The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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THE MUSLIMS OF INDIA A Documentary Record Edited by A.G. Noorani Oxford, Rs 650

Indian Muslims have attracted a lot of attention since Partition. And the curiosity has not always been directed at their professed religion. All that however has not really helped the ordinary Muslim in India who remains as confused about himself as those who harbour misconception about him. This confusion has been compounded by the fact that he has no idea about the changes the community is heading towards in the constant socio-political flux.

An informative book about the community and its people thus carries a lot of premium. This has been attempted time and again and the book under review is one among the many that periodically hit the stands. Its author, A.G. Noorani, is a columnist in some papers and an advocate in the Supreme Court of India.

The Muslims of India is a veritable storehouse of information. It includes records collected from various sources — pamphlets, magazines, newspapers, documents, letters of important historical figures and documentary evidence, some of which are rare and usually unavailable to the general public. Noorani presents these records of history so that we may form our own opinion about the past and present.

The editor places all the documents under specific headings. There are as many as nine chapt- ers. The first chapter, “Adjustment to the New Order”, gives an idea about how Muslims were trying to come to terms with the changes during 1947. Other significant chapters are on the Shah Bano case, the Babri Masjid, Urdu and the Aligarh Muslim University and Hindu revivalism.

Apart from the fact that rare and inaccessible data have been compiled, nothing else about the book attracts the reader. Some important chapters need to be updated in order to make them more topical. For example, radical Hindutva asserted itself after 1992, culminating in the recent Gujarat riots. But Noorani finishes the chapter on it by reprinting an article published in 1984. The chapter on Babri Masjid is similarly lacking. There was a huge mass of published literature after the mosque was pulled down. But most of the latest discussions are not included in the chapter.

Even the introduction which Noorani has written himself fails to perk up the reader because of its lack of direction. The Muslims of India will hardly appeal to most as it does not succeed in portraying or documenting the pulsating life of a community that everyone wants to know about.

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