National

Caste politics is divisive; Justice Sachar inaugurates Sabka Ghar

Barely had the caste-dripping ‘chatur baniya’ crude comment made by Amit Shah settled down, the BJP is busy flaunting the Dalit background to their presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind.

I was under the impression that to talk of castes and sub-castes was somewhat banned in a democratic setup, but then I seem to have overlooked the fact that two sets of rules are prevailing in today’s India. Political rulers can get away with any of the divisive utterings but not the hapless masses, who have got to be fed on a daily dose of political tactics along caste-creed calculations.

Tell me, will these symbolic gestures manage to feed hundreds and thousands of the disadvantaged Dalits? Will it lessen the police and administrative atrocities against them? Will it give them the freedom to eat or wear or marry according to their choice? Will it lessen the humiliations they face in our rural and urban stretches?

I recall when President Abdul Kalam was appointed as President of India, there was more excitement amongst the scientist community than in the Muslim community. As several Muslims had told me rather loud and clear, “Dr Kalam did not speak out when Muslims were getting brutally attacked and killed during the Gujarat pogrom…he has never spoken out against any of the harsh realities faced by the Muslim community. In fact, on the contrary, former President KR Narayanan was outspoken and he had relayed his disgust at the killings of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002…” In a healthy democracy you don’t have to hand pick the who’s who from this or that caste or community! What for? All that’s required is a leader who is just and fair and, ah yes, outspoken when he sees political climate getting murky.

Here let me get into focus another related aspect. During the first week of January 2006, I was in Hyderabad for a feature I was writing and in that context had been meeting a large number of Muslims. Of course, I knew that during the same week the Pravasi Diwas was on in Hyderabad and that President Kalam was there as the chief guest. But as I wasn’t covering the event so kept miles away from the venue. Focused in the Old City area, I was interacting with those struggling to make two ends meet. One evening I came across a group of young Muslim men and women who looked somewhat shaken and upset. Apparently they had tried to meet President Kalam to bring to his notice the blatant discriminations they were facing in terms of getting jobs and also in other spheres, but in spite of their persistent efforts they couldn’t get an appointment. As a gutsy woman had put across, “What’s all this hype about a Muslim President? Its okay to show to the world that we have someone from the minority community in the top slot, but what good is this window dressing for us, for the community? These political tamashas are getting too much!”

Getting back to today’s realities, the Opposition could have geared up and come up with ‘their’ names early. Why this delay? In fact, there had come up some ray of hope as Gopal Krishna Gandhi’s name had come up during the initial stages. He carries those ‘presidential’ qualities: he is apolitical. He writes and talks and behaves like a statesman. He is against the death sentence. He has been persistent in coming up with very strong arguments against those horrifying ‘off-with-head’ orders!’ Above all, he is the grandson of the Father of the Nation. With that he must be carrying several of Mahatma Gandhi’s rare qualities.

SABKA GHAR: a new home in Delhi for the disadvantaged

Last week, when activist Faisal Khan, heading the Khudai Khidmatgar, sent me an invite for the opening of Sabka Ghar, I kept staring at the two words! In this political climate the very word ‘sabka’ is rarely uttered, except in fraudulent political speeches.

Justice Rajinder Sachar inaugurating Sabka Ghar
Justice Rajinder Sachar inaugurating Sabka Ghar

The why to this home-for-all, Faisal detailed, “In Sabka Ghar we’ll be inviting youth from across the country to spend time here with us, to learn those basic values of togetherness, respect for the ‘other’…in fact, we are dedicating this home to all those who have been killed in the name of religion, caste, gender and boundaries.”

Yes, I did go for its inauguration by Justice Rajinder Sachhar…and it was absolutely heartening to see this neat little ghar tucked in a locality adjoining the Jamia Millia Islamia. There was an air of warmth and togetherness. Many activists, academics and students had travelled from various locales and localities for the inauguration of not just a home but also of an idea! Perhaps, this home could be one of those take offs towards healing many of those bruises that communal politicians and their policies have been inflicting on us.

And I did make it a point to tell Faisal that the Khudai Khidmatgar should also invite a refugee family to this ghar…Let politicians not succeed in throwing about those typical or potential terror tags to those seeking refuge here. Ironically, half of this capital city’s population has been refugees at some stage of their lives, yet the apathy and insensitivity towards the present-day refugees. Why?

Let Khudai Khidmatgar activists help us connect with the refugees trying to survive in a communally-charged environment. Mind you, this hostility is building up over the years. Earlier on the World Refugee Day - June 20 - there would be several events lined up to mark the Day but this year nothing really happened except a film screened by the UNHCR… Today, we don’t bother to put up even any of those symbolic gestures! Naïve and short-sighted of us, not really realizing that just about anyone can be reduced to this state of seeking refuge. Could the Syrians have ever visualized that the brute powers of the world would have reduced their beautiful towns and cities to complete ruin …making them flee here and there! Today it’s the Syrians, tomorrow it could be us!

AFTER YEARS HEARD SUCH AN OUTSPOKEN WRITER!

Last evening at the launch of the Italian journalist and novelist, Carlo Pizzati’s book The Edge of an Era (Juggernaut Books) at the India International Centre, I heard one of the starkest conversations between him and Manu Joseph.

This Chennai-based Italian journo didn’t mince words, whilst commenting on the hyped politics around nationalism, terrorism, violence, refugees…Space constraints come in way in detailing each one his comments but what touched me was his honest comment on those fleeing from their homelands and seeking refuge in Europe…His words along the strain: those fleeing know they can’t get back to their home countries and then when they are not totally accepted in the countries they are desperately seeking refuge, they face humiliation on a daily basis and this humiliation carries offshoots…

The Edge of an Era is one of those must reads. It is a collection of three interviews with critical theorist Homi Bhabha, philosopher John Gray and essayist Pankaj Mishra about the return of barbarism, the threat to cosmopolitan identity, the rise of nationalism, the many failures of globalization, the increasing challenges of technocracy and the crisis of neo-liberal elites.

We hope you liked this report/article. The Milli Gazette is a free and independent readers-supported media organisation. To support it, please contribute generously. Click here or email us at sales@milligazette.com

blog comments powered by Disqus