Monday, November 16, 2009

AKBAR TURNS JINNAH, ASKS FOR A MUSLIM STATE

"What the Muslims... are looking for... is a defined political space within which they can find food-and-faith security." Were these words uttered by MA Jinnah a little before he formally articulated the demand for a separate nation, a homeland, for all Muslims of India? Not at all. 63 years after India was violently divided on the premise that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together, a well-known and secular Muslim journalist and writer has quietly re-voiced what is essentially that very demand on that very unstated premise. On behalf of Indian Muslims who, in 1947, chose a secular India over an Islamic Pakistan.

MJ Akbar, writing in the Times of India of November 15, 2009, has, in one stroke, felled the very concept of secularism on which India is founded, by reiterating that not just mullahs, but even so-called secular Muslims like him, place their religious identity above all else. Should India be surprised? If a Westernised, whiskey-drinking, pork-eating, non-practicing Muslim like MA Jinnah could effortlessly don a separatist, communal coat and tear the country apart, are the likes of MJ Akbar going to face any difficulty in doing a volte face and attempting an encore?

Akbar, conscious of the heavy baggage of history, has begun with a call for carving a separate state in western Uttar Pradesh, comprising of areas where Muslims live in large numbers. "Such a state will have a substantive Muslim population, as well as a string of important Muslim educational institutions, from Aligarh to Deoband. It will become a natural socio-economic magnet for Muslims of the north." Pakistan was also visualised as a similar "magnet" for Muslim iron filings programmed to crowd out those following other faiths. Kashmir Valley, a part of India still, is another such magnet where the outcome has been duplicated.

It is evident that MJ Akbar has not thought up this pernicious demand on his own. It is probably being debated quietly among the clergy and has, not surprisingly, struck a chord with progressive and secular Muslims too. To give it concrete shape, the strategy being worked on is to find a vulnerable politician or political party ready to sell this nation to communal, divisive and regressive elements in exchange for captive Muslim votes, only to grab power at any cost and then loot the nation. Remember how some secular leaders like Mulayam Yadav and Amar Singh kept saying for a long time that SIMI was a secular organisation? Remember how some of them behaved after the Batla House encounter?

MJ Akbar says that the Congress has nothing new to offer to Muslims and that they have gone back to it due to lack of choice. So, he has zeroed in on Mulayam Yadav to "unlock the next dimension of Muslim demands", the one mentioned above being the first. This, in all likelihood will unleash a race between the Congress and Mulayam Yadav, both desperate to claim credit for conceding this demand, even if it is done obliquely by calling it "Harit Pradesh". In this unholy fight, many rootless media luminaries who sound like Congress party spokesmen will help the Congress by generating a wave of public opinion in TV studios and newspapers in support of India's first communally carved state.

Just a few days back, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind passed a series of resolutions in Deoband which effectively rejected secularism completely and asked Muslims to look at themselves solely from the prism of a version of Islam that is followed by the Taliban in Pakistan too. Ominously, media discussion was limited to the issue of Vande Mataram only. Forget flinging of panties, those who cry murder at the slightest pretext otherwise, did not even open their mouths. It must be mentioned that the Deoband seminary from which both the Jamiat and the Taliban draw ideological guidance is going to be part of the new "Muslim" state that Akbar wants secular India to create.

Before Independence, the Congress blundered in not taking the challenge posed by separatist Muslim leaders seriously enough, and was stunned into submission by the violence that Jinnah unleashed with his call for Direct Action in 1946. This happened despite the fact that the party had giant leaders of spotless integrity and credentials. Now, India has few real leaders. Most so-called leaders have become businessmen and view politics as the fastest, safest and surest way to ill-gotten billions. Propagation and protection of dynasties has, as a direct result, become their primary concern. Such leaders can do anything. With eyes wide open, all faculties working. MJ Akbar has spotted in Mulayam Yadav what many believe is the most vulnerable and the most easily corruptible target. He also knows that this will have, at some stage, a domino effect as greedy politicians try every unacceptable trick to quench their almost totally unprincipled lust for power and pelf.

To my mind, the question is very simple. Are Indian citizens who are Muslims not ever going to look beyond their faith, not as a personal belief but as a communal, political tool? Are 15 crore Muslims really a minority in India when, as everyone knows, there is really no "Hindu" majority at all? What do we call Yadavs who vote for Mulayam Yadav? Or dalits who vote for Mayawati? Or Tamilians who vote for Karunanidhi or Jayalalitha? Where and who are the so-called "Hindus" who are oppressing Muslims and denying them their faith? Why are Muslims again seeking power communally as Muslims alone? Why do the same Muslims rush to denounce those who talk of Hindus as a whole and call them fascists?

