Posts Tagged ‘M. J. Akbar’


December 21, 2008


Sunday, December 21, 2008

M. J. Akbar errs when he denigrates and demonizes Urdu press for voicing and articulating Urdu readership. After all they too are the citizens of this nation, they too have the right to freedom of thought and expression and they too have the right to vote. How do they become inferior to the elite that are ruling in their name? Urdu press has a glorious history of robust participation in freedom struggle. It is a pity that a journalist of such repute, should find it convenient to put down genuine voices of one section of our people, that is already marginalized. Now even their voices are being throttled.

It is time, Urdu press and Urdu readership should be made part of main street India as well as mainstream media. The Idea of India can never be complete without their full participation in mainstream life of nation. M. J. Akbar should better take note of his bias against people’s grass root sentiments that is more readily and extensively covered by the Urdu press than the glossy corporate English media ever can or will.

If Antulay is the Simi Garewal of Indian politics, it would appear appropriate, if M. J. Akbar should claim to be the Simi Garewal of Indian journalism.

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


MJ Akbar

Antulay is the Simi Garewal of Indian politics

21 Dec 2008, 0005 hrs IST, M J Akbar

There is, or should be, a well-defined line in media between the liberty of impression and the freedom of expression. Both are privileges of
democracy. Liberty of impression is the exhilarating-frightening roller coaster on which public discourse rides. Freedom of expression is cooled by the sprinkle of judgment, a mind that sieves speculation, allegation and accusation from the end-product that appears in print or on air.

There is outrage against the television coverage of Mumbai terrorism because television celebrities surrendered their judgment before the rising demand for hysteria. There is no supply without demand. The very audiences that sucked out hysteria from cable are now howling against its perpetrators. It is a human instinct to develop instant amnesia about one’s mistakes and sharpen knives with the vigour of humbugs the moment a scapegoat has been identified. The viewer is now seeking absolution through anger.

But the information market has been flooded with toxic weed. Hysteria is not the exclusive preserve of audio-visual junketeers. From the moment the terrorist violence hit Mumbai, much before the course of events evolved into a pattern, some sections of the Urdu press began pumping up circulation figures with fantasy fodder, in the shape of conspiracy theories, to a readership in search of denial. The conspiracy-in-chief was that this mayhem was nothing more than a plot to sabotage the investigation that ATS chief Karkare was conducting into the Malegaon blasts. The death of the police officer was declared instant martyrdom.

News media operates within a triangle of customer, producer and politician. A clever politician is a master chef in cooking up a broth of impression and expression. Since the customer is also a voter, the politician panders to street opinion by lifting it into the loftier realm of Parliament or television studio. The very act of transference gives implicit legitimacy to fantasy fodder.

Abdur Rahman Antulay is not in search of truth. He is in search of votes. He has become the Simi Garewal of Indian politics. Garewal saw a Pakistani flag fluttering on every Muslim housetop in Mumbai. Antulay sees a vote beyond every Muslim doorstep. Garewal was blinded by a low IQ. Antulay has turned myopic because one eye is stupid and the other cynical. But that is his secondary medical problem. His primary disease is cancer of the vote-bank.

If you want to understand Antulay’s and, by extension, the Congress’ compulsions, then take a look at an SMS I received on December 1: “Congress has been wiped out in Dhule corporation election. It could get only 3 seats out of 67.” Dhule is barely fifty kilometres from Malegaon. More than 30% of its electorate is Muslim.

As the minorities minister with the unique distinction of having done absolutely nothing for minorities, Antulay and his party face a meltdown in Maharashtra. If they cannot get even Muslim votes, they can forget about power and pelf in Delhi. He has therefore chosen to feed the Muslim with the comfort food of conspiracy theories, in the hope that this will drug him to the point where he loses his bearings until the April-May elections.

Will this succeed? Perhaps. It has succeeded before. But take a look at another SMS I received, announcing a meeting of the Maharashtra United Democratic Convention at Birla Matushri on December 17. An experiment for the consolidation of the Muslim vote was begun in Assam under a similar banner and did well in the last assembly elections. It has 11 MLAs and came second in some two dozen constituencies. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal Qasmi promised at the Mumbai convention that an MUDF would set up candidates in every constituency in the next assembly elections. Its aim would be to defeat both the Congress and the BJP. He warned the Congress, which had got the Muslim vote in the state for six decades, that the days of bondage were over, and the Muslim vote had grown up: it was not going to be satisfied with toffee anymore.

