MJ Akbar and BJP — Strange Bedfellows

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Veteran journalist MJ Akbar being welcomed into the BJP fold by the party president Rajnath Singh in New Delhi.
Veteran journalist MJ Akbar being welcomed into the BJP fold by the party president Rajnath Singh in New Delhi.

Perhaps Akbar’s biggest fault is that he is a Muslim. Had he been anything else, it would not have mattered or hurt so much. That said, what indeed does Akbar gain anything by joining the BJP?

OZMA SIDDIQUI

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]o MJ Akbar has finally joined the legions of the BJP and added to their numbers. This most eminent of scribes probably does not realize the deep disappointment this one decision is going to cause his supporters.

For years, many of us eagerly read his columns and marveled at the unique turn of phrase which has become his signature style of writing. A man of no mean accomplishments, former editor of such top notch publications as the Telegraph, The Asian Age, India Today and currently serving as editor-in-chief of the Sunday Guardian with several books to his credit, Akbar is easily one of the most prominent, influential and seasoned journalists India has produced to date.

His writings have for decades projected a vision of a secularist India where minority communities, especially Muslims, have found sanctuary in an increasingly Hindu dominated society. He may not have consciously chosen to be the voice of Muslims but they perceived a common identity with him by virtue of his being Muslim and took pride that one of their own was ‘up there’.

As the 2014 election approaches, the media is revving up the excitement with news of prominent personalities joining either this party or that. But for some reason, every time a Muslim joins the right-wing fascist BJP, the heart sinks. First it was Javed Jaffry, that young and extremely talented showman.

Then came the jaw-dropping news that MJ Akbar had joined the overtly anti-Muslim party. The broadcast was so shocking that some of us actually had to google to check that we had heard right!

For a minute, it all sounded so unbelievable. How could Akbar overlook the blood-steeped history of the Sangh Parivar against Muslims? He must be fully aware of the Babri Masjid demolition in the early 90’s. In fact, one wonders why there were no articles from MJ Akbar on the gross injustice in the immediate aftermath of the Demolition.

And then the 2002 Godhra riots happened with the massacre of hundreds of Muslims instigated by the Hindutva brigade. The tragic part of this whole episode is that the man who was at the helm of affairs at the time but had chosen to look the other way and not even ordered the police to contain the riots is now vying for the top job in the country.

Surely, Akbar is aware that this is the same saffron brigade which has a record for indulging in hate crimes against Muslims. He has publicly declared his allegiance to a party which has time and again given clarion calls to send the whole Muslim community packing across the border to Pakistan or into the Bay of Bengal.

He will also have read the recent news where a group of Kashmiri students were incarcerated for supporting Pakistan when it won a cricket tournament with India. It was just a game but such is the ill feeling that the poor students’ careers were on the line. One wouldn’t be surprised if these youth will continue to be closely monitored for quite some time.

Perhaps Akbar’s biggest fault is that he is a Muslim. Had he been anything else, it would not have mattered or hurt so much. That said, what indeed does Akbar gain anything by joining the BJP? He could have joined the Congress party just the same. Does he honestly believe that a party which is bent on dividing the nation along the fault lines of caste and religion and is a veritable threat to the secularist nature of India will be beneficial in the long-term?

Others may be forgiven for joining the BJP but Akbar is not anybody. Being fully aware of the hardline ideology of the BJP, his support for the party puts not only his own credibility at stake but he is in danger of standing trial in the court of public opinion for deceiving them into believing that they were supporting a man who first needed to set right his own moral compass.

 

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