Sunday, August 23, 2009

Unbottling the Djinn of Jinnah

The powerful persona of Jinnah still reverberates in India sixty years after his death. Dead Jinnah has the potential to shatter and disintegrate an increasingly fascist BJP where freedom and forgiveness are being applied selectively. What would have been the fate of BJP had Jinnah been alive? Nehru and Gandhi have been painted as permanent saints while Jinnah has been portrayed as a permanent sinner in the Indian history. When one looks closely at the cult figure of Jinnah, the famous line comes to mind: No man can be hero all through his life…

Nobody would have thought that Jaswant Singh, one of the tallest BJP leaders, would unbottle the jinn of Jinnah from the bottle of history and mystery! The core issue of the ongoing debate is not that Jaswant Singh’s new book on Jinnah has rattled the BJP but his contention that Jinnah was not responsible for the Partition of India and the blame lay with Nehru and Vallabhai Patel. We will examine this assumption later; let’s first have a look at the kind of man Jinnah was and what drove him towards two-nation theory which culminated in the creation of Pakistan.

Jinnah was a towering national leader much before Gandhi returned from South Africa and entered public life. Jinnah was a colleague of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He was better known than Motilal Nehru, Tej Bahadur Sapru and M.R. Jayakar. Gandhi’s rise to prominence lies in the Khilafat movement which Jinnah bitterly opposed. Jinnah was a permanent secular liberal while Gandhi adjusted his secularism according to the prevalent condition and the requirement. Gandhi believed in the idea of compromise while Jinnah didn’t. Gandhi appeased Muslims with Khilafat movement and Hindus by intoning Ramrajya. Therein lays the popularity of Gandhi. It is this “compromise” of Gandhi that made him more popular than any other leader in the Indian subcontinent.

In a letter dated October 30, 1920 – which is of historic importance – Jinnah wrote to Gandhi:

“I thank you for your kind suggestion offering me ‘to take my share in the new life that has opened up before the country’. If by ‘new life’ you mean your methods and your programme, I am afraid I cannot accept them; for I am fully convinced that it must lead to disaster. But the actual new life that has opened up before the country is that we are faced with a Government that pays no heed to the grievances, feelings and sentiments of the people; that our own countrymen are divided; the Moderate Party is still going wrong; that your methods have already caused split and division in almost every institution that you have approached hitherto, and in the public life of the country not only amongst Hindus and Muslims but between Hindus and Hindus and Muslims and Muslims and even between fathers and sons; people generally are desperate all over the country and your extreme programme has for the moment struck the imagination mostly of the inexperienced youth and the ignorant and the illiterate...I have no voice or power to remove the cause; but at the same time I do not wish my countrymen to be dragged to the brink of a precipice in order to be shattered. The only way for the Nationalists is to unite and work for a programme which is universally acceptable for the early attainment of complete responsible government. Such a programme cannot be dictated by any single individual, but must have the approval and support of all the prominent Nationalist leaders in the country; and to achieve this end I am sure my colleagues and myself shall continue to work.”

Jinnah was beginning to dislike the dictatorship of Gandhi yet he remained a nationalist. After this, Jinnah’s disillusionment with Congress began to develop and there is historical evidence to this. The famous Nehru report which adopted alternative constitutional proposals ignored Jinnah completely. Jinnah’s 14-points were rejected the report. Further, he was personally humiliated at All-Parties Convention yet Jinnah remained steadfast and did not lose self-control. At the Convention he said, “We are all sons of the soil. We have to live together... If we cannot agree, let us at any rate agree to differ, but let us part as friends.”

In 1928, Jinnah advised and insisted Congress to seek Hindu Mahasabha’s assent to which Nehru arrogantly replied, “There are only two parties in the county, the Congress and the government.” Jinnah shot back, “There is a third party in the country and that is the Muslims.” Jayakar questioned Jinnah’s credentials as a representative and Nehru did the same in 1937 when he said, “May I suggest to Mr. Jinnah that I come into greater touch with the Muslim masses than most of the members of the League.”

Jinnah took up this challenge personally and began to work in order to establish his political credentials.

