Now is the time for a transformational move


In a venue known for its liberal and secular ambience, the veteran columnist LK Sharma was bluntly told by a gentleman: ‘Go to Pakistan’.

‘LK’ as he is known in his wide circle of friends was of course in distinguished company. The celebrity actors Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan have been similarly advised. And this same ‘order’ of exile to Pakistan had been issued, somewhat earlier, to the extraordinary thinker and writer U R Ananthamurthy. The ‘order’ on Ananthamurthy was accompanied by hate mails, hate calls and actual physical intimidation. Other less known, but not less shocked men and women, both Hindu and Muslim, have been similarly directed to seek refuge in Pakistan. Such hectorings occur routinely beyond media coverage or even media interest. There need be no doubt that in Pakistan, too, those who do not believe India to be an unmitigated evil are similarly told: ‘Go To India’.

‘Pakistan’ and ‘India’ have become, each in the other country, metaphors for dissent.

Exile is an age-old punishment. It distances, destabilises, dispossesses. It makes a non-citizen of you. It makes you, in Indian terminology, an outcast. And it is particularly hard on the dissenter who in any case is in something akin to self-isolation.

War or war-like situations have seen dissent in terms of conscientious objection to the belligerence and ballistics of war. Contrarian thought in such a situation is promptly characterised as anti-national, subversive and treasonable.

We are not in a war yet, but there is a rumble of war drums in the air in both countries. And this is precisely the situation where nationalist intolerance of dissent or thought itself dons the garb of patriotism. Modi’s admonition to his colleagues not to do any ‘chest- thumping’ over our surgical strikes in Pakistan has come as a refreshing change in an atmosphere where nationalism is a heady mix of swagger and spite.

For instance, those Indians who suggest a variation, albeit ‘within the Union’ in the political status of Jammu & Kashmir, are deshdrohis. In Pakistan, the opposite holds. The Pakistan State and the bulk of the people believe Kashmir was never India’s, never will be. Those Pakistanis who would want to consider and suggest any variation to that are Ghaddars.

In both countries Kashmir is, essentially, seen as a piece of real estate, famously visualised in this forever phrase by Jehangir as agar firdaus ba-roi zaminast haminast-u haminast-u haminast …(If there be on earth, a paradise, it is this, it is this, it is this …). For the people of the Valley, however, Kashmir is not firdaus now. It was, it was, it was firdaus. They want that firdaus back. Who, on zamin or in firdaus, knowing the agonies of the Valley, can be surprised by that, who? If the call for azadi in Kashmir has united India in conformity, the concept of ‘Kashmir is India’s’ has united Kashmir in dissent.

When, in the 1950s and 1960s, Mridula Sarabhai and Jayaprakash Narayan suggested a dialogue with Sheikh Abdullah and put it to fellow-Indians that treating Kashmir as a piece of real estate owned by India was unethical and impractical, they were regarded as subversive, anti-national by elements in the State and sections of the public.

But Jayaprakash Narayan, than whom the people of the Valley cannot have a truer well-wisher, did not endorse azadi. He wanted change. He told India that it had been engendering fear in the Valley of Kashmir.

And the corollary of fear, which is hate. In the same breath he asked the people of the Valley in words somewhat like this : Will azadi from India give you azadi from fear?

Fear is the Goliath in Kashmir. I do not know if there is a Perso-Arabic equivalent for Goliath but there is one for David – Daud. Jayaprakash Narayan was a David, a Daud against the Goliath of fear. Mridula Sarabhai was a Dauda.

A new Daud or Dauda is needed now to exorcise the Goliath of fear and re-invent trust. ‘Restore trust in Kashmir. ‘You must be mad!’ I can hear voices in the Valley telling me. ‘Do you know what it means to have your son disappear or get pellets zinging into your eye-sockets? Do you?’ And I can hear, not far behind those voices, another voice, that of the Pandits still in the Valley.

‘Can you even imagine the fear we are living in…Every hour, minute, second…?’ Hearing all of which I can only fall silent and recall, in that silence, what Wajahat Habibullah has written with bitter wisdom in his classic My Kashmir and what Omar Abdullah said to a Chennai audience earlier this year in a lecture bearing the same title — ‘My Kashmir’. And, more recently, what men of the brave perspicacity of Pratap Bhanu Mehta have written and thereby hope.

Reading Shakir Mir on the existential crisis in the Valley and Shakil Romshoo on the future of the Indus’s waters, I get the clear sense that Kashmir may yet give us a so far unknown Daud or a Dauda who will stun us with an unconventional leadership that challenges India to rise above its zamindari mind-set and challenges Kashmir to see its options with clarity.

