Friday, December 22, 2017

Mother Of All Paradoxes: Muslims Indispensable For The Hindutva Project

Mother Of All Paradoxes: Muslims Indispensable For The Hindutva Project
                                                                                                   Saeed Naqvi
The Hindutva project would come down like melting ice cream if there were no Muslims, no Kashmir and no Pakistan to hate. This is elementary. Muslims, in other words, are an essential requirement for the BJP to win elections. Results from Gujarat confirm this truth yet again. Why Congress has done better in the rural areas is because the Muslim population is thinly scattered – not enough to be a cluster or a “pole”. And Hindutva needs a pole to polarize.

Hindutva is also handicapped in the rural areas by the continued prevalence of caste identities. These are the identities in which rural folk are secure. Migration to the cities results in dilution and gradual erasure of caste. In normal course this would result in a cosmopolitan identity with a talent to accommodate many strands.

What disrupts this possible secularization process is the all enveloping growth of sects – Narayansawamy, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and so on. Unlike the Brahmo Samaj which reached out like a ballet dancer, the sects popular in Gujarat are inward looking. From this platform, it is not difficult to whip up communal polarization against those faceless Muslims in old cities and ghettoes – Pakistan’s fifth column, love jihadis, slaughterers of cows, terrorists.

Islamophobia riding a crest of terrorism is not Narendra Modi’s invention. Modi just happened to be lucky even as George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld ordered a post 9/11 global order custom made for Modi’s machinations.

US occupation of Afghanistan, accompanied by the world’s biggest fireworks, a televised war, created superb conditions for rampaging Islamophobia anywhere. Modi who became Chief Minister on October 8, exactly the day when the retribution for 9/11 began to be visited upon the hapless Afghans, took full advantage. The televised global war on terror reached a crescendo in February. On February 27, 2002, occurred the burning train mishap at Godhara. Ahmedabad was ablaze by way of retribution. Never was an anti Muslim pogrom mounted on this scale. The global din of terrorism and Islamophobia gave the pogrom a backdrop with which it merged.

The pogrom exorcised the city of another ghost. For decades, an underworld don Abdul Latif, had terrorized the political establishment in Gujarat on both sides of the aisle. Even though he was killed in a staged encounter some years ago, the scale of the pogrom was for Hindutva an equalizer.

From Aurangzeb, to Abdul Latif, Dawood, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar is a rapidly expanding rogues’ gallery. In the deepest recesses of their heart, Muslims are sympathetic to this gallery. It is against this growing fifth column, Hindus must consolidate towards a Hindu Rashtra in which the past shall be the future.

Just imagine, where would Hindu Rashtra be if the country’s Muslims by some superior incantation disappeared one day, vamoosed. The Hindu caste structure, exposed to electoral democracy, social justice, upward mobility, would be inverted in no time. Overwhelming numerical superiority would bring the base of the pyramid on top.

Muslims as a foil is therefore indispensable to the Hindu ruling class purpose.

Rahul Gandhi grasped this essential point to good purpose in Gujarat. He realized the BJP would communally polarize a situation if Muslims were visible on the Congress side. Muslims were therefore advised to steer clear of his line of vision. The Muslim Congress worker who navigated me to the Radisson Blu hotel where Rahul was holding his final press conference would himself not come up. “Ahmad bhai (Ahmad Patel) will also not be there”, he explained. Rahul was flanked by Ashok Gehlot and Randip Singh Surjewala. One spotted Rajiv Shukla and Jiten Prasada but no Ahmad Patel, who was in Ahmedabad though.

Even token visits to Muslim enclaves in the walled city or Juhapura were taboo for Rahul. The trick obviously worked. It drove the Hindutva think tank to distraction. They began to invent dark conspiracies with Pakistan. Poor Mani Shankar Aiyar came in handy for no fault of his. His friend former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri turned up for a wedding at the Nawab of Loharu in Jaipur. That evening Ambassador Surendra Kumar organized a high powered seminar on Pakistan at the India International Centre addressed by Gen. Deepak Kapoor, former High Commissioners TCA Raghavan, Sharat Sabharwal, whom Aiyar hurriedly enlisted to ginger up his guest list for Kasuri on his way from the Loharu wedding. Aiyar speaks Hindi but his control on the language can falter. He meant to describe Modi as “mean”, but the way he used the term “neech” or “low” lent itself to the interpretation that he had described the Prime Minister of “low birth”. There is an irony in the BJP targeting Aiyar as their most hostile Congress critic. Sonia Gandhi has not spoken to Aiyar for the past six years.