All this did not dishearten Jinnah to such an extent that he demands a separate homeland for Muslims. Till 1937, Jinnah saw “no difference between the ideals of the Muslim League and of the Congress, the ideal being complete freedom for India.”

Jinnah became to nurse a grudge against Nehru and Congress after his repeated attempts to obtain constitutional safeguards for Muslims and attempts at power-sharing had failed.
In October 1937, he said that “all safeguards and settlements would be a scrap of paper unless they were backed up by power.” In Britain the parties alternate in holding power. “But such is not the case in India. Here we have a permanent Hindu majority....”

This is where Jinnah went horribly wrong. His constant humiliation led him to majority-minority trap. He forgot that the key issue to Muslim development was through empowerment on all fronts including politics. Jinnah was so frustrated that he raised the slogan of “permanent Hindu majority”. As ace commentator A.G. Noorani writes, “The solution lay, not in aggravating the communal divide by his two-nation theory; but in the tactics of the Jinnah of old - mobilise both communities, espouse secular values and seek protection for the rights of all minorities as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had urged him to do.”

In February 1938, Jinnah delivered a speech which is not well-known. There he poured his heart out: “At that time there was no pride in me and I used to beg from the Congress.” The first “shock” came at the Round Table Conference; the next, in 1937. “The Musalmans were like the No Man’s land. They were led by either the flunkeys of the British government or the camp-followers of the Congress…”

When viceroy asked him about the alternative, he replied on October 5, 1939, that “an escape from the impasse ... lay in the adoption of Partition”.

If Nehru compromised on minorities rights then Jinnah on India’s unity although both men were secularists. A.G. Noorani writes,

“Therein lies the tragedy. Nehru harmed secularism by denying the legitimacy of minority rights. Jinnah ruined it by the two-nation theory.”

He adds,

“Yet, it is doubtful if, in the entire history of India’s struggle for freedom, anyone else has been subjected to such a sustained, determined denigration and demonisation as Jinnah has been from 1940 to this day, by almost everyone - from the leaders at the very top to academics and journalists.”

The Cabinet Mission’s Plan of May 16, 1946, for a united India failed and dragged it “into the abyss of inevitability.” Everyone including Nehru and Patel had given up; only Maulana Abul Kalam Azad remained opposed to it. Both Nehru and Jinnah were equally responsible for the Partition.

“Jinnah”, in the word of A.G. Noorani, “was of a heroic mould but fell prey to bitterness and the poison that bitterness breeds.”

No man can be hero all through his life. It equally applies to Jinnah as well.

The last word should be left to M.J. Akbar:

History might be better understood if we did not treat it as a heroes-and-villains movie. Life is more complex than that. The heroes of our national struggle changed sometimes with circumstances.
Sunday Inquilab, August 23, 2009

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Indian memorizers ready for Taraweeh Test

Qur'an memorizers ready for special prayers of Ramadan

MALEGAON – Shabbir Ahmed, 45, has been leading the Tarawih, a special night prayer during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in this small town of Maharashtra state for more than twenty years.

For him, this honor is the culmination of tireless study and practice throughout the year.
“I do daily and rigorous preparation for 11 months so that I can lead the special night prayer in the month of Ramadan,” Ahmed, who sat cross-legged on a clean mat, told
“I devote at least two hours daily for recitation of the Qur’an.”
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.
The Tarawih prayer usually includes the recitation of the entire 114 surah and 6,666 verses of the Qur'an divided on the days of the month.
Ahmed says that just 15 days before the beginning of Ramadan, he recites the entire Qur’an in one sitting without looking in the book.
“This is the longest and final revision call.”
Ahmed, who is not a full-time imam, says that during Ramadan itself he usually recites the assigned chapters of the holy book at least ten times in a single day.
“When I go onto the prayer mat to lead the special night prayer, it’s the eleventh time.”
Ahmed does not understand Arabic but this has never been an obstacle.
“I don’t know Arabic. But that has very little to do with memorization of the Qur’an.”
He asserts that memorizing the Qur’an is the easy part, while preserving the Word of Allah in human heart is that makes a difference.
“What matters is your intent. If your intentions are pure, then Allah will guide and help you to memorize His Book.”
Qari Rizwan, a mosque imam, says he has been eagerly waiting for the beginning of Ramadan.
“Ramadan is our most beloved month,” he told IOL.
“We, memorizers of Qur’an, prepare for months to recite the holy book in the special night prayer,” he explained.
“Ramadan is a month to bear the fruits of labor.”
Hafiz Ibrahim, one of the most senior memorizers, recalls the old days when there were very few people who would come forward to brace this uphill task.
“There was a time when very few families would volunteer to devote their sons for memorization of the Qur’an but now things have changed,” he told IOL.
“Malegaon alone has thousands of such persons.”
Ibrahim feels blessed to have led fifty five Tarawih prayers before his retirement because of his age.
“All you need to do is stay calm and not panic,” he advises the younger generation of Qur’an memorizers.
“The key to successful recital lies in daily practice,” he explains.
Ahmed sums up the mood for him and fellow Qur’an memorizers.
“It is like our examination,” he says cheerfully. August 20 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Diarrhoea does not Matter in Malegaon