It is a long journey from desire to destination. There will be pressure and deviation; some attempts to purchase some leaders will possibly succeed. But such language has never been heard from a Muslim platform in Maharashtra.

Simi Garewal sees a Pakistan where there isn’t one. Antulay will not see a Pakistan where there is one. But Simi is a fringe factor; Antulay sits on centrestage. Antulay is a Cabinet minister, who has provided sustenance to those Pakistanis who are trying to fool us into believing that the terrorism in Mumbai was an instance of Indian security failure rather than an invasion sponsored by Pakistani elements.

I am amazed at the sheer gall of both the spinners in Pakistan and the Antulays in India. They seem to forget that there is a Pakistani canary sitting in an Indian jail, singing out the plans, preparations and objectives. Nine dead men and their masters are being exposed by the tenth man, the man who did not die.

If this is the state of deception and self-deception when one terrorist has been caught, what would have been the level of denial if all ten had died?

Cynicism is a staple of vote-driven politics. We all know that. I was naïve to believe that our nation’s security would remain outside the reach of cynicism.

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Akbar’s misplaced perception of ‘hatred’ – a rejoinder By M.T. Hussain, Dhaka

December 15, 2008

14 December 2008

Akbar’s misplaced perception of ‘hatred’ – a rejoinder By M.T. Hussain, Dhaka

This has a reference to the Indian journalist Mr. M J Akbar’s item published in a Dhaka English daily on the 12th December, 2008, wherein he has blamed the Muslim League leader Jinnah for his Two Nation Theory that, according to him, gave birth to ‘hatred’ and the partition of the British India in 1947. How much he was right?

The historical truth is that during the colonial British rule in India for two centuries (1757-1947), misfortunes fell no doubt on the whole population, but the Muslims as a religious group felt more badly than any other religious group en bloc. The Muslims’ feeling so perceived might not have been reasonable as some of the Congress leaders did maintain, but the Muslims in general had that feeling generated not in a day or two but for many valid reasons over the period of the British rule.

The alienation of the Muslims from the British and their native good boys had many good valid reasons. First, the Muslims en bloc turned almost pauper in matter of decades beginning enforcement of the Permanent land settlement in 1793 A.D. by forfeiture of almost all of their landed property that remained theirs for centuries. The final blow was the application of the so-called Sun Set Law in 1841 that took away the remnant few of some other Muslims landed property. In addition, the Muslim learned society was also labeled in reality as uneducated almost overnight through introduction of the English education system abandoning formally in 1835 the century old but developed Muslim education system and then in two years replacement of the official Persian language until then for centuries in India had been the Muslims media for higher education by English. Thus poverty in terms of economic fortune and ignorance so far as higher level of learning was concerned became the obvious fate of the Muslims who earlier had been fortunate on both accounts. Such changes of socio-economic status had the impact not only in backwardness but also instilling a sort of inferiority complex and alienation from both the British rulers and the newly emerging native elite who happened to be all non-Muslims. Another stark reality was that as the English historian and highly learned and experienced bureaucrat William Wilson Hunter had in 1871 stated very clearly how the well off Muslims in about one hundred years of the British rule in India became poor and destitute.

There were, no doubt, other poor Muslims even during the Muslim rule, but their richer co-religionists would maintain and care for them in needs. Unfortunately, when the richer and educated ones turned poor and disadvantaged except very few, the whole Muslim mass had nothing but complete darkness all around.

The other crucial fact was that the Muslims of Bengal, of East Bengal, in particular, had the worst exploitation suffered not only for the British rule but also more so for their henchmen but native lackeys who perpetrated torture and inflicted exploitation of the most cruel nature. Poet Rabi Thakur’s epic poem ‘Dui Bigha Zami’ is a replica of the cruelty of the landlords during the British rule whose overwhelming large numbers in East Bengal happened to be the Hindus but their tenants at will Muslims- subsistence farmers, day laborers, artisans etc. who had short of bare necessities to sustain life and living.

Such subjective conditions prevailing in society made the Muslim League gradually popular as the people through growing awareness and so shied away not only from the better organized Congress but also from the Krisak Sramik Proja Party led by the early nineteen thirties charismatic leader of Bengal, a Muslim, A.K. Fazlul Haq.

