Untouchables & Muslims

Category: Faith & Spirituality Views: 6826

by Prof. Kancha Ilaiah, Asst. Prof. Political Studies, Osmania University, Hyderabad, India.

The participation of Dalits, tribals and OBCs in Gujarat carnage has raised several questions with regard to the unity of SC, ST, OBCs and Muslims. The Hindutva forces succeeded in making such unity very difficult. With the Gujarat carnage and with the formation of Mayavathi Government in UP, with the support of BJP, such unity seems to be impossible. The Muslims unlike the Christians do not know how to understand the caste question and handle the rioting situations. The persisting unfriendly relations between Muslims, Dalits and OBCs, mainly in urban areas, is a real cause for worry.

After the BJP came to power when there were Hindutva attacks on Christians the Dalit and tribal participation in those attacks was all most nil. The Dalits and tribals have very netted relations with Christians but such relations do not exist with Muslims. The OBCs have very ambiguous relations with Christians but they too have inimical relations with Muslims. This we can see in their day to day life as well.

The causes for this situation need to be probed by the Muslim intellectuals seriously. Otherwise the Hundutva forces use the muscle power of the SC, ST and OBCs against Muslims more and more by creating rioting situations. Since every riot ends up in more killings of Muslims, Dalits and OBCs the inimical relations increase. This mode of constructing enemy image within oppressed communities is a desired of agenda of Hindutva forces. This agenda diverts the attention of all of them from the basic economic, social and political issues that haunt them. Ever since the oppressed sections started asking for socioeconomic and political rights the Sangh Parivar has set agendas of communal riots as that would divert their attention.

By attacking the Christians the Sangh Parivar lost credibility in the Western world as the Christian intelligentsia of India has taken up a global campaign against the fascist nature of the Parivar. Because of that campaign the attempts of the VHP to get a NGO status in the UN were thwarted. All global NGOs and Government bodies have got full information of the attacks on Christians and the American Congress and the EU parliament had noted such attacks. Because of the loss of face the Sangh Parivar is now planning to install Mr. Alexander as the President of India. 

The Muslim intelligentsia failed in establishing a rapport with SC, ST and OBCS at the ground level. They never carried a secular international campaign about the attacks on Muslims. Though there are considerable number of Muslim intellectuals who can form a victims forum and document the atrocities against Muslims and place such facts before the UN and other global human rights bodies they never did that. They suffer from an inward looking self- image. The Muslim intelligentsia left the whole communal issues to mass defense and politics of retaliation. This is quite unfortunate situation because the UN as a global body is giving more credibility to the voice of victims. Instead of allowing the Muslim community to indulge in retaliatory politics the UN involvement may reduce the scale of violence in India. The responsibility for not taking the Gujarat carnage to the UN human rights wing entirely lies on the English speaking Muslim intelligentsia of India.   

About the SC, OBC and Muslim relationship the Muslim intelligentsia must be held responsible for its indifference to the caste and untouchability questions. Historically before the British came, the Muslims rulers and scholars did not bother to understand the caste question. Not a single Muslim thinker made any effort to study the problem of caste and untouchability. A visiting Muslim scholar like Al-Beruni threw a cursory glance at the caste question but no Indian scholar or poet wrote at length about the agony of untouchability. Quite surprisingly they took no social or educational work among Dalit-Bahujans.  Because of the influence of the Brahminic ideology the Muslim scholars thought that the caste system and untouchability were spiritual and they should not interfere with that system.

A small number of Sufi propagators even before the Bhakti movement, mingled with the Sudras/ Chandalas of that period. But in the modern period particularly in the post- Independence period not a single Muslim intellectual worth the name worked among the SC, ST, and OBCs. Ever since Ambedkar started the liberation struggle of Dalits no Muslim intellectual stood by him. Even after the Mandal movement not a single Muslim scholar wrote at least one serious book formulating an Islamic understanding of caste and untouchability. How do bridges get built among communities? They get built only when an oppressed community gets the support of the other community and each community understands the other on day to day basis. For that a theoretical formulation is very essential.

The Muslim scholarship mainly operated within the ruling class feudal ideology.  The Muslim intellectuals even now did not come out of that feudal thinking. Except a few scholars like Irfan Habib who came under the influence of communist ideology and studied Indian society from class point of view not single Muslim scholar had done devoted work on caste question. Given the literary and educational culture of Islamic religion they should have been the first to fight against the caste and untouchabiltiy. They should have been the first to write about inhuman conditions in which Dalits were living. They remained totally silent on such brutal system. Though the Sufi tradition moved into Dalit and OBC communities for Islamic spiritual campaign they too did not build literary genre of anti-caste and anti-untouchabiltiy.

