Friday, December 8, 2017

Three Mosques: “Muslim Generosity Would Electrify Hindu Masses”

Three Mosques: “Muslim Generosity Would Electrify Hindu Masses”
                                                                                                  Saeed Naqvi
The 25th anniversary of Babari Masjid demolition will rekindle debate: why was it demolished, historical wrongs, Mandal Commission inviting a Mandir backlash, Hindu yearning for a Ram temple and so on. But the clinching evidence Judges of the Supreme Court, steeped in the case, might find interesting is a video recording of celebrations at ground zero, the site of the demolition soon after the traumatic event.

The first scene opens with a number of girls in a circle, clapping in unison and singing a song with the following refrain:
“Ab yeh jhanda lehraayega
saarey Pakistan pe”
(Now this flag will flutter over Pakistan)

The next scene shows a group of young men, delirious with excitement wearing bandanas around their heads, carrying lances. They lunge towards the camera, shouting:
“Bomb girega Pakistan pe
Bomb girega Pakistan pe”
(Bombs will fall on Pakistan)

Third scene consists of a handsome Swami with wavy hair. In his booming voice he spells out:
“Abhi hamein Lahore jana hai,
Rawalpindi jana hai…..”

The final scene has the late Bal Thackeray predictably announcing in very matter of fact tones, from his Mumbai residence:
“We are going to build the Ram Temple, and if the Muslims don’t like it, they can go to Pakistan.”

There was no mention of Ram or a temple, only a frenetic triumphalism over Pakistan. In the context of the demolition of a mosque which carried the name of the first Moghul Emperor, the celebrations appeared to settle multiple scores against a long chain of Muslim “marauders” and Muslims who mushroomed under their auspices and who eventually walked away with an independent country. Worse, they left behind almost as many of their co religionists in this country.

No one ever disputed the primacy of Ram in the Hindu belief system, but the demolition of the mosque was an instance of faith being placed in the service of politics. L.K. Advani’s 1990 Rath Yatra was designed to neutralize caste divisions aggravated by the Mandal Commission. Its purpose was to compact the Hindu caste pyramid teetering because of excessive exposure to identity Politics. The mosque and by extension, the Muslim, was to be the foil in this primary enterprise. This was the cement that would be filled into the crevices to stabilize the pyramid.

In this masonry for compacting Hindu society, heavy collateral damage would have to be borne by the Muslim. This collateral damage, in other words, was to be no meager side show. The scaling down of a thousand years of civilization associated with the “invaders” would be cathartic, even exhilarating for the majority. By that very token, it would be degrading for the largest minority ever in history.

Pakistan had become a part of the country’s internal politics even before the 1965 war when Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri upturned Nehruvian secularism by seeking RSS volunteers for Civil Defence Duty. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister after Shastri, felt the heat when she lost the 1967 elections in eight states.

Even during electoral adversity in the north, Indira Gandhi felt reasonably secure so long as her charisma lasted in the southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. When these states were lost in 1982, she realized that the Congress rule could not be secured in the north without recourse to a shade of saffron. This shade she brought into play during the 1983 Jammu elections, harnessing Hindu sentiment against the Khalistan movement next door.

The 404 seats in a House of 533 that Rajiv Gandhi won in 1984, after Indira Gandhi’s murder, were interpreted by the Congress as Hindu consolidation against minority communalism. From the Sikh minority to the Muslim minority was an easy conceptual leap.

It was a moment of reckoning for the BJP, smarting with only two seats in 1984. It could not allow the Congress to steal the Hindu platform. Congress too would not give up the advantage. In 1986 it arranged for the locks of the Ram temple to be opened, having earlier pleased the obscurantist Muslims by upturning the Shah Bano judgement which provided maintenance to a divorced woman.

Then Rajiv Gandhi began the 1989 election from Ayodhya with a promise that he would usher in Ram Rajya. He allowed bricks to be laid for the temple’s foundation, exactly where the VHP had planned to.

