I read the headline 'Probe Muslims who travel' in The Asian Age this morning. (I am posting the article in full below.) As I went through the piece again and again, the tea turned bitter. I am still disturbed. It is less fear, more helplessness and anger. Do you know how it feels when both these emotions run high at the same time?
You don't want to believe such things, but it is true. Would I want the cops to come to my house and question me only because I happen to have been born in a particular religion?
Thus far the elite considered themselves safe and did their ‘let us form a human chain and tell them we are moderates’ bit (something that I have always had reservations about). Now what?
Now make your mental ghettoes. That is the message. Why are Muslims travelling? If they say they are poor, then where do they get the money from? If there are so many madrassas, then how can they be called educated?
What does this portend? I do not know.
I can imagine a scene where a cop decides to pay me a visit. Besides one old family relic of an ‘Ayatal Kursi’, he won’t see anything. Yes, there is a copy of the Quran ‘hidden’ somewhere. In our house, we do not flaunt these things. I have a miniature one too given by someone…and I have a few talismans, just as I have those from other religions/cultures. But he will eye only that one.
And then he will see my ‘Muslim face’. How many times have I been told that? I might decide to play to the gallery and cover my head, look at the floor in demure deference to what he assumes is Allah’s wish, show him my income tax papers (will he ask me why I bank with a multinational rather than an Islamic bank and why do I earn interest?)…then he will see my passport. He will ask me why I travel so much.
Do I ask him to read this blog to discover that I am a gypsy, that I need escape, that I want to discover new places, meet new people? Will he understand and accept that?
Should I offer him coffee or tea or something else? Will he take it as a gesture of hospitality and not a bribe? Will he touch this stuff from a Mussalman like most of my friends from all communities do?
And when he does give me a clean chit, should I say ‘thank you’? What would I be thanking him for? Or should I say ‘sorry’, to apologise for the suspicion that my community has caused him? Or should I just open the door wide and let him leave – he the superior man, not because of his uniform and position, but because he has been absolved of all blame simply because he has the official directive to ‘probe a Muslim’?
Please probe me and tell me what you find. Anger and helplessness will stare you in the face as you watch from the one-way glass where you can see me and I can’t see you.
Will you laugh as you notice my nails digging into my flesh and drawing out blood?
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From The Asian Age, Aug 8
Mumbai: Probe Muslims who travel
The Maharashtra government has issued a directive to the state police to thoroughly investigate every Muslim who travels abroad.
Senior executives in multinationals are being visited at their residences by police inspectors asking questions, demanding to see copies of their passports and insisting on letters from the executives’ employers certifying the travel.
A vice-president of the largest multinational in India, living in a posh colony of Mumbai, told this newspaper that he was at home when two police inspectors visited his residence demanding to see him. When they learnt he was not there they left instructions with his family that he should visit the police station with details of his passport and travel abroad. However, before entering his house, the policemen questioned his staff outside the residence to find out his movements.
Well-placed sources said that a directive had been issued by the government and the state police had to act on it. Every Muslim, the sources said, were under close watch and had to provide proof of his travel as well as letters justifying it as and when approached by the police. Social activists in Mumbai claim that "thousands" of Muslims have been arrested from different parts of the city in the wake of the Mumbai blasts with the police refusing to give details, or even the proof required for the detention.
A group of 18 MPs, cutting across party lines, met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently to draw his attention to the large-scale arrests and urged his immediate intervention. Prime Minister Singh is reported to have shared their concerns and, according to the MPs, said that if Muslims were indeed being harassed in the manner suggested by the MPs, it was "a very serious matter". He said that the hands of the terrorists would be strengthened if innocent Muslims were humiliated. He said he would take up the matter and urged the MPs to meet Union home minister Shivraj Patil. Nothing has come of this till date.
It could not be ascertained if the directive covered Muslims travelling to all parts of the world, or just to select targeted countries. The Americans already have a system in place where the airlines have to supply them with the passenger list and details of those travelling to the US as soon as a particular flight takes off. Sources said these rules have been made more stringent now. Social activists from Mumbai, who did not want to be quoted at this stage as they would come under "needless pressure", said there was fear and anger amongst the minorities over the large-scale arrests and their total inability to seek justice. "The arrests have not led the authorities to solve the Mumbai blasts, but that has not stopped them from rounding up any and every one whose only crime might be that he did not grease the hands of the beat policeman," the activists said.
Muslim executives, who are furious with the attitude of the police, have been told that there is little they can but do but "cooperate" in the face of a government directive. Senior police officers also expressed their inability to do anything with every Muslim living in the state now being flagged as and when he travels abroad. The only concession that the police can make, the sources said, "is interrogate them at their residence instead of getting them over to the police station".
Mumbai police commissioner A.N. Roy has confirmed a large number of arrests, but refused to give an exact figure when questioned by journalists. Despite the arrests, the anti-terror squad of the Mumbai police remains clueless about the identity of those who carried out the seven serial blasts on July 11, 2006. The Mumbai police has openly admitted that Muslim men who visited West Asia were suspects. Several such men have been picked up with little more proof except that they visited the "suspect" region on work. The sources said that employees of smaller companies, when questioned or detained, could, and were, losing their jobs.