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What it’s like to be a young Muslim in Uttar Pradesh after voting for Modi

The communal Hindu now taunts Muslims with impunity. The secular parties just ignore their existence.

Updated Dec 11, 2019 11:09am

Kanpur: Arshad Khan (not his real name), 31, runs a small business in Kanpur. In this interview, he explains why voters in his polling booth have lost interest in elections.


I live in Chamanganj in Kanpur, what you would call a Muslim ghetto. The place has had a history of communal violence, especially when the Babri Masjid was demolished in Ayodhya. I was a toddler then.

I knew of the BJP’s anti-Muslim positions but in 2014, I thought Modi was trying to do something different. He was emphasising development over the BJP’s traditional politics of religion. And so, despite being a Muslim in Chamanganj, I voted for Modi.

That was not all. I voted for the BJP again in 2017. I thought that the Samajwadi Party (SP) or the Congress had no solutions. They were not taking us anywhere. What have the SP or the Congress ever done for Chamanganj? These parts remain the city’s most under-developed — stuck in time.

Explore: How Modi used Kashmir to stoke nationalist sentiment and woo India's Hindu voters

By 2017, one had seen incidents such as the lynching of Akhlaq in Dadri. For me, that was all the more a reason to engage with the BJP. We should vote for them, join them, make ourselves matter to them, I thought, because they’re clearly sweeping election after election.

I even went around telling my friends to vote for the BJP. Some of them said I was mad. Did you know, they asked, BJP will make Yogi Adityanath the chief minister?

Come on, I said, don’t be ridiculous. Modi won’t make someone that anti-Muslim the chief minister. I thought Modi wanted to at least keep up the pretence of being moderate. He wants to say he’s doing Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.

No ink on the index finger

When Yogi Adityanath became chief minister, we went into a shock. As a result, Muslims in Chamanganj and Kanpur had no interest in the election this year (Kanpur voted on 29 April). Whether it’s thanks to Balakot or Hindutva or EVMs, we know that it is the BJP that will win anyway. Why then should we waste our time voting?

I did go and vote myself this time — and not for the BJP — but the polling booth was nearly empty. I haven’t seen a duller election in Chamanganj. I went around checking people’s index fingers. No ink. They’d rather play cricket or watch TV.

The SP and BSP came together this election but it is the Congress that is strong in Kanpur. The SP gave the ticket to a dummy candidate and SP workers went house to house to tell people to vote for the Congress. The Congress workers from here were busy helping Sriprakash Jaiswal campaign in non-Muslim areas.

Also read: Muslims of West Bengal are no longer Mamata Banerjee fans but they have no real option

Ironically, the BJP candidate, Satyadev Pachauri, came to Chamanganj to ask for our votes. I’m not anti-Muslim, he insisted, don’t believe what people say. The Congress candidate, Sriprakash Jaiswal, didn’t even come here to campaign.

We were not surprised. He’s never done a thing for the Muslim areas of Kanpur. He doesn’t feel the need to even talk to us. We are just the vote-bank he thinks he is entitled to by virtue of being in the Congress party.

That he doesn’t even feel the need to ask us our votes makes us feel like dirt. “Hum to gire pade huay log hain (We are a fallen people),” said one friend while explaining Jaiswal’s lack of outreach to us.

How many children do you have?

Something has died inside us in the last few years. Dil mar gaya hai. Muslims here feel more besieged than ever. There has been no violence but the general anti-Muslim sentiment has increased so much, it’s suffocating.

The other day, three Muslim schoolchildren were playing cricket in the Green Park stadium. One of them was wearing a skullcap. A group of adults went up to them and said, why are you playing here? Don’t you support Pakistan? They called them ‘katua’ and asked them to say Bharat Mata Ki Jai.

Incidents like this make me ask just one question: Why?

Another such incident was when a skullcap-wearing Muslim was passing by a Hindu religious procession. They dragged him into the crowd and forced him to scream Hindu religious lines.

Such incidents didn’t happen earlier. It is after Yogi Adityanath became chief minister that troublemakers feel empowered. As a result, one is afraid to even go into Hindu-dominated areas.

Read next: Modi's threat

The worst of this is when we have to deal with government officials. The moment they discover we are Muslim, they turn aggressive and start taunting us. You may have gone to get some papers or make an application for something, and the official will start talking about irrelevant things. “Haan ji, Haji sahab, kitnay bachchey hain aapkey? (Haji sahab, how many children do you have?)”

