Muslims-dominated areas in Delhi constantly betrayed by their representatives: Sheeba Aslam Fehmi

    On the eve of Delhi Assembly polls, the Old Delhi based writer and women rights activist Sheeba Aslam Fehmi spoke to at her Nizamuddin West office on Muslims in Old Delhi, Imam Bukhari, Muslim women and other important issues pertaining to the grievances of the people living in the Walled City.

    Q. At various platforms you have spoken that funds allocated to Shoaib Iqbal and Haroon Yusuf who represent the legislative constituencies of Matia Mahal and Ballimaran respectively, remain unspent. What can a voter in Old Delhi expect from one’s representative?

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    A. Look, the MLA from Ballimaran has not spent Rs. 437.44 lakhs from his funds whereas Rs. 444.88 lakhs still remains with Iqbal. But let us not get confined to the question of a few leaders only. You look around Delhi and you will find that Muslims’ dominated areas in Delhi are being constantly betrayed by their representatives. Their localities have been termed as ‘Ghetto’ but who has turned their neighborhoods as ghettos. They are ghettos by design arisen from the negligence of the successive Delhi government for years.

    Sheeba Aslam Fehmi

    Q. But why?

    A. In modern times, it can be traced back to the post-partition period. Psychologically hit, Muslims had no clear vision about what about they really aspired for. It was the same time when the clerics began to take over and reaped benefit over their disillusions. While acting as their representatives they demanded, madrasas, Urdu education and mushairas and they were given just exactly that. While the lollipop of Urdu was stocked for Muslims, the majority of our country took to modern secular education. Why do job fairs are not organized as frequently as mushairas?

    Q. Do you want to suggest Urdu education is harmful for the community?

    A. No, Urdu is a beautiful language and not very long ago it was an officially spoken language in north India but you see times have changed. Every one hundred year the geography of the world changes and so does other social and economic indicators. Urdu is language like all other languages. An attempt to learn and use it is appreciated but why the government expects Muslims only to carry the burden of Urdu when it comes to education.

    It is like you say we need schools and they say alright, so you want an Urdu-medium school we’ll give you one. Why can’t we come out from this pan-Urdu mentality? There is an urgent need to connect Muslims with the mainstream education. There is a need for them to master English because that is the universal and official language now and not Persian or Urdu. Tell me, how many big maulanas educate their kids in a madrasa?

    Q. Why do you think the government is responsible for poor record of Muslims in education?

    A. The government has played a very negative role in this regard. They created a whole Urdu medium till 10+2 but what after that! They know very well that books of higher technical, medical or other subjects are not available in Urdu. So you see, an Urdu medium student often sees the abrupt end of the tunnel after 10+2. Now just imagine that it is happening too much of the community. An entire generation rises as half-educated and needless to say they cannot get themselves jobs anywhere so they end may end up as Urdu teachers or professors or employees in petty government jobs. It is like dropping an atom bomb of on the community.

    Q. How do you connect that problem with the ghettoisation of the community?

    A. See, as I said our areas have been made ghettos by design which means that they have suffered government apathy for years. In 1982, when Jagmohan Malhotra was Lt. Governor of Delhi he had very infamously said about Muslims, “Let them stew in their own juices.” In the slang of urban management, Muslim areas are known as cultured ghettos as a result of which we can’t enjoy civilian entitlement.

    Q. How do you see Old Delhi in the light government apathy?

    A. Old Delhi stands right in the heart of the city. Not only this, it also living witness of our thousands years old heritage, yet it is reeling under a torturous treatment by the government. My point is that Old Delhi is not Okhla or Seelumpur, it is a place which has enjoyed its status as the center of power in South Asia and see what it has become today. Old Delhi was neglected even when the whole city was being decorated for Commonwealth games. Did they want to show the foreigners that Muslims are used to filth?

    Q. Has there any contribution from the community leaders in the area? Where do you see their graphs going?

    A. Towards corruption, three MCD parks have been usurped by Imam Bukhari despite SC’s order to vacate it three years ago. The scene is so grim the police department itself is charged of ‘contempt to court’ in this case as it is a clear matter of police-religious clergy-local politician nexus. Those parks have now been converted into VIP parking with the rate of Rs. 50/hour and luxury buses park and ply from there whereas there is no room for DTC buses because it is the vehicle of common man and the poor (taunts). All the earnings are directly going into the pocket of Imam Bukhari.

    Q. But Imam Bukhari opposed the restoration of Akbarabadi mosque which was dug up near Jama Masjid and criticized Shoib Iqbal’s move to lead the crowd in prayers on sentimental grounds?

    A. Bukhari opposed Iqbal because if he had allowed him to use mosque for his political gains then Imam’s unquestionable hegemony which he runs with Jama Masjid would have been challenged and he did not want any other mosque acting as an equal power centre.

    Q. So what do think is his stake in politics?

    A. No stake, such people rise their heads once in five years to cease others’ attention. Political parties also pitch them as representatives of the community as it is easy to fund him in fat sums and control dissents through him. His goons are very active in Old Delhi and have attacked my home also three times. So you have him as the Imam who leads people in spiritual matters but behind that face is the face of just another political broker in the city.

    Q. How do you see the development of Old Delhi as a society?

    A. Old Delhi’s society is currently in ICU. The condition of a society should be gauged by the condition of children in that society. There are so many poor children in Old Delhi whom you will find doping and using hashish after midnight. Prostitution is also a rampant in the area which needs to be dealt with gingerly.