Day of the Bully
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
— Milan Kundera.
PM Vajpayeeji wants Indian Muslims to forget Gujarat and forgive for he who forgives is nobler than he who is forgiven. Whether he would also like the Supreme Court of India, the National Human Rights Commission and millions of Hindus who do not approve of the sangh parivar’s hate politics to forget, he does not say. And, forget the dead and the gone, what about the thousands of Gujarat’s devastated Muslim survivors, who have received no compensation worth the name and who still face severe socio-economic boycott? Vajpayeeji has forgotten about the Rajdharma he once reminded Narendra Modi of.
Advaniji, his No. 2 for whom Indian Muslims are obviously nothing but the ‘Pakistan within’, the communal climate within the country has never been better because there are signs of improved relations between the two countries. What happens to Indian Muslims if Indo-Pak relations were to deteriorate for whatever reason? Advaniji is silent on that.
Venkaiahji, the BJP president, has suddenly remembered that his grandfather was named after a Muslim saint! What does he think of his party and government’s determination in newly captured MP to rename the sangeet academy named after one of India’s greatest classical singers, Ustad Alauddin Khan, because "Alauddin was a Bangladeshi"! Or what does he have to say to the Muslim who was nearly lynched by the Saffron Brotherhood and whose garage was razed to the ground by the civic administration last week simply because he fell in love with a Hindu woman who loved him too? We do not know.
Nonetheless, we have in the last few weeks witnessed the sorry spectacle of a number of Muslim leaders proclaiming ‘Lab baik!’ (‘Here we come!’) to the Saffron call. By getting Vajpayee to release a Hindi translation of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s commentary of the Quran in the presence of a visibly uncomfortable Advani, in front of TV cameras, Najma Heptullah has established the Saffron Brotherhood’s love for all things Muslim. Arif Mohammed Khan’s, "I am surrendering to the sangh parivar" was more straightforward.
We must question the motives of the self-seeking Heptullahs and Khans who, having enjoyed power and pelf in secular India for decades, now seem to be acting like vultures, fattening themselves on the carcass of the very community in whose name they speak? But, what of ordinary Muslims with little chance for self-aggrandisement who, too, are starting to line up in front of Saffron Gate (‘Advani ke ghar pe Hajiyon ka hujoom!’)?
Should one take solace in the fact that, after all, only a small number are switching over? Or, should secular India not feel truly ashamed and ask itself an honest question: When the Bully batters and badgers the weak and the vulnerable and there is none to speak out against the tyranny, what does the victim do? So why be surprised if groups of Muslims here and there make peace with the Enemy.
For the opportunist Heptullahs and Khans who seek "better prospects" using "surrender" as alibi, we need have nothing but contempt. But political parties who project themselves as the torch-bearers of Indian secularism must hang their heads in shame for having taken India to where Hindutva wants it to go: "The goodwill of the majority can be the only guarantee of the minority’s security." (RSS soon after Gujarat).
Back to Vajpayeeji and his fellow swayamsevaks. So, what’s new? You are offering a "new deal" to India’s Muslims – education, employment. Isn’t this exactly what the BJP, under the presidentship of Advani had sworn to deliver to Muslims at its national meet in Goa 10 years ago (April 1995): Taleem (education), Tijarat (employment), Tanzeem (organisation).
Even better: "The BJP will protect (Muslim) lives and they will enjoy equal justice," Advani had promised Muslims during a press conference in Ahmedabad in January 1993. In June 1997, he reiterated in elegant prose his promised "to create a riot-free, violence-free and discrimination-free India when the BJP comes to power at the Centre".
Those were mere promises. What Muslims actually got on the ground was unprecedented hate crime whose "chief author and architect" (‘Crime Against Humanity’, Concerned Citizens Tribunal) was none less than Advani’s own blue-eyed boy, Narendra Modi. Clearly, the offer now stands revised: Forget "equal justice", accept the "protection" of the Bully.
Vajpayeeji wants Muslims, and the rest of India, to forget Gujarat. For a glimpse of what they can expect under Saffron Raj in the near future, please read the chilling report in this issue of Angana Chatterji on Orissa.
With elections in the offing, our cover story this month focusses on the aspirations and demands of other weaker and vulnerable sections of society for whom not just the BJP but most of the political class has little time: children, women, dalits, tribals.
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