SYEDA HAMEED | 17 MAY, 2015

THERE IS SOMETHING ROTTEN IN THE STATES OF SOUTH ASIA

Right wing groups now deface road signs with Muslim names in Delhi


NEW DELHI: In Karachi, 43 Ismailis including 16 women traveling to a shrine in a bus, were gunned down by assailants, who called them kafirs, unbelievers and wajibul qatl (deserving death). In Kabul, militants stormed the Park Guesthouse, killing fourteen people, including an Indian woman, Martha Farrel. In Delhi, road signs bearing Muslim names were defaced with black ink and covered with handbills. Acts of violence within 24 hours of each other came right to our doorstep.

In our region things are finally falling apart. The Irish poet W B Yeats wrote:

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

A huge tragedy has once again hit the two Islamic states, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the spate of killings has been zeroing in on Shia's for over a decade. Earlier, Ahmedis were declared non Muslims and wajibul qatl. Most recent victims are Ismailis. The circle of intolerance is widening each passing day. Killings in Shia areas of Karachi like Gulshan e Iqbal and Abbas Town are daily events which, very sadly, are taken by most of us as routine. 'Achha aaj Karachi/ Peshawar/Quetta mein phir kuchh hua?' 'kitne log jaan be haq huey?' These are drawing room conversations on both sides of the border! Violence has taken lives of women activists, medical workers, and of professionals-- particularly of Shia's sect. Killing Ismailis, a community which has been sulh kul and self sufficient wherever they have settled in the world, is a crime most despicable and abhorrent.

Kabul, the most beautiful and beleaguered part of the world has only three words to define its crisis-- Kill kill kill. The Afghans, who were trained as Khudai Khidmatgars by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, lovingly called Frontier Gandhi, are suffering the aftermath of the hatred of the two superpowers. Using our region, South Asia, for their war, killing and maiming our women and children, calling it collateral damage, they have released a demon that has become larger than its creators. The terror thus unleashed on a hapless mountain people has destroyed everything in a part of the world where life is cheap and no one in the world outside really gives a damn. In the Guesthouse the bullets rained on all alike, Indians, Pakistanis, Italians, Kazakhs and the Afghans, the latter, whose slain bodies no media counts. One of the victims was a woman activist who was well loved in our circles. It is only when it happens to one so near and dear, that reality hits home and screams rise in the throat.

In the heart of the capital, an outfit called Shiv Sena Hindustan went to work with black paint to blot road signs bearing Muslim names. One such road was named after Safdar Hashmi, poet and activist who was killed by police lathis while staging a protest street play in Sahibabad, near Delhi. 'We will not tolerate Islamization in India' the poster read. When questioned, the president of the group Rajinder Singh claimed he had written to former PM Manmohan Singh protesting against this practice of naming roads. 'Now that we have a PM (Narendra Modi) who the whole nation admires, we hope there will be positive response'.

A man is appointed Governor in one of the best administered states of India, Tripura. Tathagata Roy has been spouting anti Muslim venom for a while. He extols the 2002 Gujarat carnage. This should be appreciated he says. It should become the template for West Bengal, is his expressed hope. He rues the imminent 'Muslim takeover of Bengal'. 'I am 70 years old, at least I won't live to see it'. He applauds the BJP mission, love jihad; 'this is needed to save hapless Hindu girls in West Bengal', he tweets.

There is something rotten in the state of Denmark, said Hamlet in Shakespeare's eponymous play. Do the words have a familiar ring in the present context?

In March 2002 when I returned from Gujarat and wrote the report about brutalization of Muslim women by marauders sporting saffron headbands, carrying trishuls, it was our collective eyewitness account. It shook the conscience of a nation. Regardless of caste and class people joined in the move to get justice for the victims. Today that spirit is not to be found. The country has overwhelmingly voted for the formation which had rained death blows on Babri Masjid and rang the death knell for those they call 'Babar ki Aulad'. From this scenario, where is the escape?

Hatred has become routine in this increasingly brutalized world. But hatred begets itself, it offers no solution. Gandhi summed it up, eye for eye makes the whole world blind. Christ suggested offering the other cheek.Prophet Mohammed counseled his flock to forgive the enemy and never use force in religion. Sufis taught the virtue of humility and service. All religions forbade pride and hubris.

But we have learnt very few lessons from the past. In our region, the trail of blood has become a deluge. In the words of the poet Faiz (dare I quote a man from Sialkot lest I annoy Shiv Sena Hindustan?) Ahmed Faiz

Karin tau Karvaan e dard ki Manzil theher jaaye
Kinarey aa lagey umr e ravaan aur dil theher jaaye

(Let this caravan of pain stop somewhere
Let this life's flow stop and the heart find peace)

(Syeda Hameed is a former Member of the erstwhile Planning Commision)

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