Defend AMU and its identity to protect constitutional democracy in India

It is clear that the RSS’s agenda Hindu-ise the polity is succeeding because Muslims are asked to keep quiet in the ‘greater’ national interest....

Vidya Bhushan Rawat

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Aligarh Muslim University is in the news. It was always in the news since pre partition days. Many felt it was responsible for creating a leadership which demanded separate state of Pakistan but broadly India’s secular elite too felt uncomfortable with Muslims speaking for themselves. This was true about the Dalits too but post 1980s, a phenomena called Kanshiram changed that forever. Now, Dalits are not a ‘vote bank’ but assertively seek their representation across the political parties. It is Kanshiram effect that has compelled the political parties to vacate space for Dalits in respectable positions though the brahmanical crookedness still operate.

After the partition of India, Muslims faced systematic isolation in political space and social ostracisation. Riots were engineered wherever Muslims were economically powerful and doing their business independently. So far, we have not seen any conviction in these so-called riots.

Bhagalpur, Mujaffarnagar, Bhivandi, Gujarat 2002, Aligarh, Meerut, Moradabad, Jabalpur, Malegaon, Mumbai and so many places saw worst kind of violence against Muslims and yet so far we have not seen a single conviction. We had ‘secular’ governments and then we have Hindutva government but the isolation of the Muslim remains the same. It is clear that the RSS’s agenda Hindu-ise the polity is succeeding because Muslims are asked to keep quiet in the ‘greater’ national interest.

If Kathua rape case happened or violence in Kashmir continues unabated Muslims are told you can’t speak on it because there is violence against minorities in Pakistan or Bangladesh. If you want to speak about the democratic rights of the Kashmiri then you are anti-national and for a Muslim in India, these are not the issues he should speak. If he speaks up against the state violence then he is anti-national and if he speak up against ethnic violence by anti-Indian groups then he face threat of not speaking up against the security forces. In these times of deeply polarized debate, an honest debate, in defense of human rights is simply very difficult if not impossible.

Now the latest controversy that has been created is a photograph of founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah which is there in a hall at the Aligarh Muslim University.  A group of goons masquerading as activist intruded in the University campus when former Vice President Mr Hamid Ansari was delivering a guest lecture there. The attempt to attack Ansari was diverted by demand to throw the photograph of Mohammad Ali Jinnah from the campus.

It is not the first time that AMU is being targeted. Prior to this, several years ago, the ignorant Sanghis tried to put Raja Mahendra Pratap in picture to target Sir Syed Ahmed birthday celebration. Now reports are coming that his grandson want to put his portrait inside the campus as he had leased 3.04 acre land to AMU in 1929 at the rate of Rs 2/- per annum. There is no doubt that AMU should have given due respect to him. I am not sure why it has not happened but RSS’s attempt to claim Raja Mahendra Pratap boomerang as he was a secular man with close association with Muslims. In fact, Jan Sangh stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost his deposit in his first election that he contested against Raja Mahendra Pratap, from Mathura Lok Sabha constituency in 1957. So Jinnah’s portrait is not the issue. The issue is to create problems and polarize the debate elsewhere to reap rich harvest of communal hatred.

There are two issues here. The first is a political one. Since we all know that BJP and Hindutva forces will always rake up such issue so they advise the Muslims to voluntarily do away with this. It means that AMU should do away with Jinnah’s photograph and also put the photograph of Raja Mahendra Pratap to do away with the controversy which is a deliberate ploy to vitiate the atmosphere in the campus. Now, for all practical purposes, this, has found support from political parties who have forgotten speaking about Muslims just because they fear ‘BJP and Hindutva forces would use it to communalize the voters’. Now the question is whether this is a solution or a problem?

 The political parties are afraid of raising the general issues of Muslims, related to their socio-economic-cultural side shows that the democracy has reduced to majoritarian propaganda tool which is serious in nature. A healthy democracy is the place where minorities and the dissenters can live without fear and holding their head high. Minorities can’t be held responsible for every act of the past and history cannot be an instrument for the lynch mob to settle scores are the ground. Academic institutions should actually debate and discuss this issues which we avoided during those tumultuous years. As both India and Pakistan enter into fourth generation India, they can trust the younger one who should be free from prejudices at least those who are in the academics.