He won’t take two for an answer. You must have at least two wives and six children, the official will reply. Then he will lecture us against animal sacrifice on Eid, the triple talaq and so on. Finally, he will turn his attention to the work at hand and find an excuse to not do it.

Non-Muslims can get their work done through jugaad, for Muslims, the only way is corruption. Muslims here tend to not be very educated, and this comes in handy to fool them and extract more money out of them. Women in burqa get stared at as though they have come from Mars.

If the BJP wins this election, we’ll need to adorn our windows with BJP flags.

Not everyone behaves this way, but the 25 per cent who do have been emboldened. It’s shocking to see even young people talk such language. If there’s a Muslim official, however, he is afraid to not offend a Hindu.

That’s Modiji

In such a situation, I was forced this time to vote for the Congress and not the BJP. I realised my mistake by voting for the BJP twice.

I asked some people who did vote, about whom they voted for. Some young women said BJP!

I said why are you making the mistake I did. Can’t you see how anti-Muslim the BJP is? They have shut the Muslim-owned industries in Kanpur in the name of pollution but industries owned by non-Muslims continue to pollute Gangaji.

Who isn’t anti-Muslim, they replied. It was hard to defend Jaiswal.

These young women who voted for the BJP were not very politically aware. They voted BJP only because they hear Modi’s name the most. Just like my four-year-old son, who will see a Modi poster and say that’s Modiji. He doesn’t know who Rahul Gandhi is.

Header photo: Globalistan Films


This piece originally appeared in The Print and has been reproduced with permission.

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Shivam Vij is a contributing editor at ThePrint. He tweets @DilliDurAst.