In the dispensation that presently rules India, where are the Hindus? The PM is a Sikh, Chairman UPA, Sonia Gandhi, is a Catholic and her closest advisor, Ahmed Patel is a Muslim. Many other persons in her powerful inner circle like Oscar Fernandes, Ghulam Nabi Azad, AK Antony, Tom Vadakkan, Margaret Alva (she used to be Rahul's nanny on many outstation visits earlier) etc are all non-Hindus. In fact even many of the other so-called Hindus in this power ring, including media stooges, are actually rootless atheists who equate secularism with an abhorrence for the religion of their birth.

However imperfect, this is secularism at work and as Indians we are all proud of it. The question is: if it is working for Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and others, why are Muslims, even secular ones, having a problem with it?

Had this demand for a separate Muslim dominated state been made by a fundamentalist group that believes that it is the duty of all Muslims to establish the political rule of Islam over the whole world, one could have given it a miss. But when a leading secular media luminary articulates it, however subtly, it must ring alarm bells immediately everywhere.

People have forgotten that the idea of Pakistan had a lot to do with principle of religion based reservations. This "splittist" idea is again being flirted with very seriously by the same amnesic political party which presided over the Partition of this nation. The manner in which the Congress instituted the manifestly pre-programmed Sachar Committee with a clearly communal political objective in mind, is indication enough that the party has not learnt any lesson from history.

That is not surprising, considering the people who wield all the power in the party. Therefore, though it talks of secularism, there is little doubt that it will now even more readily capitulate to communal demands than it did before Independence. All that the coterie has to do is keep its First Family happy and in business. One example of the dangerous dynamics that are being mindlessly - or is it deliberately? - being set in motion is the recommendation of the Sachar Committee to do away with reserved constituencies where Muslims are in greater proportion in numbers than dalits. Why this change only on the basis of religion in a secular country? Why not in constituencies where other communities of other religions are similarly placed?

MJ Akbar is already speaking of the next dimension of Muslim demands after the first repeat of communal division already under implementation. He has undoubtedly studied Jinnah and Partition of India in great detail. India's leaders and media stars have either forgotten about it or have not bothered to read about it at all. In fact many want to pretend it never happened, because they do not know how to handle their vacuous notions of secularism with that reality in their face.

What do you think will be the next step after this "magnet" for Muslims becomes a reality right next to Delhi? More and more Muslims will systematically migrate to the new state till their numbers reach a level where only a Muslim party is in a position to form the government there. Then the bargaining power of Muslims will increase exponentially and communal demands will increasingly become more strident and uncompromising. Deja vu. Given the manner in which an Islamic Pakistan is imploding today, thanks to the Deoband-inspired ideology of the Taliban, and considering what has happened in Kashmir, one needs little imagination to visualise the danger that India will put itself in in the long run.

Muslims have never been suppressed by "Hindus" anywhere at any time in India's history. They have fallen behind primarily because they have fallen prey to isolationist religious leaders who are afraid of losing their hold over them and who want to use them as pawns in their political power games. The security-and-space ruse being thrown now is the same old lie that has been repeated everywhere; the ultimate objective is always the same: to seize power or to force a division on a communal basis whenever and wherever the numbers are right.

India's secularists never tire of speaking about the secular Mohammad Iqbal who penned the immortal "Saarey jahan se achha". But they don't want to be reminded that the same Iqbal was the leading ideologue and co-creator of Pakistan. They want to limit their vision to Dr Jekylls only and pretend that there were no Mr Hydes who violently hacked India on a communal basis. Unless they open their eyes to both dimensions, they will never see the events that shaped India's recent history in the correct perspective, and will wind up helping the likes of Akbar push India into repeating old mistakes and more.

Will India's so-called leaders, particularly the ones who fraudulently call themselves secular, wake up and put the nation above their narrow interests and ensure that the communal virus that first rejected India and secularism more than 70 years ago is not allowed to spread again and destroy the very idea of a secular, inclusive India?

We must not forget that there is no Raj and there is no British Indian Army too now. When things spin out of control next, ignited by a tiny spark somewhere, the fires will not die down and the dead will be beyond count.