That Aiyar, out in the cold with his party, had to be resurrected by Modi to provide him with contrived themes for communal polarization shows that Rahul’s tactical aversion of Muslims is unsettling the opposition. Add to this the double whammy of incessant temple hopping and Rahul is well on the way to stealing the BJP’s platform.

So, cheer up Indian Muslims. What will the Congress not do for you?

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Three Mosques: “Muslim Generosity Would Electrify Hindu Masses”

Three Mosques: “Muslim Generosity Would Electrify Hindu Masses”
                                                                                                  Saeed Naqvi
The 25th anniversary of Babari Masjid demolition will rekindle debate: why was it demolished, historical wrongs, Mandal Commission inviting a Mandir backlash, Hindu yearning for a Ram temple and so on. But the clinching evidence Judges of the Supreme Court, steeped in the case, might find interesting is a video recording of celebrations at ground zero, the site of the demolition soon after the traumatic event.

The first scene opens with a number of girls in a circle, clapping in unison and singing a song with the following refrain:
“Ab yeh jhanda lehraayega
saarey Pakistan pe”
(Now this flag will flutter over Pakistan)

The next scene shows a group of young men, delirious with excitement wearing bandanas around their heads, carrying lances. They lunge towards the camera, shouting:
“Bomb girega Pakistan pe
Bomb girega Pakistan pe”
(Bombs will fall on Pakistan)

Third scene consists of a handsome Swami with wavy hair. In his booming voice he spells out:
“Abhi hamein Lahore jana hai,
Rawalpindi jana hai…..”

The final scene has the late Bal Thackeray predictably announcing in very matter of fact tones, from his Mumbai residence:
“We are going to build the Ram Temple, and if the Muslims don’t like it, they can go to Pakistan.”

There was no mention of Ram or a temple, only a frenetic triumphalism over Pakistan. In the context of the demolition of a mosque which carried the name of the first Moghul Emperor, the celebrations appeared to settle multiple scores against a long chain of Muslim “marauders” and Muslims who mushroomed under their auspices and who eventually walked away with an independent country. Worse, they left behind almost as many of their co religionists in this country.

No one ever disputed the primacy of Ram in the Hindu belief system, but the demolition of the mosque was an instance of faith being placed in the service of politics. L.K. Advani’s 1990 Rath Yatra was designed to neutralize caste divisions aggravated by the Mandal Commission. Its purpose was to compact the Hindu caste pyramid teetering because of excessive exposure to identity Politics. The mosque and by extension, the Muslim, was to be the foil in this primary enterprise. This was the cement that would be filled into the crevices to stabilize the pyramid.

In this masonry for compacting Hindu society, heavy collateral damage would have to be borne by the Muslim. This collateral damage, in other words, was to be no meager side show. The scaling down of a thousand years of civilization associated with the “invaders” would be cathartic, even exhilarating for the majority. By that very token, it would be degrading for the largest minority ever in history.

Pakistan had become a part of the country’s internal politics even before the 1965 war when Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri upturned Nehruvian secularism by seeking RSS volunteers for Civil Defence Duty. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister after Shastri, felt the heat when she lost the 1967 elections in eight states.

Even during electoral adversity in the north, Indira Gandhi felt reasonably secure so long as her charisma lasted in the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. When these states were lost in 1982, she realized that the Congress rule could not be secured in the north without recourse to a shade of saffron. This shade she brought into play during the 1983 Jammu elections, harnessing Hindu sentiment against the Khalistan movement next door.

The 404 seats in a House of 533 that Rajiv Gandhi won in 1984, after Indira Gandhi’s murder, were interpreted by the Congress as Hindu consolidation against minority communalism. From the Sikh minority to the Muslim minority was an easy conceptual leap.

