Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Return of Holy Cow!

Saffron souls clash with police on July 22 in Malegaon
At what point did in Indian history cow become holy to Hindus? The question is obviously rhetorical but needs an honest deliberation. The cow has never been sacred to all Hindus. The view that cow is sacred is merely a sectional Hindu view. It has been a matter of inter-religious debate for decades but one thing is certain: cow slaughter and beef-eating are proven Hindu traditions. Beef used to be served as honour to guests in ancient India. Therefore, the cow became holy at a much later period as part of Hinduism reforms. In traditional or ancient Hinduism, cow has never been sacred.

The month of July can be rightly described as the month of holy cow! It has returned to haunt us in more than one way: Malegaon-Manmad-road cow row was just a flashpoint. The holy cow made a quiet entry from down South in Karnataka assembly. The controversial Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Prevention of Cattle Bill, 2010 was passed in the legislative council on July 15 amid protests by the opposition. If the bill becomes a law, it will affect eating habits of many communities, sportspersons, animals in the zoo etc.

The holy cow entered Maharashtra on July 21. We do not know the exact entry point but the holy cow did a road-show on the outskirts of Malegaon before landing in Mantrayla on July 22!

Why did the Opposition protest the passing of the bill in Karnataka assembly? Does the opposition consists of only Muslims?

The sacredness of cow is not a Hindu-Muslim question alone as it has been persistently made out in the media. Karnataka opposition was representing millions of Hindus who still eat beef. Dalits and tribals have always eaten beef as part of ancient Hinduism. A ban in would mean imposition on hundreds of millions of Dalits and tribals. Also, beef is eaten regularly in India’s North-East.

The “Malegaon cow slaughter”, as the mainstream media reported, never took place. Ignorance, as we say in journalism, is bliss. The phrase “Malegaon cow slaughter” is a misnomer. First, the incident did not take place in Malegaon town; eight cows were found dead on Malegaon-Manmad road. By highlighting the word ‘Malegaon’ with the cows, media is playing in the hands of communalists; they want to defame a peace-loving town which did not lose its cool after witnessing two deadly bomb blasts. Media must remember that Malegaon is not a slaughterhouse of all goodness! The word ‘Malegaon’ immediately creates a sensation. Anything sensational in media sells these days.

Second, there was no ‘slaughter’ of the cows; eight cows died because of suffocation and the post-mortem report confirms this. There was no trace of injury or cuts on the body. But not all are convinced. Miscreants belonging to Hindutva brigade are spreading a lie with the help of some pictures. Any sane man would know that body needs to be cut in order to perform autopsy. Veterinary surgeon performed autopsy of the cows. The pictures of cuts borne by the vet’s knife are being circulated over the internet. It is being claimed that cows were indeed ‘slaughtered’! (Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti is one such website; it puts the number of “slaughtered cows” to 25!) These pictures serve as the propaganda weapon for the right-wing brigade which is consistently becoming violent. Some of the Muslims might interpret the cow incident as part of a “conspiracy” to cause riot. The cow incident does not seem to be part of any conspiracy as of now; it seems more like a co-incidental accident. But people of Malegaon may have reasonable doubts which may or may not be valid. After all, one such ‘conspiracy’ has already taken place in Malegaon in 1984. A Hindu deity was garlanded with a bone-necklace by an RSS activist in order to cause riot. Malegaon could have witnessed a massive riot because the temple of the deity stood next to a mosque. It was the genius of S. M. Mushrif, the then ASP of Malegaon, who unearthed the mystery of bone-necklace and prevented Malegaon from communal frenzy.

The right-wingers are in a mood for mischief. Kesari Chand Mehta, president of Gau-Raksha Samiti spit venom against Muslims on July 22 while presenting a memorandum to the local administration. Muslims must maintain the traditional chain of peace culminated in the aftermath of 2006 and 2008 blasts.

Interestingly, opposition survived the day of July 22 on a lie. A lie can breathe transient life in the lungs of an almost dead opposition but the life of a lie is shorter than a hyphen.

Mother cow, on whose horns universe survives according to Hindu worldview, must be angry over the lie. A slight movement of the horns will send Sena-BJP alliance into deep ravine of eternity.

