SYEDA HAMEED | 22 DECEMBER, 2014

Where is the India I Know?

Tolerance!


At an event in Goa held on Saturday, called India Ideas Conclave 2014, a Belgian, so called Indologist, addressed a session 'Religion Tolerance and Terror'. He said 'Make it uncool to be Muslim... they (Muslims) will themselves outgrow Islam'. He then went on 'The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is coming under criticism for the one thing that they are doing very well which is Ghar Wapsi. We need to liberate the Muslim from Islam. Every Muslim is an abductee and must be brought back'. These remarks caused unrest and some delegates like the former PM of Jordan and the Secretary General of OIC walked out in protest. According to newspaper reports, among the directors of India Foundation (which organized the event) are Union Minister Suresh Prabhu and Shaurya Doval son of India's NSA.

Meanwhile Ghar Wapsi 'conclaves' are being held all over the country where Muslims and Christians are inducted into the faith they have 'left behind'. The most recent Shuddhikaran was held at Kaprada taluka in Valsad district of Gujarat. Earlier events of Ghar Wapsi in Agra and Aligarh targeted Muslims, the poorest rag pickers, with promises of BPL and ration cards. Dharmendra, head of Dharm Prasar Vibhag of VHP Gujarat said these people wanted to return to the religion of their ancestors, this event should not be regarded Dharm Parivartan.

Yesterday RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat at a Sammelan in Kolkata to mark the golden jubilee of VHP said 'We will bring back our brothers who have lost their way and belongings stolen by a thief'. Pravin Togadia added his bit laced with Kolkata flavor. 'All political parties should remember that if Hindus oppose, no political party will be able to rule India. Will Congress be able to do it? Will Trinamool Congress be able to do it? Will the CPM be able to do it? You survive only when you come under a Hindu flag.

Which country am I living in, I ask myself. This is not the India I was born and nurtured in. What is this rhetoric I encounter every day, splashed across the media while the Indian state remains a mute spectator. What are they doing, those who are responsible for upholding the Indian constitution? Jinhein naaz hai Hind par voh kahan hain?

When I was a child I had my first brush with communal hatred. Neighborhood kids refused to play with me when they learnt my Muslim name. This happened shortly after partition; Hindu children on the other side would have suffered the same ostracism. This experience was woven into a story which hit headlines. The incident caused universal condemnation. Shankar Pillai, iconic creator of Shankar's Weekly Children's Number first published it. Khushwant Singh made it part of many narratives. President Dr Zakir Husain wrote about it, Sheila Sandhu of Rajkamal Prakashan brought it out as a small book, and an Argentine artist Bridgette beautifully illustrated it. I recall the tall Sardar with a white beard who brought his grand daughter to play with me since I had been rejected by children of the neighborhood. And finally Prime Minister Nehru at a public function gave me a large packet as a prize. 'This prize is bigger than you' he said with his irrepressible laugh which used to light up even our most despondent moments.

This was the India I grew up in. It is not as though we were not occasionally hurt and bruised but there were always many hands that came forward to apply the unguent. These recollections have become nostalgia from a long gone past. Today the hurt is not assuaged but probed by the action and inaction of the state. When Mohan Bhagwat, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Yogi Adityanath violate my constitutional rights, no one speaks up. The state maintains a studied silence or throws a few words of mild rebuke, then business as usual for these remote controlled mouthpieces. And more lies are spoken with impunity and design.

A highly educated, public spirited and well known friend was devastated with the brute killing of innocents in Peshawar. She wrote words of condemnation and condolence and added a postscript. 'Let Syeda explain how is it that her religion allowed this barbarity? They were shouting Allah o Akbar when they gunned the children. Let her explain'. It occurred to me that she was speaking the language of millions of Indians who need to know about Islam. It is time for us Muslims to begin talking about our faith from every platform. We cannot let the Fazlullahs, Lakhvis and Saeeds hijack our Islam. Faiz Ahmed Faiz taught us

Bol ke lab Azad hain tere
Bol zuban ab tak Teri hai

The Quran has given us a talisman. Amr bil maruf, nahi an al munkir (propagate the truth and reject the untruth) Today we must follow this injunction and present the world with the truth. There will be many takers.

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