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Muslims of India since Partition

Author: Balraj Puri
Reviewed by: Mujibur Rehman
Available at: Gyan Publishing House, 5, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 540..

Discourse on Indian Muslim identity (Mar 25, 2008, The Hindu)

The book does offer solid evidence of such a varied life experience of having witnessed perhaps the most tumultuous years of the subcontinent's politics and its uneasy relationship with history and religion in determining its political trajectory. There are eight essays that had appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly at different points of time, and the book addresses a wide variety of themes dealing with Muslim politics like ethnic violence, identity formation, and other concerns of community such as the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. The essays on Meerut, Ayodhya, and Gujarat are particularly well written. He also addresses other major issues such as the impact of Iqbal and Azad, and their thoughts on the community's political views, and the chapter comparing Iqbal and Maulana Azad raises some interesting concerns with regard to Indian Muslims' contemporary perception about history.

The book's primary concern is the predicament of Indian Muslims after Partition. On this theme, he argues that the three issues, Aligarh Muslim University, Urdu language, and Muslim personal law were considered as the major symbols of Muslim identity. While the Indian Muslims are very touchy about each one of these issues, it is the threat from the Hindu fundamentalists, especially with regard to Muslim personal law and Urdu language that has forced the community to be on the defensive. What also finds appreciation here is the growing voice of Muslim liberals, often muzzled by nearly all political parties, who choose to deny them as being representative of Indian Muslims, and their vision as the community's vision. This concerted denial has been the enduring source for the growing grip of Muslim fundamentalists over the community's fate.

The essays on secularism and communalism offer interesting insights on the challenges that Indian society faces. But the author seems to be optimistic about the future of Indian Islam whose distinct character makes it particularly a privileged one as opposed to Islam in Pakistan or Bangladesh.... Had the author updated few chapters such as the one on Ayodhya or Gujarat, the book would have been more relevant. These developments have taken new turns raising new concerns for Indian democracy as well as for Indian Muslims. Nonetheless, considering the fresh insights it offers on the various concerns of Muslims, the book definitely deserves to be read by all those who care for India's democracy and its growing struggle with multiculturalism.


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