According to one estimate, 55 deaths have occurred because of diarrhoea, pneumonia and other related diseases in the last one and half months in the textile town of Malegaon. State government must declare an emergency. Is anyone listening?

Ordinary Indians, politicians and a select group of media organisations may have become paranoid over the issue of swine flu but a placid calm greets dingy by-lanes of Malegaon as the town reels under the shadow of diarrhoea, Calera, pneumonia and other related diseases. The brave hearts of this small and neglected corner of Maharashtra face death with honour. In October 2001, we faced police bullets. The 2006 blasts did not shatter us; we did not lose the element of sanity. 2008 blast was a grave provocation to spark a communal conflagration but saffron souls didn’t succeed. We lost our sense of sanity for sometime but common sense and good judgment prevailed over anger. Malegaon did not crumble.

It’s a different kind of terror this time. It has surfaced in the form an epidemic, a disease which refuses to lie low even after a month, a disease which refuses to take orders from superior government officials. Let’s face it: filth is our recognition. Whether we like it or not, it’s true. That is how a Muslim mohalla is recognised: by heaps of garbage. From Mumbai’s Kurla to Delhi’s Chandani Chowk, it’s the same old story.

That’s only the one part of the story. The second part is equally despicable and ugly. Our representatives have failed us. The issue of Muslim leadership is a mirage. According to records maintained by Bada Qabristan trust, 55 Muslims have died in the last one and half months because of diarrhoea, pneumonia and other related diseases. One may dispute the actual figure of death toll but no Muslim will provide the wrong cause of death to Qabristan authorities. That brings us to an interesting question: Will 2009 be remembered as a year of medical terror? The current estimate exceeds the death toll of two bomb blasts put together. Did anyone realize that?

The wave of diarrhoea began in the first week of July. If local administration took time to wake up late then State government was in deep slumber till Shobha Buchao, minister of state for health visited Malegaon on August 10. Her quiet visit to Malegaon did not change the prevalent ground realities. Deputy CM Chagun Bhujbhal repeated the usual platitudes on Saturday when he visited Malegaon General Hospital. He was misled by handful Marathi journalists who even went on to claim that beef-eating and slaughterhouse are the main cause of diarrhoea wave! Muslim politicians kept quiet. Silence may be a virtuous act but in such a time of communal mudslinging, silence must be declared a political sin! It seemed as if those Marathi journalists had been hired to advice the deputy CM and the local administration! The press conference was turned into a public relation conference!

As India marches ahead in every sphere of life, the colonial Indian mindset remains mired in the 18th century. State government is hyper-busy in a much-hyped swine flu precisely because it comes with a made-in-America tag! Diarrhoea is a local phenomenon and it comes with a made-in-Malegaon tag. Any foreign-export even in the form of disease and epidemic is considered worthy of media coverage. Mainstream media may have completely ignored Malegaon epidemic wave because towns are not part of their target audience.

What will happen if this kind of diarrhoea wave grips a metropolitan city like Mumbai? What would have been the response of state government if this epidemic spread in Ashok Chavan’s home town? Malegaon’s diarrhoea wave is more dangerous than India’s swine flu. It has taken more lives than swine flu if we compare it proportionately.

