A Valuable Contribution by Faisal Hashmi

Omar Khalidi’s new book on Deccan Muslims fulfils a long-felt need for knowledge about Deccan Muslims

Muslims In The Deccan: A Historical Perspective
Global Media Publications
J-51-A, 1st Floor, AFE, Jamia Nagar New Delhi (110 025), India
Website: www.gmpublications.com
Price: Rs 400
Pages: 176

The area in west-south India known as Deccan has a long association with Muslims, who over the centuries had their share of good and bad times. The last two centuries brought possibly more trials and tribulations than all others put together.

A sizeable section of this population felt the devastating impact of the fall of the Hyderabad state before the Indian army in 1948. An entire system of patronage was destroyed in the "police action" and several hundred thousand people, whose livelihood depended on the jobs of their bread earners with the princely state, were thrown into destitution.

However, the Muslims began to overcome their hardships as democracy flourished, and the 70s saw the opening of new job markets in a thriving Middle East. Although many Deccan Muslims had found their feet once again by the end of the 70s, and continue to prosper well into the present century, all Deccani Muslims were not equally benefited from the new opportunities.

Recurrence of anti-Muslim violence (often state-backed), inadequate education and other socio-political factors have deeply hurt the prospects of Deccani Muslims.

It is interesting to know that however traumatic the fall of Hyderabad could have bee to the Muslims of Hyderabad city, poor Muslims in the hinterland did not necessarily think of Hyderabad’s fall as a calamity. To them it only represented the fall of the city-based elite, something that did not affect the Muslim peasantry.

This book is largely a collection of articles by Dr Omar Khalidi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These articles had already been published in journals over the last two decades. That is why the individual articles can be read as stand-alone pieces also.

The collection of articles by Dr Khalidi focusses on distinct ethnic groups among Deccani Muslims (the Yemenis, the "Ethiopians" [Habashis], the Shias, the Pathans, and, of course, the Konkanis). However, the book seems to suggest that all Muslims in Deccan are of foreign origin. This is rather problematic.

That there are enough indigenous Muslims in the area is common knowledge. No wonder, to the many indigenous Muslims, like those in Telengana, the end of Hyderabadi dispensation did not warrant mourning.

All said and done, the book is a valuable contribution to the understanding of an important subject. The academic rigour is evident from the extensive End Notes. Well produced, but a little steeply priced, the book should prove valuable for academic as well as lay readers.

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