It was a moment of reckoning for the BJP, smarting with only two seats in 1984. It could not allow the Congress to steal the Hindu platform. Congress too would not give up the advantage. In 1986 it arranged for the locks of the Ram temple to be opened, having earlier pleased the obscurantist Muslims by upturning the Shah Bano judgement which provided maintenance to a divorced woman.

Then Rajiv Gandhi began the 1989 election from Ayodhya with a promise that he would usher in Ram Rajya. He allowed bricks to be laid for the temple’s foundation, exactly where the VHP had planned to.

To win this competition in Hindu radicalism, Advani’s Rath Yatra provided the BJP with an occasion to raise the stakes beyond the Congress reach. While Rajiv stood on a saffron platform, he was careful not to overtly offend the Muslims.

P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister reversed this ambidextrous approach. He slept while the Kar Sevaks pulled down the mosque. There was no ambiguity now. It was straightforward Hindu-Muslim polarization.

And now as 2019 elections approach, what should the Muslims do? My mother, who died three years ago, had accompanied my wife, daughter and me to Ayodhya to see the 1989 Shilanyas (bricklaying). She lived in Lucknow and we were there only for two days. This way, she thought, she would see more of us and also inform herself about the mosque in the news. After watching the grotesque drama this is what she said:
“A mosque of “fitna” (conflict) is not an auspicious place of worship. In any case, a Muslim can spread his prayer mat anywhere in the direction of Kaaba and say his namaz. A Hindu consecrates his idols in a temple.”

Muslims should, as an act of generosity, gift the disputed mosques in Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. “Hindu masses would be ecstatic.” I chose not to argue.

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq of the Personal Law Board, echoes the same sentiment.

“Even if Muslims win the case in the Supreme Court, they should make a gift of the land to the Hindus.” The Supreme Court can be the guarantor that communalism would not claim more monuments.

Masses will be electrified and communalists on all sides will be defeated, he says.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Left, Right, Centre? Or Does AAP Defy Simple Definitions?

Left, Right, Centre? Or Does AAP Defy Simple Definitions?
                                                                                            Saeed Naqvi
I probably move in the wrong circles, because nobody I know has a good word for the Aam Aadmi Party. You mention AAP and they begin to whine. This is not the response I get from neighbourhood drivers, other workers and their friends. There is a wide difference of opinion. Is there a clear class divide?

It was just as well that Algebra, the club which exposes the precocious to some intellectual titillation, screened The Insignificant Man, in which cinematic craft takes full advantage of reels upon reels of intimate footage of the AAP’s first rise to power in December 2013.

All the images returned to my mind:  AAP’s shock debut in December 2013 and stunning consolidation in February 2015, winning 67 of the 70 seats in the State Assembly. I receive calls from friends in Mumbai: who should they contact in Delhi with sizeable donations? Wives of retired officials, copy editors are all volunteering to work for AAP. Doctors, nurses, technicians in Max hospital are wearing AAP badges – enthusiasm on an unimaginable scale. Just think of those heady days. AAP’s meteoric rise and the new conventional wisdom have their reasons.

The way globalization manifested itself in India may have boosted business but it stifled discourse. The four Cs, Cricket, Cinema, Crime and Communalism pushed out most serious debate from mainstream media. Murdochization of the media was the order.

Pouring venom on AAP soon after its rise was only a shade less popular on the ratings chart than badgering Pakistan. AAP was neither Left nor Right. It was frontally against the establishment and the establishment was going to tattoo it with double fisted punches.

Well informed, gregarious though moderately paid journalists, were gradually replaced by star anchors with stellar salaries, mandated to ginger up content to support advertizing, the vehicle for a burgeoning economy. Studios became arenas for cruel sport. But when the Lehman Brothers crashed in 2008, signaling capitalism’s state of disrepair, the Indian economy too was checked in its tracks.

Crony capitalism tied to a system which had become increasingly unsure of itself, led to widespread suffocation across the globe. Voters began to dream dreams of breaking out of the strait jackets of the available political parties.