Unfortunately, situation in India is getting worst with Sangh Parivar pushing its agenda and wanting to convert all the academic institutions into Gurukuls, not allowing dissent to flourish and deeply fishing into old stereotypical agenda against the Muslims and other minorities. So, after seventy years of our partition, we can’t discuss the follies of our political class.

We can understand that historians and political writers might have been influenced by the wider political thoughts during the day but so many years after it, we now have the opportunity to independently analyze the reasons of division, if we are so conscious about it. One thing for sure, we must respect that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri-Lanka are different countries and there is nothing to discuss here that talks of a ‘Akhand Bharat’ kind of fictitious idea that the Sangh Parivar nurture for their political purposes but it serves a lot of purpose to analyze things independently and learn a few lessons from our past. It would be absolutely stupid and absurd to say that we can’t talk about Jinnah or revere him while we can go to bow in front of the Queen and feel pride in being part of the British Common Wealth. But then the Sangh Parivar’s history version is not bothered about the struggle against colonialism but against the Muslims. In fact, if Great Britain opens up its citizenship for Indian citizens, I am sure, a majority of the ‘Deshbhakt’ won’t wait for a second thought to leave India.

India was partitioned in 1947 and Pakistan in 1971. There are so many countries which got divided in one struggle or other. SriLanka faced severe ethnic crisis in late 1980s and now moving into the right direction. China has Tibetan issue at the back side. All the countries of the world have several issues. Inside the country, there are so many ethnicities, who are seeking separate state for them. People’s grievances do not emerge out of a blue but systematic isolation and exclusion from the structure. The world today is a village and sharing knowledge and information. We can’t change our neighbors. We have common history from which the entire society can learn a lot for the betterment of their future. Why the country gets divided? The factors are clear that some communities/identities have grievances of under representation and being left out. When there are forces of extremism on both the sides that harp on ‘discrimination’ then this grows.

Much before Mohammad Ali Jinnah could think of two nation theory, the Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar declared Hindus a separate nation. All those whose fatherland is India can claim India as their country. During those years, the Hindus and Muslims lived together too and fought together against the British. Yes, both the Congress Party and Muslim league were of the upper caste feudal varieties.

We have enough evidences to prove that India failed to protect its minorities and give enough representation to Dalits and Adivasis. We have success stories too. What was important and made us better than our neighbors were that we had institutions and state’s commitment to inclusive society while all over neighbors were either theocratic or military dictatorship where extra-constitutional authorities ran the state. Pakistan today is not really that of the dreams of Mohammad Ali Jinnah who wanted an inclusive Pakistan.

In fact, so powerful are the religious forces there that it is difficult for common person to stand against them yet those who believe in human rights and human values are fighting for that. Is it not wonderful to see how lawyers and activists are fighting case for Shaheed Bhagat Singh to be declared a hero of Pakistan too? Will it not be great if Lahore High Court give a judgment on Bhagat Singh’s execution terming that as farce and seeking British apology? We have not been able to do so even after so many years but if our neighbors do it, we must appreciate it. I have Pakistani and Bangladeshi friend who actually speak against Islamic fundamentalism and a common secular approach. Many of them spoke against creation of Pakistan.

Pakistan, Bangladesh paid a price for state’s active support to Islamic fundamentalists. The main victims of their fundamentalism and hatred were minorities particularly the Hindus, Christians and Ahmedis but they did feel that those Muslims championing the cause of secularism and protection of minorities as a threat to their society and Islam. At the end, common Pakistani and Bangladeshi are fed up with Islamic fanatics and look forward for a better life where rule of law prevail. What happened in Sri Lanka and Myanmar is known to us. Despite the fact that Buddhism is a very reasonable and peaceful religion, when the state uses it as a propaganda tool, then, the dangers are obvious. Nepal was a Hindu Rashtra and people got fed up with that and ultimately threw away the King who felt he was the ‘avatar’ or incarnation of Lord Vishnu but we know the Lord perpetuated caste system and a rigid undemocratic brahmanical regime on the people.

