By Danish Ahmad Khan
The news of 22-year-old MBA graduate Zeeshan Ali Khan being denied job by a leading Mumbai-based diamond export company Hare Krishna Exports Pvt. Ltd. on the grounds that he was a “Muslim” shook the nation’s secular conscience to the core and pulled the so-called secularists out of their deep slumber. Zeeshan, a Muslim youth from Maharashtra, made his first ever job attempt in May this year, but much to his chagrin was denied a job. His decision to publish a Facebook post about his ordeal went viral thus making him a “discriminated celebrity” of sorts in the process. An official communication received from the company’s HR department said: “Thanks for your application. We regret to inform you that we hire only non-Muslim candidates.”
This is not the first time that Muslims in India are being discriminated against or victimized while seeking jobs in private sector companies. It made news for the simple reason that Zeeshan was intimated in an official email from the HR department of the company about “Muslims not being welcome” there at all. And, this was enough to create mayhem and prompted the secularists to allege that the very ‘Idea of India’ is being systematically bludgeoned beyond recognition by Hindutva shenanigans in Modi’s India.
If Muslims hadn’t seen this coming or chose to be ignorant of this stark truth, then they must surely be foolish. Discrimination abounds in its varied forms, and Muslims undoubtedly are at its receiving end. They are in fact fated with the burden of discrimination ever since the partition of India. Though this is for the first time a Hindu-owned company has honestly accepted it and made public its intention that it is not ready to tolerate Muslims in any way, come what may.
During my over decade-long professional life as a Journalist and Writer I have seen discrimination on religious grounds at workplaces closely – mostly oblique and at other times on-the-face-of-it. I have worked in some Hindu-owned companies where I was the only Muslim employee or which had negligible Muslim presence. I had also worked in some companies where Hindus are accorded unlimited privileges in comparison to their Muslim counterparts. In one of the companies I worked previously, discrimination was discernible. The company’s calendar had more Hindu holidays. During my tenure, at least on two occasions Muslim employees were not given holidays on either Eid-al-Fitr or Eid-al-Adha and had to waste their Earned Leaves for the two holidays. These days granting only one holiday in a year on either Eid festival has become a trend with the private sector companies. The discrimination doesn’t stop at the holidays only. I have also seen some companies offering food facilities making special arrangements for Hindu employees fasting during Navratras, while no such provision exists for fasting Muslim employees for Iftar during Ramadhan. This despite the fact that both Hindu and Muslim employees are charged for food served in the company’s canteen. The list of discrimination is endless. The less said the better it will be.
Double Standards of Community Media and Secularists
As soon as the story of job denial to Zeeshan Ali Khan by a Gujarati-owned Hindu company broke, the secularists and community media were up in arms as if all hell has broken loose on Indian Muslims. The news also exposed various players in the process, and what they really stand for. The mainstream media played a commendable role in prominently highlighting the issue. However, as usual the handful of community media in the country chose to celebrate Muslim victimhood with unflinching regularity. The online Muslim-run alternative media outlets did everything to highlight the injustice done to Zeeshan Ali Khan, but in the process deliberately chose to turn a blind eye on the protests by Zeeshan’s two Hindu friends – Mukundmani Pandey and Omkar Bansode – who decided not to take up the job with Hare Krishna Exports Pvt. Ltd. despite being selected in a remarkable show of solidarity with Zeeshan. By ignoring the protests by Zeeshan’s Hindu friends and not highlighting the issue prominently, the Muslim-run news portals only showed their stereotype characteristic and crass biased attitude thereby putting their objectivity at stake.
Zeeshan Ali Khan Job Denial1The secularists were also not to be left behind and decided to politicize the issue quite brazenly. Known Modi acolytes and industrialists Gautam Adani and Zafar Sareshwala indulged in competitive secularism. Mr. Adani offered job to Zeeshan (which he happily accepted), while Mr. Sareshwala offered jobs to Zeeshan”s Hindu friends. Even Muslim political parties and NGOs like the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and All India Milli Council decided to vent out their ire over victimization of Muslims in their own inimitable manner. The IUML announced that “for every Muslim candidate rejected by a Hindu-owned company, it would employ 10 Hindu candidates in the private sector companies and units owned by Muslims”. The retaliatory measures adopted by these Muslim political parties and NGOs speak much about their ulterior motives and art of politicizing every Muslim issue under the sun, instead of working for their welfare. On the contrary, Muslim youth should be thankful to the large-hardheartedness of thousands of Hindu-owned businesses for providing them gainful employment. This also shows that a large section of Hindus is secular and humane. A handful of hatemongers and fanatics will continue to remain in every religion, and this lunatic fringe should at best be ignored.
Muslim Employers are much worse: Here’s an example!