To win this competition in Hindu radicalism, Advani’s Rath Yatra provided the BJP with an occasion to raise the stakes beyond the Congress reach. While Rajiv stood on a saffron platform, he was careful not to overtly offend the Muslims.

P.V. Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister reversed this ambidextrous approach. He slept while the Kar Sevaks pulled down the mosque. There was no ambiguity now. It was straightforward Hindu-Muslim polarization.

And now as 2019 elections approach, what should the Muslims do? My mother, who died three years ago, had accompanied my wife, daughter and me to Ayodhya to see the 1989 Shilanyas (bricklaying). She lived in Lucknow and we were there only for two days. This way, she thought, she would see more of us and also inform herself about the mosque in the news. After watching the grotesque drama this is what she said:
“A mosque of “fitna” (conflict) is not an auspicious place of worship. In any case, a Muslim can spread his prayer mat anywhere in the direction of Kaaba and say his namaz. A Hindu consecrates his idols in a temple.”

Muslims should, as an act of generosity, gift the disputed mosques in Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. “Hindu masses would be ecstatic.” I chose not to argue.

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq of the Personal Law Board, echoes the same sentiment.

“Even if Muslims win the case in the Supreme Court, they should make a gift of the land to the Hindus.” The Supreme Court can be the guarantor that communalism would not claim more monuments.

Masses will be electrified and communalists on all sides will be defeated, he says.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Left, Right, Centre? Or Does AAP Defy Simple Definitions?

Left, Right, Centre? Or Does AAP Defy Simple Definitions?
                                                                                            Saeed Naqvi
I probably move in the wrong circles, because nobody I know has a good word for the Aam Aadmi Party. You mention AAP and they begin to whine. This is not the response I get from neighbourhood drivers, other workers and their friends. There is a wide difference of opinion. Is there a clear class divide?

It was just as well that Algebra, the club which exposes the precocious to some intellectual titillation, screened The Insignificant Man, in which cinematic craft takes full advantage of reels upon reels of intimate footage of the AAP’s first rise to power in December 2013.

All the images returned to my mind:  AAP’s shock debut in December 2013 and stunning consolidation in February 2015, winning 67 of the 70 seats in the State Assembly. I receive calls from friends in Mumbai: who should they contact in Delhi with sizeable donations? Wives of retired officials, copy editors are all volunteering to work for AAP. Doctors, nurses, technicians in Max hospital are wearing AAP badges – enthusiasm on an unimaginable scale. Just think of those heady days. AAP’s meteoric rise and the new conventional wisdom have their reasons.

The way globalization manifested itself in India may have boosted business but it stifled discourse. The four Cs, Cricket, Cinema, Crime and Communalism pushed out most serious debate from mainstream media. Murdochization of the media was the order.

Pouring venom on AAP soon after its rise was only a shade less popular on the ratings chart than badgering Pakistan. AAP was neither Left nor Right. It was frontally against the establishment and the establishment was going to tattoo it with double fisted punches.

Well informed, gregarious though moderately paid journalists, were gradually replaced by star anchors with stellar salaries, mandated to ginger up content to support advertizing, the vehicle for a burgeoning economy. Studios became arenas for cruel sport. But when the Lehman Brothers crashed in 2008, signaling capitalism’s state of disrepair, the Indian economy too was checked in its tracks.

Crony capitalism tied to a system which had become increasingly unsure of itself, led to widespread suffocation across the globe. Voters began to dream dreams of breaking out of the strait jackets of the available political parties.

AAP was not the only eruption. There were many assaults on the establishment, from the Left as well as the Right, everywhere.

Systems churned, bringing out the establishment’s willingness to make adjustments but only with the Right. The left was negotiated differently.

Take the 2016 US Presidential elections. The Republicans had settled for Jeb Bush in a tepid sort of a way but the Establishment’s overwhelming consensus was for Hillary Clinton. That which made her the Establishment’s favourite was exactly the reason why she was unelectable: she was THE establishment, an entity utterly in bad odour with an exponentially increasing number.

