Posts Tagged ‘Hindutva’

DEFEAT OF AN IDEA – HAS THE BJP LOST OUT TO HINDUISM – BY ASHISH NANDY AND SHOMA CHAUDHRY – TEHELKA

June 21, 2009





HAS THE BJP LOST OUT TO HINDUISM?

ASHISH NANDY INTERPRETS THE SUDDEN DECLINE OF THE RIGHT WING

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Sunday, 21 June 2009
 
 
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 25, Dated Jun 27, 2009
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opinion

Head Hunting

Hindutva is embarrassed by Hinduness. A new generation of confident Indians has started to move beyond its logic of fear and hate. Will the BJP be able to seize this moment for creative reinvention?

ASHIS NANDY with SHOMA CHAUDHURY

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Save the Nation Youth being trained at a RSS shakha 
Photos: AP

THE CASCADING crisis within the BJP since May 16 and their confused debate about the role Hindutva has played in their electoral defeat tells a fascinating story. It would be premature to read any of this as a signal of either the disintegration of the party or Hindutva, but one could safely say the idea of Hindutva has been defeated by India for the moment. Put on a backburner and challenged to reinvent itself.

The BJP’s dependence on Hindutva as its defining characteristic was bound to become problematic for it. Data shows that less than 10 percent of Indians have ever voted for the BJP on ideological grounds. The Hindutva project was constructed on tapping into and fostering fear and a siege mentality within Hindus: a sense of being a minority in a country in which they are clearly a numerical majority. In itself, this was not a bad thing. You need a political party to ‘summit’ these emotions so you can manage them. The Republican Party in America, for instance, also encourages and allies with Christian fundamentalists. They know a small marginal part of the vote comes from there — small, but a crucial vote percentage. So they woo them pre-election. Post election, though, there could be indirect rewards but no official rewards are handed out to them. The BJP did not understand this art of political management. They did not learn how to treat Hindutva groups as merely a sect within them; they believed their entire existence depended on the ideology.

This whole ideological stand — making Hindutva their central official line – was a myopic mistake. (The RSS of course has never been in politics so their understanding of politics is even worse.) The Indian genius is to manage contradictions. Most people forget, the Congress Party, the original party of the freedom movement, allowed many of its members to simultaneously belong to both the Congress and the Hindu Maha Sabha or other Hindu nationalist formations. This was very prevalent in Bengal because a huge proportion of Bengali freedom fighters came from a background of Hindu nationalism. Tagore himself was a member of both the Congress and the Muslim League. It is because these political impulses were accommodated within the Congress as factions that they were easier to negotiate in the early years. The BJP’s dilemma is that it thought its existence was predicated on Hindutva: now that they have lost drastically, they think Hindutva has become a liability and should be jettisoned. But the fact is, the relationship between the BJP and Hindutva will only become more clandestine. The debate they are trying to have within the party is actually nothing more than a power struggle wearing the garb of ideological challenge.

Gandhi was no romantic. He knew that India could have its own version of a nation state

In itself, this power struggle is a healthy thing. Contrary to all the speculation around them, the BJP is not necessarily slated to disintegrate like the Janata Party. The Janata party was a coalition of factions; the BJP has merely become a party with factions. With Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani past their time, all the top posts are vacant. If the BJP wants to survive and do reasonably well, they should “do a Congress”: they should find a Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh to lead them. All their current and prominent leaders are too high-pitched.

The BJP may be short-sighted in analysing its defeat dominantly through the Hindutva lens, but its electoral defeat does point to a kind of defeat of Hindutva itself. At the core of the Hindutva project is a war between Hindusim and Hindutva that is around 150 years old. It began in the middle of the 19th century, when ideas of Hindtuva began to take shape with the Hindu reform movements. In a sense, the defeat of Hindutva today is also a defeat of the West because the Hindutva project was one of the last remnants of the colonial West in Indian consciousness.

TODAY, BOTH detractors and defenders of Hindutva are confused about what it stands for. The truth may not be palatable to many, but Hindutva grew out of an admiration of the western European nation state and our attempt to have an indigenous form of it. When Veer Savarkar, the Hindutva fountainhead, insisted that Hindus must not read the Vedas and Upanishads but read science and technology and western political theory, this is what he had in mind. He was looking for a way to transform a chaotic, diverse, anarchic society into an organising principle for a masculine, western-style nation state, something akin to Bismarck’s Germany.

To achieve this, the Hindutva project required Indians to repudiate their Indianness, and Hindus to repudiate their Hinduness. That was part of the war. It required a chaotic, diverse society to homogenise itself into something that could be more globally acceptable and to live according to European norms. Again, public memory is short. Few people remember that Savarkar was very secular in his personal life – in the western sense. He refused to have his funeral rights according to Hindu custom; he wanted his body taken for cremation in a mechanised vehicle rather than the shoulders of relatives. He also refused to give his wife a Hindu funeral though women members of the Hindu Mahasabha sat in front of his house on a dharna.

