Skip to main content

When a Pak scribe said Modi has 'proved' Jinnah’s two nation theory right...

By Zafar Agha*
It was around nine in the morning on May 24, 2019, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi stormed the Lok Sabha with 300-plus MPs. It was a call from a journalist friend, Muzamal Suhrawardy, from Lahore, Pakistan. I ignored the call. We liberals had a depressing day the previous evening as the opposition to Modi and BJP collapsed. The results belied reports from the ground and even assessments made by colleagues.
I was in no mood to take yet another call and explain what had happened and why. But Muzamal was persistent. He called again a few hours later. Again, I didn’t pick up the phone. Muzamal, I sensed, wanted to speak on the Indian elections. But I was in no mood to oblige a Pakistani journalist and listen to him having a dig at the rise of the Right in India as has been the case with Pakistan for decades.
We, liberal Indians, had looked down upon them for being citizens of an “Islamic” state in modern times. How could I explain the rise of a ‘Hindu Pakistan’? So, I again ignored the call. But a veteran, he was in no mood to let it go. He called yet again around 1 pm. There was little option left but to take the call. I took it with a sense of resignation and, I must confess, trepidation.
My worst nightmare began unfolding. He began by taunting me: “Agha sahib, why are you avoiding me today?” Even before I could respond, he continued in Urdu: “Arey, ghabraiye nahi. Hum aap ko Pakistan mein political asylum dilwa denge”. I was agitated and reacted rudely by asking what gave him the idea that I would be migrating to Pakistan, a country which I have not visited even once.
Muzamal was now sarcastic: “Well, we established the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and announced it right away in 1947. You pretended to be secular and gloated about it. But now you are finally the Hindu Republic of India”.
He didn’t stop at that and turned the knife in. He had done a TV programme in Pakistan the previous evening in which he focused on how “Modi has proved Jinnah’s two nation theory right”. I felt as if someone had stabbed me at the back. I felt numb. Our conversation ended within seconds. But as I put down the phone, tears rolled down my cheeks.
Muzamal said something that I believe nagged every Indian Muslim since the afternoon of May 23. No one was ready to pose it quite as brutally and bluntly as Muzamal did. But it will be self-deluding not to admit that the results of the election disturbed virtually every Muslim in the country.
My father, like a large number of Muslims, had refused to migrate to Pakistan in 1947. He was a Gandhian whose bedroom had photographs of the Mahatma on the wall. He taught us to value the ‘Ganga-Jamuni tahzeeb’, something that Gandhi and Nehru always talked about. 

Hindu Republic of India?

Yet after spending over three quarters of my life in a secular, liberal India, I was being told by a Pakistani that I, as a Muslim, had no place in the “Hindu Republic of India.’’ It shattered me and left me numb. Staggered, I wondered if this was indeed the end of the road for Indian Muslims in Narendra Modi’s New India.
Whether one likes it or not, that’s what every Indian Muslim is feeling since May 23. Why Muslims alone! All liberal Hindus also feel weighed down with similar sentiments. Indian Muslims, however, are not just in a state of shock. Like me, they have also been forced to wonder if it is not the end of the road for them in this country.
After all, Modi is no dyed-in-wool Hindu leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is a self-professed Hindutva soldier who is out to build ‘naya Bharat’, based on Golwalkar and Savarkar’s idea of India wherein Indian Muslims will be second-class citizens, a sophisticated word for a sort of slavery in medieval terms.
Muslims will be required to do what Hindus would not, live in ghettos and forget about equality of opportunity, redressal against discrimination and equal treatment before the law. Above all, they will have to learn to keep quiet and not raise their voice against injustice or in favour of what they may perceive to be their legitimate right.
In terms of history, Modi’s second coming in 2019 is no less a crisis for Indian Muslims than 1857 when the British destroyed and dismantled the Mughal Empire and pushed Muslims in north India into a civilisational crisis. The loss of the Mughal Empire was not just a change of power.
It was the collapse of their entire world view wherein their political and social institutions crumbled overnight leaving them clueless because their old world order had collapsed and they had nothing new to look up to - a state of mind that famous Urdu poet and a personal witness to the 1857 mutiny, Mirza Ghalib, described thus:
Iman mujhey rokey hai jo khincheyhai mujhey kufr
Kaba merey peechey hai, kalisa merey aagey.

(Belief restrains me as doubt pulls me on,/ have turned from certainty to complete incertitude)
In somewhat similar fashion, the Gandhian and the Nehruvian idea of India lies shattered with the landslide victory of Narendra Modi. It is just a word between the old India and Modi’s Naya Bharat. 

