Razaul Haq Ansari
To begin with, i want to say something about myself. I am Razaul Haq Ansari from Deoghar, Jharkhand, and was born in a middle class family of the Julaha (weaver) caste. I have completed my Bachelor of Technology from a private university in Greater Noida (NCR). I would like to share a couple of incidents through which i first became conscious of caste among Muslims.
The first incident is from when i was pursuing intermediate studies from a government college in Patna. I was living in a small lodge with more than twenty other students, and my roommate was also a Julaha from my hometown. Out of these twenty students, seven were lower caste Muslims and the rest were Ashraf upper caste Muslims. One day an Ashraf named Siddiqui Sheikh was debating some topic with my friend Hussain, who is a Julaha. Suddenly they started fighting each other in front of my room, and Siddiqui kicked Hussain. On hearing about their fight, we got out of our rooms and pacified them.
When Hussain was returning to his room, Siddiqui abused him saying “you are a Julaha, you don’t have any status. don’t try to fight with me again, i will beat you brutally.” A second incident is from the time I was pursuing B. Tech in Greater Noida, when i had three friends: one Ashraf, one Bhumihar and one Rajput. One day all three asked my caste, and I told them that i am a Sheikh Muslim. There is no mention of Ansari title in my college ID card or certificate. Both the Bhumihar and Rajput started calling me Sheikh from that day but the Ashraf friend did not believe that I am a Sheikh or upper caste Muslim. One day the Ashraf friend told me that you are a lower caste Muslim, and when i said that there is no caste among Muslims, he said, ‘it is there but you can’t see’.
I heard the word ‘Pasmanda’ for the first time in October 2018, in a Facebook post by Sunil Janardhan Yadav. The post mentioned that Muslims are divided into three cetegories: Ashraaf the upper caste Muslims, Azlaaf the lower caste Mulims and Arzaal the untouchable or Dalit Muslims. i was shocked to read this and after reading many articles on Round Table India by many Pasmanda activists, I understood that while there is no caste in Islam as a religion, casteism does exist among Muslims. After that, i read 4-5 books on caste among Muslims such as Masawaat Ki Jung by Ali Anwar Ansari, Hindustan Mein Jaat Paat Aur Musalman, an Urdu book by Prof. Masood Alam Falahi, and also many articles of Prof. Khalid Anis Ansari, a senior intellectual.
Jharkhand has a Muslim population of more than 50 lakh, out of which more than 97% belong to Pasmanda community and more than 90% are from the Julaha (weaver) caste. There are no Muslim or Pasmanda MPs in Jharkhand, but this time there are four Muslim MLAs. Two of these MLAs are from upper castes – Alamgir Aalam and Sarfaraz Ahmed, both from the Sheikh caste. Two other MLAs are from lower castes – Irfan Ansari and Hussain Ansari, both from the Momin Julaha caste. So, 3% upper caste Muslims have two MLAs, while 97% lower caste Muslims have only two MLAs. There are many other lower castes among Muslims like Mansoori, Quraishi, Rayeen etc., who are yet to reach the Vidhan Sabha assembly; only Ansaris have been successful so far. Recently, many Pasmanda Muslims have been killed in mob lynching, such as Alimuddin Ansari from Ramgarh, Minhaz Ansari from Jamtara, Tabrez Ansari from Saraikeila Kharsawan, and recently, Mubarak Ansari from Bokaro.
After reading about and understanding the Pasmanda movement, i decided to be a Pasmanda activist for my community. I am Muslim by religion but my political, educational, social, economic philosophy is Pasmanda. I firmly believe that without Pasmanda philosophy, we cannot solve our problems.
Razaul Haq Ansari is a Pasmanda activist from Jharkhand. He’s the founder of @PasmandaArmy on Twitter and can be contacted at: @RazaulHaqAnsari (Twitter).