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TAKING STOCK
OF LEADERS AND LEADERSHIP (II)

By Rizwan ullah

Shab-e-tareek-o-beem-e-maujo-o girdab-e-chunneen haail,
Kuja danand haal-e ma
Subuksaran-e sahilha
- Hafiz of Shiraz

Dreadful waves and darkest night, 
Swirling whirlpool up in sight;
How could people safe ashore,
Know our plight hare-to-fore?

This the plight of Indian Muslims aptly portrayed in a verse of the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz of Shiraz. They find themselves caught in the grinding mills of the past experiments that failed and fell flat before their ages and presently all pervading chaos and confusion engulfing them from all sides. However, as Khayyam said:
An kas ke gunah na kard choon zeest bego
(Tell me how did he live who did not sin)

There are no people in the world who never made an experiment that failed. Many people have failed many times. So did a section of Indian Muslims in the last century. But unfortunately the whole community including those who disagreed have to suffer the consequences, here, there, everywhere in one form or the other. But still the world does not stop at a flop, otherwise neither the old world could have discovered the new world nor the people there could have set their feet on the Moon.

The history of this world is the history of rise and fall of the people. Presently we are concerned with the fall of a section of people, call them Muslims, call them Indian. The need of the time is to stall further fall. It has two requirements or preconditions. One, favourable circumstances which take time to come and second, proper leadership which takes time to shape and grow to maturity. The suffering people must wait till the two conditions are met. You can not grow even a leaf of grass overnight.

India is a 10,000 year old conglomerate presently composed of a billion people, more than six thousand communities, over three hundred languages, classes, cultures and religions, all engaged in wearing a pattern of homogeneity out of multifarious heterogeneity. This struggle of living people is not an exclusive feature of Indian history. Similar struggles for cultural homogeneity can be found at various points of time in other parts of the world. There is not harm in such struggles as long as they are aimed at improvement and development of contemporary cultures. But the problem arises when the stronger elements of the society try to dominate even to assimilate the weaker ones. Indian Muslims are confronted with such a situation, there is a hard struggle ahead for the survival and preservation of their identity in a mix of diversity. This struggle too is not new. It has simply assumed new dimensions in changed circumstances. These circumstances lead to the debate about leaders and the leadership.

The leader is a person who rises from amongst his people and leads them through thick and thin. He is like a shepherd who keeps the hand together and looks after them for their proper growth. Unfortunately the Indian Muslims have the bitter experience of having leaders who proved to be pied pipers. They saw only the other face of the shepherd who fleeces his sheep even sells them for a better price. However, the concept of a leader has undergone a phenomenal change. The leaders do rise from amongst their people, for they can not rise out of nowhere, but as they grow taller among the equals they must keep distance from their own people and this gulf widens with their growth. It is the compulsion of circumstances the world over which is evident from the assassinations of three Gandhis in India, four presidents in the United States and other assassination in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, not to speak of many unsuccessful attempts.

Thus the media comes in as an interface to fill in the distancing gap between the leader and the masses. Thus the leadership as an attribute of a leader gives way to a mechanism of collective wisdom and statesmanship called leadership. This too does not solve the problem of Indian Muslims for it has strings that are pulled from behind. The so-called national media, at best being apathetic towards them, neither comes to their rescue in troubled times nor helps them in any manner in solving the problems that dare in their face. These people do not have a powerful media of their own.

Now under the prevailing circumstances the initiative lies with fore bearing and patent individuals everywhere in the country and in every walk of life. It may be mentioned for the benefit of such persons that in India and elsewhere leadership has come to mean a group of individuals getting together for administering the affairs of the country or the community. In India for a long time to come such a group is likely to be composed of various conflicting groups coming together for the sole purpose of shaving the bounties this vast land is endowed with. This is called coalition in political jargon. They are likely to quarrel among themselves but not daring to split. In these circumstances the Indian Muslims should follow the advice of another Persian sage Sa’di who said:
‘Zamana ba tu na sazad, tu ba zamana besaz’
‘If the time does not go along with you, you go along with the time.’

It means that see what causes are espoused by the groups in power. The must be working for various local and regional causes for the benefit of their people. Muslims should share the ambitions of the people of the area wherever they are. Thus they are likely to win at least some sympathy and get benefited along with others. At the same time individuals should devote their sincere efforts to their professions. Teachers and doctors fall under the most impressionable groups. They should help their students and patients in every possible manner. Thus it is upto the lawyers to look after the cases of those who have fallen victim to the acts of anti-Muslim elements in the society or in the administration or those who are falsely involved in fake cases.

There must be a long and trying time but at the end of it a generation must emerge which is capable of guiding the once fallen people.
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