AAP was not the only eruption. There were many assaults on the establishment, from the Left as well as the Right, everywhere.

Systems churned, bringing out the establishment’s willingness to make adjustments but only with the Right. The left was negotiated differently.

Take the 2016 US Presidential elections. The Republicans had settled for Jeb Bush in a tepid sort of a way but the Establishment’s overwhelming consensus was for Hillary Clinton. That which made her the Establishment’s favourite was exactly the reason why she was unelectable: she was THE establishment, an entity utterly in bad odour with an exponentially increasing number.

Bernie Sanders a front runner by yards in the Democratic primaries and who, in retrospect would have won the election, was halted in his tracks. A gamble with Donald Trump as a possibility was considered preferable on both sides of the aisle to a “Caamunist” like Sanders. McCarthyism was alive.

Lets’ consider an example elsewhere – Spain.  

When Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, a Communist formation, burst upon the political scene with substantial number of seats, The Establishment was rattled. Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy of the right wing Peoples Party, primarily responsible for the unspeakable corruption which loomed heavy over the elections, had been reduced to a minority. He would have been defeated in the event of a vote in the House. But crafty systems managers kept a defeated Prime Minister in power until the next election in June 2016.

In the meantime a centre-right party, an answer to Podemos, named Ciudadanos (Citizen) Party was hurriedly promoted. It made noticeable gains. The Establishment had seen the writing on the wall. Manipulations could sustain the status quo but not beyond a point, given the growing resentment against establishments. In the meantime alternatives will have to be put in place – Ciudadanos, for instance – to protect Spain in the future from a Podemos like “disaster”. It was the Ciudadanos model that Emanuel Macron followed in France: respond to a quest for apparent novelty and do the establishment’s bidding.

A rash of Far Right, anti immigrant, Islamophobic parties in Europe are causing anxieties to establishments. But imagine Communists like Pablo Iglesias in Spain or Jean-Luc Melenchon in France or even a mild Leftist like Sanders in the US: were these to be found anywhere in the vicinity of power and there would be upheaval on an epic scale. On the other hand, 31 year old, Sebastian Kurz, far right, neo Nazi becomes Chancellor of Austria and murmurs, always faint, are already inaudible.

Keep the global background in mind but consider AAP in an Indian setting, because details are inevitably different from the West.

Remember how the Congress, BJP, Corporates, Media, Lt. Governor, administration, police, enforcement agencies et al, pounced on AAP almost in concert? The young party was mauled, gored, not allowed to function. And soon, the media’s high decibel 24/7 anti AAP chant did begin to affect the middle classes, the chatterati and the would be AAP volunteers in 2014 – they began to troop out. But Neighbourhood drivers and workers have not wavered, some of them are quite content with what AAP claims as its achievements – water, power, education, neighbourhood clinics.

“Any party even at municipal level, which has done as much – let it raise its hand.” Says one of them. Well, well, I say, lets’ wait till 2019.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Padmavati Controversy: Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair

Padmavati Controversy: Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair
                                                                                  Saeed Naqvi

Padmavati, in a sense, is a neighbourhood story. My village, Mustafabad, happens to be in Rae Bareli, which embraces numerous Chishtiya Sufi shrines or places where the saints spent some time, including Khwaja Ashraf Jehangir Semnani, the saint Malik Mohammad Jaisi, the author of Padmavat, was devoted to. Jaisi would faint at the controversy surrounding his masterpiece.

From nearby, Salon, Naeem Ata Shah in his flowing orange robes and headgear often visited Mustafabad. Jaisi, who preceded Tulsidas, in the list of great poets of Awadhi, was an endless source of quotations. So was Tulsidas, whose correspondence with emperor Akbar’s premier courtier, Abdul Rahim Khan e Khana, on meter and structure of poetry one heard about later and which is something one would have expected more scholarship on.

To a most unexpected source I owed my acquaintance with the fact that Rahim, known for his dohas, wrote devotional poetry on Lord Rama in Sanskrit. The source happened to be Vishnu Kant Shastri, former Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Governor of UP. It always puzzled me how a man of such catholic interests – knew Jaisi as well as Akbar Allahabadi backwards – had actually emerged from the RSS stable.