Though the British rulers were exploiters they took a keen interest in understanding the system of caste. The Christian missionaries from the days of William Cary began to study the problems of caste and untouchability. William Carey in his first report-An Enquiry Into The Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen--made a serious analysis of caste and untouchabiltiy in the late eighteenth century itself. Many issues that became the concerns of Raja Ram Mohan Roy later were raised in his report. Because of such enquiries and opening up of debate on caste and social immorality in Hindu society many Hindutva scholars at the time of Mandal debate went to the extent of saying that the British invented caste. 

The Muslim intellectuals know very well that the SC, ST and OBCs were forcefully stopped from getting educated by the Hindu system. The Christian missionaries broke that tradition and introduced education to them irrespective of the fact whether they embraced Christianity or not. Several Dalits were given education in missionary schools without thinking about conversion into Christianity. They did not bother about conversions. They gave education as a social service. That became a boon for Dalits who were consciously denied education. Mahatma Phule and Ambedkar acknowledged the service of missionaries in many of their writings. Such a positive work did not forth come from Muslim intellectuals.

The educational and health services that the missionary activists rendered to the Indian poor masses made the Christian missionary activity a socially integrative one. Even at the time of attacks on Christians in Gujarat and other places the social morale of the Christians was so high that they could easily defend their activity in India in all world forums. Even such thoroughly communalized state machinery of Gujarat had to balance its governance between the Hindutva forces and Christian missionaries. The Muslim intellectuals did not become a social force by taking up the social causes of oppressed communities like tribals, Dalits and OBCs. Hence there are no deep sympathies for them.

In the case of Islam there is not only investigative tradition but there is no social service tradition with a sense of social interaction before somebody embraces Islam. The only difference between the Brahminic tradition and the Indian Muslim tradition is that a Dalit/OBC cannot become a Brahmin whereas one can become a Muslim. For Dalit/OBC a spiritual integration with a Brahmin is not at all possible whereas with the Muslim it is possible only after one becomes a Muslim. No Muslim intellectual or leader goes to the moral help of the Dalits/OBCs in day to day life and that keeps the social gap between Dalits/OBCs and Indian Muslims without having any social bridges between them. That is one reason why the Hindutva forces can still use the Dalit/OBC youth against Muslims with ease.   

One hopes that Gujarat awakens the Muslim intellectuals. They should not think that the mountain should go to Mohammed. Mohammed himself believed in going to every suffering human being. It is time that the Indian Muslim intellectuals learn from the Christian minorities and work among Dalits, tribals and OBCs so that trusted relations get established among them. All oppressors must learn to work for each other's liberation and build social bondages among them. That is the best way to stop Gujarats happening in future.
SC - Scheduled Caste
ST - Scheduled Tribe
OBC - Other Backward Classes
Dalits - Untouchable Class
Brahmin - Upper Caste Class
Hindutva - Fascist Hindu Ideology
BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party
UP - Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest States in India

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  23 Comments   Comment

  1. Amin Amdani from USA

    Hindu-Muslim divide in India exists and we only can pray and hope with passage of time and diligence of leaders on both sides, these differences will be put to rest. What is bothersome to me in this article is this: That there should not be any caste system among Muslims themselves nor should Muslims discriminate against any one else based on their caste. Again I hope that current Muslim scholars and intellectuals are paying attention and striving to create a society where there is no discrimination based on caste, religion, color or social status.

  2. Dr.K.Moulasha from Malaysia

    I would like to react to Prof. Kancha Ilaiah's indirect blame of "Indian Muslim victims" for their plight.Always during the communal riots in India, Dalit and OBC are mobilized/joined under the communal RSS leadership. These people are temporarily labeled as "HINDUS" only during the attack on Muslims.Role of dalits/OBC masses under the leadership of communal Sangh Parivar in the "Babri Masjid Demolition" is well documented similarly they participated in raping and killing of Muslim women and children and destroying and looting the property of Muslims in Gujarat.