Whatever might have been others appreciation about the psyche for the shying away, the Muslims felt akin with the Muslim League and they made it themselves popular organization by 1940s, particularly when Muhammad Ali Jinnah took up its leadership at the second go in mid 1930s.

Jinnah was an astute politician, if not a statesman. He developed his own strategy for the disadvantaged Muslims of the subcontinent, to win over both the British and the Congress. The Two Nation Theory happened to be his effective strategy to establish a Muslim majority nation out of the Himalayan sub-continent along with the departure of the British granting self rule and independence. As soon as that was achieved due to his strong iron will thus defeating all adversaries and Pakistan got to its start on the 14th August 1947, he took not long time to redefine the nature of the country as a modern democratic and welfare nation guarantying equal rights and protections to all citizens of the country irrespective of religion, race, caste, ethnicity etc.

As is known to all Jinnah was never a communal Muslim who bread hatred as no Muslim can be. He had been a Congress worker and leader for decades and afterwards getting tired of the Hindu Congress leaders, not in personality score but for perceptional difference in problem solving, he parted with the Congress for good and joined the Muslim League providing full dedication and commitment. The Muslims, as well, deeply appreciated his commitment and took him as their Great Leader or the Quaid E Azam. Incidentally, the term Great Leader, was first conferred to him in address not by the Muslims but by the India’s great leader M.K. Gandhi.

He was so broad minded and liberal in thinking that even after the Muslim mass and the other League leaders had been fully committed to secure independent Pakistan, he went on trying compromising formula to keep India united as per the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946. He went further on and nodded go ahead to Huseyn Shaheed Sohrawardy and Sarat Bose to make greater Bengal independent, not only keeping that outside the proposed Pakistan but also of independent India, if the other party or the Congress would accede to any such proposition. Unfortunately, the greater Bengal plan failed just as the Cabinet Mission Plan not for Jinnah’s ‘hatred’ of anybody but for the clear hatred of the Congress leaders like Nehru, Patel etc. Is this not the truth of history?

Follow Prophet to become leader even in minority: MJ Akbar

November 10, 2008


Follow Prophet to become leader

even in minority: MJ Akbar



By Mohammed Siddique,,

Hyderabad: The noted journalist and author Mubashir Javed Akbar (famous as MJ Akbar) today bowled over the gathering of thousands of clerics at the General Session of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) by his profound knowledge and deep insight in Quran, Sunnah, Islamic history and Islamic jurisprudence.

In an extraordinary appearance at an Islamic religious conference Akbar spoke on the problem of terrorism, media distorting the image of Islam by misusing the name of Jihad, and the position of Jihad in Islam.

But the core message of his half an hour long address, punctuated by the slogan of “Allah-o-Akbar” by thousands of delegates on Saturday night, was how Muslims of India can overcome the handicap of being a minority. “When Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) migrated to Madina, he was chosen as the leader of the city and its surrounding though Muslims were not in majority and there were Jewish tribes around the city. He was chosen not because of numerical strength but because of his leadership skills, statesmanship and ability to take everybody along”.

On the contrary, Akbar said, Muslims in India become disheartened by thinking of themselves as a minority. “If we have the same leadership qualities and abilities we can also become the leader despite being a minority”, he said. Akbar, the author of several books including the famous “Under the Shadow of the Sword” on Islamic history, also underlined the need for Muslims to do agreements with the other communities. He referred to the Islamic history saying even the Prophet had sort of agreements with the Jews. “We live in a democracy and we should compromise with the other communities, even those who had a clashing viewpoint. Then only the doors will open for us”.

On secularism he said, the best term for secularism was coined by the Quran when it speaks of others having their own religion and Muslims having their won religion. (Lakum Deenukum Walyadeen). “We can compromise only by remaining steadfast on our own religion”, Akbar said.

He decried the media for misusing the term of Jihad. “Whenever there is a bomb blast, the media starts calling it Jihad. Jihad is a very noble and clean struggle”, he said. Akbar said that the Muslims cannot discard the concept of Jihad as it is one of the tenets of Islam. “If they dissociate themselves from Jihad, they will not remain Muslims”, he said adding that it was the responsibility of Muslims to remove if there were misconceptions among others about Islam.

Akbar said that even other religions have the concept of holy wars like Dharam Yudh in Hindu and Sikhism and Crusade in Christianity. “But it is only in the case of Muslims that the term of Jihad is used to describe the act of violence”.

