High-Caste Muslims Hurl ‘Julaha’ Slurs At Danish Ansari, Appointed As Minister In Yogi Adityanath Government

by Swati Goel Sharma - Mar 30, 2022 11:53 AM +05:30 IST
High-Caste Muslims Hurl ‘Julaha’ Slurs At Danish Ansari, Appointed As Minister In Yogi Adityanath GovernmentDanish Ansari
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  • Ever since Ansari took oath, his mentions on various social media platforms have been filled with derogatory, casteist remarks against his birth, where he has been repeatedly called a “julaha”.

A Muslim man born in a ‘lower-caste’ who has been made a minister in the newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh, is facing casteist slurs from other Muslims who do not support the BJP and call it an anti-Muslim party.

Danish Azad Ansari, 33, took oath as minister of state (MoS) on Friday in the Yogi Adityanath-led government, which has been elected for the second time.

Ansari, a Sunni Muslim (most Sunni Muslims are otherwise said to be opposed to the BJP), hails from Ballia district of UP. He has reportedly completed his post-graduation in Quality Management as well as Public Administration from Lucknow University.

In 2011, he joined the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Seven years later, he joined the BJP.

Ansari is general secretary of UP BJP’s minority wing. He was a member of Urdu Language Committee in the previous Yogi Adityanath government.

Ansari’s father reportedly works as a weaver and runs a sari shop while his mother is a school principal.

Ever since he took oath, his mentions on various social media platforms have been filled with derogatory, casteist remarks against his birth, where he has been repeatedly called a “Julaha”.

“Why are these Julahas so happy these days? Have they won a lottery”, a Facebook user by the name Irfan Zibran wrote, referring to Ansari. Another user, Faiz Ahmad Khan, wrote, “Julahas can’t contain their happiness at Danish Ansari.” Khan’s comment carried a sexual threat, which Swarajya is not reproducing.

Another user by the name MD Maan wrote, “Sadar saheb does all the hard work but a Julaha has been made a minister.” Here, it’s not clear who is the person referred to as ‘Sadar saheb’, but it refers to a high-caste Muslim.

The comments above have been translated into English by Swarajya.

On Twitter, author-columnist Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie, who in his own words is a “socio-Pasmanda activist”, has put out several screenshots and video clips of such casteist abuses hurled at Ansari.

Fyzie wrote (as translated to English), “Have you ever seen high-caste Hindus abusing a lower-caste Hindu for getting political representation the way the Ashraf community is abusing an indigenous Muslim for getting a political post?”

A screenshot shared by Fyzie shows a Twitter user, @Amir_Sherwani, posting a picture of a man clad in a saffron-coloured suit. The caption says: “Danish Azad Ansari, the only Muslim given ministerial birth [berth] in Yogi’s cabinet heading towards Pasmanda revolution via BJP.”

A user on Facebook has written: “Ansaris and Julahas are praising the BJP…It’s true that ‘neech’ people have a ‘neech’ mentality.”

The term ‘Pasmanda’ is a Persian word for ‘backward’ or ‘one who is left behind’. There are several Muslim organisations in India that use this term and say they are fighting for social justice among Muslims.

As per activists, ’high-caste’ comprise only about 10 percent of Muslims in India.

Who are Julahas?

The term ‘Julaha’ is a derivative of a Persian word for weaving and, in theory, refers to those who are weavers by occupation.

The weaver community among Muslims comes under the backward class category in several states including Uttar Pradesh. The corresponding Hindu weaver community is notified as a Scheduled Caste in several states.

Julahas are among the largest caste groups in Muslims.

A butt of jokes for centuries

Author Ali Anwar, whose 2011 book ‘Masawat Ki Jung’ (or Struggle for Equality) on Pasmanda Muslims of Bihar is considered something of a pioneer in the social justice movement among Muslims, wrote that the way ‘Ahirs’ are a butt of jokes among Hindus, Julahas are given the same treatment by Muslims.

The way Ahirs began to use Yadav as their caste identity by citing lineage from Lord Krishna, mainly to escape the mockery and humiliation associated with Ahirs for centuries, the Julahas concocted a connection with Medina’s Ansar tribe to give themselves the ‘Ansari’ suffix, Anwar writes.

In the Muslim community, there are many popular idioms and phrases that mock Julahas, the book says.

