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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Warpath of the Parivar
By Saeed Suhrawardy

Normally, I am reluctant to comment on a work by a person who is known to me. There is a natural risk that the critical faculty shall be under the shadow of personal relationship.
Well, in this case, my commitment to secular idealism demands that I should invite the attention to a small but significant work by Mukul Dube. He has not been my childhood bosom friend. Nor have we been colleagues in any organization. He has been an accidental discovery. 
For me it is not less important than discovery of America. However that discovery has been accompanied by ills that still affect humanity. However nothing evil has come from Mukul. I admire and envy his zeal for laying threadbare the machinations of Sangh Pariwar (Parivar). I have met very few, imbued with the same zeal and passion against communal bigotry.

Fifty-four year old Mukul Dube has interests varied - current affairs, literature, music and photography. He is credited with the Directory of Performing Hindustani Musicians. He is a frequent contributor to leading newspapers on subjects of topical interest. “The Path of the Parivar” by Mukul Dube, published by Three Essays Collective, Delhi, contains a foreword by Late Prof. A.M. Khusro, one among his last writings.

It is one in the series of publications, about which the publishers have claimed, “This series will focus on history in the present tense, on those concerns of the moment which are or will become history. It will engage with the state of contemporary politics, economy and society and with issues of citizenship and democratic survival in south Asia, seen in both local and global contexts.” 

I find it an unorthodox but dispassionate, well-argued and analysed indictment of the role of Sangh Pariwar in Gujarat holocaust. Before proceeding further, it is relevant to quote a few significant remarks of Late Prof A. M. Khusro, from his ‘Foreword’.

Referring to Mukul Dube, he observes, “He raises himself several feet above the ground, surveys the scene and challenges the perpetrators as well as the organizers of the horrendous crimes of that unfortunate time.”

‘While Dube has to be credited with brilliant pieces of analysis and expression—some quite amazing—most of his assertions are in the nature of ‘what oft was said but ne’er so well expressed.’ ‘His heightened expression has a gripping quality and charm of its own and not only should be convincing to many who did not fall into the wrong traps and dirty puddles, but also has the power of weaning away most of the misguided and misled. One of the reasons why sensitive men are rated so highly in the world, in any field, is that there are very few among them.’

About the personality of Mukul Dube, once again Prof. A.M. Khusro observes, ‘ It is a hall-mark of Mukul Dube’s personality, ----that he is concerned much less abut himself and much more about his country, his nation, the world community and humanity at large. He is upset with the widely prevalent selfishness, petty-mindedness, narrow and destructive prejudices and religious and caste intolerance. Dube is a man of world culture and worries about mankind. He abhors the ignorant, bigoted and selfish hooligans who are ready to sacrifice their neighbours for their petty prejudices, who hurt, rape and kill their sisters and brothers who follow other faiths. This concern for mankind and this attribute of humaneness is partly a personal trait of his, but it is substantially rooted in his family background through his distinguished father, mother and aunt, people soaked in sociology, anthropology and Hindustani classical music.’ 

Another observation of Prof. A.A. Khusro deserves serious consideration:

“Taking the particular case of Indian Muslims, on whom at present the excessive bigotry of a small fraction of our people is focused, it should be noted that, for the sake of simplicity—and notwithstanding the substantial racial intermixtures—if approximately 3 per cent of Indian Muslims are taken to be Syeds and Mirs (claiming to have descended from the Prophet and Imam Ali), and say if say 5 per cent are of Moghul descent, and if 7 per cent are of Pathan descent (Khans—not the titular ones), then about 15 per cent of Muslims are seen to be of non-Indian origin (like the Aryan arrivals of, say, from 2500 to 1500 B.C.).The rest of the Muslims, no less than 85 per cent of them, are ex-Hindus of purely Indian origin whose forefathers adopted Islam: and the treatment of these as foreigners is as erroneous as would be the treatment of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and all Hindus of Aryan descent, as people of a non-Indian base. Thus, by far the vast majority of Muslims in this country are of Hindu origin and the prevailing biases of foreign origin have no truth in them—unless such blame applies to the Hindu Aryan arrivals as well.

And the same is true of Indian Christians, all or nearly all of whom are of Indian origin, ex-Hindus who at some stage were converted to their present faith.”

In the Introduction, the writer says, “When Gujarat 2002 happened, it shook us to our roots. We felt our world crumbling, the very earth shifting beneath our feet. Ideas and values, which we had always held dear, though usually without making a fuss about them, lay in smouldering ruins. Many of us were stunned in a quite literal way: it took us weeks to comprehend what had happened, and then more weeks to rouse ourselves. The sun shone but we could not see sunlight. It was months before we were able to laugh again.”

As a columnist, I share the feelings expressed here. It was my regular practice that I hunted for jokes and anecdotes to lace my column. All of a sudden that urge was gone and did not return. I have yet to recover my sense of humour. I think there are many others like us who had a similar experience.

Mukul Dube has examined Gujarat carnage in a wide perspective. It has provided him the opportunity to look into the physical and intellectual savagery of Sangh Parivar that systematically distorts history, works against the Constitution of the Republic of India and throws into waste bin all those ideas of civilization that have arisen after medieval times and on which all civilised societies are based. Mukul Dube has drawn on published reports to show how the leaders of Sangh Parivar routinely use hedging, deception and outright lies to pursue their vicious ends. I would like to end this piece with a significant question posed by Mukul in the article, under the caption, “Tolerant and Secular?”.

Is India a secular country, as common wisdom holds it to be? No, it is not: it is merely a multi-religious one. The two ideas have been confounded so thoroughly that we no longer know the difference. ‘Secular’ means lay, of the world, not pertaining to religion. A country or society cannot be described as secular just because it is home to not one religion but many. To be secular in the full sense, it must have no religion at all. In practice, of course, it is usually considered sufficient if religion does not intrude into the area of civil life.

But in Indian politics we have an excellent example of just such intrusion. All politics is bad, as some with anarchist tendencies hold: what is bad is politics tainted by religion. Throughout history, across the world, religions have sought to wipe out other religions because all have invaded the space of political power and have twisted that power. Each religion has warped political power by implicitly or explicitly declaring its own expression of it justified by an unquestionable absolute.

This is the road to irrationality, and it leads inevitably to murder and war and as we saw recently in Gujarat, to genocide.”

One may agree or disagree with his thesis and philosophy, but it cannot be dismissed lightly.

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