A Muslim soldier


The test of a Sarkari Mussalman is the selling of the soul. The author is not a Sarkari Mussalman, but ambition drives him to hover precariously on the periphery of being one.

THE author’s broad shoulders suffer under the weight of two unwelcome visitors that rest on each of them. He does nothing to banish them. He nurses them. One is a strange obsession about being a Muslim. The other is a massive ego of ridiculous proportions. This is a pity because he deserves respect for his accomplishments and abilities despite pronounced failings.

Who is a Sarkari Muslim, pray? Chandra Shekhar once said: “The tendency in this country seems to be that if any member of the minority community pleads for his own religion he is taken for a communalist but if that is done by any person belonging to the majority community, it is assumed to be the thing to do” (The Telegraph, November 10, 1989).

The Sarkari Muslim seeks cover by lauding the government’s policies, abusing Muslims and attacking Pakistan. Kashmir was made a touchstone of Muslims’ loyalty. In the 1960s, the Muslims of riot-torn Sambalpur held a meeting—not to ask for police protection but to send a resolution to the United Nations Security Council in support of India’s claims on Kashmir.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) brought out more than one brochure on “Muslim Voices” on Kashmir. A notorious Muslim contemporary of the author revels in this. The writer avers: “Readers would certainly be intrigued by the title of The Sarkari Mussalman. The term defines a Muslim who is pro-establishment supporting the government of the day and the environment. For him, the bitter truth is secondary over discretion to the point of sycophancy. Instead of challenging the stereotypes about his community, this ‘courtier’ positions himself as the voice of reason among the majority elite. He defines his religion in a way that is acceptable to the establishment and projects himself as a modern nationalist by being submissive, or worse, by actively pandering to bigotry against his co-religionists. The media uses him to reinforce ridiculous stereotypes about Muslims and, in return, he earns brownie points, and sometimes lucre, on the lecture circuit and publishing contracts.” Part of this definition applies to our author himself. He is eager to please the establishment.

“On the other side of the spectrum, the ‘Sarkari Mussalman’ is also a derogatory sobriquet/title given by the Muslim community to denigrate their better-placed co-religionists, usually in government service, when the latter do not pander to their demands, which are sometimes unfair and unjustified. The term implies that the ‘Sarkari Mussalman’ has sold his soul to the government for ‘40 pieces of silver’ and cannot, in any way, be relied upon by his community (usually to shower unwarranted favours).” This is nonsense. The community, though downtrodden, has no such opinion of its Shahs.

He adds: “I have, unfortunately, come across some Muslims who shun others of their religion in order to be considered ‘secular’. A Muslim government servant has to walk a tight rope between loyalty to his job and expectations of his community. Many swing to the opposite extreme and practise discrimination against their co-religionists to prove their secular credentials. …

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