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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2003 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Two faces of India

Two pictures in media would graphically hold a key to the Muslim psyche about their interaction with their Hindu compatriots in India. One depicts, the Governor of Maharashtra, folding hands before the deity in Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai, on the first day of his arrival in the city, as Maharashtra Governor, on appointment from the Center’s BJP led government. It was Friday and time was bang when lakhs of Muslims in the city were praying their Friday prayers. The picture published by the Asian Age, resulted in deep resentment among Muslims. The picture was sent out on internet all around the world, to symbolize the abject humiliation of a high Muslim state official of a secular democratic government of a land, where 150 million Muslims formed the world’s second largest Muslim population. It also characterized the deep-seated demoralization of Muslims, who, as LK Advani had referred to the Media, ‘crawled when asked to bend’. 

The second picture depicts, ‘Hashim Ansari with Mahant Gayan Das’ of the front page of the Milli Gazette, New Delhi (Dec 1-15, 2003). The accompanying banner headline was: Azan, Iftar and namaz in Hanuman Garhi. The report detailed how the Mahant had revived the age-old neighborly relations between the two communities in Ayodhya and the deep respect that both had for the spirit of religiosity that characterized the town’s throbbing present and the much more glorious past. MG’s correspondent Manzar Mehdi describes the moving scene: In the evening when the Muslims in different groups dressed in Sherwani, topi etc. started entering the Hanuman Garhi, a big crowd including high officials of he the district and non-Muslim gentry of the City was there to see this historic event. At around 5.15 pm when Hashim Ansari, the oldest living plaintiff in the Babri title suit, broke fast at the hands of Mahant Gyan Das, along with hundreds of Muslims and media photographers “imprisoned” this historic and beautiful scene in their films for ever. The Hindu holy men personally served food, mainly fruits and yogurts, to the guests. Shortly thereafter the call of Allaho Akbar from the minarets of Hanuman Garhi, echoed in the atmosphere of Ayodhya. After the call for prayers, congressional namaz started. ….a new history of Ayodhya’s unity and love was written and balm was applied to the injuries of Babri Masjid’s martyrdom. Mahant Gyan Das (recalled) ‘with content and happiness writ large on his face, …..that the land of Hanuman Garhi was gifted by Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan and Nawab Shujaudaula had offered cooperation in its construction. Today, by throwing the Iftar party, we partly repaid their debts.’

Even if reaction in some Muslim circles was not wholly appreciative of this new development, in the background of the new and more sophisticated efforts to woo Muslims to hand over the Babri Masjid site to building of a Mandir in the carrot and stick alternative formulations, the residue effect of this Hindu-Muslim Ekta does leave some positive vibes, that were missing in Maharashtra Governor Mohammed Fazal’s in the supposedly ‘servile submission to diet in the line of duty’. 

The recent victories by ultra-nationalist Hindutva BJP in 3 states, while Vajpayee is credited with rejecting the old electoral gimmickry of Babri-Masjid/ Ram Mandir politicization, and proving to his own party detractors that BJP can win even without religious mobilization, the Muslims will not be placated and will not relent without getting their full political rights in a democratic India entering the 21st century. The earliest Vajpayee and company realise it is for the good of the nation, that such a large and vibrant community should get its place in the governance of the country, the smoother India’s progress towards peace and prosperity for all the one billion citizens of the nation.

¯ Ghulam Muhammed

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