The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (87) Closed

Singh.ra
May 06, 2019 04:41pm
a totally false story. Election is a festival here. we see every day
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Sheshanth
May 06, 2019 04:49pm
There is mind boggling obsession in the Pakistani Media about Modi. One sided articles are picked up almost in a manner that reinforces your own narrative and also as an excuse to justify your own shortcomings. India, meanwhile, marches ahead and is slated to be 5th largest economy in the world. Average citizen (including Muslims) will be more prosperous, better educated, have better access to health care than citizens from Pakistan. The gap will only grow larger with time.
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Jamil Soomro, New York City
May 06, 2019 05:03pm
The Muslims of India must be missing the great Sir Syed Ahmad Khan like the Muslims in Pakistan do.
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Dr Asif
May 06, 2019 05:28pm
Such a realistic view of the present state in india.
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Rakesh
May 06, 2019 06:02pm
I am From Vadodara Gujarat I have 50% of my friends from Muslim Community . All of them are now interested in getting there children more educated.Their Children going in good schools and They are more focused in Business,Twenty five years we rarely go to each others area only meeting in school But now we can.I don't know about UP But Gujarat has improved a Lot
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Anil
May 06, 2019 06:17pm
I live in UP and this is most untrue narrative one can have about state of Muslims in UP/ India. BJP has never made any policy based on Religion. They work for India.
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rich
May 06, 2019 06:35pm
as a catholic i support modi he will improve india, educated muslim support modi, bec the know the truth i am from mumbai i too opposed adityanath as cm, but up politics is so bad, i giess bjp had no choice maharastra, goa ect u see the real bjp , for progress for all up is communal , see the parties there
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VIN
May 06, 2019 06:38pm
Even being in power in centre and those states Modi (actually BJP) lost three big important hindi heartland states in recent elections. This shows that democracy is above everyone and the even the ruling cm and pm cannot interfere. What else is needed. It is a world Wide phenomena that abstaining from voting will benefit what your opponents.
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Byju
May 06, 2019 06:48pm
@Sheshanth, Totally agree.
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Raj
May 06, 2019 06:55pm
North Indian backward states and the way it works, cannot be compared to the rest of India. Those states do not have job opportunities, there is lot of social divisions, population growth is high etc.. Even my colleagues, who are from north India working in South India, says North India needs a lot of improvement, interms fo way of thinking and day to day lifestyle.
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Arfeen Khan
May 06, 2019 07:07pm
@Sheshanth, when party and the followers are go to either extreme they believe like you have made the statement. It is going to take at least 2-3 generations to come back to middle.
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fahimuel
May 06, 2019 07:13pm
Marginalised Muslims of India also have their own fault-lines - lack of political leadership (no single platform),conservatism,lack of education,too many children and economic deprivation. They really have to invest in their children's education and uplift themselves first .
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Ahluwalia
May 06, 2019 07:16pm
When Jinnah and others were forcing the issue to create Pakistan they didn't see the disadvantage of dividing the Muslim populations three ways. 1/3 in Pakistan, 1/3 in now Bangla Desh and approximately 1/3 in India. Just imagine 300 plus millions in united India? It will be a force on its own and could not be treated the way the Muslims are being treated now in UP.
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ahmed
May 06, 2019 07:20pm
@Dr Asif, It is sickening what BJP is doing against Muslims with whom everyone has co-existed for centuries.
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Mrunal
May 06, 2019 07:25pm
@Rakesh, Exactly sir they are NOT INTERESTED? in voting.
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citizen
May 06, 2019 07:32pm
My indian friend says common people travel even more than 200 km distance to go to native place for voting !!
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vinay
May 06, 2019 07:37pm
Wrong story
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ABD San Francisco, USA
May 06, 2019 07:40pm
Once Muslims start voting for BJP, they can not be ignored there's a strength in number. More Muslims unite against BJP, Hindus will be forced to vote for BJP. People of India is tired of one family ruling for 70 years with the support of Muslim vote bank. If Gandhi family is thrown out of the Congress family BJP will be forced to fight election based on equal term to other political parties. People of India to vote for self made leaders not based on family name.
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ABD San Francisco, USA
May 06, 2019 07:40pm
What about 65 years of marginalization of the Hindus?
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Zeeshan Ahmed
May 06, 2019 07:49pm
@Singh.ra, It's not what my Indian friends in UP tell me.
Recommend 0
Ali
May 06, 2019 07:54pm
Very sad that OIC invited swaraj as guest of honour.
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Monsieur
May 06, 2019 08:56pm
Personal fantasy does seem to have penchant for turning up in Pakistani Media ... and the reality is so far away ....
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Nsg
May 06, 2019 10:20pm
@ahmed, have you ever been to the country?
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Observer
May 06, 2019 10:43pm
Thank you Dawn for this accurate portrait of India.
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Ghufran Ahmad
May 06, 2019 11:02pm
@ABD San Francisco, USA, this marginalization should be with muslims as well so that they can form group like RSS, can become PM and can be country richest community.
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Meraj
May 07, 2019 12:00am
Truth is hard to swallow.
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Siva D
May 07, 2019 12:23am
Very very sad!
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Senseless Bakht