    A significant proportion of the Muslims in India are the creation of the SWORD OF HINDU CASTEISM This point is ignored by the author, leaders and intelligentsia representing Dalit/OBC.Statistics reveals thatMuslims are socially and economically disadvantaged and marginalized. In this condition, author expectation of "service tradition" from Indian Muslims appears meaningless? I am afraid of author's belief that the missionary activities really solved the fundamental "Caste" question and liberated them from it? As author stated that the dalit/OBC masses were not behind the Christian during the communal riots against them.What were the Dalit/OBC masses doing during brutal murder of Graham stains and attack on priests and sexual violence on nuns in Gujarat.It is stopped because Sangh Parivar cowards feared CHRISTIAN WESTERN COUNTRIES would screw them and their government. Regarding the author's view of Muslim tendency of retaliation against Hindu fundamentalism, even the lay man is well awareof the IMPOTENT international bodies during murder in Bosnia,Chechenya and palestine.Therefore author's choice of SECULAR CAMPAIGN of attacks on Muslims does not make any sense.It is time for SC/ST/OBC people their leaders realize the plan ofHINDUTVA. Learn a lessson from Dalits of Meenakhshipuram which solves the problem of both Oppressed group. Dear Dalits/OBC Do not fall in the TRAP of RSS and attack Muslims.





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  4. Amir from Pakistan

    My view is uslims of India should unite then only they can face these Hindu extreemists, it is not an easy living under Hindu Ideology govt and in such a country where govt also support terrorisum against Muslim, Gujrat and Kashmir is recent example, more then 80,000 in sacrificed only pakistan is blammed for and more then 2000 in gujrat. where are these muslims thoise are living in india about 20 Crore, I only call for unity, I am sorry if I hurt some bodies feelings.

  5. Iqbal Ahmed from India

    As an Indian muslim, it is very heartening to note the article written by one of the eminent scholars of India, Mr. Kancha Illaya. The Sangh Parivar group(which comprises terrorist organizations such as RSS, Bajrang Dal, Hindi Munnani, VHP etc.) is precisely aiming to divide the Dalit-OBC-Minorities unity. Mr. Kancha's thought provoking article needs to be read by all patriotic Indian citizens.

  6. nuzhat from canada

    An excellent article. Hope Muslims in India take a serious note of it. Besides, the intellectuals among the Muslims should also do more to help the Muslims in Gujarat and Kashmir in Particular and Muslims all over India in general, to fight against oppression by the Indian Government.

  7. Mohd. Anwar ul Haq from India

    I appreciate the way you have criticaly analysed the Muslim - OBC relations and the care free attitude of the muslim intelligentia. We the Indian Muslims particularly the educated lot have a responsibility towards such issues. I like the harsh critical tone of yours towards the Muslims who are better off. At this critical hour we all need to wake up to the cause(s).

  8. Tanveer Ahmed from USA

    After reading this article and another PDF file which is been created by a group of our(Indian) muslim women (includes Hindus and muslim women) I feel extremely sad about the atrocities on my sisters in Gujarat. What should we do? First the Dalits, the other communities etc they can never be our friends. Our real friend is only and only Allah(SWT). So we as Ummat first have to think of providing direct relief without any in betweens with sincerety and next thing is polarise the muslims. If we get beaten, tortured, harassed we do not have to look here and their. We need to first look at our own community as one body. I read a few articles at the beginning of this carnage written by our own people talking about parties within the ummat with whom they do not have any sort of attraction. My dearest brothers unmindful of which group or jamaat we belong to its necessary that we stop criticising each other and come on one platform and create an understanding amongst ourselves first with no secretaries, presidents and treasurers instead have a shoora and start forming strong pockets of families who are first obedient to Allah Pak and follow the Sunna's of Rasool Allah (SAW). When we do not have unity amongst our own selves what can an understanding with a Dalit or a christian do. First we need to realise that we are one body in which any part is hurt causes discomfort in the entire body as a whole. Our next move is to weed out the so called opportunist politicians amongst us and replace them with sincere well educated practicising brothers as our leaders who have some common sense and abide first by the law of Allah Pak and abstain from everything which ALlah Pak forbids and have the pain of this ummat as a whole. These are my views please forgive me if I have hurt anybody's feelings knowingly or unknowingly. Jazzakalla Khair

  9. Zill-e-huma Q Dodani from USA

    Subhanallah an excellent article.Since I was reading this article with my son I got many questions,questions like what are the lower classes in Hinduism deprived of beside education?Do the high caste Hindus kill the low caste?Why are'nt the lower caste Hindus allowed to do the same as the high caste Hindus?

    It is a wake up call to all Muslims minorities around the world and in the US to participate in their communities.Standing together for the truth that is humanity being created equal in the sight of the Creator and helping eachother go away from the evils may it be of drinking ,gambling,etc.

    The intentions being souly to please the Almighty and establishing the peace that He intends for His created world,for He has said that we have to do our job and we are not to take up Gods work of guiandance.