The BJP had been accusing Indira Gandhi for long now for inserting the word ‘secularism’ in Indian Constitution which will surely be dropped sooner than later as LK Advani promised on several occasions. It will be the formal realisation of the RSS vision of a Hindu Rashtra. And, Muslims are now aware what it might mean for them to live in a Hindu Rashtra. Frankly, it would be somewhat similar to what Pakistani Hindus are going through in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which virtually translates into ‘no’ rights for the minorities, especially Muslims.
There are Muslims in India though who believe Indian Muslims got nothing much in the last 70-plus years in India. Riots bordering on massacres, genocide and pogrom like 2002 in Gujarat but on earlier occasions as well, crumbs of a handful of second-rate jobs in the government and a few slices of power courtesy the Muslim quota are what the balance sheet records.
Yet Indian Muslims never felt so hopeless even in the aftermath of the frenzy of Partition. Educated Muslim elite like us proudly clung to the Nehruvian idea of India even after the cathartic, humiliating and devastating experience of the Babri Mosque demolition on December 6, 1992. Now even that fig leaf, they feel, is gone with Narendra Modi’s second term.
It’s a dark tunnel ahead for Indian Muslims who feel like sitting ducks, or headless chickens if you like, in Modi’s Naya Bharat. Incidents of mob violence, public jeering, hate speech on social media and lynchings are enough to make Muslims feel permanently insecure. What follows now is anyone’s guess.
The story of Indian Muslims is a sad story of the community’s decline and decay. But the Indian political establishment alone cannot be blamed for the fate that stares so starkly at Muslims in India now. Communities cannot advance on entitlements alone. Governments don’t make the fate of a community.
Instead, wise communities make and unmake governments and thus write their own fate.
A community needs to have a vision of its own to advance in times they live in. But Indian Muslims, unfortunately, love to live in their ‘glorious’ past. Only a handful of reformers like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who established the Aligarh Muslim University, tried to link the community with modern times.

Minority welfare "ignored"

Indian Muslims in post-Independence India left their fate to avowedly secular parties who, not surprisingly, succumbed to social and business lobbies. Hindus being the dominant majority in this country, successive governments ignored minority welfare. When they were persuaded to think of doing something for the community on a large scale, they would be accused of minority appeasement and suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
What little was initiated by various governments, they were sabotaged by the bureaucracy. The Manmohan Singh government, for instance, came out with the Sachar committee report which recommended welfare schemes targeting minorities. But the benefits rarely trickled down to the intended beneficiaries. Indian Muslims rarely responded to calls of the conservatives led by the clergy on political issues. 
Yet, emotive religious issues like the demolition of the Babri mosque and their personal law were exploited by the clergy. Most such movements fuelled by highly emotive campaigns received little support among Indian Muslims but ended up strengthening the ‘Hindu Right’. Still, secular parties encouraged conservative Muslim leadership as their spokesperson. It annoyed liberals and the Hindu Right alike.
In the last five years, they lay low despite provocations. They kept their fingers crossed, bowed their head and hoped the storm would pass. The Modi government’s move to abolish even the Muslim Personal Law didn’t provoke Muslims to take to the street as they had done on various other occasions. They hoped against hope and felt their silence would be reciprocated with restraint and not provoke any Hindu backlash.
But after the election results, the Indian Muslims are both dejected and confused. The second largest community in the country, 170 million of them, constitute a little less than Pakistan’s population. And the Indian Muslims numerically are more than the population of Bangladesh. But they are in a bind and unable to figure out what they must do to break the impasse.
But if history is any guide, even such grim times tend to pass. The nightmare of 1857 and the horrors of Partition are now distant memories. The worst doesn’t last forever.
Muzamal’s offer to help me migrate to Pakistan, where he assured me that he had already identified a house I could move in to, is, however, not the first such proposal made to my family. When we were growing up in our hometown Allahabad, my late father told us about the visit by a Sikh gentleman. Refugees were pouring in from Pakistan and a reverse stream of Muslims was taking the train to Pakistan.
The Sikh gentleman showed my father pictures of two bungalows that he owned in Lahore and offered to exchange them for my father’s two bungalows in Allahabd. When we asked our father why he declined the offer, he calmly told us:
“Beta, hamarey purkhey yahan dafan hain. Phir Hindustan hamara watan hai, hum isko chor kar kaisey chaley jatey. Achchey burey waqt to atey jatey hain, watan sey jao to phir woh thodi wapas milta hai" (My son, our ancestors are buried here. Besides, India is our homeland. How could I have deserted my homeland? Good and bad times come and go. One need not desert one’s homeland in troubled times. Once you lose your homeland, you are unlikely to get it back).
The overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims in 1947 thought like my father and stayed back. When the founder of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, could not tempt the Muslim millions to migrate to the ‘Islamic state of Pakistan’, how could my friend Muzamal sway me?
India is our motherland. Why should we quit it for the fear of Hindutva? We believed Mohammad Iqbal when he wrote, “Sarey Jahan sey Achcha, Hindustan hamara”. Our faith in the country and its future remains intact.
---
*Editor-in-chief, Quami Awaz. A version of this article first appeared in National Herald

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen