National

Venomous right-wing brigades

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Poisoning unleashed by right-wing brigades is getting so blatantly and obnoxiously communal that even Muslim names and surnames seem provocative enough to trigger off verbal attacks on the Muslim community! Days after Kareena and Saif Ali Khan named their baby boy Taimur, I heard another of those slanted discussions on a particular television channel which comes up with nothing but indirect and even direct attacks on the minorities. Quite obviously that channel seems backed, if not funded, by the political rulers of the day, otherwise it couldn’t have had the legitimate sanction to telecast such slanted stuff. Anyway, back to the television discussion where a woman from a Hindutva outfit was telling a lone Muslim panelist, “You are a Maulana, so you go and tell Kareena and Saif that they should name their baby Sameer or some such name. Why Sameer because it goes well with both Hindus and Muslims…no, not Taimur as it hurts the sentiments of the Hindus of this country.”

So this is the state of affairs! The situation can be termed alarming or at least can be turning alarming in the year ahead. Imagine in a democratic republic one is told by the Hindutva brigade what name or surname I give my children or grandchildren.

I’d heard of several instances where Muslims ‘hacked’ half their names to survive in a riotous situation. A certain Babu Khan or Iqbal Khan chopping off, at least temporarily, their Khan surname in order to escape a communally-charged mob. More such instances came up soon after the Babri Masjid demolition and definitely during and after the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. And it left such an impact that I have based at least two of my short stories on this tragedy unfolding in our midst. Yet we sit like mute spectators as ‘Pied Pipers’ are leading us towards the ultimate round of disaster.

Today, the situation can be termed more than grim, as these attacks on the Musalmans, rather on their very identity, are based on sheer hatred. Right-wing brigades are armed with hatred for the ‘other’ and with that out to take on anyone and everyone with a Muslim name and surname. Quite obviously these brigades do not even bother to check on facts. Those who are spitting on Taimur (Taimur, the conqueror) ought to be knowledge-able enough to know another dimension to that conqueror: following Taimur’s invasion of North India in 1398, over 1,700 woodcarvers, architects, calligraphers and highly-specialized cooks migrated from Samarkand to Kashmir. In fact, a great majority of the Waza families in the Kashmir Valley trace their origin to Samarkand and these Wazas are specialized cooks who are behind the marvel called ‘feast of feast’: the Wazwans. These Wazas are in great demand by both Hindus and Musalmaans as wazwans are hosted for marriages, receptions and celebrations of all hues…

Why are we getting so short sighted!

Mamata Banerjee’s outburst on demonetization and also terming the prevailing conditions in the country as nothing short of an Emergency, cannot be called an alarmist reaction. She comes across as one of those realists who knows that more disasters would unfold if this level of authoritarianism at the Centre continues… There is a danger of the situation getting out of control. Yet, there seems no stopping these disasters. Little hue and cry from opposition parties and that’s about it. Civil society, firebrand activists and intellectuals do exist but, perhaps, their voice is getting drowned by the State machinery working round-the-clock to sabotage, if not to slap charges.

And where the Muslims and other minority communities are concerned, its futile for them to even expect any of those ‘healers’or ‘doles’ from this government or from the specially set up ministries and commissions for their supposed welfare! What welfare!

Another of those tragedies is that non-issues are played up to such an extent that the naive are sucked in and then thrown about towards a nowhere of sorts. In the last few days, hundreds have wasted time and energy taking on cricketer Mohammad Shami. Why? Why criticize what cricketer Mohammad Shami’s wife, Hasin Jahan, ought to wear or not to wear? Its none of our business to give directions on what one ought to eat or wear…or what names we give our children or grandchildren. Its too absurd and frivolous! No, there can’t be any interference in the private or in the not-so-private lives of just about anyone. It’s a pity we get distracted by non-issues.

Its about time the community focuses on many of the positives around. In fact, just read this news report of how a Telugu writer Syed Naseer Ahamed, with the help of Mohammed Farookh Shubli, founder-president of Youth Welfare, Vijayawada, has brought out a calendar for 2017 which focuses on India's Muslim freedom fighters. In the calendar he has highlighted 24 such freedom fighters, describing them – The Immortals.

The only and only way to counter the vicious propaganda that’s been unleashed by Hindutva groups is to bring to the fore the positives. In fact, on December 20, whilst watching a live presentation centering around the ‘Yalda Night’ I heard some of those offbeat comments which I would like to share with you …But first the backgrounder and significance to the Yalda Night. Iranians around the world celebrate Yalda which is one of the most ancient Persian festivals. On the accession of Yalda, Iranians celebrate the arrival of the winter festival and the victory of light over darkness. It has been considered the longest night of the year and apart from Iran, Central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and some Caucasian states like Azerbaijan and Armenia share the same tradition and celebrate the Yalda night around the same time of the year.

Here, in New Delhi, the Yalda night was hosted by the Iran Culture House and the IIC. And though the narration was primarily in Persian but nevertheless the richness of the tradition was not to be missed. Several Indians in the audience not just marveling the grandeur but whispering loud enough: “Didn’t know such beautiful traditions exist in these Muslim countries …what a lovely concept, what a tradition of reciting of verse and thanking the Creator!” Also, this comment that I’d overheard, “Such rich traditions of Muslims. Unbelievable!”

Yes, if only and only we highlight the positives and there are hundreds of them. In fact, some more focus on the Yalda Night: The 13th-century Iranian poet Sa’di writes in his book Bustaan: ‘The true morning will not come until the Yalda night is gone’…One of the other traditions of the Yalda night is recitation of the classic poetry of Hafez, the Iranian poet of the 14th century AD. Each member of the family makes a wish and randomly opens the book and asks the eldest member of the family read it aloud. What is expressed in the poem is believed to be the interpretation of the wish and whether and how it will come true. This is called Faal-e-Hafez (Hafez Omen)… Coinciding with the beginning of the winter, Yalda is an occasion to celebrate the end of the crop season…Thank the Lord for all the blessings and to pray for prosperity in the next year.

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