May 07, 2019 12:47am
@Sheshanth, why dont you talk abt modi obsession with Pakistan. He is running election campaign on anti Pakistan rhetoric.
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Taj Mughal, Karachi
May 07, 2019 01:30am
I have first cousins living in Alam Bagh, Lucknow. Their narrative is very much similar to the article.
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James
May 07, 2019 02:02am
@Singh.ra, modi’s India is no festival for the minorities.
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Shah
May 07, 2019 02:29am
@Sheshanth, I beg to differ. It is Indian media which is completely obsessed by Pakistan feeding Bharati citizen with lies and more lies.
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Ahmed
May 07, 2019 02:33am
Muslims have been voting for Congress for 65 years. And what has congress done in return?
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s.r.reddy
May 07, 2019 04:00am
@Sheshanth, well said brother
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s.r.reddy
May 07, 2019 04:11am
@vinay, it id absolutely true story
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Faisal
May 07, 2019 04:43am
not voting is a big mistake and even if the someone is sure to win , still everybody should record their opinion.
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Asiya andrabi
May 07, 2019 06:55am
A Muslim woman voted for BJP for outlawing triple talaq.
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MA
May 07, 2019 07:22am
I have a Muslim friend from India here abroad and he told me in Delhi when workers try to pray (Nimaz) outside together, as the Masjid is far, but some group would come up and stop them from praying. He said this sentiment increased recently.
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point of view
May 07, 2019 07:53am
Views of few Muslims can't be generalized for whole Indian political sentiments.
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Mumtaz
May 07, 2019 08:44am
@Sheshanth, the article is written by an Indian and NOT by Pakistani journalist.
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K Ahmad
May 07, 2019 10:09am
Sad but true as I know few colleagues from that region sharing same experience
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Anonymouseeeee
May 07, 2019 10:32am
Thank you so much for the courage to write an excellently balances and true article.
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s.d
May 07, 2019 10:34am
India will always remain secular. It may not be perfect at present but in say about 20 years when economy is bound to boom, it would be a perfect secular country. There may be some discrimination and it is there in every society. But the state machinery never discriminates between citizens on the basis of religion.
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On The Border
May 07, 2019 03:45pm
Has editor casted his vote???
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amit
May 07, 2019 04:57pm
Sad about this which they are experiencing after yogi sarkar. What about hindus who have such experience in pak from last 70 years
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haris
May 07, 2019 05:28pm
@Sheshanth, but you still come and read stories.
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haris
May 07, 2019 05:32pm
@Rakesh, All this happens because of Modiji or what? People all over the World have finally realized on the importance of education. Today, there are less opportunities to setup a business but only way to earn money is by getting an employment.
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Kumar
May 07, 2019 05:44pm
As soon as people see ‘theprint’ ... we already know it will be congress supporting article ...
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Ram
May 07, 2019 09:15pm
@Monsieur , You put it better than I could
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kiran
May 08, 2019 11:23am
nice story, give this story to bollywood directors....they wll make a good film
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Leo
May 08, 2019 12:55pm
Dawn , please verify the truth. You are a source of clean and neat news. I strongly request you not to print these articles which are baseless. Already the two countries have been fighting for 70 years, kindly help build good relations.
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Siddharth Jaiswal
May 08, 2019 01:37pm
Dear Dawn. Please publish a detailed and equally empathetic story about poor Christian and Muslim brides being trafficked to China by Chinese as well.
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ibrahim
May 08, 2019 02:23pm
this seems False narrative. If it really happens right now then time to Reform the society. Its not acceptable........
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Zak
May 08, 2019 05:08pm
@s.d, stop living in lalaland. Dont put blinkers on your eyes. False narratives disappear but reality never does. Situation will get worse.
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DJV
May 08, 2019 06:00pm
These are biased opinions , Kanpur is one of the fastest growing cities in India, one of the most peaceful . People don't have time to engage in petty issues like religious differences. Everyone is moving forward . Politically I think constituents are voting based on election manifestos rather the traditional religious and caste based group voting. If the author wanted to do a story , he should have done more interviews in the same consitiuency to see if everyone was of the same opinion . For readers - please google opinion polls .
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Majeed at Thani
May 08, 2019 06:33pm
This is only further proof, if ever one was needed, that democracy is nothing more than the tyranny of the majority. Wrong is wrong even when a majority votes that it is not wrong.
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Raju
May 08, 2019 07:10pm
@Majeed at Thani, even if true, who will decide the what is right and what is wrong, I do not want to give that authority to any person or group who I can not change if I want to... That in one sentence is democracy. Democracy is no more imperfect than any alternative, and in the long run offers the greatest safety.
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John
May 08, 2019 08:17pm
@Majeed at Thani, "This is only further proof, if ever one was needed, that democracy is nothing more than the tyranny of the majority." So I guess, minorities are done excellent in your non-democratic country?
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Kharkhowa Kalita
May 08, 2019 10:02pm
