By Md. Ali, TwoCircles.net,
Chennai: Rafique lives in Pulianthope, a Muslim dominated slum located on the outskirts of Chennai, capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. In spite of doing three jobs he is unable to support his family which has three daughters and a son besides his wife Sakina. He irons clothes during day time, in the evening works as a guard and thrice a week sells ice cream. Ask him about his life and he will ask you for a decent job.
He is not alone in this life of poverty and hunger. Saleem is a convert to Islam, who got paralyzed. Left alone, he is being taken care of by his Hindu sister. Because of the paralysis attack, he had to leave his job of a bus conductor but doesn’t get any pension and is at the mercy of his Hindu sister, who again is poor and has a family of seven to support.
A visit to the slums in north Chennai like Pulianthope, Perumbur, Dadashahmakan, Pensioners’ Lane, Lalgunta and Washermanpet will provide you enough cases of individual as well as collective tragedies, scripting the unsuccessful attempts of Muslims of these slums to live with dignity in poverty.
Saleem, a paralysed convert to Islam, being looked after by his Hindu sister
People in these slums, mostly Muslims, live in poverty and utter squalor. They suffer from restricted access to employment opportunities and income, lack of proper housing facilities, unhygienic environments, complete lack of social security schemes. They face lack of opportunity to quality health and educational services.
Muslim slum in Chennai
The situation of the narrow and dingy lanes of these slums belies the development plank of Tamil Nadu which the DMK wanted to highlight all these days before the assembly elections today. The question one is compelled to ask – have these Muslims been left out of the development which the state has seen during the last decade?
Wall poster showing the flag of Tamil Nadu Touhid Jamaath in a Chennai slum
What is worse is that this is happening on the outskirts of the capital city of Chennai, which must have offices of at least 20 Muslim political parties including Indian Union Muslim League, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaath, Indian National League and the list goes on. These political parties claim to represent the minority community and work for them but as these slums dwellers will tell you, these Muslim ‘leaders’ have never met the poor and helpless Muslims here, let alone offering them help.
A paralyzed woman begging in Perumbur, Muslim dominated slum
“Yes, they appear once in five years, at the time of elections but after that nobody sees them,” says Abdul Sattar. “These so called Muslim political parties have been formed to serve their own interests. All of them are slaves of power and money. They don’t even consider slums on their agenda, let alone visiting them and offering poor and hunger stricken population their help,” says Abdur Rahman, a social activist who lives nearby these slums.
Madarsa students in a Chennai slum
In the words of A Faizur Rahman, general secretary of the Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thoughts Among Muslims, “Muslim leaders have completely failed to improve the lots of poor Muslims living in the backward areas of north Chennai. There is an urgent need that the community leadership should focus on these backward areas.”
Condition of Muslim slums in Chennai outskirt
TwoCircles.net asked about the responsibility of Muslim leadership towards these backward Muslims to Fathima Muzaffar, the leader of Indian Union Muslim League (rebel faction).
A helpless Muslim man in Chennai slum
“We are certainly going to work for these Muslims who live in the backward areas of Tamil Nadu and that is why we have decided to take over the leadership of the party from self-serving individuals who never worked for the community. Soon you will see the change,” replied Mrs. Muzaffar.
Whatever be the case but as far as the situation of Muslim “leaders” goes on in the state which is going to polls today, these poverty stricken slum dwellers are not going to get help any time soon.
Narrow and dingy lanes of a Muslim slum in Chennai