18 September, 2011

Hope Amidst Despair


This is my brief story of frustration and hope in a limited context.

Working in Gujarat for nearly ten years, post Godhra, for rationality, communal harmony and empowerment, I have often felt a pervading sense of frustration, despair and despondency. This came largely from the successive defeats the just and justice seekers suffered, and, no less from the growth and victory of the unjust and the unfair, particularly in the context of the 2002 riots. If I am working yet, it is because of hopeful interruptions from time to time.

I was shocked that the police was simply not registering complaints against Hindu militants. I was very glad that following Mr KPS Gill’s directive issued from our podium, several thousand complaints were recorded.

I was sad when several thousand riot cases were closed by numerous lower courts of Gujarat. But I saw hope when the Supreme Court intervened to reopen 2,500 cases, and took up monitoring of four or five most serious cases.

I felt frustrated when trials and judgments appeared patently unfair and partisan. The Supreme Court directive to move certain cases out of Gujarat provided me with hope.

But Mr Modi’s rise and rise has saddened me deeply. No, I have nothing personal against the man. It is simply that he represents to me what can go wrong with the state, and an otherwise sane society that was so easily misled by the power of propaganda, or the instinct for hate.

I have never held the Muslims to be paragons of virtue. On the contrary, all my efforts at empowering Muslims have revolved around their own self-reform. My series / books NAI SUBH [English], KHITAB-E-NAU [Urdu] and NAVU PRABHAT [Gujarati] have all fundamentally dealt with what ails the community from within and how best they can help themselves. I have a hundred complaints against them, as a part of them.

But be they as they are, nobody had a right to murder them, rape them, maim them, loot them. And that is exactly what happened to them in Gujarat post 2002. Indeed, I have felt on the side  of the victims all over the world: with Hindus when the Taliban tied saffron bands on their arms, or when temples were desecrated in Chittagong; with Christians when Egyptians Muslims harassed them, with Bihari Hindu labourers when Kashmiri separatists killed them; with the Sikhs in the Delhi massacre.. and with the innocent victims to recurring Muslim terrorism.

But every time such a wrong happens we expect the larger community to oppose it. We get institutions to intervene for correction. The world being one large village, everybody has stakes in everything, everywhere.

What happened in Gujarat was that a justified Hindu anger at Sabarmati carnage - or accident - was cunningly inflated and channelized to systematically and ruthlessly maim an entire community without compunction. And the state not only did not prevent this but actively supported this. One had hoped that the national / federal institutions would intervene and punish the guilty. Alas, that did not happen yet.

Fundamentally left oriented and aligned with the downtrodden, if I still never joined movements like the Naxals, it is because I have retained faith in the state, and its institutions. It is this faith that has been seriously eroded over this decade in Gujarat. And as the prospect of Mr Modi rising to the high office of the Prime Minister of India looms large, I get frustrated and also angry.

So, where lies the hope that the title suggests? Hope arises from the fact that this ultra-right poster boy of Hindutva had to make an about turn and seek out the friendship of Muslims, talk of reconciliation and harmony, leading to this farcical Sadbhavna fast. No, he has not been compelled to do so by the law, by the courts, or by the Parliament. He is doing this opportunistically. He has begun to eye the office of the PM. But the fact that he – even HE – feels that his ways will not be approved by the Hindus of India outside Gujarat, and that the larger Indian society wants him changed… there, therein lies my hope. The large, completely stage-managed presence of “Muslims” on his sadbhavna show notwithstanding, he hates Muslims, and does not give a damn to what they think and feel. It is the Hindus outside Gujarat that he is trying to win. And THIS provides me with the most potent hope. I arise, hope-fully amidst despair. He should know the Hindus of India better. He won the polarized Hindus of Gujarat in the way they wanted, and now he is out to win the Hindus outside and is doing what they will want.

As he pursues his selfish agenda single-mindedly – and, going by the media hype so far,  successfully - I and many like me wonder what will happen if he were to be our Prime Minister: holding the nuclear trigger, controlling the army, commanding the nation’s vast resources, shaping its polity…But, then, hope arises again.

I hope that the judicial mechanism will catch up with him and stall his advance

If that fails, I hope that the larger Hindu society – or the NDA alliance politics – will reject him

If that fails, too, and he gets the top job, I hope that he will be under focus and will be compelled to behave.

But in the unlikely event that all this fails, and he returns to what he really is, I lose all hope and shudder to think how many mutinies and separatist movements will he give rise to. That, unfortunately, is a worry that nags me now.

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