An earnest request to "Dawn" - Don't sail much with Wire and Print , they don't deserve to be your companions.
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samanvita
May 08, 2019 11:54pm
@Majeed at Thani, "This is only further proof, if ever one was needed, that democracy is nothing more than the tyranny of the majority. Wrong is wrong even when a majority votes that it is not wrong." are you saying India should suspend democracy and become Hindu Rashtra? Democracy is difficult in a diverse country especially if voters vote by religious or caste identities and politicians/media/NGOs encourage it instead of educating illiterate voters on how to make voting decisions. But still secular democraticies have proven themselves to be the best available option
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D Patel
May 09, 2019 08:16am
@s.d, In the same line, Pakistan will always remain Islamic country. India and Pakistan both follow their own constitution.
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Noor Khan
May 09, 2019 10:13am
The reaction showed by the Indian friends depicts that there is some frustration in hiding realities. Even developed countries have many loopholes in treating minorities. There would be areas where the situation would be like that. Be generous to accept the realities and prove yourself to be interested in better country where every one will have the right to live and own the country. Muslims have given lot India and cannot shine until and unless they would be owned. (with apologies)
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Noor Khan
May 09, 2019 10:15am
@D Patel, but Islamic society gives exemplary rights for minority.
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AllForGood
May 09, 2019 10:47am
@Noor Khan, "Islamic society gives exemplary rights for minority." and democracy gives equal rights
Recommend 0
kaly
May 09, 2019 11:25am
@Siddharth Jaiswal, - Yesterday I have provided that link in Dawn...
Recommend 0
Shan
May 09, 2019 12:57pm
@ahmed, co-existed for centuries? Are you kidding? If co existence was possible then why division in 1947? And I tell you, now we Indians thank Jinnah for the division.
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Shan
May 09, 2019 12:59pm
@Ali, will send some ice pack for you...
Recommend 0
Shan
May 09, 2019 01:02pm
@Senseless Bakht, he is not only running campaign on Pakistan, he is also paying Pakistan in its own coins...
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Shan
May 09, 2019 01:02pm
@James, welcome to leave India
Recommend 0
Shan
May 09, 2019 01:04pm
@Asiya andrabi, Modi is trying to pull out Muslim women from centuries of slavery in form of triple Talwar, halala etc
Recommend 0
Shan
May 09, 2019 01:05pm
@MA, public property cannot be encroached. Simple rule of law...
Recommend 0
Shan
May 09, 2019 01:07pm
@haris, we love political fiction... :)
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Zak
May 09, 2019 01:22pm
@Rakesh, If you are from Gujarat, you should help the muslims who took refuge in a graveyard in 2002 gemocide that took place and are still there,because government refuses to return them to their houses and villages. Do some good in your life rsther thsn follow RSS indoctrination.
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Zak
May 09, 2019 01:24pm
@Anil, Ayodhya, muuzafanagar, IOK, Gujarat 2002, statemets from ministers, of throwing muslims in the sea. Dont state selective statements.
Recommend 0
Zak
May 09, 2019 01:24pm
@vinay, very right story. Learn here.
Recommend 0
Zak
May 09, 2019 01:25pm
@Shan, Thats what the kashmiris said to the Indian occupation soldiers, “ welcome to leave kashmir”.
Recommend 0
Zak
May 09, 2019 01:27pm
@D Patel, India does not, it violates its constitution by crossing the line of secularism which is the key part of its constitution. Take that away and Indian union unravels like the soviet umion.
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Zak
May 09, 2019 01:29pm
@Shan, A Tamil muslim or Assamese muslim belongs to his nation, why should a Gujarati or a kerala national tell another national to leave his nation. India is not a nation but a union of nations. Sikh and Tamil, Bihari, Manipuri are different nations and regardless of religion they live in their own nations.
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Al Akbar
May 09, 2019 02:20pm
@Zak, Our opposition is there to look at it.Stop watching doctored You tube and read some real articles.By the way do you really know the whole Godhra incident or like always selective reading
Recommend 0
Raj
May 09, 2019 03:47pm
@Noor Khan, charity starts at home. Show the same magnanimity to the Hindus in Pakistan.
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Jamil Soomro, New York City
May 09, 2019 05:08pm
@Shan, Correction. It was not Jinnah but the true Hero of Pakistan the great Sir Syed Ahmad Khan.
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PS
May 09, 2019 05:34pm
@Zak, Come and have a look in Gujarat. I can show you thousands of wealthy, successful Muslims
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Avik Ray
May 09, 2019 06:02pm
@Jamil Soomro, New York City, No they are not missing anything. They are much better off in modern India.
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Zak2
May 10, 2019 03:56am
Pakistan has thrived on simplistically considering India as just its mirror image, with just another religion. The article is just that. The plurality of India, the concept of India, the history of India that attracted Alexander, Columbus, Nadir Shah, Ghazni, Vasco Da Gama, Britishers, Mughals, innumerable others, the broadness of India, inherent in its population is hardly a subject of discourse. That we can all live together on the same planet can be a strange concept to some.
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M. Ahmed
May 10, 2019 11:31am
i feel sorry to say but india is not a democratic country anymore. the hindus are trying to make akhand bhaarat in which there are only hindus to live.
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GA
May 10, 2019 01:56pm
@MA, Public spaces are not meant for this purpose. We have a history of people grabbing public land through religious activity.
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rama
May 10, 2019 02:38pm
@MA, Public place is not for namaaz. If you want to lead a life according to the rule of law, nobody will bother you in India. ANd this dicipline made Indians most successful minority in UK and USA.
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Rahmatullah
May 10, 2019 04:16pm
@ Ahluwalia, I agree with you.
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