As per the recent communiqué from Chief Minister of Haryana M.L. Khattar’s, the Government of Haryana has decided to change the name of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Hospital in Faridabad to Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hospital. So far we have witnessed the name changes by present ruling dispensation aplenty. Most of these changes involved the changing of names of roads/cities, which had names of Muslim rulers. Aurangzeb Road was changed to APJ Abdul Kalam, Allahabad to Prayagraj, Mughal Sarai to Pundit Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Faizabad to Ayodhya. In recent elections in Hyderabad the UP Chief Minister Adiyanath Yogi said name of Hyderabad should be changed to Bhgyanagar. Shiv Sena, which was a long time ally of BJP, has been calling for name change of Aurangabad, Ahmadnagar, and Pune among others. While Shiv Sena has woken up to electoral advantages of name change from Muslim rulers names to Hindu rulers lately, BJP is adept to this game and playing it to the hilt. Its major propaganda has been against Muslim Kings (Temple destruction, forcible conversion, oppression of Hindu women etc.) and reflected on the present Muslim community.

What is different this time in Haryana Governments’ move is that it is not the Muslim King whose name is being changed. It is the name of one of the great Indian Nationalists, one who stood rock solid against British rule, one who opposed the partition in the name of religion and one who was the devout follower of Father of the Nation: Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan. He is also addressed as Badshah Khan or Bacha Khan with love and affection. He is also known as Frontier Gandhi.

He was a major leader from NWFP, who due to his anti British stance had to be in British prison and later was jailed by Pakistan authorities for his standing for plural, democratic values. Khan had founded Khudai Khidmatgar, which pledged to work for the nation, oppose British rule and follow the path of non-violence and amity. Khudai Khidmatgar’s agitation and resistance to British rule was best reflected in Kissa Khwani Bazar. This incident happened in Peshawar in 1930 when British armored vehicles trampled and shot the protestors, who were peacefully demonstrating.

Khan was the one who was totally against the concept of partition and when Congress leadership had to reluctantly accept the partition and NWFP was to be part of Pakistan, Khan said to Congress leadership, ‘you have thrown us to the wolves’. After partition many of his followers who migrated to Faridabad, built this hospital in the memory of their leader. Some of these followers of his who are still alive do say that they have no problems with the name of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but probably a new hospital can be built in his name sparing the cherished memory of one of the great freedom fighters, one who stood for his principles to the end.

The present ruling dispensation, which was not the part of freedom movement, wants to erase the imprint of Islam and Muslim’s contribution to the building of Indian nation. While medieval Muslims kings have been demonized to the hilt, now BJP seems to be turning its attention to the Muslims who were inseparable part of freedom movement. The understanding being spread is that Muslims had been separatists and so the Pakistan was demanded by them. This is a totally superficial understanding of the history of Independence movement. The Muslim League which had its roots in the nawabs and landlords did not represent the majority of Indian Muslims. Surely Muslim League did succeed in attracting some middle class elements but the large majority of Muslims never supported it. Only elite, property owners and degree holders had the right to vote some of who stood with Muslim League while the average Muslims were with the freedom movement.

Muslim League did succeed in forming ministries in Sindh and Bengal in collaboration with Hindu Mahasabha but average Muslims kept aloof from its separatist politics. The point is that while Jinnah is known as the Muslim leader, it is not generally known that there were other Muslim leaders who were either part of national movements or through their organizations they supported the politics of freedom movement in opposition to the separatist politics of the communalists who believed in ‘two nation theory’, nation based on religion. Shamsul Islam in his book ‘Muslims against India’s partition’ brilliantly brings forth the politics of ‘Nation loving Muslims’ (as he calls those Muslims who stood with the values of Composite nationalism).

In response to Jinnah’s Pakistan resolution, Allahbaksh who was twice the premier of Sindh Province not only returned his titles to support the 1942 Quit India movement. He had earlier formed ‘Azad Muslim Conference’ to oppose the demand of partition of India. He organized this Conference to oppose the demand of partition with huge response from the average sections of Muslim community. Allah Baksh in his speech stressed that our religions may be different but we have to live as a joint family respecting the different opinions of our family members. There are many other significant leaders who had substantial following among Muslims and were for Hindu Muslim unity. Shibli Nomani, Hasrat Mohani, Ashfaqulla Khan, Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari, Shaukutllah Ansari, Syed Abdullah Barelvi, Abdul Maziz Khwaja are some of these.

Similarly Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a tall leader who led the Congress number of times and it was under his President-ship of Congress in 1942 that the call of Quit India movement, the greatest anti- British campaign, was given. Many a Muslim organization like Jamiat-E-Ulema Hind, Momin Conference, Majlis-E-Ahrare Islam, Ahle Hadis, Maualans of Barelvi and Deoband and many others stood unflinchingly to support national movement. Muslim League was totally against these Nationalist Muslims.