Most important question must be asked to the proponents of Hindu Rashtra as what is their ideal model. They claim despite all proof that they sided with the British, apologized to them, that they opposed partition of India. Let us agree to their point but I wish to ask them as what was their model to avoid partition. It could only have been to win the confidence of Muslims but were they doing it or they were creating thousands of Pakistan in every village. Did RSS ever work for inclusion or its sole policy has been to divide people, create rumors and convert fictions created at their drawing rooms into history which has become their important tool to abuse the Muslims and other minorities. It is a difficult task as India’s history is not merely between the Muslims and Hindus but there are layers and layers.

RSS want Hindu identity but India’s vast majority of people, the Bahujan feel, RSS is nothing but the brahmanical agenda to keep the Dalit Bahujan subjugated under their nefarious caste order. So, keeping the divide between Hindus and Muslims suits both the upper caste Muslims and upper caste Hindu leadership sidelining the entire Dalit Bahujan interests. How can an idea which does not believe in inclusion, which believe in supremacy of a particular race or caste, build an inclusive society? The Sangh idea of brahmanical supremacy today has no takers except for the Brahmin themselves and it deny others the space on the equality basis. World over, when societies negotiates to live together, their idea is based on the principles of equal partnership. None would like to live in a society where discrimination has got divine sanctity.

But then the Sangh Parivar has not believed in ‘people’. For their ignorant devotees if people are protesting then they have no right to live in India. They say easily as everything is a Jumla. So, they will say if Kashmiris are opposing, they must leave India go to Pakistan but same thing is not possible for them say in Nagaland or Manipur. Actually, the entire concept of the Sangh’s Bharat mata philosophy is importance of ‘geographical’ area and nothing to do with people. So, national boundaries are ours whether people are included in it or not. These are simple jargons which are taught in the primary level schools when they cry patriotism. Children do not know that we feel proud of getting associated with our colonial masters but not with our neighbors who was part of us.

We can’t alter history. We can’t change our neighbors but nothing is better than having a good relationship. SARRC is the biggest market in South Asia yet it is China and UK who will control it further because of our conflicting stand. Going to Lahore which is 30 minutes from Delhi, actually take around 8 hours when you fly via Dubai or any other airlines. There are very few flights for Dhaka too. If the trade is opened between different countries, it will open new avenues.

The people will become friends and will understand that the borders created were actually artificial because two people who have common language, common culture, music, cinema and literature, can’t really be divided but the problem is if there is a people to people contact then the work of the hate-mongers will end. Today, in democratic polity, multicultural society face such crisis because the right-winger crony capitalists who don’t feel about Bharatmata when sale dignity of their country, its assets and its monuments of historic importance, but use religion to isolate people and mobilize gangs against them.

Aligarh Muslim University is a prestigious institution of the country. It has a secular past also. It created a growing middle class and their intelligentsia. Muslims are equal citizens of India and hence to deny them space and seek answers from them all the time for the ‘alleged’ sins of creating Pakistan is highly objectionable and must be condemned. History cannot be corrected. What will happen if the Dalit Bahujan population of this country starts seeking compensation and retaliation for the brahmanical sins perpetuating untouchability and caste system on the vast population of India?

Mature societies do not hound their people for the past sins of their ancestors. In fact, it is better to admit mistakes and faults. The brahmanical Hindus not only target Muslims but Dalits too. They seek response from Muslims about Jinnah’s sins but they are themselves not ready to even acknowledge their own sins committed on the vast Bahujan communities. Have any of India’s brahmanical politician apologized to the indigenous population for the historical wrongs. It is time they do it. Similarly, better to make our society better. Let us be clear that no country can today live peacefully if its minorities and marginalized are not given space in decision making. Hounding and embarrassing of minorities will ultimately be detrimental for the national interests as a citizen of India all people have equal rights. Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, OBCs, Jews, Christians and so many other communities will live in India and one can only pity on those who assume that one community can be wiped out and flag of their religion will only fly when all other religions and individuals are eliminated. 

