18 March, 2010

If You Are A Hindu, I Am A Muslim

How do you react when on a day suspected to see a lot of violence, a mob of several thousand menacingly breaks in your compound? And if this mob also happens to wield dharias and lathis and gesticulates and shouts violently? Most certainly you would feel apprehensive and use all your defenses. Ahsan Jaffrey, a former Congress MP with leftist leanings, did no more than this, in the wake of the misdirected post Godhra retaliation by fanatic Hindu mobs. A faceless establishment headed by an incompetent CM finds this enough alibi for baking Ahsan – and 38 others – alive.
Little does it matter to them that this man spent the best part of his life promoting communal brotherhood, secularism and nationalism; that he more than once risked his own life trying to save the lives of Hindus. That he served this city and our Parliament well.

Gallons of red hot blood and heaps of bones from burnt bodies later, we still do not hear anybody owning responsibility for the gruesome, completely misdirected retaliation against innocent Muslims. That those whose blood and bones these were had absolutely nothing to do with the Sabarmati barbarism, didn’t matter at all. That they were not involved in any crimes against the nation or society, that they paid their taxes and obeyed other laws didn’t either. That they were Muslims, however, did. And fatally. Is India now the state only of and for the Hindus? If so, I choose to announce that I am a Muslim, even for name’s sake!

When Narendra Modi broods “the five crore Gujaratis are showing exemplary restraint” he is both incorrect and ill-informed. Or perhaps he is making a statement: Gujarat’s Muslims are not Gujaratis; nay, not Indians either. And that this mayhem is just the beginning. Language of a bigoted fanatic, not that of a Chief Minister; much less of a statesman. His home minister – a VHP activist, a Pravin Togadia prot?g? - had already belied his solemn assurance to the legislature. [Belying assurances is incidentally a cultivated Hindutva accomplishment]. And his predecessor, another saffronite, a sitting minister, is widely alleged to have contributed to the police ineffectiveness. I wonder how these Johnnies who betray the Constitution can keep the dharma!

I love my country and all its people. And I abide by the laws our Parliament frames. I hold the Indian constitution and its various institutions sacred. All my life I have served this nation and society faithfully, even while earning my daily bread, certainly more unselfishly and constructively than the ilk of Modi. But I also happen to like sherwani, biryani, Urdu, shaeri and a lot more of my Indo-Islamic heritage. Yet, while a vast majority of my Hindu friends and their families sleep in the comfort of their homes most of the times, I and my family often have to live like refugees and nomads, taking cover like criminals, saving our life and property by a thin thread. Why? Because I am a Muslim. And this is now sufficient to deprive me of my nationality. This despite that my best friends are – and shall remain – Hindus. Hindu rashtra not in the making; made already. Here in Gujarat. Hail “cultural nationalism”!

The root of this carnage lies in the hatred most Gujarati Hindus feel towards Muslims. Every Muslim is held responsible for the actions of each of those 5 million Muslims of Gujarat; nay, of every Kashmiri, and of every other Muslim of the world, including, of course, Osama Bin Laden. I find my shoulders rather inadequate for the burden of over two billion Muslims.

At a deeper level this communal hatred indicates the debasement of the Gujarati society; of usurping of the leadership of a faith as resilient as Hinduism by unworthy men. Consider the origins of Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh, Ramesh Parikh and the host of cooperative frauds. Not long ago Gujarat was rated as the state where bribe works the best. That these men also happen to be Hindus, is a disgrace to this great faith.

Notice that when a watchman’s negligence causes the loss of some property he is sacked. The cop is suspended for a traffic accident, a police inspector for a robbery. CEO’s lose jobs when their companies make losses or plants suffer accidents. But nobody has been held responsible for the gruesome murder of about 3,000 Muslims, displacement of over 3,00,000 and for the destruction of millions worth of property. This is Muslim life and property. Not Indian, by current Gujarati standards.

