Shaikh Azizur Rahman, SPECIAL TO THE STAR
On a busy street in Calcutta’s business district, he runs a food stall called “Rajib’s Paratha” and is known as Rajib Mallick.
Using the popular Hindu name, no one suspects he is Rajab Ali Mollah, a Muslim who has adopted a fictitious identity to blend in with the neighbourhood’s mostly Hindu office workers.
Sohrab Hossain, a Muslim student who came to the city to complete his Masters degree in English and lives in a Hindu-dominated housing complex, is known as Sourav Das among the students he tutors. To keep up his Hindu appearance he has a small idol of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, on his desk.
Every morning as she prepares to go to work as a fishmonger, Hasina Khatoon takes off her silver armband embossed with “Allah” in Arabic, puts vermillion powder on her forehead and red-white conch bangles on her wrist – symbols of a married Hindu woman – to maintain a Hindu appearance in a fish market where almost all of her customers are Hindus.
Rajab Mollah, Sohrab Hossain and Hasina Khatoon say they have adopted new identities in a Hindu-majority society where as Muslims they would face discrimination.
Analysts say many Muslims from all socio-economic backgrounds are quietly hiding their religious affiliation.
“Muslims in almost all spheres of life face a communal discrimination by powerful Hindus and they are denied many of their basic rights and freedom in an unjustified way,” said Anjan Basu, a social analyst and executive editor of Pratidin, a Bengali daily in Calcutta. [more]