Reformers were trying to produce tamed versions of religion able to sustain pan-Indian nationalism

Savarkar’s main criticism of Gandhi, in fact, was that he was unscientific, irrational and illiterate in modern political theory. He was wrong about that. Gandhi did understand political theory, but it had deeper roots, taken not only from Indian society but from the dissenting West. Gandhi did not believe in the modern nation state or in conventional ideas of nationality, nation and nationalism. He went on record to say that armed nationalism is no different from imperialism. At that point in our history, he seemed a romantic fuddy duddy. The fact is, he was way ahead of his time. He understood that India was particularly well-equipped to craft its own version of a modern nation state. It was under no obligation to follow European textbook definitions of the nation state. The irony is that today many western nations are moving away from the old model and becoming more flexible: 14 countries in Europe do not maintain any armies and have opened their borders to become the European Union. On the other hand, because of our colonial past, India and China are two of the purest forms of 19th century nation states you can find in the world today. Tagore’s friend, Brahmobandhab Upadhyay, a Catholic who called himself a ‘Hindu Christian’. Vivekananda himself said the ideal Indian would be one who had a Hindu mind and a Muslim body. But very early in his intellectual journey, Savarkar decided mere geography was too insipid a basis for nationality and began to advocate a more strident Hindu nationalism. The distasteful, clenched-teeth hatred of Muslims and other minorities associated with Hindutva took root then.

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Club members Ganesh puja in Mumbai
Photos: SHAILENDRA PANDEY
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Spine straight The Hindutva project wanted to cast Hindus in Islamic and Protestant Christian mould
Photos: AP
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Multiple ledgers Two urchins celebrate Diwali 
Photos: AP

After its defeat this election, the BJP feels its middleclass base has moved away from it because it is disenchanted with Hindutva. This, perhaps, is not entirely true. The Indian middle-class has a natural affinity with the less strident aspects of Hindutva. Primarily, this is because the RSS and BJP had very strong links with the Hindu reform movements, particularly the Arya Samaj. Both Munje and Hedgewar, though, were also inspired by Ramakrishna. The project was very clear. There was a seamless continuity between these reform movements and European concepts of a nation state. This continuity began to transform Hinduism and partly led to a form of religion compatible with a modern nation state – in the same way that Protestant Christians in Europe had become more comfortable with the nation state, industrial capitalism and secularism. In many ways, all Indian religious reformers were trying to produce house-broken, tamed versions of religion which could sustain a pan- Indian consciousness and pan-Indian nationalism. All these reformers had internalised aspects of masculine Protestant Christianity. Angarik Dharmapal’s Maha Bodhi society in Calcutta, in fact, produced a kind of Protestant Buddhism which the Sri Lankans find very convenient for their majoritarian state. Hindu society was even more diverse and cruel. Anyone wedded to the conventional idea of a nation state naturally found it too chaotic, unmanageable and subversive. The idea of Hindutva was supposed to be something Hindus could hold on to and yet remain good citizens of a modern nation.

The middle-class — which is the most privileged and therefore naturally most invested in the conventional notion of the nation state — is therefore also a natural constituency for Hindutva and its version of Hindusim. In Savarkar’s fearsome novel Kala Pani, the only futuristic novel produced by a Hindutva ideologue, he paints a (for him utopian) vision of a future India that will be a totally homogenous society. People would marry across caste and sect and language and become good, pan-Indian citizens — almost like the over-insipid, boring, lowest common denominator Indians one sees nowadays in India’s metropolises. Indians with no difference in language or custom: everyone speaking in the same accents, everyone having the same choice in music, cinema, clothes. Absolutely homogenised — almost like uniform clones.

SAVARKAR WAS prescient because this, in fact, is almost a mirror image of contemporary urban middle class Indians. A class that has access to a globalised economy, speaks English as its primary language, and is shaped by a uniform media. What resonance does this new-generation Malayali or Bengali or Tamilian brought up in Delhi have with the vernacular Hindusim of his grandparents, or even parents? Do all those myriad gods and goddesses with strange names, family priests, ishta dev and ishta devis make any sense to them? What is emerging instead is a pan-Indian Hinduism that allows you to dip into a bit of Onam and a bit of Diwali and a bit of Durga puja, and not be too deeply invested in any of it. Contrary to the ‘milleniaold’ milleniaold’ tradition Hindutva ideologues claim they are a part of, this new kind of Hinduism is a very new faith. It is no more than 150 years old. It was born in the 19th century and is directly inspired by Protestant Christianity in the wake of the Arya Samaj. And this faith is also a kind of lack of faith. You can carry it with you wherever you go. It is a kind of laptop Hinduism.

