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Back to square one

Back to square one

Author: Varsha Bhosle
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: July 17, 2000

In an interview to Outlook, George Fernandes had apparently lashed out at the RSS with, "One can't claim to be a patriot by merely declaring he is one, or by chanting Bharat Mata ki Jai and Vande Mataram, or by saluting the national flag and singing the national anthem." It seemed out of character to me... Now, Tarun Vijay, editor of the RSS's Panchajanya, says the statements attributed to George weren't made by him at all, and that George had assured him that this was the result of certain elements in the media who were deliberately trying to create a rift among the allies.

I'm still not sure what's what. But, after the Maruti van blast in Bangalore, and the exposure of the ISI links of Syed Ibrahim, George said from Patna: "I have been saying this since at least the last seven years but no one believed me: The people behind the attacks on Christians are foreigners."

*****

Barring a few habitual turds, the Press doesn't really lie. It manipulates through emphasis and presentation. Take these three front-page headlines: "Experts find link in series of blasts, expose plot to foment trouble," "Pak group behind church blasts," and "Centre finds Pak link to South India church blasts." The first lays the onus on professionals and avoids suggestions; the second jumps right into endorsing the government's line; and the third implies that the government sees a foreign hand. ToI, The Pioneer and The Asian Age, respectively.

*****

So is it with television. By Saturday night, investigations had already revealed that Mohd Zakir, one of the two dorks who blew themselves up in the Maruti after the church blast, had visited Pakistan in September 1992 along with 7 other Deendar Anjuman members who were then granted visa extensions. The injured dork, Syed Ibrahim, had admitted the role of Rehman and Zakir in the blasts. Too, the police had produced before the court Rishi Hiremata and Syed Muniruddin Mulla; Hiremata was the sect's joint secretary and Mulla, the secretary of its Hubli unit.

However, what we saw on Rupert Murdoch's Star News was minutes and minutes of a Deendar dotard with a white flowing beard, soda-water-bottle glasses, a trembling voice and a personality so benevolent that no one would ever believe his org could be sleeping with the ISI. To top that, every person in camera-sight was over the age of 60 and spoke about peace, communal amity and brotherhood.

In February 1999, Murdoch was given an award for "appreciation of services to the Roman Catholic Church" by the Vatican. In 1994, Murdoch had cut off the BBC from his satellite network because the Beeb criticised China; Star News did not even mention China's bull-dozing its unauthorised churches...

Hmm... Someone isn't happy about the facts behind the "Hindu persecution" of Christians. Hum-kitaabs, perhaps...?

*****

Don't believe me? Ok, read this: "[The All India Christian] Council leaders said the hate campaign carried out by Hindu right-wing groups against the Christian community has created the 'ambience for maverick, criminal and fringe groups to attack churches and fulfill their private agendas to carry on acts of mischief for reaping whatever benefit they deem fit'." Meaning, the Church has absolved Muslims.

On cue, Muslims have disowned Deendar Anjuman with: "Sometimes we get fooled as the Ahmediyas have names similar to that of a mainstream Muslim. When we get to know the antecedents we back off... In our view, the Deendaars are more Hindus than Muslims since they believe that 'Om' and 'Allah' are the same. The founder called himself the incarnation of Channabasaveshwara and Muslims don't subscribe to the avatar view." Meaning, back to square one: the Deendar Anjuman is a Hindu fundamentalist sect, after all...

*****

Incidentally, this same Zakir had been arrested in August 1997 for attempting to create sectarian tension by defiling a statue of Dr Ambedkar. Angry Dalits had attacked Shiv Sainiks, a riot had ensued, and 10 had died in the police firing. At that time I'd written: "The recent incidents -- the garlanding of Ambedkar's statue with footwear, the bungled bomb at Jama Masjid, the 54 kgs of explosives found at Kandivili two weeks before Ganesh Chaturthi, the killing of Desai and Gulshan, and the hit list naming VIPs -- seem like bits of a grand plot to destabilise Bombay. Too farfetched, you think?" What to say? 'Nother Brahmin plot.

*****

Ah, yes, Balasaheb. Hmm... I can't take coercion. Like, "This is not an empty threat. If the new government decides to implement the [Srikrishna] report... it will have to face the consequences." "My Shiv Sainiks will not allow anyone to put me behind bars. Those who dare to arrest me will not remain alive." The basic principle of democracy is that nobody is above the law. And to threaten an elected government with murder, is despicable. In Bhujbal's place, I'd have given the order sooner. However, nothing even bordering on self-respect and principle can weigh on a rat's mind...

