By Zahid jamil
Display of a portrait of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, in Student Union Hall of Aligarh Muslim University has created yet another debate in India. The portrait has hanged in the hall since 1938 when Mr Jinnah was awarded honorary life membership of the Union. However, the local MP of ruling BJP party sent a letter to AMU Vice Chancellor asking him to get the portrait removed. Couple of days later, a number of men belonging to a Hindu extremist groups, invaded the university campus with support of local police, demanding removal of the portrait. They also disrupted the programme of Mr Hamid Ansari, the ex-Vice-President of India who was to be awarded the life membership of the Student Union as well.
The so-called Jinnah portrait row has triggered fresh charges against Muslims of being anti national. In TV debates, Muslim intellectuals, political and religious leaders are seen to be defending their patriotic credentials. Many of them have been critical of Jinnah, blaming him for partition and declaring that Pakistan is an enemy nation, as unacceptable to Muslims as to Hindus.
Muslims living in India have lost the courage to speak the truth. Pakistan is a neighbourly nation where close relatives of millions of Muslims live. In true sense, it was the partition of Muslims of undivided India and not of Hindus. Muslims were dissected into three parts, families were forced to split and Indian Muslims in particular were left in a disadvantageous position. They were seen by suspicion by the majority and extremist elements of Hindu community have been keen to sideline them.
Analysing the history carefully, it is quite evident that Hindu and Muslim leadership of the time were equally responsible for the partition of India in 1947. A section of Hindu leaders in Congress had communal tendencies and they had created an environment which had forced even the most secular and liberal Muslim leader in Jinnah to join the Muslim League.
Undivided India would have been of great advantage to Indian Muslims as more than 500 million Muslims in the subcontinent today would have much bigger political voice. Such political strength of Muslims would not let Hindutva political ideology to prosper. Extremist Hindus should in fact be thankful to Jinnah for offering them this opportunity.
Today's Muslim leadership in India should have the courage to demand the governments of India and Pakistan to correct the mistake of 1947 by opening the borders between the two countries, bring down the walls of hatred and that the two communities, not only within India but in the whole subcontinent live in peace and harmony. Hindus and Muslims do have different religious beliefs, but they share so much in common, the culture, the language, the arts including films, Urdu poetry, Ghazals and Qawwalis, the sports that they can create a cordial atmosphere and live in harmony. Eastern Europe had created a revolution to bring down the barriers and join Western Europe couple of decades ago, North and South Korea are willing to do so now, so why not India and Pakistan?
However, since extremist elements within the BJP came to power four years ago, Hindu nationalists have only spoken of animosity against Pakistan, intensified brutal aggression against people of Kashmir, raised passions against local Muslims by digging out issues of no significance and blowing them out of proportion, thus keeping national atmosphere charged with hatred and heated discussions.
It has been seen over past few months that Hindu extremists turn up loaded with arms whenever an incident against Muslims is created. In Aligarh too, the RSS activists, who stormed the university campus, were carrying swords, guns and knives. The violence, which took place in Bihar from March 25 to 28, was preceded by processions in which Bajrang Dal youth were brandishing swords and knives. It was reported that these arms were brought in from outside, with one Patna businessman alone had ordered 50,000 swords from the city of Merrut in Uttar Pradesh. According to other report by Nilanjan Bhowmick in The Wire, men in saffron kurtas and turbans, on motorbikes, carrying swords, tridents and knives had created tense atmosphere in Noida on 3rd April as they took out a procession to the Hanuman Temple. During these processions Islamophobic songs are distributed to be played on loud speakers and CDs and pen drives, containing such songs are distributed.
Ordinary Muslims are very fearful and they seem to have lost courage to counter Hindu offensive. In Gurgaon, when a few RSS boys turned up to disrupt and stop Friday prayers in the park a few weeks back, no one from about a hundred Muslims came forward to even have an argument with them. They simply left the spot without praying.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that Hindu extremist groups are quietly arming their activists. One can fear that they may be planning ongoing aggression against weak, defenceless Muslims. Admiration for Nazism is rampant among RSS leadership which is reframing into genocidal hatred against Muslims.
While secular forces within India do try to raise voice, they are rapidly becoming ineffective as Hindutva forces are gaining strength of unprecedented proportions. The large segments of Hindu community stand for secular India. Upper cast and general category Hindus are only 26% of the Hindu population where extremist Hindu groups have their support base. 74% Hindus belong to lower castes who have their own grievances against upper caste Hindus due to the exploitation, they faced for thousands of years, apparently driven by religious beliefs.
Hindu Extremist groups are undoubtedly harming their own community by diverting the attention of their youth to hatred and violence, instead of engaging them in nation building programs. They are also becoming a major obstacle to India’s progress as they are creating a civil war like atmosphere in the country.
India looms towards major internal strife which will cause huge damage to its dream of becoming a major economy at world stage.