In Today’s world, one community can be majority here and minority elsewhere and therefore any suppression and humiliation of any community will only result in counter reactions in the other parts of the world Civilizations can only grow if they appreciate, acknowledge their fault lines and promise to follow not only their constitutions but all the international laws and treaties that we have signed. It is better History to be dealt by historians and not street rogues and third rated politicians who want to divide communities for their vote bank. Politics in the country should be issue based. Let the governments go to people on the basis of their performance and not on the stories they built up vilifying the minorities and claiming to respect the Dalits. Your good intentions should be reflected in the work you do and not what you talk.

Finally, history has lots of lessons for us. Though Pakistan came into being on the basis of religious identity, the fact was it got divided later because under that religious identity, the ethnic identity issue was sought to be disowned and disrespected by the dominating Punjabi-Sindhi elite of Pakistan. Bangla identity broke the religion as uniting factor and brought the issue of language as uniting factor. India was careful enough when it allowed its diversity as its strength and not allows domination of Hindi as being done today. Brahmanical hatemongers in Europe and America who seek equal status and enjoy all the strength of democracies there should think twice before exporting hatred against minorities in India. We will only become a strong nation once we allow its diversity to flourish and learn positive lessons from history but not by hiding or deleting the uncomfortable chapters but researching them well so that future generation is better prepared. You can fight Jinnah-ism with inclusive politics and not by Savarkarism which talk of exclusivism and denial of rights to minorities.

Muslims and Christians too are Indian citizens and need to be defended on the basis of their citizenship rights. You cannot paint an entire community and its institutions as anti-national just because it has a photograph of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. We have accepted Pakistan as a reality and that is why BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani went to Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore and Jaswant Singh paid rich tribute to founder of Pakistan. Truth from history can expose us. Who can deny the fact that India and Pakistan elite followed the same pattern in the constituent Assembly?

The chairman of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly was Mr Joginder Nath Mandal, a follower of Dr Ambedkar from Bengal. He became the first law minister there. The Jinnah which RSS hates so much fought the case of Bal Gangadhar Tilak as well as organized lawyers for Bhagat Singh in Lahore. He called Bhagat Singh, a national hero while Gandhi could not protect them from execution. Shayma Prasad Mukherjee was the Minister in Nehru’s cabinet along with Sardar Baldev Singh, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and many others. Similarly, the same Shayama Prasad Mukherjee was Finance Minister in the Krishak Praja Party-Muslim League Coalition led by Fazul-Haq in Bengal. They all joined Nehru’s cabinet despite diversity of ideas because the aim was to build a united India.

Let us not dig history to humiliate people as fact is all of us have dirty past. We live among majoritarian tendencies carefully crafted by the religious rights where minorities are considered to be obstacles in their growth and progress. Fact is that it is all power games to control communities and therefore detrimental to individual freedom and freethinking ideals. Majoritarianism ultimately leads to the creation of theocratic state which ultimately pose a serious threat to democracy and human rights of the people. For democracy to flourish, we need to respect people’s right to differ with popular notion of history as well as diversity of political thoughts and ideas. In the interest of an inclusive and democratic India, we must defend rights of intellectuals, minorities to express for themselves as well as strengthen their institutions like AMU as well as other such institutions. Discrediting them will ultimately ruin our social fabric as well as destroy the constitutional democracy. It is equally important for political parties to speak up on the issue and provide a better defense of Muslims and others as citizen of India and not take shelter that it would help the BJP.

We know the dark realities but it is time when political parties will have to take a stand and speak up against isolation of communities because you might win an election but lose the nation. No one from minorities and marginalized communities in India should feel excluded and it is the duty of political parties and other civil society activists to take a clear stand on the issue and ensure that the communities feel part of the country and broader society only then we will be an able to build a strong and united India. The war is for proportionate space in our power structure which means those who have grabbed more space from others will have to cede and perhaps that is the reason why every day we get new versions of history and keep the pot boiling. Proportionate distribution is the only solution to India’s issues but then it create problem for a tiny minority which enjoyed fruits at the cost of our divisions. This war on Muslims is nothing but an attempt to deny them space and representation which must be resisted at all cost in the greater interest of democracy, secularism and human rights apart from unity and integrity of our country.

 

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