Opinions

Indian Muslims in search of a new Gandhi

A rejoinder to Mr Guha

For him, Muslims are represented by the likes of Arif Mohammad Khan, Chagla and Dalwai. It reminds me of what late Mr Raj Narayan had told me way back in the 1070s.  He said, it’s not going to be difficult for you to become a massive political leader overnight. Upon enquiring about the formula for the same, he said, “Simply abuse/look down upon your community and religion!” If this is the criterion, then what else can be said?

I want to ask Mr Guha what he expects of the Indian Muslim: many of us did not accept Jinnah as our leader and for us Gandhi was the leader whose ideology we all accepted. Unfortunately, he was killed soon after Independence by RSS bhakhts.  We never considered Liaqat Ali as our leader. Instead, we had complete faith in Nehru as PM. But in this country now, Nehru is also being removed from history books and his reputation is being tarnished slowly. It’s such a shame that when our PM visited UN, he mentioned the names of even those PMs who had served for a few months but he conveniently forgot to take the name of the PM who served for 11 long years. Nehru was a PM whose last wish was to turn a religiously diverse country into a secular one.  

The most important leader from within the minority community in India was Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. He fought against the Muslim League on the one hand and against the RSS on the other. Sadly, the person he fought against from the Muslim League became the Quad-e-Azam of a country and another from the RSS side has now become the sage of this country. Azad kept fighting against the religious forces ultimately got buried at the doorstep of Jama Masjid and with him his legacy was also buried.

Finally, Muslims got a leader in Dr Faridi in the 1960s and he launched the “Muslim Majlis” as a political party. In 1967, he held a big rally in which he invited Mr Parihaar to unite Dalit, backwards, SC/ST and Muslims on a solid, single platform. But even in Dr Faridi’s case Muslims gave him just a 2-3 per cent votes and his political venture was short-lived.

Then, after many years, in the 1990s when I met Kanshi Ram, he told me bluntly that we started DS4 after that Parihaar-Faridi meeting and now we have the government in our hands. So basically, Muslims didn’t accept their own leader and were ready to rally behind another party based on the same ideology but with some other leader.

Another leader was Syed Shahabuddin. Thanks to the media painting him as another Jinnah, he also was not successful in garnering a majority of Muslim votes.

Historically, Muslims in India, barring a few, have always voted for SECULAR parties. These same “secular” parties, when they saw that the Muslim vote is now becoming a liability, conveniently dumped them leaving them in a limbo. Still Mr Guha and others want us to come in the mainstream? Can he kindly inform us what exactly does he mean by this?

So where should the “Muslim” go from here?  Mr Guha lives in the South. May be that’s the reason he is not being able to understand the situation the Muslims, especially in the North, are finding themselves in. Muslims in the north have seen the Mutiny and Partition from very close quarters. The day India got independence, the entire blame was placed on the shoulder of the Muslim minority alone. The fact is that it’s been established repeatedly (even by the BJP leader Jaswant Singh clearly in his book, Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence), that it was the handiwork of both the parties concerned. As a result, Muslims are in a very defensive position and we should know that any community living in fear does not prosper. These people have also seen how people who migrated from Pakistan had been accepted locally. The truth is that those who stayed back in India also deserve inclusiveness. Another fact that cannot be ignored is that if all the Muslims would’ve packed their bags and migrated then Pakistan’s borders would not have been limited to Lahore but to Lucknow.

But the reality is that Indians who stayed back are yet to be accepted whole-heartedly in the Indian mainstream. Isn’t it a shame that a community that rallys behind the country with utmost sincerity is being doubted, questioned and occasionally even attacked. They have to fight for their identity at regular intervals.

According to the Constitution of India, two consenting adults are allowed to marry regardless of religion but recently a non-Muslim girl got married to a Muslim boy and a High Court of this country nullified their marriage. But it didn’t end at this. Throughout, the boy was being targeted on the basis of some ill-founded and cooked-up charges of his allegiance to the ISIS. The point is that even if it was true, they still have no right to terminate a lawful marriage.

This onslaught on the rights and lives of minorities is taking a toll even on the secular people of our country. They feel if they speak up they will be picked up as well.

I feel Mr Guha should’ve questioned the hard-line leadership running the country now. They’ve re-invented the “Hindu” religion. The religion which was once known for tolerance is being re-branded as communal, engulfed in inferiority complexes. They are determined to highlight and rejoice in fictitious incidents where Rana Pratap was victor and Akbar loser. Very soon, their saffron historians will give Rani Jhansi more credit than Queen Victoria. This complex of the majority community is taking us where, no one knows.

They’re trying to enflame passions and if such learned people like Guha take such stands then it makes me feel that my stand of the community’s abstinence from the country’s political life is correct. I request Mr Guha to re-assessment the minorities and gauge for himself where their loyalties lie. It’s a shame when our vision gets limited to the dressing of a section of our community. If someone wants to observe burqa”/veil, let it be a personal choice based on one’s conviction. It should not be by compulsion but if it is by choice, then it should be respected. That is the kind of freedom guaranteed to every citizen in out Constitution. As they say, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, don’t judge someone only by his/her attire!

Don’t forget that the two big leaders of the modern Indian history, Gandhi and Maulana Azad, were both very religious. Gandhiji was a hard-core Hindu, who used to start his day with prayers that used to last around an hour and whose last words were HEY RAM! Yet India has yet to find a more secular leader than him. Maulana Azad, if not in politics, would’ve been known worldwide as a great Muslim scholar

In the end, I would like to remind everyone that being religious along with being a secular patriot is not only a possibility but rather a phenomenon that forms the basis of our Indian history. We don’t need to choose one but need instead to try to be both!

I hope that one day the Indian Muslim will get another Gandhi, one who is not limited to election manifestos! 

The writer is a former member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha)

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