Incidentally, all the victims happened to be Muslims. A question worth-asking: Is Muslim blood cheap in the eyes of state government?

Malegaon should not be remembered only for riots and bomb blasts. Senior journalist Pamela Philipose has rightly observed in September 2006, “The tragedy of the September 8 blasts in this town served to uncover the greater tragedy of Malegaon, a town that Maharashtra — and India — remembers only in times of blasts and riots.”

State government needs to give a human face to human beings of Malegaon.

Inquilab, August 18, 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Seeds of Anger and Despair

The collective Muslim response to dropping of MCOCA against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and company may have confused ordinary Indians but this response is a mirror image of decades of cries for justice. It encompasses and narrates the story of decades of bias, hate, neglect and subjugation openly practiced by communal forces and at times by the state apparatus directly. It captures the mood of a downtrodden and penniless Mussalman. There is indeed a sense of victimhood among Muslims, but too is not misplaced. Exaggeration of victimhood is a natural corollary to the events that unfolded on the night of Independence Day and continue to reoccur in various forms and manifestations till today.

There was a time when riots were a means of terror. And this terror was being implemented with a sickening regularity. In the beginning, riots were sporadic, localized and controllable but this changed in post-Nehru era. As eminent historian Mushirul Hasan writes,

“Riots at Aligarh, Kanpur, Meerut, Moradabad in UP, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Baroda and Surat in Gujarat, were bloodier, more widespread, and extended over weeks and months.”

Post-Babri and Gujarat 2002 riots are the finest example of this phenomenon. What more, this phenomenon was being helped and abetted by the State governments. As India entered into internet and 24x7 eras, it became extremely difficult to engineer riots. (Gujarat genocide of 2002 is an exception but then it has been heavily documented. It is precisely for this reason that Narendra Modi’s role is being investigated).

The Muslim answer to the riots came in the form of serial bomb blasts. Dawood Ibrahim pioneered this trend at such a time when Muslim self-esteem was below the belt. He successfully channalised Muslim despair into violence which turned to be fatal for the community in the long-run. Dawood’s one-single devilish idea has uncorked blocked arteries of Hindu fundamentalists! Bombs began to explode in Hindu as well as Muslim neighbourhood wearing the cloak of anonymity. Investigating agencies only gave a ‘Muslim’ name to this anonymity and the ‘Hindu’ remained anonymous till the Sadhvi episode. It was being implemented to redress a community’s grievance that it has been denied justice. Bomb-plotters of 1993 have been punished by India’s judicial system. Judiciary deserves a standing ovation for this feat. The culprits of 2003 twin blasts have been punished. But judiciary behaves like a toddler when it comes to punishing the rioters. A toddler cannot do anything without the help of his parents! (read executive). To an average Muslim, it is natural to ask: Is judiciary biased? Does it only favour the majority community?

The seeds of anger breed despair. And despair did begin to crawl in the Muslim mind. Despair can be a deadly weapon as senior journalist Shoma Chaudhury writes,

“When you lose faith that a system will protect and play fair by you, it breeds fatal recklessness. It makes you abdicate from the rules that cement human relations. Despair can turn you from citizen to perpetrator. From the hunted to the hunter.”

Meanwhile the trend of exploding bomb was being implemented by Hindu zealots as well. The myth that bomb blasts are only a Muslim specialty was ripped apart only in 2008 when Hemant Karkare’s ATS decided to lift the curtain from the hidden Hindu fundamentalists. Anonymity finally got another name. The long list of deadly masterminds (Safdar Nagori, Maulana Haleem, Mufti Abu Bashr, Atif Ameen etc) got another names in the form Sadhvi and Colonel Purohit. Bomb blasts of Hyderabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, Malegaon 2006 had only the ‘Muslim’ names. Malegaon 2008 revealed a ‘Hindu’ name for the first time although the same set of elements have been targeting mosques and other places in the Marthwada region (Parbhani, Purna, Jalna, Nanded) since 2003.

There was a full stop to a long sentence of despair.