Modi says the Godhra incident was preplanned; and that his Newtonian politics justified a reaction. If it was then this was a terrible intelligence failure on the part of the government. Sack it. And if despite the “expected reaction” the government failed to check retaliation, then the government functionaries deserve to be prosecuted for criminal negligence. Instead, he has become a sort of hero. Genocide of Muslims is an “achievement” after all. Hitler was hailed for killing the Jews, too. He was “reacting”, too. Hail, “Hindu rhiday na samarat” [emperor of Hindu hearts!].

The precision, speed and extent of the so-called “retaliation” had many wondering if the entire pre and post Godhra carnage was pre-planned! Consider that Muslim gangs and dons were systematically eliminated in “encounters” during the previous BJP regime. Then SIMI – perhaps the only networked cadre of Muslims – was banned, even as Bajrang Dal, VHP and Shiv Sena kept prospering. Comprehensive records of Muslim establishments and individuals were assiduously compiled during recent months. And, by the admission of Keka Shastri, chief of Gujarat VHP himself, the list was finalized on the 28th Feb. For elimination.

As if one Ayodhya was not enough, now idols have been placed in some of the dozens of mosques and Dargahs destroyed or ransacked during the riots. Some of these – such as Wali Gujarati’s grave – have been leveled and roads paved overnight leaving no trace except on camera. Gujaratis must prepare themselves for several more Ayodhyas for long, right here. VHP boys will be busy doing overtime.

To a great extent it is this blatant communalism and unfairness that give birth to the dons like Latifs and Dawoods; that tend to legitimize their relevance to Indian Muslims. When the majority kills and plunders with impunity and the establishment provides a back-up or looks the other way, what else does the minority do except turning to these dons? Dawoods are foisted by communalized sections of Hindus; they are only fed by Muslims.

Muslim ghettos are an outright Hindu creation. This writer built his only house in a Hindu locality in 1987. In 1993 riots when his relatives’ house was reduced to ashes and under dire threat he was forced to move to a relatively “safer” locality in Paldi. Eight years later – even as India’s GDP rose considerably and the nation made remarkable forays from IT to space – the recent carnage sent him seeking refuge in Juhapura, a Muslim concentration he despised. Little did it matter that he organized a massive Republic day function when a boycott call was issued by the Muslim clergy, that he publicly campaigned for moving Babri Masjid away, that he built and served some institutions that solely served the Hindu society. Like him dozens of Muslims were kicked out of the developed areas. And yet Muslims are accused of abjuring the “mainstream”!

If you thought that the BJP alone was indifferent to Muslims, think again. The deafening silence of the Congress is a huge compromise if not outright criminality. The Gujarat assembly mourned the loss of the 56 Godhra victims and of Balayogi but the massacre of nearly 3000 Muslims did not merit a condolence resolution. The state congress doesn’t press for the removal of the guilty CM, nor for banning the VHP, Bajrang Dal and their ilk, for fear of “alienating the masses”. Vote bank politics. Or Realpolitik, if you will.

Gujarati Hindus fail to realize that they are Talibanizing Gujarat, that they are breeding a Frankenstein’s monster. When reason and fairness fail, targets keep shifting. And truth becomes uncomfortable. No wonder NDTV was banned in parts of Gujarat. If Ahmedabad was a reaction to Godhra, Godhra was a reaction to Babri Masjid. Which was a reaction to Babar. Which… History and justice, Gujarati style, with Law remaining the mute witness!

Sadly Indian Muslims fail to realize that their reliable friends are only the law-abiding, secular, liberal and nationalist forces, not the likes of Shahi Imam. It is the Hindu-managed media, the Hindu Judges, the few conscientious Hindu police officers – and perhaps a sensible Hindu PM – that serve the cause of the Indian Muslims far better than their contemporary political or religious leadership. The goodwill of the general mass of Hindus guarantees their prosperity more than the constitution and organs of the state.

So, am I an Indian? I’m afraid, no, if I am also required to be a Hindu. If, on the other hand, showing allegiance to our constitution, paying my taxes, being loyal to my country and serving my society qualify me for this honour, I would like to remain a proud Indian. And a Muslim.

Adopted from March 2002 article

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