Bernie Sanders a front runner by yards in the Democratic primaries and who, in retrospect would have won the election, was halted in his tracks. A gamble with Donald Trump as a possibility was considered preferable on both sides of the aisle to a “Caamunist” like Sanders. McCarthyism was alive.

Lets’ consider an example elsewhere – Spain.  

When Pablo Iglesias, leader of Podemos, a Communist formation, burst upon the political scene with substantial number of seats, The Establishment was rattled. Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy of the right wing Peoples Party, primarily responsible for the unspeakable corruption which loomed heavy over the elections, had been reduced to a minority. He would have been defeated in the event of a vote in the House. But crafty systems managers kept a defeated Prime Minister in power until the next election in June 2016.

In the meantime a centre-right party, an answer to Podemos, named Ciudadanos (Citizen) Party was hurriedly promoted. It made noticeable gains. The Establishment had seen the writing on the wall. Manipulations could sustain the status quo but not beyond a point, given the growing resentment against establishments. In the meantime alternatives will have to be put in place – Ciudadanos, for instance – to protect Spain in the future from a Podemos like “disaster”. It was the Ciudadanos model that Emanuel Macron followed in France: respond to a quest for apparent novelty and do the establishment’s bidding.

A rash of Far Right, anti immigrant, Islamophobic parties in Europe are causing anxieties to establishments. But imagine Communists like Pablo Iglesias in Spain or Jean-Luc Melenchon in France or even a mild Leftist like Sanders in the US: were these to be found anywhere in the vicinity of power and there would be upheaval on an epic scale. On the other hand, 31 year old, Sebastian Kurz, far right, neo Nazi becomes Chancellor of Austria and murmurs, always faint, are already inaudible.

Keep the global background in mind but consider AAP in an Indian setting, because details are inevitably different from the West.

Remember how the Congress, BJP, Corporates, Media, Lt. Governor, administration, police, enforcement agencies et al, pounced on AAP almost in concert? The young party was mauled, gored, not allowed to function. And soon, the media’s high decibel 24/7 anti AAP chant did begin to affect the middle classes, the chatterati and the would be AAP volunteers in 2014 – they began to troop out. But Neighbourhood drivers and workers have not wavered, some of them are quite content with what AAP claims as its achievements – water, power, education, neighbourhood clinics.

“Any party even at municipal level, which has done as much – let it raise its hand.” Says one of them. Well, well, I say, lets’ wait till 2019.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Padmavati Controversy: Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair

Padmavati Controversy: Fair Is Foul And Foul Is Fair
                                                                                  Saeed Naqvi

Padmavati, in a sense, is a neighbourhood story. My village, Mustafabad, happens to be in Rae Bareli, which embraces numerous Chishtiya Sufi shrines or places where the saints spent some time, including Khwaja Ashraf Jehangir Semnani, the saint Malik Mohammad Jaisi, the author of Padmavat, was devoted to. Jaisi would faint at the controversy surrounding his masterpiece.

From nearby, Salon, Naeem Ata Shah in his flowing orange robes and headgear often visited Mustafabad. Jaisi, who preceded Tulsidas, in the list of great poets of Awadhi, was an endless source of quotations. So was Tulsidas, whose correspondence with emperor Akbar’s premier courtier, Abdul Rahim Khan e Khana, on meter and structure of poetry one heard about later and which is something one would have expected more scholarship on.

To a most unexpected source I owed my acquaintance with the fact that Rahim, known for his dohas, wrote devotional poetry on Lord Rama in Sanskrit. The source happened to be Vishnu Kant Shastri, former Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Governor of UP. It always puzzled me how a man of such catholic interests – knew Jaisi as well as Akbar Allahabadi backwards – had actually emerged from the RSS stable.