He also rejected the new term of Islamo-Fascism being used by the opponents of Islam and Muslims. “They can never be the same”, he said pointing out that the history of Islam was more than 1400 years old while fascism dates back to 1920 to the era of Mussolini.

He also found fault with the term of Terrorism and said that the correct term for this type of violence “Fitna or Fasad” was used by Quran. “The Quran has spelled out the punishment for this crime in varying degrees ranging from the cutting off fingers or hands to the capital punishment”.

“Islam teaches that killing one innocent person was killing the entire humanity and removing one oppressor is delivering an entire nation”, he said.

Akbar said that if an individual has done something wrong, the entire community should not be held responsible or maligned for that. At the same time he said if somebody has done something wrong, Muslims should dissociate themselves from him.

Instead of looking towards others or blaming others, Muslims should introspect and remove their weaknesses and shortcomings. “To me poverty, ignorance and sex discrimination are the biggest enemies of Muslims”, Akbar said.

M J Akbar, who once edited Sunday Weekly magazine and then successfully launched The Telegraph and The Asian Age newspapers, strongly advocated the need for imparting education to the girls. “Without that we can’t enter even 19th century, let alone the 21st century”, he said.

Akbar said that educating girls does not mean that they should leave their Hijab or become irreligious. “We can get educated by remaining faithful to our culture and our religion”, he said.

Akbar said that many Christians ask him why Muslim women continue to wear veil. “I ask them whether they have ever seen Bibi Maryam without a veil”.

He also attributed the pathetic condition of Muslims to their laxity and lethargy. He expressed shock that some Muslims proudly say that they have not seen the morning sun light for years. “How a true Muslim can do it because his day is supposed to start with Azan-e-Fajr”, Akbar said.

After his speech one delegate summed up the feeling of the gathering: “We had thought he was a godless and irreligious person but Akbar has turned out to be an Aalim”.






Hyderabad : Eminent journalist and author M.J. Akbar has asked Muslims in India to overcome their inferiority feeling and strive for excellence in their own spheres, while seeking to remove misconceptions and misinterpretations of Islam.

He was addressing clerics at the conclave of the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind, the biggest and oldest Muslim group that is meeting here to discuss host of issues faced by Indian Muslims.

Akbar, who was the special invitee at the 29th general session of the Jamiat, cited instances from the life of Prophet Mohammed to prove the point that the numerical strength was insignificant to achieve excellence.

“When Prophet Mohammed migrated to Medina, Muslims were few in numbers but the tribes living in and around Medina made him their leader. The Prophet became a leader not because of numerical strength (of Muslims) but because of his abilities and leadership qualities,” Akbar said in his speech delivered in Urdu.

Pointing out that the Prophet Mohammed entered into agreements with various groups including Jews; he suggested that in a democracy Muslims can also have similar arrangements with other communities.

“The holy Quran has defined secularism in the best possible manner. It says ‘To you your religion and to me my religion’. We should follow this principle and have understanding with others,” he told 6,000 clerics who gathered here from across the country.

Decrying attempts to link Islam with terrorism and fascism, he said the Quran described terrorism as ‘fasad’, or spreading mischief, and has even prescribed punishment for those indulging in ‘fasad’.

“Islam has clearly laid down that killing one human being is like killing the entire humanity and saving one’s life is like saving the entire humanity,” he said.

He pointed out that first caliph Hazrat Abu Bakar formulated rules for waging a war and ordered that women, children, the elderly people and also those who took shelter in places of worship should not be harmed.

Akbar said jehad is a holy word used for holy war and it has nothing to do with ‘fasad’.

He said terms like jehad were also used for holy wars in other religions like ‘dharam yudh’ in Hinduism and ‘crusade’ in Christianity.

Calling for introspection by Muslims to identify their weaknesses, he said “poverty, illiteracy and discrimination on the basis of sex” were their worst enemies.

Underlining the importance of women’s education, he said hijab, or veil, was not a hurdle in education.

“Educating a girl doesn’t mean that she has to take off her veil or move away from our culture,” he said.


Fuse of self-destructive terrorism gets shorter – By M. J. Akbar

September 28, 2008

Indian Muslims are outraged by recent events of bombings and police ecounter of innocent young students. They are in a state of complete denial about both involvement of Muslims in terror bombings and the convoluted highly worked up accounts of police justifying hauling up of Muslims. An overwhelming majority is of the firm opinion that Hindutva forces, determined to snatch the next election from Congress, are systematically organising bomb blasts to polarise the people into voting the extremist Hindutva fascist to come back to power, which they had lost to Congress five years back. Muslims are being made scapegoats.