Khet khaye gadha, maar khaye Julaha’ (it was the donkey who ate the crops, but a Julaha was beaten for it) is one such. Another is ‘Mere lal ke sau sau yaar, dhunai, Julaha aur manihar’ (my son has hundreds of girlfriends, such as Dhunias, Julahas and Manihars).

Fyzie shares some more such derogatory phrases: ‘Julaha agar namazi hai, toh usne bhi jaalsaazi hai’ (if a Julaha is doing namaz, there is something suspicious) and ‘Kodo Sowa anna nahin, julaha dhunai jan nahin’ (Kodo and Sowa cannot be called grains, Julaha and Dhunia caste people cannot be called humans).

There are many folk stories popular in the community meant to mock Julahas as stupid and unteachable.

One such tale, writes Anwar, is that once a Julaha was learning Quran from a maulvi when he suddenly began crying. When the maulvi asked him the reason, assuming it would be a particularly emotional verse from the holy text, the Julaha replied that the maulvi’s beard reminded him of his goat which had died the previous day.

Another story goes like this: A Julaha and his eleven friends were taking rest during a journey. Before resuming, the Julaha counted the number of people, forgetting to count himself, leaving the desirable number short by one. He counted several times, but made the same mistake again and again.

Eventually, he began crying loudly. He told the group that he had died and must be buried with funeral rites.

Anwar writes that thanks to this constant picking on Julahas and branding them as stupid, the caste group has lost its confidence and spine – something that high-caste Muslims remain indifferent to.

Racial superiority among Muslims of the Indian sub-continent

Muslims in the Indian sub-continent who trace or claim foreign ancestry consider themselves as being racially superior to those of Indian stock.

In his 1990 book ‘Indian Muslims: Who are they?, Professor Kishori Sharan Lal wrote that the Muslim rule in the subcontinent was established by invaders from Turkic, Persian, Arab, Afghan, Mongol, Abyssinian and Egyptian stocks, who were known by the generic title Turk, and the foreign Muslims as well as their children treated the Indian Muslim converts with contempt

Professor Lal wrote of these foreign Muslims that “…they were so class conscious that Ziyauddin Barani, who was born in India but belonged to a family of nobles, credits the Turks, both in his Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi as well as Fatawa-i-Jahandari, with all possible virtues and the Indian Muslims with all kinds of vices.”

Professor Lal noted that these Turks called Indian Muslim converts by the generic but contemptuous term ‘Julaha’.

Here is a passage from the book:

“…The foreigners especially were not prepared to treat them on equal terms at all. To add insult to injury, the chronicler Ziya Barani, a confirmed believer in the racial superiority of the so-called Turks and baseness of the Indian Muslims, recommends: Teachers of every kind are to be sternly ordered not to thrust precious stones down the throats of dogs that is, to the mean, the ignoble, the worthless. To shopkeepers and the low born they are to teach nothing more than the rules about prayer, fasting, religious charity and the Hajj pilgrimage along with some chapters of the Quran and some doctrines of the faith without which their religion cannot be correct and valid prayers are not possible. They are to be instructed in nothing more. They are not to be taught reading and writing for plenty of disorders arise owing to the skill of the low-born in knowledge. The low-born, who have been enrolled for practising the baser arts and the meaner professions, are capable only of vices.

“Indeed all neo-Muslims were called by the generic but contemptuous term julaha. Surely all the converts could not have come from the weaver caste, but the word julaha became synonymous with the despised low-born Indian Muslim converts.”

Casteism among Muslims in the Indian sub-continent

In his seminal 1945 work Pakistan, or The Partition of India, BR Ambedkar noted that Muslims in India practice caste just like Hindus.

Citing excerpts from Census of 1901 for the Province of Bengal, Ambedkar wrote that “…the facts for Bengal are enough to show that the Mahomedans observe not only caste but also untouchability.”

The Census report talked of the conventional division of Muslims into four tribes – Sheikh, Saiad, Moghul and Pathan – and two broad social categories named Ashraf and Ajlaf.

While Ashraf, meaning ‘noble, includes descendants of foreigners and converts from high-caste Hindus, Ajlaf, meaning ‘wretched’ or ‘mean’, refers to all other Indian Muslim converts.

Julahas are included in Ajlaf category.

A third category, Afzal, meaning ‘lowest of all’ refers to those with whom other Muslims would not associate.

Swati Goel Sharma is a senior editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @swati_gs.

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