Changing the name of the hospital in the memory of Bacha Khan symbolizes the further growth of sectarianism where ruling party wants to undermine and erase the contribution of Muslim freedom fighters, who contributed immensely in the making of modern India. 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance 2020, passed by UP on 27th November 2020, has set the ball rolling. On one hand many other BJP ruled states like MP and Haryana are activating their machinery to bring in similar law in their states and on the other at social level many interfaith couples are being subjected to harassment, some of the Muslim men in particular are being put behind the bars. This law has intentions which are out and out communal as already from 1960s there have been anti-conversion laws. The new laws have goals which are sinister and have the potential of being misused to create social disharmony.

While the ordinance does not use the word love jihad, the foot soldiers of the Hindu nationalist politics are out in the open with apprehending Muslim Man-Hindu girl couple and subjecting them to increasing degrees of torture. In Northern states the phenomenon of intimidation and violence against such couples, the Muslim men in particular is surging. Gradually more couples are being brought into the spiral of moral policing and intimidations. The worst part of the process is that those taking the laws into their hands enjoy impunity and are becoming bolder in creating a divisive atmosphere in the society and pushing back the minority Muslim community into submission and marginalization. At the same time these are putting pressure on Hindu girls and restricting their mobility and freedom.

This time two issues are being rolled into one. The fear of conversions away from Hinduism is being linked to Hindu girls having relationship with Muslim boys. At one level interfaith and inter caste relationships are natural in an open society, where people from different castes/religion interact at various levels.

Dislike for interfaith marriages was put bluntly by the UP Chief minister Adityanath Yogi, who citing a recent ruling of the Allahabad High Court which said religious conversion for the sake of marriage is unacceptable, warned that those waging “love jihad” should mend their ways or be prepared for their last journey — “Ram naam satya hai ki yatra nikalne waali hai”. (The slogan recited in the funeral processions) The instructions have also been passed down that parents should keep a watch on their daughters.

The new law brought in by the UP Government needs to be questioned in the courts as it is an outright attack on different clauses of the Constitution, which gives us the freedom to choose, practice and propagate our faith and other provisions giving us liberty to choose our life partner. This present law (UP and possibly in other states) aims to popularize that Hindu culture is under threat, Hindu girls are vulnerable and Hindu males have to act as their protectors. While the ordinance does not mention the word love jihad, the background and the statements of the top leaders of Hindu nationalism and the actions of vigilantes makes it clear that it is an outright attempt to target the inter faith marriages , especially when the groom is a Muslim. The accusation is that after such marriages the Hindu girl is unable to practice her religion in her marital home and is forced to convert.

Such cases of interfaith marriages are few and far between in this large country of ours’. In more democratized countries interfaith marriages are on the rise, close to becoming social norm. Also Muslim girl and Hindu boy cases are fewer in number, and in the present scenario even the Hindu boy (Ankit Saxena) has to face the wrath of the parents of the girl. The Trinmul Congress MP Nusrat Jahan was also trolled for her choice to marry a Hindu. But overall the hue and cry, the target is the Muslim boy.

In Maharashtra, a group “Hindu Rakshak Samiti” has been claiming to save Hindu religion by breaking up the Hindu Muslim couples, if the girl happens to be a Hindu. A booklet in Marathi on Love Jihad shows a Muslim boy riding the Motor bike, with Hindu girl riding pillion. In case of a Muslim girl marrying a Hindu and converting is presented as Ghar Wapasi (return home) so is not attacked by Hindu vigilante groups. The police investigation mostly showed that there is no such phenomenon as Love Jihad. The organizational promotion of such marriages is a hoax but has become part of social understanding.

Why are there such and opposition to inter faith marriage? Is it a plan by Muslims to lure Hindu girls, marry and convert them? This is a make believe propaganda. As such it is an attempt to paint the Muslim men doing it deliberately under a plan! What is missed out in the whole scheme of things is that here, in this assertive aggressive propaganda and violence the agency of Hindu girls/women is reduced to zero. Hindu girls are presented as being gullible and without any will or decision making power of their own. While Muslim men are presented as a threat to Hinduism and the Hindu girls are presented as being without any mind of their own. The advice being given to parents to keep a watch on the movements of their daughters and their contacts is a mechanism to control the lives of girls.

All sectarian nationalist ideologies are strongly patriarchal and so the woman has to be under the control of men as ‘their property’. Patriarchal values and nationalism under the wraps of religion go hand in hand. With Independence and implementation of Indian Constitution this journey takes a good leap and we can see the women as their own selves coming to all the spheres of Indian social, educational and political life of the country. This is a matter of discomfiture to those who pay lip service to values of equality and eulogize the ancient holy texts, which give subordinate place to women.

Hope the judiciary is able to restrain the state governments in withdrawing these laws which are oppressive. The interfaith amity needs to be promoted at all the levels.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED