Signs of the times: Of manhandling protesters and recalling Muslims' contribution in our freedom struggle

Delhi police roughing up Srinivas BV raises serious concerns: will peaceful protesters get bashed up in our democracy? What fate awaits all those at the mercy of the state machinery?

screen grab from video/Twitter
screen grab from video/Twitter

Humra Quraishi

It was shocking to watch the video of the Youth Congress chief, BV Srinivas, being manhandled by policemen. He was even pulled by his hair in the most brutal manner! It relayed the very brutality a citizen can be subjected to.

Why was such brutality heaped on Srinivas? He was merely protesting. To protest is a citizen’s very basic right. After all, it is to convey his disgust, disappointment and displeasure at the ways of governance.

In fact, as I mentioned earlier too, the treatment meted out to the citizens requires immediate attention. Look at the way violence seems to be overtaking governance and there seems no halt to it. Beating, hitting, thrashing, slapping, pulling, and punching seem so very prevalent! All out in the open.

This raises serious concerns: will peaceful protesters get pushed and pulled by their hair, in the worst possible inhuman ways? What fate awaits all those at the mercy of the state machinery? Is this the way to treat members of the Opposition party? Before I write any further it is significant to focus on the fact that Srinivas BV - head of the Congress Youth Wing - is one of those citizens who did his utmost to reach out to the Covid-19 patients during the horrific second wave of the pandemic when Coronavirus had hit hard and people were gasping for breath desperately looking for oxygen cylinders . He risked his life to save lives of those affected. And see how the establishment has treated him! He was getting manhandled out there in the open, in the capital city, New Delhi.

Muslims played a very significant role during the independence movement!

Navaid Hamid, President of the AIMMM, (All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat) a federation of various Muslim organisations, is one of the first to have raised “concern” as he puts across, after the newly-elected President of India, Droupadi Murmu, did not mention names any of the Muslim freedom fighters in her first address to the nation after being sworn in as a President of India.

To quote Navaid Hamid on this: “It’s nothing but unfortunate that President Murmu’s address doesn’t contain a single prominent Muslim name of freedom fighters which could have been an asset to her address, like of Begum Hazrat Mahal, Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to name a few …It’s worrisome and an attempt to not only downplay the Muslim role in freedom struggle but also rewrite history.”

Yes, disappointing it is, as the Muslims of the country played a very significant role during the freedom struggle. Facts stand out to show that the Muslim community together with the other communities, had fought the British. And many of these freedom fighters were jailed, hanged, tortured.

One could write a full-fledged volume on the role played by the Muslim community during the country’s freedom struggle. We seem to be overlooking the rebellions led by the Muslims against the British. Needless to add, that hundreds of the rebels were killed and the survivors had to face the aftermath.

And at the start of 2017, a news report caught attention—Telugu writer Syed Naseer Ahmed, and Mohammed Farookh Shubli, Founder President of Youth Welfare, Vijayawada, brought out a calendar focusing on the Muslim freedom fighters. The duo highlighted 24 freedom fighters—The Immortals!

The maulanas and maulvis too played a very significant role even during the country's struggle for independence and also during Partition. They had also opposed the two-nation theory. In a news report on Darul Uloom (the well- known Islamic seminary at Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh), journalist Mini Kapoor focused on this fact– in 1915, in what is termed as the Silk Letter Conspiracy, a graduate, Maulana Mahmood Hassan, set up a nationalist government in exile in Kabul. The first head /PM of this government was Raja Mahendra Pratap and Barkatullah Bhopali as foreign minister. Later the bulk of Deobandis supported Mahatma Gandhi's Congress and opposed the two-nation theory.

Also stands out the fact that many well-known Muslims had joined Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, holding top-ranking positions. And one cannot overlook the very significant role played by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan during our country’s freedom struggle. Frontier Gandhi, as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was popularly called, was close to Mahatma Gandhi and believed in non-violence. He lived by his convictions, and in 1929 when Mahatma Gandhi called for a non-violent struggle against the British rule, he responded by forming an ‘army’ of 1,00,000 men—the Khudai Khidmatgars (Servants of God) who worked with him to take on the British through non-violent ways.

Can we overlook the facts related to Meos of Mewat and their tireless struggle against the British rule? Let us not overlook the numerous Urdu writers and poets and the role they played during the 1930 and 40s. I could manage to grasp the range and grandeur of this fact only when I was associated with Jamia Millia Islamia as a visiting professor. In fact, focus on those poets and writers, was one of the many initiatives taken by the then Vice –Chancellor, Mushirul Hasan. To quote him on this, “The progressive writers and poets came on a common platform with the sole purpose to oust the British."

Even in his writings, Hasan focused on the ways those rebellious writers and poets found to reach out to the masses, to arouse patriotism. They used their verse and prose as weapons of social reform, to denounce bigotry and religious hatred.

Ali Husain Mir and Raza Mir’s volume 'Anthems of Resistance’ dwells on the very verse of the rebel poets - Josh Malihabadi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Israr -ul - Haq Majaz, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mahrooh Sultanpuri, Makhdoom Mohiuddin and others.

Also, can we overlook the tragedies faced by the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862) for taking on the British. Read and absorb his verse and you’d realize how passionately he loved his country, Hindustan:

“Ode to Hindustan

Matchless is the soil of Hindustan

In it grow love, compassion, fidelity

As sure as the sun rises from the East

So surges from this land sincerity.

This is the true seed of Hind and from its earth

These fruits have spread across the world, far and wide.”

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