If Jaisi’s flight of fancy can create so much mayhem, I shudder to contemplate the fate of the 1960 classic, Mughal-e-Azam in a similar circumstance. By today’s yardstick, that was the original, unadulterated case of “Love Jihad”. In fact the settled conventional wisdom in the 60s conceded Akbar victory at Haldighati. The national mood today has reversed the outcome of that battle in favour of Maharana Pratap. There have been suggestions that New Delhi’s Akbar Road be renamed “Maharana Pratap Road”. In other words revenge with retrospective effect is in order. To give this trend a more contemporary twist, Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded that an FIR be lodged against Mulayam Singh Yadav for ordering the police to fire on Kar sewaks in 1990. In that framework, it can be argued that producer K. Asif glorified Akbar’s love jihad. For that unforgiveable guilt, copies of the film must be consigned to the flames by way of historical revenge. Dilip Kumar, who played Prince Salim, is lying in coma otherwise he could have been brought into focus of public ire with great effectiveness on the eve of key elections with a singular purpose – polarize the poll.

At a time when logic has been crowded out by a rush of non sequitur, some pundits have attempted common sense. It will not work.

The new cultural brigade destroyed the grave of Wali Dakhni who showered adoration on this land with such verses as:
“Koocha e yaar ain Kashi hai
Jogiya dil wahaan ka baasi hain.”
(The lane where my beloved lives is like holy Varanasi;
The yogi of my heart has made it his dwelling place.) The sentiments the poet represents did not deter the vandals seething with anger against past historical injustices.

Never will the bandish Munmohan Braj ke rasiya in Raag Paraj, steeped in Krishna lore, be sung better than by Ustad Faiyyaz Khan. They tried to desecrate his grave in Vadodara, regardless.

Rasoolan Bai’s plaintive appeals to Rama, in so many of her songs, did not protect her house from being gutted during the 1969 Gujarat riots. It did not matter that the Congress was in power then. What is being tapped into is something which gained a lease of life after Partition and which invites instant, angry, passionate response at the street level. In his very first speech in Parliament after the 2014 elections, this was precisely the nerve Narendra Modi touched: “the nation has to recover from the subjugation of 1200 years”. This is what differentiates the present government from previous regimes. Congressmen may have privately believed in “1200 year of subjugation”, but they considered it tactically proper to speak only of the British as foreigners.

Let us, meanwhile, revert to Jaisi’s purpose in Padmavati. The sentiment is common in western poetry too.
The “desire of the moth for the star, of the night for the morrow.
The devotion to something afar from the sphere of our sorrow”

Shelley’s lines are an ultra simplified version of the interplay between love and beauty which Jaisi is delineating. Padmini and Khalji are secular symbols of Jaisi’s elaboration of the theme on an epic scale.

Keat’s “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know” can also be tossed in to simplify communicating Jaisi.

Maulana Hasrat Mohani communicates the mood thus:
“Maslak I Ishq hai parastish e husn
Hum naheen jaante azaab-o-sawab.”
(Love’s purpose is adoration of beauty.
Gains and losses I do not measure.)

Should the ever expanding tribe of the new cultural warriors run out of ideas, here are some on offer, gratis. They should denigrate with retrospective effect those Muslims who dared to take liberties with Hindu Gods. Remember, how India’s greatest modern painter, Maqbool Fida Hussain was exiled for his supreme guilt: excessive adoration of Goddesses. His “adoration” was considered lewd by the protectors of culture and faith.

Well, in like fashion, Maulana Hasrat Mohani deserves to be shamed retrospectively. He wrote a great deal about Krishna in Urdu, but in his Bhasha or Braj verses he takes liberties:
“Mose ched karat Nandlal”
(Krishna teases me all the time)
“hum hoon jo dei liptai ke Hasrat
Saari yeh chalbal nikaal”
(One day I shall embrace him tight and squeeze out all his mischief)
“Squeeze out”, in a tight embrace, has erotic connotations which should be unacceptable to the new cultural brigade.

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