|Juhapura, Ahmedabad, as seen by French scholar|
A French government-sponsored report has said that one of India’s biggest Muslim ghettos, Juhapura in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is witnessing a unique development: The absence of public infrastructure here has forced affluent Muslims to come up with private initiatives to develop the ghetto, thus privatizing “public action”.
Funded by the French Defense Ministry and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and written by Charlotte Thomas following her study of the ghetto between 2009 and 2014 as part of doctorate in political science, the report gives full marks to affluent Muslims “of superior jamaats” who arrived in Juhapura after the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The scholar estimates, the ghetto had just 50,000 people, but now houses around five lakh Muslims, all of it following the 2002 Gujarat riots, adding, Even the Muslim upper-classes decided to shift to this ghetto, as for the first time, they “were also victims of violence, while they had been spared until then.”
“Notably through the zakat, they have financed two hospitals, dispensaries, schools, libraries, support/training courses for public service examinations, etc. Education has been at the core of preoccupations for the inhabitants of Juhapura, from all jamaats”, the researcher says.
Published by the French Institute of Political Sciences of the Centre for International Studies and Research, the report believes these affluent Muslims focus more on “economic integration” as an alternative to the community’s development, instead of the “political activist way”.
Insisting that their main channel for resistance is “business”, the scholar says, to these affluent sections, the “economic sphere is perceived as the integrating matrix to the majoritarian society for the Muslims of Juhapura, and appears to them as the best defence against violence.”
The scholar insists, “Economically integrated, participating to national enrichment, the Muslims see themselves as ‘useful’ to Indian society, and notably to their Hindu partners; as they have ties through an economic interdependency relationship.”
By basing their “salvation” thus, she thinks, these Muslims “have aligned themselves with one of the elements of the national narrative offered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for whom economic growth outshines every other societal stake.”
The result was, Thomas says, the “affluent entrepreneurs of Juhapura” were by “courted” by Modi as Gujarat chief minister, followed by his successor, Anandiben Patel, with some of them forming “the link between the minority and the authorities, facilitating the presence of Gulf businesses at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit.”.
“The bridge with the Gulf must not be understood as a mimetic fascination leading, for example, to the Wahhabisation of local religious practices”, the scholar insists. Nurtured by Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism is considered a religious movement of Sunni Muslims, and is criticized for being "ultra-conservative".
At the same time, the report, titled “Domination and resistance of the Muslim minority of Ahmedabad (India): paradoxes of the ghettoization process in Juhapura”, says that these affluent sections believe, in case of renewed violence, “economic affluence would enable them to face” any attacks they may face, as it happened in 2002, “better.”
According to Thomas, “Education is seen as the means to access a stable or higher paying job, and from there, the stepping stone towards a good economic integration. The girls and women are at the centre of a specific schooling effort, which is, as recognised by the interviewees (men or women), unheard of.”
She further notes, “Beyond entrepreneurship and/or commerce, the more or less traditional occupations of Gujarati Muslims, more and more mention the importance of obtaining public jobs, more stable and higher paying, to which the Muslims have traditionally had less access.”
“In parallel with locality planning, the inhabitants have also managed to get branches of Indian banks to open locally, the multiplication of businesses, or even to equip their own society (residency) by asphalting the paths, bringing water, electricity, etc.”, she adds.