The Hindutva project in India is destined not to ever occupy centre space though, because it is challenged by Hinduism. When one talks of this Hinduism which is 4,000 years old, we have in mind a religion or tradition – a sentiment — that might be shrinking everyday but still moves a majority in India. It is this concept of faith — diverse, local, intimate and highly ritual — that most Indians live with. Apart from economic reasons and the crunch on jobs and infrastructure, one of the reasons why the Shiv Sena could garner so much support for their opposition to the influx of Biharis in Mumbai was the proliferation of chhat puja. The Mumbai-wallahs felt threatened, there was a sense of ‘itni chhatt puja kahan se aa gayi’? The Biharis would have had less of a hostile backlash if they had participated in the Ganesh pujas instead. Interestingly, there are many more Durga pujas in Mumbai and Delhi than in Kolkata, but there is no hostility against this because it has graduated into an all- India phenomenon. Chhathasn’t — yet.

The ‘millenia-old’ tradition Hindutva ideologues claim is actually a very new faith

It would be a mistake to conflate the occasional eruption of these hostilities with a belief that the idea of India’s plural traditions is a romantic myth. Religious groupings and sects — within Hinduism, and even between different religions — have always participated in each other’s local festivals, but they were not homogenised into an anodyne laptop religion. India was not an imitation of the Enlightenment model, in which you are deemed cosmopolitan only when you feel the other person to be completely equal. In traditional Indian societies, you are equal only in the sense that you have the right to think the other community is inferior to you, and the other person has a right to think you are inferior to them — even though neither of you might say so openly. In a homogenised, individualised society, the former is seen as cosmopolitanism. In a communitybased society, it is the latter cosmopolitanism that works.

In this continuing war between traditional, chaotic, diverse Hinduism and ordering, homogenising Hindutva, the BJP’s electoral defeat is a sign that Hindusim (which is by far the stronger force in electoral numbers) has defeated Hindutva. Hindutva expects Indians to live according to European norms of nationhood. But we are Indians: we are incorrigible, cussed, we have learnt to live with contradictions for centuries, we have learnt to live with chaos and ill-defined, half-baked ideas. We also want to keep options open for the next generation. These are the attributes that have ensured our survival when so many other major civilisations have failed. These are attributes that the BJP has to find ways to accommodate and respond to.

(I once interviewed Madanlal Pahwa — one of the Hindu militants who was among Gandhi’s assasins — in his old age. Ultimately, his most memorable years were of his childhood spent in a district in Pakistan’s West Punjab, which had Baba Farid’s mazar. There was a religious fair he would go to where qawwalis were sung. He called himself a kattar Hindu but that’s what his most nostalgic memories were about. This tells you something. We Indians are accustomed to living with multiple ledgers. He was a Hindutva wallah and all his language came from there, but his memories came from elsewhere.)

None of these arguments add up to an assertion that Hindutva will die out. What is true, though, is that, unless it metamorphoses, it will never enjoy the same vigour it did in past decades because it is inherently uncomfortable and embarrassed by Indianness and traditional Hinduism. For a generation newly emergent from colonial dominance, there was a fascination and sense of respectful subordination to things Western. But with this new post-independent, post-colonial generation, things are different. Indians have gone back to their own rhythms now, so even for the middle-classes, Manmohan Singh’s ‘West’ — with its idea that anyone can be a Tata or Ambani — is more attractive to many than Savarkar’s ‘West’. The aspiration for a global, material identity has overtaken cultural identity.

There is much Advani has to answer for, but he is quite a tragic figure. No one has read hm right

GIVEN BOTH the perceived and electoral defeat of Hindutva, it will be interesting to see what future route the BJP charts for itself. In many ways, Advani is a tragic figure. It is possible that no one has yet been able to read him correctly. Unlike Vajpayee, Advani had lived in a Hindu minority state and went to a Christian missionary convent. Having lived in a Muslimmajority state, Muslims were not unknown to him, and, perhaps, he did not feel the intrinsic discomfort expected of him. He was a part of the RSS – and probably believed in it — but there is a strong possibility that he also recognised in some ways that Hindutva was a political instrument rather than an all-encompassing ideology.

There is much Advani has to answer for. He is culpable for the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and cannot escape history’s judgement by saying he was talking of Ram as a cultural icon and not a religious figure. He knew he was creating an explosive communal situation. But his party’s reaction to his statement on Jinnah makes him tragic. There was nothing new he said about Jinnah – it is an indication of where our political culture has reached that no one seemed to understand this. Strangely enough, despite a tremendous difference in personality, like Savarkar, Jinnah was a person who thought entirely in Western liberal terms. Their ideological bouquet were almost exactly the same. Advani was only recognising that when he called Jinnah secular. Pakistan’s first law minister was a Hindu, its first national anthem was also written by a Hindu, upon Jinnah’s invitation. Both men shared the idea that nationality is crucial in a nation state and a certain amount of violence and bloodshed is normal in the jostling for dominance. In fact, Jinnah was less accepting of this notion of violence than Savarkar.