However, given the most blatant and ham handed handling of the events by Indian National Congress insiders with their dual loyalties, more and more people have gathered courage and are willing to say it publicaly that Muslims are not to be blamed for this orgy of violence and they are more sinned against than sinning.

M. J. Akbar is a liberal writer who wears his Islam rather lightly. However, he is one of few that had now realised that it is time to say a spage, a spade.

Following are his two articles that should open eyes of the world, as to where India is poised to land, if its pandering of fascist forces is not brought to a decisive end.


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


Fuse of self-destructive terrorism gets shorter
By M.J. Akbar September 28, 2008

Governance is the easy part of being in power. You govern through systems. Systems are protected by institutions. Institutions grind their way forward on hierarchy, oiled by memory or precedence. When there is need for innovation, change is sifted through a time-consuming committee. The end product may not be brilliant, but it comes with minimal-risk insurance: it will not do damage, and might even do some good.

India’s bureaucracy may not be the steel-frame of old. Corruption might have left it a brittle plastic. But it serves. Very often the difference between a good and a bad Minister — the titular head of the bureaucracy — is no more than his or her ability to leave well enough alone. Lalu Prasad Yadav has created a favourable reputation by the ingenious tactic of non-interference. He lets the Railway Board get on with the job and only appears on the scene when it is time to take credit. Give him full marks. More has been destroyed by the deadly combination of ego and incompetence than has been achieved in Government through genius. As the Railway Board has proved, India could be much better off if Ministers left Government on auto-pilot while they concentrated on what they know best: spilling each other’s blood.

The difficult part of power is leadership. Any term of office is divided between phases of placidity and the roils of turbulence. If turbulence is not calmed it develops quickly into a storm. Terrorism has become a raging hurricane. The statistics are well known. There is no point wasting space on them. But there is no leader who can challenge this storm, manage its fallout and restore some balm to the jangled nerves of the nation.

Dr Manmohan Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi have, at best, the most banal phrases to offer. We do not need a Prime Minister to tell us that terrorism is a grave threat. That much wisdom is available from any taxi-driver, the familiar source of political perspicacity sought by a visiting journalist anywhere in the world. No one has yet written a speech for Mrs Sonia Gandhi that takes us anywhere near a remedy to this terrible disease.

An answer must begin with a question: when did terrorism begin? Too long ago. India is unique. Every faith has delivered its quota of terrorists. The Nagas who challenged Indian unity were Christians. The sister-regions of the Northeast gave us Hindu terrorists. Sikhs rose in Punjab, and Muslims in Kashmir. The overwhelming majority of Naxalites are Hindus.

And now some young non-Kashmiri Indian Muslims are playing with dynamite. Some three years ago, when President George Bush visited India, Dr Singh proudly told his American mentor that Indian Muslims did not believe in terrorism. As evidence he pointed to the absence of any Indian Muslim name in the rolls of Al Qaeda.

If this was true, then what has happened in the last three years? India has not been ruled by any party that Muslims consider hostile to their interests. Congress has been in power in Delhi. In fact, Indian Muslims believe that if they had not mobilised to an unprecedented degree the Congress would never have got enough seats in the last general elections to cobble together a coalition. Indian Muslims claim a sort of ownership of the UPA regime. Why have Dr Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi been unable to prevent a spurt of despair within the community?

The Congress will not even admit this question, so it is difficult to see how it can introspect its way towards an answer. There are two principal reasons for the renewed rise of Muslim despair. First, the community has not got the justice it expected from the Congress. One fact will illustrate. While those found guilty of terrorism in the Mumbai bomb blasts of 1993 have been, rightly, punished through the legal process, those found guilty of crimes against Muslims in the preceding riots have been left untouched. The constables found guilty of state terrorism during the awful riots in Mumbai after the Babri episode in the report of the Justice Srikrishna Commission are wandering around, free. Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Mr Sharad Pawar cannot “find” them.