    Zill-e-huma Q Dodani.

  10. Samia from Pakistan

    I am sorry to say that we as Muslims are not united,see what is happening in Kashmir?How many muslims states have stood for their cause?Infact our muslim brothers support Indians.If today they tell all Indians working and one who have businesses in their countries to get out or decide Kashmir issue it will be decided in one day as they are sending billions of dollars to India.Today rich muslim countries only like money ,which is unfortunate state of affairs.We have forgotten what Our prophet{Peace be upon him }taught us caring for humanity not for wealth.Caring for humanity doesnot mean caring for only muslims but all humanbeings.Whether they are poor muslims,hindus,christians,sikhs,buddhists etc.If we look at the world today,its only muslims who are suffering,whether they are in Palestine,Kashmir,Chechnya,kosova etc.If today muslims of the world unite I see no reason for these people getting their liberation.I don't agree to violence by any means as our religion doesnot allow us to harm anybody,it is religion of peace.We can achieve all these things without killing people of other religions,only thing we need is unity.We should also learn to respect other religions and people who follow them ,but at the same time don't be awed by them also,as our religion is the best thing which has happened to us and we should be proud of it.We should not play into the hands of few people who are bent on giving bad name to this beautiful religion by acting as terrorist.This is the fastest growing religion in the world,as in Islam there is no caste system.Everybody is equal in the eyes of almighty Allah.Lets hope muslim scholars do something Good for Islam by standing up for lower class hindues in India and poor muslims.

  11. ROUF RESHI from USA


    Again the blame goes to us. Let us not blame anybody else. This was the greatest tool that islam had and has to guide the suffering humanity in india for hundreds of years now. By giving the these untouchables the status of touchables as will be guarenteed to them by islam you guide them to the right path. But alas muslims have become an inclusive group, they are the "people of heaven" and rest are not. They don't understand they are the inheriters of prophetic mission and God will hold them answerable to this.

    But there is still time. Instead of blaming somebody else let the intellectuals and leaders calm the muslim populace down and make them go to all the untouchables for presentations about islam and how we honour them as creation of God.


    Rouf Reshi

  12. Amatullah Mahajir from U S A

    May allahs peace and my blessings be upon you...

    Please take notice that I have said my blessings be upon you!

    As Salam Alakyum

    While you are sending hint and nod to intelectuals it sounds very much like the pigeon language that was adopted after the caucasians took their last drink in Georiga then eventually Stalin showed up. Say he Allah is one he neither begetts nor is he begotten and there is none like him! In the book of Romans they asked can a man rob God, and say let your ye be ye and your nay be nay. I can read well enough to see that your article isnt for every one. After all these years of downsiging and ostrichizing India is still on the ball only beacause you haven't had the honesty to stop them your selves and to make bad matters worse you rely on your black counter parts more than your own word thus putting your self further in bondage in order to produce a greater swell of cabbage pacth slaves as you've done in my case of conception into Islam. Alcohol, ala carte, and cart blanc has given great poewr to India. She's the tallest tree in the Woods but in the Wrong neck of woods. Can you see this? Passing through the veil and removeing the hijab. This is the truth; That park that Chandra Levys body was found in is the root of slavery in America and it breaks all laws that have been laid to establish a civilized United States! Pretty good means of exile for a muslim dont you think? WE ARE ONE!Islam a free religon beacause of personal choice(personal belief) any thing else is cult and lies and brings in the curse. And is the bondage of the bearer, not the burden of the beliver. I'd also like to add that the coinonia in this despensation is out dated and should be considered. The encylopedia states the circumatance of the Iberia colonies and its relationship to the Islamic dialect as well as other countiries dialect and their link to communisum. America has included its self by its faith in its institute of slavery and oneness with slavery by any mean

  13. Jeffery Shahid Patterson from USA


    Dear Brothers/Sisters

    I feel that the carnage in India needs to be brought to public awareness throughtout the

    Muslim world and also in the US were the news

    reporting is slanted.However, reporting the atrocities to the UN will only land on deaf ears.

    We all cried and marched in the streets during the war in Bosnia. Were was the UN intervention

    during the Bosnian carnage. What is the UN doing

    about the crisis in Chechnya.What is the UN stance on the massacres committed by Sharon in the Jenin refugee camp-which he completely destroyed, where no less than 15,000 people lived. Was there an outcry in the UN when ambulances were stopped from reaching the injured, thus leaving them to bleed to death. The truth is that the UN has little regard for Muslim life.