Advani tried to cast himself as a statesman in the Vajpayee mould, but could not repudiate his past. At the same time, he could not project himself as an ideologue that could be cast in a heroic mould as, say, Narendra Modi seems to have become for the Gujarati people. He did wear different masks at different times in his career to take political advantage, but it is possible he personally remained somewhat distanced from all of them.

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Shadow play LK Advani ; perhaps the BJP now needs a leader who can lower the temperature of the party
Photos: SHAILENDRA PANDEY
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Soul competition Middle-class Hindus today have a kind of laptop religion, easy to carry around
Photos: REUTERS

But this only intensifies the riddles for the BJP because it is quite possible that Narendra Modi too has passed his zenith. This election has indicated a decline in his popularity. The problem is, he did not leave any escape routes for himself, not even a cosmetic apology or expression of regret for the events in Gujarat 2002. This is likely to haunt his entire career. So the search for the correct leader has become the BJP’s biggest challenge – a leader who can lower the divisiveness and high temperature the party has become associated with.

But other questions remain for the party. If the BJP abandons Hindutva, what shape can its right of centre politics take? Its economic program cannot stretch too right of center because a majority of Indians live outside the spoils of the neo-liberal economic system. If only for electoral gains, they have to be accommodated.

What this means is that the BJP could be headed for a different kind of ideology, in which Hindutva will play a part, but there will be other competing concepts. There is no reason why Hindutva itself cannot take on a more benign form. Tagore, for instance, makes extremely powerful arguments for Hindutva in his novel Gora. This was a response to both Kipling’s Kim and Savarkar, and almost anticipated Gandhi in some ways. But even if the BJP and RSS’ think tanks are unable to come up with such innovations, it is quite certain that the party will retain some links with the ideology, and even if it is not part of its functioning ideology, it will be a party more tolerant of Hindutva groups.

VAJPAYEE, FOR instance, held Hindutva as a kind of vague, emotional frame. There’s no problem with that; in fact, it’s probably necessary in the Indian context. As Nawaz Sharif told Vajpayee, as part of the Muslim League and BJP, they were best positioned to break fresh ground in Indo-Pak relations as neither of their constituencies could accuse them of being wishywashy liberals. Above everything else though, like the Maoists who were encouraged to come overground and become part of the democratic process, the Hindu right wing must be politically accommodated. They cannot be annihilated or wished away, just as the Naxals could not be wished away. (Charu Mazumdar’s group in Bengal was wiped out with police action, but in barely 30 years Naxalism has come back again with greater force. These are idealistic people. It is a pity they have opted for the gun, but the problems they represent are real. Sitting in urban citadels, one might imagine that one can solve these problems over a 100 years and wait for some “trickle down” effect, but if millions of people are condemned to die in the meantime, one cannot expect everyone to remain unmoved.) In the same way, there are rump groups who are rabid enough to believe they should break down the Babri Masjid. They cannot just be wished away. They have to be politically accommodated and tamed.

The Mughal empire has some lessons that could be of great significance to contemporary India. The empire was so successful that the British left the Mughal system intact for 100 years. Even the Delhi Durbar of 1911 followed all conventions of a Mughal court. It allowed different levels of allegiance to the centre. The Jaipur Maharaja, for instance, was closer to Mughal Delhi than a sultan in Bengal: this meant he had more power and influence, nothing more.

The BJP has been demanding Article 370 should be abolished and the Uniform Civil Code brought in to India. These are legitimate demands in a European-style modern nation state. But why must we follow that route? Instead of hedging on Article 370, one should use it more effectively – go the whole hog with it. Why didn’t we give Article 370 to Sikkim instead of gobbling it up? Why didn’t we give it to Nagaland, rather than go in for 30 years of bloodshed which has made a whole generation bitter? If there is a worry that it is a border state, why not innovate and come up with Article 370 (a) – which defines more and less rights, with a clause put in for renegotiation at a later date? This would have increased the maneuverability of the Indian state immensely.

Savarkar’s novel Kala Pani covets exactly what the middle-class is today: insipid, boring, uniform

As Gandhi intuited, we are uniquely well-equipped to design our own version of a nation state. By pure default, we have gone in for some innovations — Indian secularism is one example. Both secularists and communalists complain about its compromises. But we will last as a society only as long as we compromise. The moment we try to harden it into something too defined, things collapse.

