each passing day, the laws of the lands are being moulded and shaped to harass, vilify, and criminalise innocent Muslims. The dehumanisation of Muslims in India is sponsored by the state.
It is in these moments of despair and hopelessness; I force myself to beseech the concerned citizens of the world to act. I earnestly request you to join this movement that India’s Muslims have started with their sweat and blood, with numerous political prisoners and countless martyrs, to fight back against the structural hate combined with the power of the state that aims to throw us…in the words of India’s Home Minister and Modi’s favourite henchman Amit Shah…’in the Bay of Bengal’.
Know that we are fighting. Know that Sharjeel Imam and Asif Iqbal Tanha and others are fighters, not victims. Know that Faizan and Shehroz and others are martyrs, not merely numbers in the list of dead. Know that we are not going to surrender. Know that we shall continue to fight and dismantle the Hindu privilege. In the words of my dear friend Shaheen Abdulla, the movement will only die when we die.
To the Muslims and other concerned citizens of the world, I call on you, and I believe I can say this on behalf of two hundred million Muslims living in India, to amplify our voices, support our cause and join us in our fight against the RSS and its terror. I am among those very few Muslims in India who have the privilege to speak and write and be heard and be read. It would be unfair on my part if I fail to acknowledge the support and love I receive for doing so. Many of them are those whom I have not yet met in real life. I speak on their behalf as well. We seek your help and support. Divest and boycott the corporate powers empowering genocide in India. Pursue your leaders to look out for us.
The ruling Indian government hates international intervention and calls it an attack on India’s sovereignty. Gross Human rights violations are not internal matters of India, or for any country for that matter. The mass radicalisation of India’s Hindus is not an internal matter. As a citizen of this world who is being robbed of his freedom to live with dignity, I call on you.
Lastly, I warn the oppressors of the world, in the words of Manzar Bhopali, a renowned Urdu poet from India, who said, ‘Taaqatein tumhari hain, par Khuda hamara hai’. It loosely translates to ‘You have all the powers of the world on your side, but we have God on our side’.