Contrary to present impression that Muslims are separatists due to whom the partition of India took place, the truth is that Muslims contributed to freedom movement and upheld India’s composite culture in equal measure. The partition process, mainly due to British policy of ‘divide and rule’ well assisted by Hindu and Muslim communalists is being hidden from the popular vision in India and Muslims in general are held responsible for the same. Not only that the communal historiography introduced by British to pursue their policies has become the bedrock of communal politics and worsening of the perceptions about Muslims is in progress in India.

Yet another example of this has been a series of tweets by the bureaucrat, who is close to retirement, K. Nageshwar Rao. Contrary to the service rules he has made statements, through his tweets which are appreciative of RSS-BJP and demonise the stalwarts Muslim leaders who not only contributed to the freedom movement but also later gave valuable service in laying the foundation of Independent India. As per Rao, his tweets he accuses Maulana Azad and the other Muslim Education ministers of “deracination of Hindus”. After naming “Maulana Abul Kalam Azad — 11 years (1947-58)”; “Humayun Kabir, M C Chagla & Fakruddin Ali Ahmed — 4 years (1963-67)”; and, “Nurul Hassan — 5 years (1972-77)”, he posts: “Remaining 10 years other Leftists like VKRV Rao.”

He points out that their policies were meant to “1. Deny Hindus their knowledge, 2. Vilify Hinduism as collection of superstitions, 3. Abrahamise Education, 4. Abrahamise Media & Entertainment, 5. Shame Hindus about their identity!  and 6. Bereft of the glue of Hinduism Hindu society dies.”

Then he goes on to praise RSS-BJP for bringing the glory back to Hindus. These statements of his on one hand promote the Hate and on the other tantamount to political statement, which civil servants should not by making. CPM politburo member Brinda Karat has written a letter to Home Minister Amit Shah to take suitable action against the erring bureaucrat.

Rao begins with Maulana Abul kalam Azad. Surely Azad was one of the major leaders of freedom movement, who was also the youngest President of INC, in 1923 and later between 1940 to 1945. He opposed the partition process tooth and nail till the very last. As the Congress President in 1923 he wrote a remarkable Para, symbolizing the urge for Hindu Muslim unity, “If an angel descends from heaven and offers me Swaraj in 24 hours on condition that I give up Hindu Muslim Unity, I will refuse. Swaraj we will get sooner or later; its delay will be a loss for India, but loss of Hindu Muslim unity will be a loss for human kind”. His biographer Syeda Hamid points out “He spoke without an iota of doubt about how debacle of Indian Muslims has been the result of the colossal mistakes committed by Muslim League’s misguided leadership. He exhorted Muslims to make common cause with their Hindu, Sikh, Christian fellow countrymen.” He was the one who promoted the translation of Hindu scriptures Ramayan and Mahabharat in to Persian.

Surely Mr. Rao, neither has read Azad or read about him nor knows his contributions to making of Modern India. While today, the ideological formation to which Mr. Rao seems to be pledging his commitment is critical of all that happened during Nehru era, it was during this period when as education minister Azad was shepherding the formations of IITs, Academies of Science, Lalit kala Academies. It was during this period that the efforts to promote Indian composite culture were undertaken through various steps.

The other stalwarts who are under the hammer have been outstanding scholars and giants in their own field of education. Humayun Kabir, Nurul Hasan, Dr.Zakir Husssain gave matchless ideas and practical contributions in different fields of education. One can say that contrary to the accusations, India could match up to the Computer era, software and associate things, due to creation of large manpower in these areas mainly due to these foundations which were laid down particularly in the field of education during this period.

The charge that these ‘Muslim’ education ministers white washed the bloody Islamic rule is a blind repetition of the offshoot of communal historiography introduced by British. While Kings were ruling for power and wealth, their courts had Hindus and Muslim both officers. The jaundiced vision sees this as a bloody Islamic rule but as a matter of fact the syncretic culture and traditions developed precisely this period. It was during this period that Bhakti Traidtion with Kabir, Tukaram, Namdeo, Tulsidas flourished. It was during this period that humane values of Sufi saints reached far and wide. It was during this period that poets like Rahim and Raskhan produced their classic literature n praise of Hindu Gods.

We also need to remind ourselves that large number of Muslims participated in the freedom Movement. Two scholars Shamsul Islam and Nasir Ahmad have come out with books on the myriad such freedom fighters, to recall just a few names. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Zakir Hussain, Syed Mohammad Sharfuddin Kadri, Bakht Khan, Muzzafar Ahmad, Mohammad Abdir Rahman,, Abbas Ali, Asaf Ali, Yusuf Mehrali, Maulana Mazahrul Hague.

These are just a few of the names. The movement, led by Gandhi, definitely laid the foundations where composite Indian culture and respect for all religions, others’ religion was paramount and this is what created Indian fraternity, one of the values which finds its place in the preamble of Indian Constitution.