The current upheaval could be a creative moment both for the BJP and the RSS. Unlike the RSS heads that have gone before him, Mohanrao Bhagwat is not a very conspicuous ideologue. Nobody expects anything out of him. Because of this, he has the opportunity to be truly creative. But westernised Brahmins and modernity can be a lethal combination. It cuts you off from your native Indian genius. So will they be able to spot the moment?

 
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 25, Dated Jun 27, 2009

Exclusion of Muslims By Dr. J. S. Bandukwala

September 2, 2008

Exclusion of Muslims

 

 

By J. S. Bandukwala

The Prophet of Islam was aware of India, once remarking that there is a fragrant breeze coming from India. Islam reached India almost immediately after his passing away in 632. The long Western coast had trade links with the Arabs, much before the arrival of Islam. The Islamic injunction of fair and honest trading, impressed the local people. Many Arabs settled down in Kerala, marrying local women. Shia Sufis converted many Brahmins and Rajputs in Gujarat. Four hundred years later, invaders came from Central Asia. They were followed by Sufi Syeds from Arab lands, escaping persecution from the Abbasid Caliphs. The most prominent was Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti (1142 – 1236), preaching love of God , combined with equality, brotherhood and concern for the poor. Millions, particularly from the lowest strata of society, responded to his teachings, and that of other Sufis such as Khwaja Bande Nawaz in the South, Nizamuddin Aulia and Baba Farid in the North. The Guru Granth Sahib extensively refers to Baba Farid. The foundation stone of the Golden temple was laid by Mia Mir. Sufism had a tremendous influence on the Bhakti movement, producing such spiritual figures as Guru Nanak, Kabir and Mirabai. Today the Muslim population in South Asia is about 500 million. That is about one third of the world Muslim population. Almost all these Muslims have forefathers of local origin, who converted to Islam. A miniscule are of non South Asian origin. The discrimination against Muslims is rooted primarily in this conversion, mostly from Dalit and backward classes. Six hundred years of Muslim rule widened this gulf. The religious policies of Muslim rulers ranged from the most liberal Akbar to his ultra orthodox great grand son Aurangzeb. Frequently Muslim kings fought Hindu rulers, such as Maharana Pratap and Shivaji. In due course these kingly wars were viewed as religious wars between Muslims and Hindus, widening the communal divide. This historical twist fails to notice that Shivaji’s general was a Muslim, while the Mughal general was a Hindu. But perhaps the most vital factor was the upper caste resentment at the large scale conversion of lower castes into Islam. This is the genesis of the communal hatred we see today.

As the Mughal Empire weakened, Muslims comprised a small elite of Nawabs and zamindars. There was no middle class. Most Muslims were economically and socially backward. Conversion to Islam gave them a sense of equality and identity within a larger Muslim world. But it had no effect on their living standards. Islam was superimposed on the caste structure. The Hindu dhobi became a Muslim dhobi. But he still remained a dhobi. The caste structure of Hinduism became the jamaats of Muslims. Marriage was strictly within the jamaats. Often even burial grounds were on jamaat lines. This was against a basic feature of Islam that all Muslims were brothers, as witnessed in the marriage of the Prophet’s cousin Zainab with Zayd, a former slave.

The rise of the British saw Muslim elite lose political power. In their resentment they turned their back on anything Western, particularly the English language and science. They clung to a shadowy world of Persian language and culture, and to a princely lifestyle, they could no longer afford. A total lack of vision can be gauzed by their refusal to accept a British offer to open an English medium college. They demanded a Persian medium college. Around this time the British offered Hindus a Sanskrit college. They declined asking for an English medium college. Note the sharp contrasts in their responses. The 1857 mutiny ended Muslim rule. The British, replacing the Mughals, were especially harsh on the Muslims, who reacted by withdrawing further into their shell. Any attempt at an English education was strongly opposed and even declared as un-islamic. The great Sir Syed Ahmed, the founder of Aligarh was vilified and offered a garland of shoes. On the other hand Hindus responded most enthusiastically to Western education. Within a few decades there was a marked contrast between widespread Muslim poverty and decay, and a vibrant Hindu middle class. This Hindu awakening found expression in the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885. But the Muslims largely kept aloof. Sir Syed Ahmed was wary of antagonizing the British. His focus was only on the uplift of the community, and that required building bridges with foreign rulers. The religious divide soon became a political divide, with the partition of Bengal in 1905. Hindus opposed it strongly. Muslims favoured it, reflecting the nature of East Bengal, with Hindu zamindars and Muslim landless. After the First World War, Hindu aspirations for self government were turned down by the British. Resentment, led to harsh measures culminating in the Jalianwala Baug tragedy. This brought Mahatma Gandhi into the national limelight. Sadly this coincided with the British deposing the last Turkish Sultan, who as Khalifa was also the nominal head of the Muslim world. Indian Muslims reacted most strongly to this loss. The khilafat movement was born. Gandhiji sensed an emotional issue that would bring Muslims into the national mainstream. He offered Congress support for Khilafat. The result was a deluge of orthodox maulanas into the Congress, and the exit of its principal liberal figure Jinnah. The later was bitter about his eclipse from national politics. This bitterness contributed years later to the partition of the country. Equally important, Muslim leadership passed into the hands of maulanas, and it has largely remained so ever since. The khilafat movement died within a few years. But the damage had been done. Religion and politics were mixed in a deadly concoction. Moplah riots in Kerala followed, leading to the birth of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS. Inspite of Gandhiji’s attempts to project Sarva Dharma Sadbhav, the two communities drifted apart. The end result was partition, with frightening brutalities and a migration of millions across the borders.