The second major reason is a sense of helpless hopelessness. The history of economic deprivation long precedes the UPA Government, but its mistake was to believe that it could fudge through its term as its predecessors had fudged through theirs. Dr Singh should never have asked Justice Rajinder Sachar to find out the truth if he wanted to do nothing about it. The truth has become the ultimate betrayal, for the report is a devastating indictment of Congress neglect of its most loyal constituency. Muslim youth watched as Mr Arjun Singh reserved even more jobs for others, and maintained an ultra-secular silence on reservations for Muslims. As I have written before, other communities got jobs under Congress; Muslims got enquiry commissions.

This was fuel for a fire that could so easily mesh into an international conflagration. The memory of riots, particularly in Mumbai and Gujarat, was equally incendiary. Indian Muslims have had apostates and middlemen as leaders. In the vacuum, a number of youth found it easy to drift towards the malevolent attraction of evil. They convinced themselves that virulent hate mail and unpardonable killing of innocents was the means to display a destructive strength. This terrorism, of course, is already hurting Indian Muslims far more than it damages their avowed targets.

The Congress is twisting this damaged psyche further with its cynical response to terrorism. There is a suspicion, bordering on conviction, among Indian Muslims that the Government of Dr Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi has offered scapegoats in the form of students of the Jamia Millia University to appease majority anger after the terrorist attacks on Delhi. We do not know the full truth, but there is enough that is murky in the events of 19 September when Delhi police surrounded and killed two students of Jamia at Batla House, while two others apparently escaped. There are questions galore, not least being the manner of the “escape”: if there was only one entrance, how could the two “escape”? Police have shifted their version after every question. The “escape” now is meant to have been through the rooftop. Did anyone see them in the daylit skyline? Nor does anyone believe in the version offered of the death of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma. It was first put out that he had been shot in the stomach. Then pictures were published of him walking after being shot, with no evidence of a stomach wound. The latest theory is that he died of a heart attack following loss of blood. One TV station claimed that the autopsy report showed he had been shot from the back, hinting at what is known as “friendly fire”. The UPA Government then sought to demonise the community when they covered the faces of suspects with the red, patterned, Arab headdress instead of the black cloth normally used. Who got these headdresses from the market? Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who claimed that he had personally supervised these operations? Was he telling India that these suspects were linked to Arab terrorism?

The questions grow each passing day, each one another fuse for anger.



Is it really Muslims whose credibility is at stake?

    There is nothing more subversive than the alternative narrative. A parallel version of the Godhra incident and riots sabotaged the re-election of the NDA government four years ago. A subaltern variation of the police operation at Batla House, near the Jamia Mil
ia Islamia University on 19 September, is undermining the credibility of the Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi government today. It cannot undermine the credibility of home minister Shivraj Patil because he has none.

    The first doubts began to circulate 
even while Patil, wearing a very self-satisfied expression on his face, began to congratulate himself in front of television cameras for delivering bullet-justice to two young men living in a small apartment of this building. He had, he said, personally supervised the encounter, presumably without taking any break whatsoever for fresh laundry.
    Ironically, doubt needs the support of evidence. If it is mere partisan belligerence, it will last no longer than a puff of acrid smoke. Some things did not quite add up in the official story. It was, to use a phrase familiar from the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre, the dog that did not bark that raised the first question. You rarely slip on hard concrete; it is generally the banana skin that turns a measured tread into a painful fall. The Rashomon effect, where the same event induces sharply different perspectives, can make for intriguing fiction; in real life, it can rip up communication lines carefully planted by a government trying to sell a fable.
    The first question, followed by two photographs, began to dilute the triumphalism of the Delhi police even during the early phase of its self-glorification. The authorities noted, with satisfaction, that two ‘terrorists’ had been killed. They added that two had escaped from the rented urban cage where they lived, which was all they could afford. The deaths were explicable; the escape was not. The building had only one entrance, and hence only one exit. It was 
surrounded by policemen. How could the two escape?
    When the murmur became a buzz, the police attempted damage control with a weak suggestion. The two could have escaped through the roof, hopping across rooftops. But it was daytime. The roofline was surely as closely monitored as the roadline. Neighbourhood eyes were tense and alert. Had anyone seen this acrobatic, even melodramatic, form of flight? 
    Two pictures propped up two ends of a growing conviction of foul play. One showed Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, who lost his life, walking towards something, presumably the car that would take him to hospital, supported by two colleagues (one in a tie, the other in a T-shirt). His gunshot wound was obvious. There was a heavy patch of blood on the upper part of one arm, and only a faint discoloring on the lower front of his bush shirt, near the abdomen. Police had said that Sharma had died from a bullet in the stomach. The picture proved that the bullet had not hit the stomach, and that Sharma was able to come down four flights albeit with help. A bullet in the stomach would have left him a stretch
er case, and caused far more blood loss, particularly through the exit wound.
    The official story changed. The selfacclamation had been blared over media, the change was released discreetly, through a plant that said that he died of a heart attack caused by blood loss.

