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

Periscope
Straight from the horse’s mouth
By Saeed Suhrawardy

The news item brought back to memory a couplet, frequently used in Urdu papers. I don’t remember the name of the poet. However, by overuse or misuse, it has become a cliché.

Kya lutf jo ghair purdah kholay,
Jadoo woh jo sir pa chadh kay bolay
.

I tried a literal translation, but that sounds absurd. A good translation has to be understood according the idiom of the language of translation. The sense is conveyed by the following words:

Why should someone else uncover truth?
Truth comes straight out of the horse’s mouth.

Let me revert to the news item, which sounds explosive. It is from the Statesman, Delhi, and dated Friday, 16 April. 2004 (page 1, column 8, bottom):

Driving out Muslims literally
Jaipur, April 15 – Can a VHP leader’s car be driven by a Muslim? “Certainly not” is the answer if one asks the VHP.

The organization’s Rajasthan unit has registered a strong protest with the state government’s motor garage department for providing a Muslim driver to VHP general secretary Togadia.

Mr. Togadia had been to Jaipur recently for the RSS annual meeting. The department, which provides vehicles for VIPs, deputed a Muslim driver for Mr. Togadia’s car. When the VHP discovered the driver’s religion, they took it up with the department but their request for a Hindu driver was turned down since the department was having a shortage of staff.

VHP’ regional president Mr. Narpat Singh Shekhawat has written to the department’s secretary, asking him not to assign a Muslim driver for Mr. Togadia in future. “Mr. Togadia came to attend an important meeting. Several important discussions take place in such meetings. So if a Muslim driver is there, there’s a possibility of important meetings getting leaked,” Mr. Shekhawat said. Also, he said, Mr. Togadia’s security will be endangered if a Muslim driver is deputed to him. – SNS 

I have selected the item for two important reasons. Firstly, my intention is not to provoke another round of accusation and condemnation. Personally, I believe that Muslims must eschew or at least reduce their obsession with BJP politics and statements of their leaders. That has a negative impact on growth of positive thinking among them.
However, the second important point is that a ‘known’ enemy should never be ignored or underestimated. For survival, every possible angle of their strategy should be taken into account.
The episode described here relates to a state that has the most famous Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti (p.b.u.h.) at Ajmer. Members of all communities revere the place. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, both have visited the place to seek blessings. But the stage-managed show has not changed the ground reality, brought out by the news item.
An analysis of the news item has much to say about the psyche of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its leaders. They have an anti-Muslim secret agenda, which they do not want it “leaked out” They do not trust Muslims, because they fear them. You cannot live with a person if you are continually afraid of his intentions and actions. It is possible they see in Muslim the reflection of their own intentions and designs.
They are firm against employment of Muslims, even as drivers, a Class IV position. 
Those who are clamouring for a share of Muslims in gazetted services should see reason before it is too late.
Unfortunately, there is nothing stated about identity of Muslim driver, who was subject of the complaint by VHP to the Government of Rajasthan. Perhaps like ordinary Muslims, he had scant knowledge of current affairs. Had he been aware of the nature and the character of Togadia, the leader of ‘Trishul Brigade’, he should have been worried about his own personal safety. It appears he did not demur in carrying out the duty, assigned to him. I believe that his sense of duty and commitment deserves appreciation from his employers. But noting like that is likely to happen. The employer happens to be the Government of Rajasthan, recently captured by Sangh Parivar and its political wing BJP.

Nobody who has not revised his opinion about Sangh Parivar and its affiliates shall be surprised by the contents of the news item. It confirms that the members of the Parivar remain faithful to their creed and colour. Their election rhetoric should not be taken even at its face value.

This shall come as a disappointment to those who sincerely believed that a dialogue between Muslim organizations and Sangh Parivar should be in the interests of both communities. That shall remove mistrust and misunderstanding between the two major communities, and it shall lead to a long era of good fraternal relations between them.

I recommend a close scrutiny of the news item to all those, who see a change of heart in members of Sangh Parivar. They find sweet music for their ears, in the words of Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee. But, you should not separate Bhartiya Janata Party led by Mr. Vajpayee from BJP led by Mr. Advani.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and others like-minded bodies are spawned by Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh. Their aim is to unite Hindu community on the basis of their anti-Muslim agenda.

My aim in inviting attention to the news item is not to add one more outcry to the continuing din against RSS and its subordinate organizations. That is the bread and butter of several Urdu newspapers owned by Muslims. It is a mistake to think that BJP and allies represent the total social reality of the country. They are there with a threatening and forbidding presence, because others who are not committed to their creed have not done much to counter their negative influence. That applies to so-called secular political parties and individuals. 

With government support, the organization led by Mrs. Subhadara Joshi was successful in countering anti-communal activities. The movement was, when Mrs. Indira Gandhi perceivesd a threat to her power structure by communal powers. The movement vanished, when Mrs. Indira Gandhi took a U-turn to become a votary of Hindu card. At present the position has been reversed. Communal elements have managed to take over the mainstream. Secular and liberal forces find themselves marginalized.

The challenge of building a bridge of understanding between the two major communities of the country is still there. Muslims should not suffer from the delusion that voting for BJP will usher in a new millennium for them. According to the claim of the leaders of BJP, a large number of Muslims voted for their party. Rajasthan was one of the states, where elections to state assemblies were held a few months back. BJP was swept to power, but see for yourself that their sister organization VHP is not reconciled to the fact that a Muslim driver should drive their vehicles.

The leaders of Sangh Parivar should realize that the ideological heritage of Veer Savarkar and Guru Golwalker will not carry the country to the goal of a progressive and civilized society. The hatred of one community against the other shall sow seeds of civil strife. Muslims too should work for better understanding with rest of the people. That means sharing their joys and sorrows. By and large they are doing that. However, there are extremist groups, who must eschew counter productive retaliatory mentality.

Unless the activities of people linked with Sangh Parivar are restrained and their influence on government decisions checked, Muslims should not be optimistic about government jobs. They must try for that, but that shall be like swimming against the tide. 

Present circumstances demand every possible effort by Muslims for Muslims to generate and increase employment opportunities. With planned and organized effort, that should not be difficult. Others, willing to join should be welcome.« 

 

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