Gandhiji’s assassination and Nehru’s stress on science and humanism cooled the communal fires. But this social peace lasted barely fifteen years. With Nehru’s death, and the constant irritants of Pakistan and Kashmir, the Hindu Muslim divide widened once again. Electoral politics, vital to a democracy, was also the incentive to inflame communal passions. Caste politics with the coming of Mandal, threatened the BJP hold on its Hindu vote bank. In response the Ayodhaya movement was launched. The last twenty five years have been most difficult for Indian Muslims. They are under a constant physical threat and mental stress.

The situation is particularly grim in a state like Gujarat that has become a laboratory of Hindutva. My own house has been attacked four times, the last time in 2002 it was completely destroyed. My daughter and I just escaped certain death. I have been in prison three times. Post Godhra saw an elected Government sponsor the mass killings of Muslims. This had never happened before in free India. The poison goes beyond Narendra Modi. For years the Gujarati language media, would carry provocative articles against Muslims. Repeated requests to the Press Council to stop this yellow journalism had no effect. Gujarati intellectuals would write long articles on the need to civilize the barbarian trends in the Muslim community. This author made numerous public appeals to persuade top Gujarati religious figures to express remorse for the horrors of 2002, in particular the rape and killing of Muslim women using trishuls, while shouting Jai Shri Ram. There has been no response. Honestly I have often wondered what has happened to this society that once produced a Mahatma.

Politically Muslims have no voice in Gujarat. Although the Muslim population in Gujarat is about 10 %, the communal polarization is so deep that it is impossible for a Muslim to win a significant election. With the rise of Hindutva, Gujarat has not elected any Muslim to the Lok Sabha, nor has there been a Muslim Minister in Gujarat. Since the coming to power of Narendra Modi, most Muslim officers have been sidelined. In national perspective, the hatred shown by the Gujarat BJP towards Muslims has poisoned relations between Muslims and the saffron party. All over the country, Muslims tend to vote strategically such that the BJP loses. This has been exploited by other parties to avoid doing anything substantial for Muslims, other than talk about protecting them from the BJP. The Islamophobia of the BJP has hurt Muslims tremendously. It also puts a brake on BJP winning elections. More important it damages the democratic basis of our
country.

The situation could have been rectified substantially if the lower judiciary in Gujarat had been just and fair. Sadly case and after case against those accused in the post Godhra riots were thrown out, due to a deliberate sloppy police investigation, combined with Public Prosecutors appointed from the VHP. Even so notorious a person as Babu Bajrangi, who in a TV sting operation confessed to having slashed the pregnant Kauserbanu, to kill both the unborn and the mother, was granted bail by a High Court Judge. Later this same Judge was appointed on the Nanavati Commission to examine the causes of the riots. How can we have any faith in such a Judge? On the other hand the draconian POTA law was applied on about 270 people in Gujarat. Of these 269 were Muslims. Those arrested for the Sabarmati train burning, are languishing in jail for the past six years. The Government case is so weak, that it deliberately delays bringing it before a Court of law. Since the expiry of this law, the Gujarat Government has passed another POTA type Bill, which has not so far been signed by the President. It is called GUJCOC. It allows any confession made before the police as admissible before a Court of law. With the strong anti Muslim bias of the police force, one can well imagine the third degree methods that will be used to force any confession desired by the authorities. I just hope the President withholds his consent to this Bill.

The recent Ahmedabad blasts have been tragic. In Islam terrorism is strongly condemned in Surahs 5, 6, 17 and 25 of the Quran. Life is given by the Creator and it is sacred and no individual has a right, to take it away, except in the course of justice. To kill an innocent is a sin that will deserve double punishment from Allah. Tragically many victims of 2002 are filled with burning revenge. I urge these youth to look for justice in the majesty of Allah. But they must never hurt innocents.