    The only way the Muslim Ummah can protect itself

    is through the re-establishment of the Islamic State.

  14. Farooq Malik from U.A.E.










  15. Jaseem Pasha from USA

    I feel happy that there are few Muslims in this

    world who are able to see the reality behind the

    present day 3rd class miserable status of World

    Muslim Community. What is happening in India is

    true with the rest of the world, especially where

    Muslims are living as a minority. Although Islam

    is our religion, but we failed to lead the world

    with moral strength and be an example to all the

    down-trodden exploited communities of the world.

    We have no concept of the element called "justice"

    which Islam teaches us. We do not practice respect

    and justice within our homes. Quite often we treat

    spouses with disrespect, no love and compassion

    for each other, practice jealousy, materialistic

    competition and back-biting on daily basis. How is

    it possible for us to be sensitive to the

    sufferings of other exploited non-Muslim

    minorities, when we failed to establish real

    brotherhood within ourselves. No wonder that we

    failed to make an alliance with Scheduled Caste,

    Scheduled Tribe, Other Backward Classes and Dalits

    - Untouchable Class.

    I congratulate Mr. Kancha Ilaiah for writing this

    article, which should be circulated to all

    Muslims, especially those who are from sub-

  16. LOUBNA NASSER from U.S.


  17. The Portal

    Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, that they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men with understanding are left. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, o inhabitants of the earth. And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be blinded in the darkness of their spirits; and after many days shall they be visited upon for their sins.

    And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish, and shall worship the Lord in truth.


  18. mohammad atique from england

    well, in India most of the Muslims themselves have actually adopted caste system among themselves, how can they then ever give thought to this problem of Hindu religion which indeed could have well been employed in making hundreds of thousands of people see that the religion which preaches such practices can't be true and Islam is for them to embrace.

    Still there is time, for many Muslims of India to realise that there is no room for caste system or racism in Islam as very clearly laid out in the Quran.



  19. Mohammed Ali from Saudi Arabia

    For brother Abdul Salam : Our beloved Prophet's saying that the Muslim Ummah is like a human body. If one part of the body is hit, the whole body will feel the pain. Let us be a part of the Ummah. Thanks.

  20. Mohammed Ali from Saudi Arabia

    I totally do not agree with this article. The Australian cleric Mr. Haines was burnt alive by the Dalits/OBCs only conspired with Hindutva forces. Several articles/poems on the plight of the untouchables were written by Muslims even in Hindi and other languages. Urdu newspapers always covered their activities as a moral support. I feel that more interaction is needed among these communities at grass-root level. There have been several attempts and dialogues with the Dalit intellectuals and ironically they failed, since the intellectuals of these communities always go the Brahminic way. Still Jamath-e-Islami is in touch not only with Dalith but also with like-mineded Hindu intellectuals thoughout the country. However such efforts require mass support. A scattered army cannot win the battle. May Allah guide us.

  21. Dilshad M from UK

    Brother Muhammad Abdulsalam, you don't appear to have even a basic of Islamic Brotherhood. Caring about the fate of Muslims facing massacre in Gujarat doesn't mean you cannot do your duties in your local community, fool.

  22. Muhammed M from US

    You have very correctly pointed out that Muslims of India and its leadership in particular, failed to understand the conspiracies of the sangh parivar.

    On my last vacation to India, I purposely wanted to visit a village to see how things are. It was no-surprise to me to see 24 hours of BJP/VHP propaganda through loudspeakers in the form of 'Burra-katha' (story-telling) to the villagers on what the BJP/VHP/RSS trio wants for India. But the poor villagers most among whom are poorly literate, fail to understand the dubious conspiracies of the sangh parivar.

    Unless the Muslim leadership chalk out policies and programs to educate Muslims on the current political situation, the future generation of Indian Muslims will never forgive the present. May Allah guide me and all Muslims.

  23. Muhammad Abdulsalam from USA

    I can't tell you how tiresome it is to never find any Islamic web-site, organization or community that focuses on issues facing Muslims here in America - they all seem singularly obsesed with events overseas, in faraway countries. Your current posting is the most extreme example yet of this - it's not enough that we are obsessed with Palestine, now we have to focus on the problems of India's rediculous caste system as well? Wake up and smell the coffee, brothers and sisters. We are in America, not Palestine or Punjab. Let it go! We have all the challenges we can handle right here: Civil rights issues, increasing understanding of Islam, attracting new ocnverts as well as retaining our children in Islam. None of these things will go well if we remain stuck in a foreign oriented mind-set.