The Sunday Inquilab, July 25, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Paradise Lost?

          A deserted Lal Chowk, Srinagar, June 22, 2010

“How shall I write its praise? As far as the eye could reach flowers of various hue were blooming, and in the midst of flowers and verdure beautiful streams of water were flowing: one might say it was a page that the painter of destiny had drawn with the pencil of creation. The buds of heart break into flower from beholding it.”
(Mughal Emperor Jahangir on seeing Guri valley of Kashmir, Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri, Memoirs of Jahangir)

Peace in Kashmir is a delicate illusion. The placid calm of magnificent Dal Lake in Srinagar can be confused with peace. But Dal Lake has been silent for centuries. So how does one measure peace in the Valley? One need not take a dip in Dal Lake to measure the depth of peace. Peace floats on its surface in Shikaras and houseboats. Floating Shikaras are a sign of peace. The absence of any human activity over Dal is a proof that all is not well in the “earthly paradise”, a phrase uttered by Mughal emperor Jahangir.

The present trouble began on June 5 when Tufail Ahmed, a 17 year old student who passed SSC exam with distinction, was shot in head by security forces while he was playing in Ghani Memorial stadium. This gave rise to protests in northern areas of Kashmir. For the next 14 days, protests and stone-pelting followed. Omar Abdullah government did nothing concrete to contain the situation. The flashpoint came only on June 19, the day this writer landed in Srinagar. Mohammed Rafique Bangroo – a shawl weaver who has lost seven members of his family to security forces – was severely beaten up by CRPF (Central Police Reserve Force) and breathed his last a day later. During his funeral procession on June 20, people shouted anti-India slogans (One of the most famous slogans of the past 60 years is: Hum kya chahate hain?....Azaadi…Azaadi…Allah-o-Akbar). CRPF fired on the funeral procession resulting in the death of Rafique’s cousin, 17-year old Javed Ahmed Malla.

On June 21, CRPF camp was attacked in Sopore by militants of self-proclaimed Jamiatul-Mujahideen in which one CRPF died and a dozen got injured. When people protested on June 25 about the “fake” encounter, CRPF went berserk and killed 17-year old Firdous Ahmed Kakroo, a farmer and 18-year old Shakeel Ahmed, an electrician. 22-year old Bilal Ahmed of Sopore was shot in his throat when he was watching a protest march against rampant killings. More deaths followed in Baramulla, Anantnag and Srinagar.

Where was Omar Abdullah for almost a month?

Omar Abdullah, chief minister of India’s only Muslim-majority state entered into the picture only on June 19. The local media reported that Omar Abdullah was “extremely angry” over the death of Tufail Ahmed. He came down heavily on CRPF officers. Later, he addressed a press conference.

Is this the way to dissuade street anger?

Street anger can only be contained by stepping on the street. Omar Abdullah realised this only on July 5 when he visited Baramulla and patiently listened to peoples’ grievances. Contrast this with the behaviour of his grandfather, the late Anwaar Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the lion of Kashmir. On October 4, 1947, addressing Kashmiris, Sheikh Abdullah said Rajas and Nawabs had no right to act on behalf of the people; the people must speak for themselves. Sheikh Abdullah said this as a response to Maharaja Hari Singh’s desire that Kashmir should remain an independent state.

Central government does not seem to have any concrete solution to the present crisis of Kashmir. Deployment of army may bring transient relief but in the long run it will further alienate Kashmiris. A territory cannot be ruled by application of force. As Pandit Kalhana, the first celebrated historian of Kashmir wrote in Rajtarangini:

“Kashmir may be conquered by the force of spiritual merit but never by the force of soldiers.”

Ashoka the Great and his soldiers brought Kashmir under the control of Mauryan Empire and made Srinagar its capital. But it did not last. In fact, spiritual merit of Buddhist missionaries had more impact. Same was the case with arrival of Islam. The message of Hazrat Bulbul Shah and Shaikh Nuruddin had a lasting impact.

Why do Kashmiri Muslims indulge in Kani Jung (stone-pelting)?