History tends to divide. Geography forces us to unite. 150 million Muslims are spread over every state, district and taluka of this country. There is no alternative but to live in communal harmony with our 800 million Hindu brothers. Muslims must play their part in making a success of the idea of India. After all which country in the world can claim a Father of the Nation who laid his life for its minorities? Muslims must realize that all Hindus are not supporters of the RSS. India is secular because of these Hindus. We must do everything possible to win their goodwill. Without diluting our roots in Islam, we must make adjustments in our world view and our own life styles. One sad aspect is the decline in Sufi beliefs among Muslims. Sufism enabled a reconciliation of different philosophical and religious tenets in India. It brought Muslims closer to Hindus. Under increasing threat from Hindutva, Muslims have sought to reassert their distinct identity in appearance. They are also moving away from Sufism. In the process they are distancing themselves from those non RSS Hindus, whose friendship is essential for their own welfare. This may damage secularism in the country, and ultimately hurt the Muslims of India.

Muslims must emulate the gentler, warmer and nobler nature of the Holy Prophet: his integrity, his simplicity, his laughter with children, and his concern for women, the old and the sick. Somehow we have drifted away from the life of the Prophet. A society is judged by how it treats its women. Muslim men have not realized the psychological damage the practice of triple talaq does to women. It is a sword that hangs over every woman. The Quran refers to talaq in (2,226 / 232) and also (65, 1/ 7), with the clear stipulation that the process be spread over a period of about four months. This is to prevent any misuse by anger or pettiness. There is no mention at all of instant triple talaq. The Quran directs the husband to treat his divorced wife with dignity, honour and kindness. Horribly women are divorced on the telephone, or in a drunken state, or for not cooking the right type of meal. Tragically it is considered valid by our Muftis.

 


This is wrong in religion. It is also against all the tenets of human rights, and we must condemn the same. Similarly polygamy is mentioned in the Quran (4, 3) wherein a man is allowed to marry up to four wives. But it stipulates that they must all be treated just and fair. The very next sentence says that even if you try to be just, you will not be able to do so. This implies monogamy is the rule in Islam. Polygamy is permitted only under extreme conditions. In Islam a child is conceived when an egg meets the sperm. Allah gives it a soul. Hence Islam treats abortion as murder. But coitus interruptus was sanctioned by the Prophet. This method just stops the egg meeting the sperm. Then why do we oppose family planning, when it does the same work?

Hindutva has led to the impossibility of Muslims finding residential accommodation in most Hindu areas. This is very true of Gujarat. Strangely it is also true in cosmopolitan cities like Mumbai. The result is a ghettoisation, with Muslims forced to live in highly congested areas, with poor water supply, drainage disposal, bad roads and equally shabby public transport. I would urge Muslims not to complain. They should plan and develop their own areas such that essential facilities are provided. If necessary use community funds. Trees must be planted and properly watered. Cleanliness must be maintained. They must learn to use their electoral power to secure these rights. As an example the Juhapura locality in Ahmedabad has about 3 lakh Muslims, most of them migrants from riot prone parts of the city. Juhapura had no banks, as it was classified as a ‘negative rating’ by bureaucrats. We fought this issue for years, up to the level of the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and the RBI. Friendly members of Parliament were persuaded to ask questions on the subject. Finally we succeeded.

Quality education is the highest priority of Muslims. That implies stress on English, Maths and Science. There has been a sharp rise in the number of Muslim students attending schools and college. Our focus must be on professional courses, such as engineering, management and medicine. That is the only way the Muslim community can come out of its present miserable state. I am totally against any form of reservation, which is ultimately a crutch that hurts the sound healthy evolution of a society. I am horrified at the mad rush for ‘backwardness’, and I pray my community avoids that pitfall.

At this stage it is best that Muslims stay away from power politics. The experience of the last sixty years is that Muslim leaders, who join political parties, do gain at a personal level. We have had Muslim Presidents, Vice Presidents, Cabinet Ministers and Governors. Sadly they are so scared of being branded communal that they just completely avoid the community. Muslims must treat the vote as a sacred power, and use it wisely and hopefully for the best candidate. That requires that the BJP come out of its hate Muslim politics. Hopefully that day will dawn. That will be the highest tribute they can pay to Gandhi who laid his life so we can usher in the idea of India.

Ghulam Muhammed’s response to Tavleen Singh’s email:

August 30, 2008

Ghulam Muhammed’s response to Tavleen Singh’s email:

from Ghulam Muhammed <ghulammuhammed3@gmail.com>    hide details  11:46 pm (4 minutes ago) 

 

to Tavleen Singh <tavleensingh@hotmail.com>  

 

date Aug 30, 2008 11:46 PM  

 

subject Re: your communal letter  

 

mailed-by gmail.com  

 

Saturday, August 30, 2008

 

 

 

Dear Tavleen Singhji,

 

 

 

Thanks for your kind response to my kind of letter. You magnanimity is acknowledged.

