Ayodhya Muslims – poor, uneducated and frightened

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi, TwoCircles.net,

TwoCircles.net special series: Ayodhya 2009

Support TwoCircles

Nemat Ali is very sad he could not educate his daughters. Aware of their father’s income, they told him politely when they reached school-going age: You are lone bread earner for the family; how will you bear the cost of our education, recalls Ali, father of 6, while pulling the rickshaw.

Native of Makkhapur village, barely 1.5 kilometers from the Babri Masjid site, Nemat Ali symbolizes the average economic and educational condition of Muslims in Ayodhya of Faizabad district in Uttar Pradesh.

Nemat Ali with his family in front of his home.

Abdul Lateef who takes me around Ayodhya when I tell him I want to see Muslim places here, is a high school dropout. He says Muslims here are poor. Before 1990 they would cultivate tobacco and some worked in shoe factories here. After closure of tobacco agriculture and shoe factories, their conditions have worsened. Now they are cobblers or tailors and many are rickshaw pullers. Some have gone outside to earn. Of late some Muslims have got involved in property dealings.

Constituting about 6% of 1.5 lakh population of Ayodhya Assembly constituency, Muslims are poor – mostly laborers, cobblers or tailors. Most of them unable to educate their children, very few are affording to send them to schools in Ayodhya or Faizabad.

People coming out of Tehri Bazar Mosque after Juma Prayer

“People are poor and so want to make their children earning hand as early as possible,” says Haji Mahboob Ahmad, a prominent local personality, adding there are very few educational institutions.

Though Ayodhya, the twin city of Faizabad, has a few educational institutions, there is Kasu Saket PG College, the largest college in Eastern Uttar Pradesh or popularly known as Purvanchal. There are about 28,000 students at the college. Majority of them are from Faizabad and other neighboring districts. Of 28,000, hardly 5% are Muslims, and many of them are from outside Ayodhya.

Kasu Saket PG College

Many Muslim students from neighboring districts are living here in Ayodhya to study at the college. Muhammad Danish Visen is from Basti district. He is residing in the campus of Tehri Bazar Mosque at stone’s throw from the Babri Masjid site. He is doing graduation in History at the college. His roommate Muhammad Yosuf has come from Ambedkar Nagar district. He is doing MA in Urdu from Saket PG College. Muhammad Sohail from Faizabad district is doing B. Sc from the same college.

There are a few madrasas also in Ayodhya. Qari Muhammad Aslam is Imam of Tehri Bazar Mosque. He runs two small madrasas in the area where about 50 children are reading Quran and Urdu. He himself is from Faizabad.

Qari Muhammad Aslam, Imam of Tehri Bazar Mosque

As for social condition, Muslims here do not feel isolated in the society because there is complete communal harmony and both communities take part in each other’s social and cultural activities. Nemat Ali’s Makkhapur has 18 Muslims houses among 250 houses in total. But he does not feel threatened. So is the situation in the close surrounding of the Babri Masjid site in Hanuman Garhi.

However, they are a little bit frightened from the police. They fear they may be implicated in false cases. Every now and then you will find armed forces marching on the road and army vans moving in and around Ayodhya.

Do police disturb Muslims living in the vicinity of the disputed land? When I put this question before Haji Mahboob Ahmad, he said Muslims here are a little frightened as they fear of being implicated in false terror cases. He says once a Muslim youth was tried to be picked in some terror case but he and local Muslims intervened and he was saved.

Prominent social activist and ex-RSS pracharak Jugal Kishore Shastri says: No, the police are not disturbing them, but they live in fear. They fear that police may implicate them in terror cases. They are also frightened about karsevaks who come from outside.