Why Bhujbal acted now isn't hard to guess: About 10 days ago, Muslim leaders, many belonging to organisations affiliated to the Congress Committee on Minority Affairs, had blasted Vilasrao Deshmukh for being "anti-Muslim." The delegation had also demanded action against state Home Minister Kripashankar Singh for withdrawing cases against Balasaheb and appointing M N Singh as the police commissioner "though the CM had assured us against the appointment of the anti-minority officer." So, nothing like BT in the docks to soothe our minorities when an election is in one's face.

The case against Balasaheb rests on two Saamna editorials; I don't have them to quote. Nevertheless, they must contain what's deemed as "inflammatory" and "creating enmity between different religious groups or communities." I do wonder, what words could possibly move a secularist to aggressive self-defence...? From what I'm constantly being told, fundies are fundies and always on the rampage -- so what new "enmity" can possibly be "created"? What's there has always been there. Those with a spine will rise, editorial or not.

At this point, my mind flies to the erstwhile chairman of the Muslim Personal Law Board, head of the Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulema, vice-president of the World Muslim League, and widely respected late cleric of the Sunni world, Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, popularly known as Ali Mian. Till his death, the sage was so revered that the Shroud went to Lucknow for the express purpose of meeting him and spouted praise for the "nationalistic character of this wise man of religion."

Among Ali Mian's utterances are:

§ "Muslims all over the world, including those of India, were hopefully looking up to Pakistan for help and guidance... The Pakistani debacle of 1971 had caused immense grief to Indian Muslims." This said at an Islamic aConference reception at Karachi in 1978, and referring to Pakistan's defeat in the Indo-Pak War.

§ In India, the slaughtering of cows is "a great Islamic act."

§ "To pray for soldiers would mean to pray for the defeat of Jehadis." This, in response to being asked to pray for the victory of the Indian defence forces fighting in Kargil.

§ "We cannot live in this country in a situation where we are separated from our Islamic identity and way of life. We declare that we are not prepared to accept such life of animals who want only food and security." A directive issued to the large congregation of Talibi Jamaat at Nadwatul Ulema in June 1999, during the Kargil conflict.

Such are the "scholars" and "theologians" of the "minority educational institutions" of India. And, by dint of the support they are able to garner -- from their own communities and from Hindu secularists -- they deserve to be above the law.

As for Balasaheb, apart from those who are widely known as "lumpen" -- Marathi mill workers, girni kamgars, cabbies, bus conductors, the backbone of the work force of Bombay -- he's got three people rooting for him: Francois Gautier -- "Everybody calls Thackeray a fascist or a madman, but let a Hindu minority in Saudi Arabia, or even in Europe, try to denigrate the Virgin Mary or Jesus, and see what happens. At least the man has guts, whatever his excesses." Dara Singh -- "But yes, if I like anyone speaking, it is Bal Thackeray. He calls a spade a spade and I like the way he talks." And, of course, Varsha Bhosle.

The charge against which Balasaheb has been arrested is not for murdering poor, innocent Muslims. It's for writing editorials condemning the communal behaviour of Muslims. I suppose I should say "some Muslims," but I'm in Thackeray mode today. Since Balasaheb's philosophy is said to be "repugnant to most civilised people of Mumbai," it follows that I'm automatically ruled out from that class which must pillory him as a matter of secularist principle. I write the kind of stuff that's written in Saamna -- it may be emotional, it may be opinionated, but it ain't lies, babe. If truth -- even if it be one's biased take on events -- is poisonous, so be it. But be aired, it must. I have written reams on the Srikrishna Committee report and why I think it's not worth the paper it's printed on. I *believe* that when the riots were on in Bombay, the Shiv Sena protected Hindus. No report, no judgement has yet been able to make me reconsider that.

I have no axe to grind with the government for proceeding against Balasaheb, no matter what its motives. What I want is to see whether Hindus are aware that two kinds of justice systems exist in India: One that is applicable to the Ali Mians, and one that's for the Bal Thackerays. If they know, they will see that justice is done. After all, democracy is not the rule of the "educated," "civilised" elite; the "lumpen" element -- that which suffered the most during the riots -- should also have its say.
 


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