Why single out Hindu-owned companies only when Muslim employers are much worse in discriminating against their own Muslim employees! Here”s a classic example of how Muslim employers treat their Muslim staff. A female teacher had joined Hamdard Public School, Talimabad (New Delhi) on October 15, 2012 and was allotted primary section. She however resigned in September 2013 because she had to take care of her child. The school principal, who happens to be a female, started making regular calls and asked her to join the school once again. She was offered TGT Grade and ultimately joined the school on April 1, 2014. The offer letter however never mentioned about TGT Grade. But when she asked for being confirmed in the service with TGT Grade, the school principal abused and insulted her on April 23, 2015 in front of the male and female teachers and other employees of the school on the pretext of wearing a “”tight”” churidar which appeared vulgar. The teacher, a divorcee, was told that she wore tight-fitting clothes to excite males and attract their attention. The comments of the school principal were atrocious and she was even told that she can get into compromising position with anybody. The teacher has now been sacked from her job without given satisfactory reasons or prior notice. The school does not have any Sexual Harassment Redressal Committee in place. The Indian Muslim Observer had earlier extensively published several exclusive reports regarding the corrupt practices and maladministration of the present school management being run under Samar Hamid, son of now-deceased Saiyid Hamid, who was Secretary of Hamdard Education Society till his death.
This is only one such classic example cited here. I have worked with some Muslim employers in the past and also seen most of them closely. Muslim employers per se don”t follow any rules or labour laws. Most of them are themselves biased and provide jobs to Muslims only. You will seldom find non-Muslims in Muslim-owned NGOs or businesses. Even the handful of Muslim staff working with Muslim employers are paid paltry amount as salary. In some of the Muslim-owned businesses even Provident Fund benefits do not exist for their staff. Some of the Muslim employers are even egoist and think that they had done a great service by providing jobs to Muslims, but rather treat them as slaves or bonded laborers.
Muslims are not the only victims. What about Dalits?
Most of the jobs in India are cornered by higher caste Hindus, thus leaving the lower caste Hindus, Dalits, MBCs and OBCs to rue their own fate. According to a report by IndiaSpend, the OBCs hold less than 15 percent of government jobs as cited by a 2012 report of the Ministry of Personnel. This report was even contested by media organizations saying that the figure was probably overstated. A media report pegged their job share at 5 percent, and the figure is unlikely to rise beyond 10 percent in next five years. The Ministry of Personnel report also said that OBCs hold only 8.4 percent of Grade A jobs.
Even noted economists like Ashwini Deshpande and Rajesh Ramchandran have in their analysis of the data generated by the National Sample Survey Organisation on the social clusters of SC/STs, OBCs, and Others pointed out that the conditions of OBCs are far worse off than the privileged communities. They have cited in their data analysis that if Others earned Rs 100 annually, then OBCs earned Rs 57 and SC/STs Rs 42. In terms of educational attainments, they said that the OBCs are closer to SC/STs than to Others: the gap, in years, between OBCs and Others is 2.21, whereas that between OBCs and SC/STs is 1.47.
Need to strengthen interfaith bonds
The issue of job denial to a Muslim by a Hindu-owned company needs to be seen in isolation. It is true that people with a communal and sick mindset do exist in India today. We cannot wish away or ignore the likes of Owaisis, Togadias, Sakshi Maharajs, Sadhvi Pragyas, Ashok Singhals, Yogi Adityanaths, etc. They will continue to exist and indulge in hatemongering brazenly and shamelessly. People of their ilk are only handful in this country, and should at best be ignored. It is equally an undeniable fact that there are vast majority of secular-minded Hindus who have largely kept the communal forces at bay and not allowed the right-wing parties to stay in power at the Center for long. If a Zeeshan has been denied job by a Hindu-owned company, then there are large number of Hindu-owned companies who have also employed and continue to employ thousands of Muslims and respect their professionalism, honesty and hard work. We should also not forget that two Hindu friends of Zeeshan promptly rose to the occasion and declined their own job offers by the same company to express solidarity with him in an amazing show of remarkable bonhomie. Their actions are not only praiseworthy, but worthy of salutation.
The community media needs to immediately shed its stereotype image. It should stop looking everything from the Hindu-Muslim prism or else its credibility and objectivity will continue to be severely at stake as usual. The community media has more often sought to portray Muslims as eternal victims at the hands of communal forces and celebrate their victimhood. The practice of unnecessary chest-thumping should also end now. There is a paramount need to strengthen interfaith bonds and instill positive thoughts amongst the youth for their own betterment and prosperity of the country. Notwithstanding all these, the marginalized Muslims will continue to “complain, cooperate and coexist” along with their Hindu brethren in India.
The burden of discrimination brings with it several challenges and responsibilities, which need to be confronted tactfully and with perseverance. Minorities worldwide are in a special position, and therefore Indian Muslims are no exception. I consider myself to be privileged being a minority in India because of the unenviable position and the special focus of the government and citizens. We need to take this in a positive way and transform into a flourishing community with hard work, dedication and compassion. Indian Muslim youth should inculcate educational zeal and strengthen interfaith bonds to overcome the bias. They should at the same time question their so-called community leaders about the welfare measures adopted by them so far, which has made Muslims in the country even more vulnerable than before. After all, the onus lies on the community leaders who have only proved themselves to be mere power brokers and utterly selfish. We should be always prepared to face discrimination with sporting spirit, because this is what we have been fated after Independence!
[Danish Ahmad Khan, currently based at New Delhi, is Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper “IndianMuslimObserver.com”. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his Mobile # +91 9990179721]