Muslims once again regained faith in Maharashtra’s premier terror agency. The one single act of arresting Sadhvi and the company began to erase decades of mistrust. Hate, revenge, bias and injustice began to evaporate from the Muslim mind and then came the first judicial jolt which paralysed the Muslim psyche. For the first time, Indian Muslims had got an opportunity to prove their innocence. To prove that bombs-making techniques are not taught in their madrasas and homes alone. Temples and Ashrams too have been used as a terror factory. They rightly raised the issue that there was not a single blast after the arrests of Sadhvi.

The first test of sincerity of ATS will be proved in Bombay High Court or Supreme Court of India. The real test of ATS will be the conviction of all the accused of Malegaon 2008 blast; be it under MCOCA or under Indian Penal Code (IPC). If the grave charges of the ATS are to be believed, all the accused can be easily convicted under IPC. Conviction and not the legislation will be the litmus test for the ATS. And even after all this, if ATS fails to convict the accused then they will be remembered as an anti-Muslim agency like Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) of yesterday years which has slaughtered many Muslims of UP in the riots of 70s and 80s. In his book, New Wave of Violence, C.F. Rustamji quotes a senior police official as:

“I have watched with dismay during the year 1982, the conversion of the Uttar Pradesh PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) from the model force that I worked with in the fifties to a unit which is feted by the Hindus and hated by the Muslims in the towns of Uttar Pradesh.”

ATS can’t afford to be compared to dreaded PAC. Krish Pal Raghuvanshi can still save his team and men-in-khaki from the bad name.

The seeds of anger and despair have been planted on the soil of Malegaon. It should not turn into a volcano.

Sunday Inquilab, August 9, 2009

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Justice or Just-ice?

Saffron "terror": Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur outside court (file photo)

“Doubt”, wrote M.J. Akbar, “is theoretically equidistant from right and wrong, but in real life, there is evidence, evidence creates weightage, and the weight of evidence demands judgement.” Now that stringent MCOCA has been dropped against Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and all other accused in Malegaon 2008 blast, ‘dormant’ doubt of people of Malegaon concerning ATS will get a new leash of life. And why should it not? They have an every right to be doubtful of an organisation which, perhaps, has provided little legal evidence against Sadhvi. Doubt as a consequence of rumour can be dangerous but now it has acquired judicial stamp of approval.

Doubt gives birth to many unanswered and intriguing questions: Did prosecution go soft on the accused? Was the arrest of all the accused to buy the time of minority community and hoodwink them after the general elections are over? Was the arrest meant to alter the thought-process of Muslim sub consciousness? Did the death of Hemant Karkare make space for the evaporation of “evidence”? Did KP Raghuvanshi slowly loosen his grip on the baton passed on by his predecessor? Or did he deliberately forget to implement his successful 2006 blast formula of legal entrapment? Or is he taking orders from political masters? What is the quality of evidence available with the ATS? What were the demerits of legal argument of ATS that fell flat in a court of law?

When Sadhvi and company were arrested, the men-in-Khaki behaved like trumpeters of triumph. They successfully used mainstream media to plant and leak “exclusive” stories in order to create a goody-goody image and leave an impression that they were being very ‘secular’. In a way, they left such an imprint upon people that they had the credible evidence against the accused. No other bomb blast has got so much media coverage and hype in the recent years. ATS was too busy fighting the Malegaon blast case in the media jungle rather than in a court of law. The discharge of Rakesh Dhawde from the Porna mosque blast case on Wednesday was taken lightly by the ATS. ATS officials, in fact, went on record to claim that his discharge will not affect the Malegaon blast case!

The ATS of KP Raghuvanshi must remember that their integrity and honesty is proved in a court of law. We would advise KP Raghuvanshi to follow his 2006 manual which he very “successfully” applied on 2006 Malegaon blast accused. His tactful application of MCOCA has lasted three years and its fate has been reserved in the Supreme Court.
The first major blow is judicial. KP Raghuvanshi and his men still have time to prove their assumptions in a higher court of law.

Meanwhile, a question on everybody’s lips in Malegaon is this: Is it justice or just-ice?

Justice has begun to melt like ice in public perception.

How will you deal with the public perception, Mr. Raghuvanshi?

Inquilab, August 1, 2009