 

 

 

You however did not reply to my accusation that you did not use the word URDU in your article, not even once, even though now you profess Urdu to be your language. I have been noticing this ‘benign’ or rather ‘malign neglect’ of URDU with your kind of journalists.

 

 

 

Again, when you presume, that since I am not from UP, Bihar, Punjab or Madhya Pradesh, Urdu is not my language, you yourself want to limit the majesty of Urdu language that has spread out all around the world and though it has been deliberately and communally banished from its own native place of northern India and Punjab, it has kept alive by the kind of people in India, whom you continue to detest, when you say Faraz does not need defenders like me. URDU is not a territory. It belongs to its lovers, be that from any religion, any region, any ethnicity, any caste, any status in life or any ideology. It is the bigoted who have slotted the most secular of languages in Indian history.

 

 

 

For your information, I am from Uttar Bharati parentage, with my mother language being URDU. I have studied in Urdu medium school till SSC. Still I am the last person to claim any exclusive rights on Urdu, in as much as it belongs to all its lovers.

 

 

 

You are right when you say that I am communal. I am proud to be a minority communal who is fighting the majority communalism. I am from a victimized minority and I need not apologise for my minority communalism.

 

 

 

You have every right to detest Islamism and Jihadism on the ground that they are guilty of violence. My charge against you is that you are not against the violence of the Hindutva kind, and have shown no inclination to oppose them as you so most vehemently oppose and condemn the supposed acts of commission and omission by Islamists. Yours is a one-eyed brand of justice.

 

 

 

You have dared me, not to give Urdu a religion. I firmly believe that that will be the death of Urdu. On the other hand, I have legitimate question to ask of you: why majority of Urdu-bashers are from one particular religion only — the extremist Hindutvadis? Why have you not come out publicly against those religionists who have for 60 years institutionalized active discrimination and demonisation of Urdu with the result that millions from three generation of even Urdu speaking people had been deprived of their favourite Urdu. Why Punjab turned the partition experience into communal divide and targeted Urdu as the ‘language of the enemy’. Was it not the religion that came into picture to distort and obscure the beauty of Urdu? Now I will dare you, Tavleen Singhji, to shun the religious prejudice and give URDU its due. Don’t bring religion into Urdu discourse.

 

 

 

If as you claim, Urdu is yours, how can any one take it away from you on the basis of religion? Your blame game is very spacious and convoluted.

 

 

 

It is the continuous demonisation of India’s Muslims, as the ‘other’, that has so poisoned the nation, that a big responsibility rests on people of your kind, to stop and ponder deeply, as to where you are dragging this nation. India is at the threshold of disintegration and the blame will entirely lie with the likes of you.

 

 

 

I will write with full sense of responsibility that your poison pen is one of the most virulent instruments to succor and sustain the communalism of the majority. Politicians had resorted to organise communalism for their vote bank politics, but journalists of your kind have given the divisive communalism a life of its own.

 

 

 

I hope you will realise the dangers inherent in your obsessive hatred of Muslims in general and accept the fact that India can only survive and prosper, when all its diverse communities are treated with equal respect, dignity and fairness. We have seen how great Mughal Empire disintegrated when it lost its goodwill with the people. At this point of time, India is in the grip of a tyrannical regime and I am among a vast group of people that feel you as a regular columnist are part of that tyrannical regime.

 

 

 

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

ghulammuhammed3@gmail.com

www.ghulammuhammed.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On 8/30/08, tavleen singh <tavleensingh@hotmail.com> wrote:

– Hide quoted text –

 

Dear Mr. Ghulam Muhammed,

 

I usually do not reply to your kind of letter. I do this time only in the faint hope that I might help you understand that it isn’t me who is communal but you.

 

For a start Urdu. I am Punjabi and  have lived all my life in Delhi. Urdu is my language as much as Punjabi is. I think you are not from Northern India and so Urdu is not your language but when Muslims from across the Indian sub-continent claimed it as theirs they took it away from us whose language it really is. We should have fought for it sooner and we did not but if you are not from northern India Urdu is not your language.  Get that through your head.

 

After that ponder a little on your charge that I  have damaged Hindu-Muslim unity. Its true that I detest Islamism and jihadis of every kind and I think the world needs to deal as harshly with them as we would with other cowards who fight wars by killing innocent women and children in the name of some ridiculous god. I do not believe that religion has any place in the public square. Believe what you want to, worship who you want to but in your private space. I have attacked Hindus and Sikhs when they have tried to impose their religion on the public square and I will attack Muslims who do it. If that is communal I am proud to be communal.

 

But, please don’t you ever dare try to give Urdu a religion. If you know anything of this language or respect it even a little people like you should stay away from it. The last thing Faraz, God rest his soul, needs is defenders like you.

 

yours,

 

Tavleen Singh