    The questions multiplied: was Sharma hit by what is known in military parlance as ‘friendly fire’?
    The police would have been far more comfortable about their theories if some intrepid photographer had not snapped Sharma. The second picture, however, was part of their public relations offensive. It showed three suspects, Zia ur Rahman, Saqib Nishad and Mohammad Sha
keel. As is usual in the case of suspects being put on display, their faces were covered with cloth: the police are gracious enough to disguise the identity of suspects for they cannot be deemed guilty until a court has passed judgment. But there was significant departure from normal practice. These three had been shrouded by Arab-style headdresses (made famous by Yasser Arafat, and now a staple of Arab identity in countless TV images) instead of the anonymous black cloth used by police.
    Who had decided that these three suspects should be given an “Arab” identity? Was this a not-so-subliminal message to even the densest in the audience about the nature of the “enemy”, that the headdress was a signature of “Islamic terrorism”? Did this brilliant idea emerge from the home minister, now the handson commander, or did it emerge from somewhere lower down the food chain?
    Indian Muslims did not need to open a political dictionary to gauge the meaning of this forced symbolism? They knew that it was an attempt to stigmatize the whole community and link terrorism in India with an international conspiracy, with an implied hint at Osama bin Laden, 
the most famous Arab terrorist.
    If the purpose of the UPA government’s officialdom was to intensify fear of Muslims among non-Muslims, then it succeeded. Indian Muslims are used to being fearful ― of riots, police prejudice and arbitrary authority. They have learnt to temper their response with realism. They believed in the government of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, if only because they reassured themselves that they had been primarily responsible, through intense electoral mobilization, in adding the crucial 20 odd seats to the Congress that enabled it to become the largest single party in the last general elections. That perception has been shifting slowly, almost reluctantly, because Muslims had no other national political anchor. The Jamia incident has become a wake-up call. The growing perception is that the UPA government has deliberately killed innocent men to satiate the demand for action against terrorism.
    Is that the truth? I have no idea, because the truth is privy only to those who control the guns ― on either side of the divide. But this much I do know. In public life, perception becomes the operative truth.



There Are No Role Models – Indian Muslim suffer from a lack of leadership

May 30, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008



TO: The Editor, The Times of India, Mumbai


RE: Leader article: There Are No Role Models – Indian Muslim suffer from a lack of leadership,flstry-1.cms#write


MJ AKBAR has erred in trying to search for a flesh and bones leader of Indian Muslims when he writes that there are no role Models.


It is ironical that when Irshad Haqqani, one of senior Pakistani journalists is writing in Urdu and his article is published in URDU TIMES Mumbai on the same day TOI published Akbar’s article, describes how Israel’s doughty Prime Minister Golda Meir replied to a Washington Post interviewer, as to how she made up her mind to order huge amounts of guns, missiles and planes for 1973 war with her neighbours? He asked: Whether it was a spur of the moment decision or an old calculated strategy, as her entire cabinet was against it, citing heavy costs. Golda Meir said, I found my reasoning from the career of Prophet Mohammed, about whom I had studied in my comparative religious study classes in student days. When the Prophet died, his wife had to sell his shield to buy oil to light the lamp. Still he had nine swords hanging on the walls. History does not record his poverty. His triumphs are legend. Golda Meir reasoned that Israel’s history will not record how poor and destitute the Jews were during those early days. Only our triumph will be remembered and copied.


With a role model like the prophet, who had inspired even the present day Muslim’s worst enemies, how MJ Akbar seems to be complaining that Muslims have no role model?



Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai


LEADER ARTICLE: There Are No Role Models
30 May 2008, 0034 hrs IST , M J Akbar




Bollywood is the clearest mirror of popular perceptions, reflecting part of the truth even as it shapes other parts.


Truth, after all, is a set of fragments, some contradictory, some complementary. When and how did the Indian Muslim become an indelible part of the Bollywood underworld.


The arc of decline from the misty world of Nawabs in Mere Mehboob to the sentimental glitz of goons in Maqbool is a trajectory of shifting role models among Muslim youth.