If Jaisi’s flight of fancy can create so much mayhem, I shudder to contemplate the fate of the 1960 classic, Mughal-e-Azam in a similar circumstance. By today’s yardstick, that was the original, unadulterated case of “Love Jihad”. In fact the settled conventional wisdom in the 60s conceded Akbar victory at Haldighati. The national mood today has reversed the outcome of that battle in favour of Maharana Pratap. There have been suggestions that New Delhi’s Akbar Road be renamed “Maharana Pratap Road”. In other words revenge with retrospective effect is in order. To give this trend a more contemporary twist, Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded that an FIR be lodged against Mulayam Singh Yadav for ordering the police to fire on Kar sewaks in 1990. In that framework, it can be argued that producer K. Asif glorified Akbar’s love jihad. For that unforgiveable guilt, copies of the film must be consigned to the flames by way of historical revenge. Dilip Kumar, who played Prince Salim, is lying in coma otherwise he could have been brought into focus of public ire with great effectiveness on the eve of key elections with a singular purpose – polarize the poll.

At a time when logic has been crowded out by a rush of non sequitur, some pundits have attempted common sense. It will not work.

The new cultural brigade destroyed the grave of Wali Dakhni who showered adoration on this land with such verses as:
“Koocha e yaar ain Kashi hai
Jogiya dil wahaan ka baasi hain.”
(The lane where my beloved lives is like holy Varanasi;
The yogi of my heart has made it his dwelling place.) The sentiments the poet represents did not deter the vandals seething with anger against past historical injustices.

Never will the bandish Munmohan Braj ke rasiya in Raag Paraj, steeped in Krishna lore, be sung better than by Ustad Faiyyaz Khan. They tried to desecrate his grave in Vadodara, regardless.

Rasoolan Bai’s plaintive appeals to Rama, in so many of her songs, did not protect her house from being gutted during the 1969 Gujarat riots. It did not matter that the Congress was in power then. What is being tapped into is something which gained a lease of life after Partition and which invites instant, angry, passionate response at the street level. In his very first speech in Parliament after the 2014 elections, this was precisely the nerve Narendra Modi touched: “the nation has to recover from the subjugation of 1200 years”. This is what differentiates the present government from previous regimes. Congressmen may have privately believed in “1200 year of subjugation”, but they considered it tactically proper to speak only of the British as foreigners.

Let us, meanwhile, revert to Jaisi’s purpose in Padmavati. The sentiment is common in western poetry too.
The “desire of the moth for the star, of the night for the morrow.
The devotion to something afar from the sphere of our sorrow”

Shelley’s lines are an ultra simplified version of the interplay between love and beauty which Jaisi is delineating. Padmini and Khalji are secular symbols of Jaisi’s elaboration of the theme on an epic scale.

Keat’s “Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know” can also be tossed in to simplify communicating Jaisi.

Maulana Hasrat Mohani communicates the mood thus:
“Maslak I Ishq hai parastish e husn
Hum naheen jaante azaab-o-sawab.”
(Love’s purpose is adoration of beauty.
Gains and losses I do not measure.)

Should the ever expanding tribe of the new cultural warriors run out of ideas, here are some on offer, gratis. They should denigrate with retrospective effect those Muslims who dared to take liberties with Hindu Gods. Remember, how India’s greatest modern painter, Maqbool Fida Hussain was exiled for his supreme guilt: excessive adoration of Goddesses. His “adoration” was considered lewd by the protectors of culture and faith.

Well, in like fashion, Maulana Hasrat Mohani deserves to be shamed retrospectively. He wrote a great deal about Krishna in Urdu, but in his Bhasha or Braj verses he takes liberties:
“Mose ched karat Nandlal”
(Krishna teases me all the time)
“hum hoon jo dei liptai ke Hasrat
Saari yeh chalbal nikaal”
(One day I shall embrace him tight and squeeze out all his mischief)
“Squeeze out”, in a tight embrace, has erotic connotations which should be unacceptable to the new cultural brigade.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

BBC Investigation Exposes US, UK, Saudis Protecting IS in Syria

BBC Investigation Exposes US, UK, Saudis Protecting IS in Syria
                                                                                        Saeed Naqvi

The BBC expose, with graphic visuals, is quite emphatic: the US and British led coalition forces enabled hundreds of IS jihadists escape from Raqqa after the headquarters of their self declared Caliphate had been bombarded out of recognition. This will set the cat among the pigeons.