This blaming of Education ministers who were Muslims is an add-on to the process of Islamophobia in India. So for there have been many actions of Muslim kings which are selectively presented as being bloody, now the post Independent History, where glorious contributions have been made by Muslim leaders are being used to further deepen the divisive process. We need to pay respects to builders of modern India, irrespective of their religion.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Last three decades have seen a drastic shift in the global political scenario. Earlier decades were marked by national liberation struggles; focus on the issues related to ‘this World’. Many a countries who came out from the grip of colonialism, under different banners gave primacy to industrialisation, education and agricultural growth. India, Vietnam, Cuba being some of those, which despite the remnants of fundamentalists, marched towards the states upholding the concerns of the struggling and deprived people of the countries, away from the stifling grip of politics in the name of religion. Of course there were some of the countries where the rulers allied with the clergy to keep alive the feudal norms, perpetuating the grip of backwardness. These had sectarian approach to their policies. Our two neighbours Pakistan and Myanmar do fall in this category.

From the decade of 1980s many factors contributed to the retreat of secular democratic forces and politics wearing the clothes of religion marched trampling the inclusive ethos, marginalising the welfare policies and giving a go by to development and progress as far as industrialisation and education is concerned. Last three decades in particular has seen the increasing hegemony of politics in the name of religion. Terminologies like Islamism, Hindutva, Christian fundamentalism, Buddhist fundamentalism have come to the fore, becoming more assertive and taking these countries down from the path development and worsening the lot of large sections of society.

Currently in US, Donald Trump is making subtle and overt appeal in the name of Christianity and Ashin Wirathu in Myanmar has been promoting violence in the name of Buddhism. Similar is the phenomena in Sri Lanka, where Wirathu’s clones are on the ascendance. In India the Hindutva has made massive strides. In Afghanistan, Al Qaeda Taliban has tormented West and Central Asia apart from Afghanistan itself. The most blatant expressions of these have been the mutilation of the idols of Lord Gautama Buddha in Afghanistan.  Similarly demolition of Babri Mosque in Ayodhya is a painful chapter which was used as springboard by Hindu nationalists.

These are just visible symbols, while the socio economic impact has been dangerously retrograde, the status of rights as citizens, rights of minorities have suffered a severe setback at the same time. This does reflect the direction of global trend. Many slogans have been dominating the scene. Earlier the major propaganda from imperialist forces was ‘Free World versus authoritarian system (socialism)’, later in the aftermath of 9/11 the ruling phrase has been ‘Islamic terrorism’. Currently different fundamentalisms are ruling the roost, stifling the democratic ethos and undermining human rights in general.

It is in this background that conversion of Hagia Sophia from a museum to Mosque can be understood. Turkey was one of the major countries which under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk had embraced the path of secularism, overthrowing the Caliphate; the carryover of Ottoman Empire. This Caliphate even had some approval from section of global Muslim community. Ataturk had unshakable commitment to secularism and Hagia Sophia, which initially was a Church and changed to a mosque in 15th Century was converted to a Museum, a space for all with equal and due respect. Erdogan, who has been at the forefront of power from last many years; has been gradually shifting to Islamism. Islamism is to Islam what Hindutva is to Hinduism or Christian fundamentalism is to Christianity. Erdogan rose in the power hierarchy from the competent mayor of Istanbul to later become Prime Minister of Turkey. After the initial years where he could deliver on economic front, he slipped into self adulation and power hunger kept him shifting the fulcrum of politics towards Islamic identity. The downslide in the condition of the citizens was pathetic and it also got reflected in Erdogan loosing the local body elections.

This is when his turn to Islamism has become more overt and this grand structure of Istambul, more or less the most important architectural symbol of Turkey, was converted in to a mosque. Sections of Muslims are celebrating this as ‘victory of Islam’. Other Muslims more committed to values and humanism of Islam; are severely critical of this move of Erdogan. They point out that there is no compulsion in Islam in matters of religion. (To you your religion, to me mines). This is in contrast to the popular belief that in India Islam spread on the point of sword.

These serious scholars of Islam also remind us that, at one point of time Prophet Mohammad even invited non Muslims to the mosque to offer their prayers. Of course each religion has multiple sub sects and multiple philosophies associated with each. Islam has the range of Shia, Sunni, Khoja, Bohra and Sufi with various legal streams like Hanafi, Hannabali etc. Christians, do have Catholics with few sub streams and Protestants again with many streams. Each claims to be the ‘real’ one. While perhaps what is real in the religions is the love and compassion for fellow human beings. Some aspects of religions are just a cover for lust of power. So we also see that some will approve Jihad, others will defend Crusades and yet another will uphold Dharm Yudh.

The turning of Hagia Sophia to a mosque has two dimensions, one of the losing popularity of Erdogan so resorting to populism of religion as a crutch to hold to power, and other is the impact of global rise of fundamentalism in many a countries. In 1920s Kemal Ataturk could take on the mighty institutions of ‘religion’ to introduce the secular policies on solid secular foundations. In turn of events during last many decades the fundamentalism has hit back. The main reasons have been the role of America in propping up Al Qaeda to counter the Russian army in Afghanistan and later decline of Soviet Union leading to emergence of America as sole super power for some time. America did proactively promote fundamentalism at multiple places. That set the ball rolling and gradual occupation of secular space by the language of religion. What we are witnessing in Turkey is yet another example of this retrograde phenomenon.  


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED