Seema Mustafa is a senior journalist who has reported for papers such The Pioneer, the Indian Express, the Telegraph, and Asian Age, and is currently the editor of The Citizen, which she founded. Mustafa’s grandfather, Shafi Ahmed Kidwai, was a freedom fighter, and her grandmother, Begum Anis Kidwai, served as a member of parliament in the Rajya Sabha from the Congress party for 12 years. Her father, Lt Col Syed Mustafa, served in the Indian Army, and her mother, Rafia Kidwai, was an editor, one of the first Muslim women to be employed at the National Herald. In her memoir Azadi’s Daughter, she writes about her experiences as an Indian Muslim: from her childhood in Delhi and Lucknow; to reporting on the ground in Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir; as well as living through the communal tensions in 1984 and the early 1990s. “I am a Muslim, culturally but not religiously,” Mustafa writes in the preface to her book. “It is an identity that I decided, very consciously, to adopt along the way to help counter the stereotype of the Muslim that was being created by the political parties, and even governments, in India.” “I find all my identities under threat today,” she adds. “As a woman, as a journalist, as a Muslim, as a secularist, as a liberal and even as an Indian, because the Idea of India … is under threat.”
In the following extract from the book, Mustafa recounts the effect that she noticed the Muslim community undergo after the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, and how this changed leading up to, and after, the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
Muslims as a community were absolutely shocked at the level of the violence in 1984. I remember the fear in Muslim homes during those days, as relatives called wondering whether the fury of the mobs would turn against them. An aunt was heard fervently thanking God that the assassins of Indira Gandhi had not been Muslims, an echo of what the minorities probably said when Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse. Given the surge of communal hate and violence at that time, a Muslim killer would have ensured the virtual annihilation of the community and plunged India into bloody chaos from which it would have in all probability emerged as a Hindu, and not a secular state. In 1984 too, the insecurity amongst Muslims was palpable, even though they were not in the sights of those holding the gun.