The matter will surely come up in the British Parliament and Congressional hearings in Washington. More such mischief is surfacing.

The Defence Ministry in Moscow is already in overdrive. “The US refused to bomb a military convoy retreating from Abu Kamal (in Raqqa). The coalition’s aircraft also attempted to prevent Russian Aerospace Forces from carrying out air strikes against militants.” There is considerable evidence of “direct cooperation and support for ISIS terrorists by the US led International Coalition”, the Defence Ministry said.

In a separate incident “Americans peremptorily refused to conduct airstrikes on ISIS terrorists.” The reason given was that the militants were agreeing to surrender as prisoners of war and were “therefore subject to the provisions of the Geneva convention.” US aircraft obstructed “Russian aerospace from taking action.”

Stratfor, an establishment think tank, offers almost an apology for terrorism perpetrated by returning jihadists. “Looking at recent cases involving fighters returning from Iraq and Syria, they have tended to conduct attacks against soft targets instead of making more complex attacks against harder, more significant targets. Some examples include a Jewish museum and the soft side of the airport in Brussels; a concert in Manchester in the UK; and a cafĂ©, concert venue and sports stadium in Paris.” Is it not too sanguine a tone on the theme of returning jihadists who destabilize Western societies?

Youth, fired by jihad, who have left their homes in the West for destinations like Syria, are unlikely to be less than hostile towards their respective societies when they return home. This hostility will erupt into acts of terrorism listed in the stratfor brief.

The cat-and-mouse that goes on between terrorists and counter terrorism units confronting them provides room for others to advance their rogue agendas. It is a witches brew.

This was lethal enough. What has evolved since the 9/11 wars in West Asia is a system of regularizing terrorists in Company and Platoon strengths, backed by trainers, finance and weapons, as a military asset to be relocated wherever required. Sophisticated propaganda is integral to the project.

If readers have not seen Amaq, the propaganda organ of the IS, they must instantly obtain a copy online. It is a glossy publication which would put to shame some of the better magazines in the business. If IS is an underground, guerrilla outfit, living in bunkers and trenches, how does it have time, skill, printing presses to regularly churn out this professional product?

Non GCC Arab diplomats, with access to their respective agencies, have been informing South Block that US terrorists, air lifted from various theatres in Syria and Iraq, may have been relocated to war zones like Afghanistan and Rakhine state in Myanmar. India cannot consider itself exempt from this global menace.

Almost on cue, appears a piece by Sara Flounders of the International Action Centre, Washington, focusing on how the Rohingyas plight worsened in Myanmar. Hostility between the Buddhist clergy, the Myanmar military and the Rohingya Muslim in Rakhine has continued for years. What then was the need for the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed resistance group, to carry on attacks on 30 Myanmar military posts on august 30? It was only then that the Myanmar military responded with a wave of brutal attacks on the Muslims driving them in thousands over the border.

There is an intriguing twist to the tail: ARSA is headquartered in Mecca, under Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi, a Pakistani national resident in Saudi Arabia.

Why have the US and Saudi Arabia, who have supervised a three year long war in Yemen, rendering millions homeless and killing thousands, turned with so much sympathy to the one million Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine? It is their callousness elsewhere that invites this cynicism at their concern for Rakhine? Are they driven by a desire to control a group in a poor, mineral rich country bordering China?

Former President, Hamid Karzai has, in an interview to Tehran Times expressed similar fears.

According to him IS “is the brainchild of the US and its allies which introduced this terrorist group to the world under the pretext of fighting extremism and terrorism.” He warns regional powers not to allow the IS to grow in Afghanistan. He said the “number of this terrorist group is increasing by the day in Afghanistan.”

The Moscow Initiative on Afghanistan enunciated by Putin last April sought regional co-operation to isolate IS and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Towards this end the Taleban, an Afghan national entity, should be accommodated in Kabul’s power apparatus. As soon as Trump saw Moscow developing a constructive theme in Kabul, he reversed his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan,. He will stay come wind, come weather.

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