Opinions

Gandhi and Babri Masjid

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In the backdrop of the Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti, I have been sitting wondering how would he, Mahatma Gandhi, have reacted to the verdict on the destroyers of the Babri Masjid. He would have been more than dismayed and devastated to know that all the accused have been acquitted by the Special Court. Perhaps, Gandhi would have voiced not just his concerns and but also raised pertinent queries, focusing on the fact that that destruction wasn’t that of just a historic structure of religious significance, but it also sowed seeds of destruction and disharmony in the entire country. And even far beyond.

That destruction of the Babri masjid can be termed as a turning point in the recent history of the country, as it paved way for many more disasters to come in way of our collective survival. To quote Khushwant Singh from one of his earlier writings – “Ever since Advani’s rath yatra, I have been severely critical of him and at a public platform, I told him that he is responsible for sowing the seeds of hatred between the communities… his rath yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya culminated in the destruction of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992…. Khushwant also wrote details to the offshoots to the Babri Masjid destruction – “The repercussions were worldwide. Enraged Muslims targeted Hindu and Sikh temples in Bangladesh and even in the U.K …. And in India, relations between Hindus and Muslims have never been the same. There were communal confrontations in different parts of the country: the serial blasts in Mumbai, the attack on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra and the massacre of the innocent Muslims in Gujarat can all be traced back to the fall of the Babri Masjid. ….However, the BJP reaped a rich electoral harvest, won many of the elections that followed and eventually installed Atal Behari Vajpayee as prime minister and LK Advani as his deputy…”

Not to be overlook the fact the three - LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti were amply ‘rewarded’ for their deed! After all, Advani was made deputy prime minister of the country, Joshi was made the HRD minister and Uma Bharti the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.

Today, of course, we have reached such a hopeless situation that nobody has been left in a condition to react to any of the fresh onslaughts! Too many disasters and setbacks and tragedies are taking place every day. Day after day. If you recall the Muslim community did not even react last Autumn (Autumn of 2019) when the verdict on the Ram Janambhumi/Babri Masjid was announced. Muslims sat back, sad and disappointed and that’s about it. …they have been witnessing and withstanding all sorts of tragedies in these recent years. Quiet and forlorn they sit. With nil expectations left from this present Right-Wing government.

Google Doodle honours Zohra Sehgal!

Last Tuesday, Google honoured Zohra Sehgal. After all, her film Neecha Nagar was released at the Cannes Film Festival on that day in 1946. … Seeing her up there, got me in that introspective mood. Kept thinking of the two earlier occasions when I'd interviewed the actress-theatre personality Zohra Sehgal. What had impressed me was her spontaneity and her tendency to offload. Telling me details about her personal life, along the dastangoi/story telling strain.

Chatting informally as though we’d known each other for years, she didn’t shy away from narrating those financial lows she’d been through after her husband Kamleshwar Sehgal had killed himself. His death had left her and her children traumatized. And it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who helped her at that very crucial juncture of her life and career.

Thereafter she left Mumbai, to re-establish herself in the UK, only to return... Starting off another long phase of work, struggle and more of those turns and twists. In fact, details and those turns and twists in her life have been webbed in a book on her. Written by her daughter Kiran, titled Zohra Sehgal: ‘Fatty’ (Niyogi Books), this book was launched in 2012.

A trained classical Odissi dancer and artist Jatin Das’ former spouse, Kiran has done an excellent job of putting together all those ups and downs in her mother Zohra's life …Let me quote her from the foreword to this book: “When someone asked me to wrote a book on my mother I wondered, ‘What can I write about her? She is my mother and that’s it.’ Most important, I am not a writer - far from it. I can only dance and nothing else! Then the seed was sown and I kept thinking about it as days went by. This was in 2006, almost six years ago. My mind travelled in reverse gear to my childhood with her, my father Kamleshwar Sehgal, and my brother Pawan, in 41 Pali Hill, Mumbai (then Bombay). What a happy family we were. Her strictness, my father’s laughter, the get-gathers with the neighbours, my friends and I running all over the place, going to school and of course to Prithvi Theatre with her. My first dance lessons and training were with my mother and I learnt a lot from watching her ‘dance’…I have written this book not as a historian or as a experienced writer but as a daughter who has been with her mother throughout the mother’s ‘ups’ and ‘downs’, her struggle, her tragedies, and her several moods! My mother has also been a great friend to me. We’ve had our fights, disagreements and criticism of each other - more her than me – our jokes on ourselves and on others. It has been wonderful…On 27 April, 2012 my mother Zohra Sehgal completes a hundred years of excitement in dance, theatre, films, television and this journey we call life. She exclaims, ‘I have hundred years of history in me!’ Congratulations, Ammi!”