In 1989, when I was studying for journalism, one of my closest friend was Sezlim Salim. We often shared a drink whenever the opportunity presented itself (which was quite often, as three of us would put Rs.10 each to buy half a bottle of rum. It was enough those days to give us the required kick for the rest of the day). It is another matter that I have lost touch with him, even though I meet him says once in five years. We no longer share the same intimacy that we had during those two and a half years. And it has nothing to do with the fact that he is a Musilm.
We were together in New Delhi for about two months in 1990. It was during the days of the Mandal agitation that I saw some sort of fear in him. He vowed never to return to the city. I duuno why. Thinking back I always wondered whether he encountered some sort of discrimination at the his work place.
Today, India has become less tolerant of its Muslim citizens, who have to prove their loyalty to their motherland time and again. Are the Hindus in the grip of a fear psychosis?
The reaction of ordinary citizens in the country seems to point to that direction. If this happened in north India I could still understand it, for they have a long history of Muslim bashing. They still have festering wounds (for generations?) from the early occupation by invaders to the refugee and partition riots. Even today it is difficult for a Muslim to get a house on rent in the country's capital. It would only have gotten worse from the stage it was in the 1990s when I was a resident of the capital city.
The Punjabis are also less tolerant of people from the rest of the country and practise some kind of an aparthide.
Of late, this north Indian culture of intolerance towards Muslims has seeped into the minds of southerners as well. For instance, Keralites never ever thought separately of the Muslims. People took part in all festivals as one. People did have Muslim friends. But not anymore. The events of December 6, 1992 took its toll. And rabble rousing Muslim leaders also played their part in generatiing in the Muslim a feeling that they are outcasts in India.
With most accused in incidents of terrorism coming from the minority community, people are scared of giving houses on rent to Muslism or even deal with them in the ordinary course of life.
A large number of crime in Kerala is now being committed by people of a particular community. Do you know why? It is mainly because employment opportunity for the Muslims, except in the Government sector, where they have reservation, have come down. Private-run establishments do discriminate against Muslims everywhere in this country.
Even in the media you have only a handful of Muslims as your colleague in places you work. Once a Muslim colleague asked, "You have a holiday for Pongal and even on Christmas. Why not for Ramzan?" Well, I had no answer to that. In the media you have four closed holidays in a year and other compensatory offs. So you know how many Muslims that would be working in the media?