If only a stone can change the destiny of a nation. A stone is no equivalent to AK-47 which was once a popular form of Kashmiri resistance. Perhaps to a Kashmiri mind stone-pelting is the only way they can draw the world’s attention. A psychologist will term this as a sign of frustration and helplessness.

A thick layer of humiliation has formed over Kashmiri mind. How would one react if forced to prove one’s own identity? In one’s own state? To a Kashmiri, a valid identity card is his passport to nationalism.

Every nook and corner of Kashmir is guarded by CRPF. In the words of Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “I cannot imagine what it is to live like under half a million troops…”

So when will peace return to Kashmir? The last line must be left to M.J. Akbar:

“Kashmir will never be at peace with itself as long as the mazar of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah needs to be protected with guns.”
Sunday Inquilab, June 11, 2010

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Alvidaa “Head Sir”?

 Our Head sir: Ansari Mohammad Raza sitting on my right

In my head, I swim, slow laps in the chilly waters of a long rectangular pool that exists only in my imagination. My arms, pale and thin, dip in and out of the water in methodical strokes. I am alone, and the sun is shining. It seems the sun is always shining…. I swim whenever I start to panic: when my breath comes in short gasps and I feel like I will float away, a drifting, tattered kite that disappears into the endless red glow of a desert sunset. If I don't keep moving, I won't survive.                                                                            (Jackie Spinner, an American Journalist)

The year was 1990. A lean man in his mid thirties walks inside a tiny classroom full of tiny tots wearing a light-grey safari suit. There is a sense of sincerity as the deep penetrable eyes of the lean man pore over students. The deep sockets quickly scan over its innocent audience to familiarize with young Turks. The lean man leaps forward on the teacher’s bench and clears his throat. Then his composed voice breaks the eerie silence and fills the vacuum left by the chatter of students. Sentences of advice and inspiration that flowed from mouth of the lean man on a June 1990 morning are a blur. Suffice it to note that was my first impression of our “Head Sir” as we affectionately called our principal. The first indelible and brief encounter left me with awe and reverence. I was in second standard. It’s been twenty years and a lifetime but the impression still remains etched in memory. So does the phrase “awe and reverence”.
So how does one say farewell to the man who has given many farewells to thousands of students over the last 33 years of service? Words fail me as I punch my keyboard in the last nerve and muscle wrenching phase.
The word ‘farewell’ would be gross injustice; I would rather use the word ‘tribute’. We will never say farewell to Ansari Mohammad Raza, our beloved “Head Sir”.
It is true that “Head Sir” never taught us. He inspired us to dream. Dream shapes in one’s imagination. And imagination is far more important than education. It is also true that he didn’t educate us. He inspired us to seek knowledge. And knowledge is far more important than education. It was head sir’s pat on the back that made me distinguish between ‘education’ and ‘knowledge’. I literally fainted in class 7 when I was ranked 4th in the annual examination. It was Mohammad sir who consoled me by patting my back as if nothing went wrong. That was one of the finest moments of non-verbal communication in my life. That pat signified the difference between education and knowledge. From then onwards, I have never chased for numbers. Mohammad sir would never know how many students he must have inspired; each in unique way.  Inspiration has always been the core ideology of “Head Sir”; he devised new means to inspire students.
As William Arthur Ward, the American teacher, once said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Lebanese philosopher Khalil Gibran adds, “The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”
I have coined 3 ‘I’ of success which can be applied in almost all walks of life: Imagination, Implementation and Introspection. As far as I know Mohammad sir has always believed and followed in these three words. I am tempted to quote writer Hanif Kureishi who once remarked, “It’s not the lack of opulence that disturbs me, but the poverty of imagination”.
Mohammad sir departs from us at a crucial time when the post of “head master” like that of an editor is under threat from proprietors and school management. In the heydays of journalism, editor enjoyed full editorial control. Same was true with the post of “head master”. I have no hesitation to declare that Mohammad sir belongs to that rare and vanishing breed of head masters who have always maintained independent control over educational matters.
It is often said that a good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others. This is a canard. At least I will not use the analogy of candle for Mohammad sir. He is that candle who will always light us. The time has come for the candle to move o
As Jackie Spinner wrote, “If I don’t keep moving, I won’t survive.”