My Beef About Dadri

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What happened in Dadri is disturbing. Make no mistake it has the potential of spreading to other parts of the country and if not checked, could seriously impact on India at a time when Narendra Modi is actively seeking foreign investment. BY HARSH RANJAN

There was a surprise call from a friend attending a media workshop in Holland recently. He sounded embarrassed. Others at the workshop (mostly non-Indians) were asking him about the killing of a Muslim man in Dadri near Delhi, questions he had no answers for, notably, “Why at a time when India is projecting itself as the best investment destination, seeking investment from those countries which are the biggest consumers of beef, that a mob lynches a man and critically injures his son all because of the suspicion that he consumed beef?”

I’m not sure how my answer was received back in Holland but sitting here in Delhi, I must admit, Dadri left me at a loss for words and flooded my mind with even more questions. What has been happening to this country since the NDA government led by Modi came to power? Are we ‘progressing’, if so towards what? There were no answers rather three strains of thought emerged. The thoughts are distinct but not separate and one needs to weave through them to understand.

The first is about a nation which genuinely grieved over the death of former President APJ Abdul Kalam. The second of a Union minister who, while describing Kalam as a nationalist, added “even though he was a Muslim”. And then you had this mob in Dadri which dragged out Mohammad Akhlaq Saifi from his bed and killed him, leaving his son Danish seriously injured (he has since recovered and the family have been moved to the residential area of an air force base where his brother is).

The Muslim population growth rate (24.60%) is higher than that of Hindus (16.76%), but Muslims make up only a little over 14% of the population as against nearly 80% of Hindus. And the Muslim growth rate is falling with demographers predicting it will converge with the Hindu rate of growth

Why did this happen? Unlike other parts of Haryana (or UP), Rajput dominated Bisara village in Dadri was never deemed communally sensitive. Akhlaq Saifi was well known; he was the village handyman, and the person every family turned to for fixing minor electrical problems or getting that defective water pump running again. The women in his family were also familiar to other women in the village, stitching their dresses or mending their clothes. This year too, many Hindu friends and neighbors had visited Akhlaq’s family during Bakrid. Yet, suddenly everything changed following an incendiary declaration by the priest in the village temple.

Is this possible? Can relationships going back decades overturn in the blink of an eye? The cynics will say anything’s possible. While Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma did meet the family and promise all help, his recent utterances on various issues have upset many.

Let’s take a look at the sequence of events. A mere three days before the killing, Danish was taunted by some people in the village, ‘see the Pakistani passing by’ was distinctly heard. Unhappily, this is something many Muslims in India may have encountered at some time in their lives. Usually, it ends there. At one level it reflects an anti-Muslim sentiment among some people. At another it reflects a view among some RSS and BJP leaders that Muslims don’t really belong in India.

Mahesh Sharma’s comment on Kalam underscored another point, that the late president was a nationalist because he recited the Gita and venerated Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. This suggests that Muslims who did not do either could not be nationalists. This co-relates to the statement of RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat that India’s warring Hindu and Muslims will at last find a way to live together peacefully and that way would essentially be the path of Hinduism.

The RSS has always articulated the view that the only way Muslims (or other non-Hindu minorities) can live in India is by adopting the principles of Hinduism. “The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture,” RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat was quoted as saying in Bhubaneswar recently. In his view, Hindutva is a way of life and Hindus could be of any religion worshipping any God or not worshipping at all.

The other side to this is the ‘cocktail’ the Sangh and its affiliates have been brewing for many years all over India. The cocktail has been ‘sampled’ often in the last 15 months, from ‘GharWapsi’ to ‘Love Jihad’ and rumors about rising Muslim numbers that would swamp the Hindu population in the coming decades. The Muslim population growth rate (24.60%) is higher than that of Hindus (16.76%), but Muslims make up only a little over 14% of the population as against nearly 80% of Hindus. And the Muslim growth rate is falling with demographers predicting it will converge with the Hindu rate of growth.

The drumbeat against Muslims has not spared Vice President Hamid Ansari, whose patriotism was questioned when he referred to his community’s educational and economic backwardness. Ansari’s remarks were not out of context and were factually correct. The double standards are evident when one recalls that nobody pointed a finger when former President K R Narayanan advocated the cause of his fellow Dalits. It would appear that to the Sangh, a Dalit taking about Dalit welfare is not wrong yet a Muslim vice president talking the same about his co-religonists is a sin.

The otherwise social media friendly Modi remained conspicuously silent on the Dadri killing until President Pranab Mukherjee’s publicly voiced warning about the need to defend India’s diversity. Modi could have easily made Dadri a subject in his Mann ki Baat, or in his myriad tweets and Facebook updates, but no. A later interview raised more questions than answers.

As a former RSS pracharak, does the prime minister of India also believe that India’s Muslims must learn to live ‘Hindu style’?

Some Muslim leaders successfully ran their communal shops in the name of safeguarding Muslim interests. If the Muslim community introspects, it will find that the words and deeds of their own leaders has influenced the mindset of Hindus, convincing them that Muslims are separate, distinct and not a part of them

This story would not be complete without a reference to the conduct of Muslims, their institutions, their leadership or lack of it. The Muslim Personal Law Board has always opposed every reform oriented law or bill. The Ulema are notorious for the rubbish fatwas they issue at the drop of every skull cap. Their thought process is anachronistic, misogynistic and out of tune with these times that demand progressive views and actions.

Add to that the likes of Azam Khan, Abu Azmi, Owaisi (or his father Salahuddin Owaisi), Ibrahim Suleman Sait, GM Banatwala, Imam Bukhari and Sayed Sahabuddin who behaved and presented themselves as self-made mass leaders of the Muslim community. Rather, they misguided the community and by design kept them away from the mainstream. These leaders successfully ran their communal shops in the name of safeguarding Muslim interests. Result was they gave ammunition to communal forces, ammunition which is becoming common currency among Hindus at large.

If the Muslim community introspects, it will find that the words and deeds of their own leaders has influenced the mindset of Hindus, convincing them that Muslims are separate, distinct and not a part of them.

Unfortunately, the so called “secular politics” has not contributed to the holistic development of the Muslim community. Rather the Muslim cause has been seriously damaged by the abject surrender of secular politics to the whims and fantasies of mullahs (recall the Shahbano case, the Imrana rape case and the Arif-Gudia-Taufiq controversy). Secularism was bent and distorted to appease Muslims. The irony is at the end of it, the community got nothing.

Today, the so called “secular political parties” are wary of saying or doing anything that smacks of pandering to Muslim sentiment. Witness the Samajwadi Party’s studied silence on the Dadri killing. There is concern that anything said in favour of Muslims could alienate Hindu voters. The secular lobby should take this opportunity to introspect on their own failure all these years to initiate a debate on the Uniform Civil Code.

Let me raise a thought here, and this is not just about Muslims. If sometime in the future Muslims live as per “Hindu custom”, it’s equally possible that Hindu society itself would have changed considerably. If that society is closer to what we see today in a neighbouring country, then God help us all. When a nation is ploughed under the chariot of religion, it is not only minorities who will suffer, the targeting of rationalists like Kalburgi and Dabholkar is an indication of what fate awaits the majority!

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