SIGNS OF THE TIMES
TELL me where to start from and where to end? The in-between anyway seems so very frightful and complicated …murkier it gets by the day! Yet we sit as mute spectators. Do we have the freedom to even raise our voice or throw up a query or two on the all’s-going-fine narrative, uttered rather too frequently and shamefully by the ruling lot!
Today let us talk of dengue and hunger and the related deaths from the onslaughts of the two deadly disasters. Mind you, the mosquitoes flourishing in our country, are all homegrown. No sir, they haven’t flown in from any of the foreign lands but very much desi. One hundred per cent desi.
And all those hundreds and thousands sitting malnourished and hungry and dying are our people whom we haven’t been able to feed, as we have been so very busy feeding lies to satisfy the sham of the who’s who!
In fact, the only gimmick left for the ruling lot is to get ‘experts’ and parliamentarians from videsh and take them around for those shikara and elephant rides, and then compel them to give all’s okay certificate to the utter hopelessness spreading out.
In fact, on this recent visit of Union Home Minister Amit Shah to the Kashmir Valley, the only missing aspect was European Parliamentarians going about in those shikaras, having tea parties, strolling along the Mughal gardens, before quipping all’s okay! Really? No, not really!
Ground realities are turning darker and harsher and murkier by the day yet we are apprehensive of shrieking out: No, nothing is okay. We are sitting under siege!
SPEAK UP …FOR EACH OTHER!
Just before writing this column, I was viewing Professor V.K Tripathi’s much-in-circulation latest video where he is explaining to the masses the significance of the collective Friday namaaz for the Muslim community, adding rather too emphatically that the right-wing communal elements should not be allowed to disrupt the Friday namaaz held in the open, in the various parks of Gurgaon, with the prior permission of the administration.
Professor Tripathi has also highlighted in the video Mahatma Gandhi’s message for collective prayers and the rationale behind it. On why Muslims in Gurgaon are compelled to offer the Friday namaaz in un-used and less frequented parks, this retired IIT Physics Professor detailed that though mandirs have been allowed to be constructed in the new housing colonies and residential sectors of Gurgaon, yet no new mosque has come up. Perhaps, circumstances not favourable, in the backdrop of the communal poisoning holding sway.
After viewing this video, I have been sitting in that introspective mood: Why shouldn’t we be speaking for each other, irrespective of which community we belong to. Why we, as a people, are not standing up, speaking out? Why should only Sikhs speak out if tortures are inflicted on the Sikh community? Why should only Muslims speak out if they are lynched? Why should only Christian leaders speak out if churches and priests are burnt? Why should only Hindus speak out if there’s hounding of their community? Why should bureaucrats and civil servants bare the blatant truths only and only after they sit retired in that safe positioning?
Yes, even an individual’s stand can make a difference, if that voice is dripping with utmost sincerity and determination. Didn’t we all witness how the Imam of Asansol, Imam Maulana Imdadul Rashidi, had controlled reactionary violence from spreading out when his 16-year-old son, Sibghatullah Rashidi, was killed in the communal clashes that shook West Bengal’s Asansol in March 2018. Though this Imam’s son was attacked and killed during the Ram Navmi processions, yet he appealed and pleaded that there ought to be no cries for revenge or counter killings. With that, this Imam did what politicians or the police force couldn’t do – that is, protect hundreds of his fellow citizens.
In fact, religious heads from nay faith can go a long way in protecting the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of the innocents. They can also go a long way in trying to educate the masses. Way back in 1991, when I was travelling in Kerala to cover the literacy movement, district medical officer of Malappuram, Dr A. Mohammad, told me, “Four earlier attempts to bring literacy amongst the Muslims failed. Then the Muslim League and the Imams of the masjids cooperated, and so a large number of illiterates came to the sessions. In Islam a lot of importance is given to education yet politicians played havoc and education amongst Muslims received low priority. Now KSS and its volunteers have brought about a change…already we can see a big improvement as there’s decrease in infant mortality rate and an increase in the family planning awareness.”
In fact, it is a misconception that Muslim clerics are averse to modern day health and welfare schemes. I have been collecting facts which go to prove that religious heads helped the local volunteers when calamity struck just about anywhere in the country. Activists who had been working in the earthquake-hit J&K areas and also in the pogrom-struck Gujarat had recounted how volunteers headed by the local maulvis helped out. Also, maulvis have been approached by various NGOs to help them spread the message of health and family planning. In UNICEF’s polio eradication drive, Muslim clerics played a supportive role in making inroads in Muslim neighbourhoods. And in 2005, the then Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh took the help of maulvis and sadhus to promote sanitation and hygiene …And whilst I got talking to an Indian Air Force officer, the late Yusuf Khan, as the conversation flowed he even told me that after he had joined the IAF, a well-known maulana of Western UP had told him, “good you’ve joined the services. Islam expects you to fight for your country, to protect it.”
In fact, the maulanas and maulvis had played a very significant role even during the country’s struggle for Independence and also during Partition. In a report on Darul Uloom (well-known Islamic seminary at Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh), journalist Mini Kapoor wrote: “In 1915, in what is termed as the Silk Letter Conspiracy, Maulana Mahmood Hassan had set up a nationalist government in exile in Kabul. The first head/PM of this government was Raja Mahendra Pratap and Barkatullah Bhopali as foreign minister. Later, the bulk of Deobandis supported Mahatma Gandhi’s Congress and opposed the two-nation theory.”
In these recent years, the Darul Uloom issued strong statements appealing to the Muslim community not to slaughter cows to respect Hindu sentiments. Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi of All India Ulema Council had been quoted as saying: “Muslims should respect the sentiments of Hindus for whom the cow is scared.” And this fact is also being highlighted that Islam is totally against forced conversions under any given situation or context.
And on several occasions, I have visited the Lucknow-based internationally known seat of Islamic religious learning, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama. What struck me was the simplicity spread around. As I walked around the campus, it seemed more like a Gandhian setup, with minimal furniture and the students and staff attired in cotton kurta pyjamas. And Nadwa maulvis told me that they believed in training the students to survive with the absolute basics.
In fact, I must also detail that one of the staff members of this historic institution is one of the leading writers of the day. Widely travelled, Dr Obaidur Rahman heads the Journalism Department and writes on different aspects and subjects. He holds a Ph.D. in Arabic from the Calcutta University and has won various awards for his literary works and writings. Author of several books, the title of his latest book- For God’s Sake Be Human – seems rather hitting!
Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story. The views expressed here are author’s personal.