Villains change on screen as necessarily as they shift outside the cinema hall. The three stereotype villains of the Fifties all belonged to upper Hindu castes.


There was the violent, exploitative Thakur, whether in a classic like the Dilip Kumar-Vyjanthimala Madhumati or a potboiler like the Dharmendra-Jayalalitha Izzat.


The scheming Brahmin, Narada, was a constant of mythologicals. The Bania moneylender, epitomised in Mother India, was the worst, leering at women and extracting wealth out of famine.


These were not single-dimensional images: there was also the noble, patriotic, generous Thakur syndrome, for instance.


Perhaps the most powerful symbol of Sholay was the armless Thakur, turned impotent in the line of duty. Eventually, happy-go-lucky vagrants destroyed the evil Gabbar Singh.


By 1976 the saviour had become a variation of the emerging audience. As befits the new corporate age, crime became more professional and sophisticated, and space between smuggling, business and politics narrowed.


Gradually, the Muslim became the primary face among the foot soldiers of the underworld.


A role model must merge contemporary compulsions and aspirations. The model for young Muslims in the 1940s was obviously Jinnah.


They were oblivious of the traumatic potential of partition, and were charred by the killing hot winds of 1947 and the Fifties. Nehru, rather than Gandhi (who they had rejected), became the new model as he began, gently, to restore their self-confidence and nurture some degree of security.


But the security was partial, and Nehru did little to reverse the marginalisation of Muslims from the economy.


The Sixties were the decade of despair. Desperation discovered a strange role model: Haji Mastan. In the disturbed, distraught and fragmented mind of Muslim youth of the Sixties, no one else seemed to be giving Muslims any jobs.


Since they had no faith in the white economy, and the white economy seemed to have no faith in them, they turned to the black economy.


Haji Mastan was so impressed by the support he seemed to get from the community that he even started a political party. It did not work because crime does not work.


What was the alternative? The elite had disappeared on the auction blocks of Lucknow and Hyderabad (pace Mere Mehboob); the professional middle class of the north had migrated to Pakistan in large numbers.




Muslims felt deeply betrayed by Congress politicians, with their litany of double standards. The anger sharpened during the politics of Babri Masjid: the Congress was responsible for everything, from the opening of the locks in 1948 to laying the foundation stone of the temple in 1989 to indifference while the mosque was destroyed in 1992.


The BJP was the perceived enemy, of course, but the BJP could not be accused of betrayal, because it had never been trusted.


In this vacuum, the hysterical mullah, or his counterpart, became the role model of the Seventies and Eighties. There is little point in naming the prominent among them, for they turned irrelevant as quickly as they ascended.


The demolition of Babri in 1992, the riots that followed and the bomb blasts of Mumbai in 1993 were a historical watershed.


You cannot be disillusioned if you do not entertain illusions, so there was no rise in bitterness against the Congress; but there was sudden disillusionment with the Muslim purveyors of rabid rhetoric.


The role model split after Babri. The overwhelming sentiment is for a new Sir Sayyid Ahmad, founder of Aligarh Muslim University, who argued that salvation lay in both English and the English, the emblems of progress and success.


This is not a revival of the politics of separation; Indian Muslims know that they are the chief victims of partition.


This is a revival of the culture of modern education. I have argued at every public forum, and in my writing, that this thrust will not achieve its full potential until the girl child gets an equal place in the Indian Muslim’s quest for modernity. If gender bias is not eliminated, Indian Muslims cannot enter the 20th century, let alone the 21st. The good news is that girls are being educated in far greater numbers than ever before.


But there was another role model lurking in a corner of the consciousness, born out of the belief that those who started riots against Muslims were stopped only because of the 1993 blasts.


The anger of the victim justified terrorism. This is a minuscule section, but it exists and has merged its fantasies with the Osama bin Laden phenomenon.


This is the wart that could poison the future. It will not be eliminated by arbitrary repression; but it can disappear with the assimilation of the community into economic growth and educational opportunity.


Fifteen years after the watershed moment of 1992, Indian Muslims have reached another crossroads. The overwhelming majority will travel the road towards progress out of nothing more complicated than common sense.


But there is a regressive minority within this minority. It needs as never before the leadership of a modern Sir Sayyid. History has offered a role, but there is no one capable of being model.


(The writer is a journalist and author.)