I believe a group of concerned Indians should visit Kashmir with no mandate other than listening to people there. My ‘dream team’ would comprise Wajahat Habibullah, Yashwant Sinha, Kavita Krishnan, Bader Sayeed and Jairam Ramesh. If they were to spend a fortnight in the Valley (during which time another ‘Uri’ could well make their efforts seem hopeless) they could well have something transformational to tell the rest of India. Even if that entails their being conferred that high prize for dissent: ‘Go To Pakistan’.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is distinguished professor of history and politics, Ashoka University. The views expressed by the author are personal.

courtesy : http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment-newspaper/now-is-the-time-for-a-transformational-move/story-FEhTX11FmxdPq1BS0WsKnN.html

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Ayodhya Dispute: Need for Upholding Law

Ram Puniyani

The dispute around Babri Mosque seems to be unending. Just weeks ago we saw Sri Sri Ravishankar, the well known founder of ‘Art of Living’ stepping in to settle it ‘out of Court’. Now RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat (24th November 2017) has made a statement that only Temple will come up in Ayodhya. His assertion is just the repeat of RSS stand on the topic, which is despite the Allahabad Court judgment. As far as Sri Sri Ravishanker is concerned he is regarded as a spiritual person but at times he jumps into political issues. Earlier; one heard of his intervention; was at the time of Anna Hazares anti-corruption upsurge.

This time around Sri Sri is back on the political chessboard. He has already met the UP Chief Minister and plans to meet many local religious leaders from Hindu side. As such the Ayodhya matter is pending in the Supreme Court following the appeal by disputants. The Allahabad Judgment had divided the land, where Babri mosque was standing into three parts. One part to Sunni Waqf Board, one to Ram lalla Nyas and one to Nirmohi Akhada. The judgment primarily resorted to the fact that it is the ‘faith of Hindus’ that Lord Ram was born at the spot, so those two thirds were given to those representing the Hindu side, while Sunni Waqf Board has been given one third of the land. Now both Hindus and Muslims are claiming that whole land belongs to them alone.

As country got Independence, the land was under the possession of Sunni Waqf Board. On the night of 22 December 1949, some miscreants, belonging to pro Hindu groups, entered the mosque illegally and installed the Ram Lalla Idols in the mosque. Pundit Nehru, the then Prime Minister of the country wrote to the Chief of UP Government, Govind Vallabh Pant to get the idols removed immediately. The local Magistrate K.K.Nayyar, who later contested elections for MP on BJP predecessor Bharatiya Janasangh ticket, did not get the idols removed. The gates of mosque were locked. Under the pressure of rising Ram Temple movement the locks were removed and Shilanyas was performed when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. This was in the aftermath of Shah Bano Judgment reversal by the act of Parliament. In the aftermath of this; RSS Combine intensified its campaign of ‘appeasement of Muslims’ and got support from the sections of Society.

It is around this time that BJP’s Lal Krishna Advani, made Ram Temple as the central part of his political campaign. In the aftermath of implementation of Mandal Commission report by VP Singh, BJP intensified its campaign for Ram Temple and Advani’s Rath yatra left a trail of communal violence and led to deeper polarization of society. This polarization and later attempts by RSS combine led to demolition of Babri mosque on December 6, 1992. The installation of the Ram Lalla idols was a crime and the guilty went unpunished. The demolition of the mosque was a crime and its culprits went on to become politically more powerful, Advani as Deputy Prime Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharati occupying high political offices. Liberhan Commission report highlighted some of the factors leading to demolition. Advani and Company is facing the charges of criminal conspiracy in the Courts.

In the past the criminal acts related to Babri Mosque have paid rich political dividends to those who were part of illegal acts. The basic dictum is that reconciliation is always good; it is welcome all the time. Despite the nature of the past; out of court settlement is the best option to be sure. But who can do that sort of reconciliation? Can one begin the process of reconciliation without respecting the legal verdict? While many Hindu leaders are welcoming Sri Sri, the Sunni Waqf Board has asked for the solution he has in mind before they can meet him. Also they want to wait for the meeting of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, before they venture to meet Sri Sri. As such while the Hindu side has been harping that Muslims should give up their claim on this land and they will be given land at another place to build a mosque. This becomes clear with the statement of RSS Chief.

Shia Waqf Board, though it is not a party to the legal dispute, has shown willingness to yield to the demands of Hindu side. Can a large section of Muslims go along with the present efforts of the like of Ravishanker and the statement of Bhagwat? The answer to this question is difficult as Sri Sri does not seem to be a neutral person. He comes from the category of Modern Hindu Gurus. On most of the matters of social reform he is closer to conservative values. He has never condemned the crime of demolition of Babri mosque; neither did he grieve the massive violence unleashed in the aftermath of Babri demolition. He seems to be partisan to the ideology of Hindu nationalism, while posing to be neutral about it RSS is adamant on Hindu temple alone at the site as it is the part of their political agenda.

In these circumstances what should the Muslims do? The wedge between Shias and Sunnis is being promoted deliberately. While it was a Shia mosque, the Sunni Board has been the litigant. During last three decades, the Muslim community is being relegated on the margins of society due to communalization. In these circumstances, sticking to Legal recourse seems to be the best option for most of them. The likes of Sri Sri in the name of reconciliation will try to promote the solution amicable to those who have been at the forefront of installing Ram Lalla and demolition of the Mosque, both big crimes in a democratic society! Irrespective of the awaited Supreme Court judgment RSS is already asserting for Ram Mandir alone. Hope the highest Court gives a verdict which respects minority rights also.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED