Muslim Oblivion towards Documentation of Community History

Photo: Human Rights Watch

By Shahid Habib Ansari

The post independent India has been marked by a number of incidents which unequivocally indicate the unabated process of degradation of Muslims. After seven decades of independence, the Sachar Committee Report (2005) revealed this Muslim backwardness for the first time in a substantial manner. There are several socio-cultural organizations – called Milli Tanzeems in common parlance among Muslims – working to stem the tide of decadence. They have been engaged in a plethora of fields like education, health, moral preaching, communal harmony, and legal aid to the victim of state and extra judicial activities. The work of these organizations goes in tandem with continuing Muslim backwardness in different aspects of their life.

In the backdrop of this unprecedented effort in compiling a report on Muslims by the central government, a very pertinent question cropped up in my mind. The Milli organizations were unable to provide any substantial documentary proof which could supplement the findings of the report for the betterment of Muslims. Researchers faced difficulties in establishing the problems of Muslims due to several reasons. The most obvious reason of their inability seems to be a lack of documentary records at the institutional level by these Milli Tanzeems. This trait of our organizations has a bearing on the researches conducted for the community in order to set right the unfavorable treatment meted out to them by the state institutions.

Let me share my personal experience regarding this. During my PhD research, I used to visit the Teen Murthy Library for reference. One fine day during the lunch break, I came across a French researcher who incidentally has an interest in the issues of Indian Muslims. In the course of an informal discussion, he lamented the lack of records documenting important social, political and ideological issues concerning the community. Indian Muslim organizations don’t have a habit of collecting and protecting data nor do they keep diaries and registers that record firsthand experience. The unprecedented insensitivity of Muslim leaders in prominent Muslim organization puzzled the French researcher. The same issue has been troubling my mind for years.

Ever since I started researching on Muslims in India, I have been under the impression that such a work could produce a rich literary reservoir with regard to the social exclusion of the most backward socio-religious community of India. However, the relevant documents and records pertaining to the most crucial events for the Muslim community seem to be either missing or have been neglected by the Muslim organizations. Starting from the riots and communal frenzy to the activities of various organizations, we can see this imperceptible gap. When I spoke about this to my fellow researchers, they not only seconded my hypothesis but further explained this conundrum.

The lack of record keeping among Muslim organizations needs a thorough investigation and analysis, as to why Muslim leaders are so negligent in undertaking this basic task. In this regard, my humble submission is that the all-pervasive system of corruption in the organizations with little mechanism of accountability has actually accentuated this unwarranted practice. The leadership of Muslims institutions is apprehensive about accountability which can be ensured through proper documentation. Corruption has shaped this obnoxious tradition. The trend of veneration for someone having a mentor-like-recognition further complicates the issue. Neither the office-bearers of the organizations are interested to streamline the process nor do the top brass of the institutions find it relevant for the cause of their mission.

Shahid Habib Ansari is pursuing PhD at Sarojini Naidu Centre for Women’s Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.


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