Thursday, August 20, 2009


God knows how many pundits and their barely concealed benefactors would have passed judgments on the issue. Frankly, as I write this, I haven’t read even one chapter of the book, nor have I done Google search to steal a few phrases, paraphrase or rephrase them and pass them on as words of wisdom. I have just seen a few snatches on TV and couldn’t but immediately think what if top BJP leaders go on 'Sach Ka Saamna' on this issue? I also saw a tearful Jaswant Singh describing how his book on Jinnah has transformed him from Hanuman to Ravana (Dr. Karunanidhi of Tamil Nadu would surely object to the analogy). And then I faced the simple and stark question: Is all this hysteria not related to the persistent failure of the political class, the ivory tower academics and the ideologues to honestly deal with the question of Muslims in India? Or, for that matter, the world to deal honestly with the “Muslim” issue? Or to tackle the “delicate” issue of minorities across societies?

If honest efforts had been made, the following would not have happened: The French President Nicolas Sarkozy would not have denounced the veil; a swimming club in France would not have prohibited a woman from using a more modest bikini; half of India would not have forgotten about swine fl u and spent hours debating whether Shah Rukh Khan was humiliated by a racist immigration officer in America because he is a Muslim; American President Barack Obama would not have been forced to call for a beer summit to settle a hugely controversial racial issue.

But it is really India that one thinks about at the moment. If you ask yourself honestly and get honest answers, they will be one of the three written below: Sure people like Jinnah demanded partition and a separate homeland for Muslims; but who cares about all that when India is an exciting place to be in; Most Muslims did not follow Jinnah to Pakistan, but you know – though my best friends are Muslims – and think that there is something wrong out there with so many of them becoming terrorists; Or of course, Muslims are a clear and present danger to the ‘Indian Civilisation’.

I know, if you are honest to yourself, you will fall in one of the later two categories. And if you are in the third one, there is no point in having a dialogue with you in any case. But a dialogue the rest of us must have. More importantly, we Indians must rescue the debate from the crass opportunism of politics and the even worse opportunism of perversion in the garb of ideology. The Indian Mujahideen farce is just one example. The fact is, some Muslims from Azamgarh decided to become killers of innocents. One set branded all of Azamgarh as a terror area. The other set compared them to Red Indians being slaughtered by a fascist Hindu state. Surely, Muslims deserve to be described as human beings first and ideological labels later?

Perhaps it is time for Jaswant Singh – now that he will have so much time – to start research on another book that will describe how Pakistan descended from Jinnah to Jehad. Or, am I revealing my barely concealed prejudice against Muslims by using Jinnah and Jehad in the same breath? I really don’t know.


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