Not much difference between Waris Pathan & Yogi Adityanath

Except that the latter is in power and can order repression by state agencies and get away even after inflammatory speech. Police will act against the one while turning a blind eye to the other

(Left) Waris Pathan & (Right) Yogi Adityanath
(Left) Waris Pathan (Right) Yogi Adityanath

Sujata Anandan

Former Prime Minister V P Singh had once cautioned us against the dangers of officials being taken in by the rhetoric of the extremes. In Mumbai on a private mission, he had been approached by both Left and Right-wing activists to sort out what seemed like a mundane issue – the rehabilitation of slum dwellers settled on the edges of the Borivli National Park.

The Maharashtra government had been offering them alternative sites of accommodation but both sides had dug in their heels and were insisting on the regularisation of the illegal settlements despite the fact that better homes were on offer to them by the government.

Exasperated by their intransigence, Singh held that case up as a typical example of the twain meeting between the two rank opposites. “They take different routes, but their ultimate goal is the same – chaos and mayhem. The centrist position of real, practical solutions is not for them.”

While this battle was between the political right and left – each having the same formula to claim victory for themselves, Singh warned against the even more dangerous meeting of twains between religious fundamentalists.

“There will be more blood and mayhem there but that is the goal of both – blood and mayhem -and each is happy about approaching those goals from opposite ends.”

I see that that is exactly what is happening over the protests at Shaheen Bagh. To begin with, both the political and religious Hindu rightists could not fathom what was happening. Now Muslim fundamentalists who find the narrative slipping out of their hands are seizing upon these protests to achieve the same goals – divide the nation between religions and cause a lot of bloodshed between the communities.

For more than two months now the protesters at Shaheen Bagh have been undaunted by efforts to discredit them and oust them from the protest site. But if they have worried the Hindu bigots a lot by their indomitable spirit, I think the bigots among the Muslims have had greater cause to be alarmed by their intransigence.

These are women who are supposed to kowtow to their men and take no steps unless so directed by the male clergy in their community. Had any such men been leading the protests compromises would have happened by now and the protesters gone home long before the winter nights shortened and the summer sun began to appear on the horizon. But clearly the women’s determination is a cause for worry less to the Modi government at the Centre than to bigoted Muslim men across the country.

Quite apart from the political debate over triple talaq and the uniform civil code, the women of Shaheen Bagh are defying the stereotypes of Muslim women as we know it and refusing to listen. So, of course, if these ‘Shernis’, as Waris Pathan refers to them, frighten the right wing bigots a lot, they frighten men like him even more lest these lionesses turn against the men in their community and demand more than they have been prepared to give their own women so far.

Pathan is a former member of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and lost the elections in October 2019 last year by over 50,000 votes. Which should not have happened if his party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) was really replacing the Congress in the Muslim imagination, as its president Asaduddin Owaisi likes to think.

While the AIMIM cut into many Congress candidates’ votes in 2019, the reason why Pathan lost his sitting Muslim majority seat to a Shiv Sena candidate in 2019 is because the AIMIM, since 2014 has been steadily discredited as the B team of the BJP.

In 2014 when the AIMIM blazed on the Maharashtra horizon, Muslim youth were quite taken in by the Owaisi brothers - suave, English-speaking, with a modern secular education, yet proud Muslims wearing their religion on their sleeves, or even caps, beards, et al.

But after Akbaruddin Owaisi threatened to annihilate all Hindus in the country within fifteen minutes, the Muslim youth who are unprotected by the Owaisis' privileged background have been having second thoughts and statements like that by Waris Pathan only confirms their belief that the AIMIM is working to the BJP agenda.

There were ample provocations by the Hindu right wing vis-à-vis Shaheen Bagh with statements like ‘goli maro saalon ko’ and even a constitutional authority like a chief minister threatening to teach them the language of bullets. But the Hindu-Muslim solidarity at the protests did not break, nor did those provocative statements lead to any conflagration.

Now, it is my belief, that Pathan‘s statement that the 15 crore Muslims of India are enough to annihilate the Hindus of the country is aimed at precisely that – destroying the religious solidarity at Shaheen Bagh and provoking violence from a different trajectory.

Pathan, in VP Singh's understanding of the similarity of extremes, is the equivalent of the Giriraj Singhs and Anurag Thakurs of the BJP but I am glad to see he represents the rest of the Muslims as little as the Kapil Mishras and Tejinder Baggas of the BJP, who similarly lost the recent New Delhi elections, do.

Already Muslim intellectual voices are rising against Pathan. Noted lyricist and poet Javed Akthar has questioned Pathan on what makes him think he represents the 15 crore Muslims of India – quite a valid query considering he does not represent even a Muslim majority constituency in the country.

Firoze Mithiborewala, another Muslim intellectual striving hard to forge Hindu-Nuslim unity in the country, is even more categorical. “People like Owaisi and his party do not represent us. I do not hesitate to state that the AIMIM has sold out to the BJP and is only interested in pushing that party’s agenda, not representing the interests and welfare of the community.”

The convergence of extremes and moderates in the Indian polity is then complete. The likes of Waris Pathan and Yogi Adityayanath both want to destroy the other.

The only difference is that at the moment one has the means – access to guns and policemen - to do that. The other does not. Both nevertheless are the real tukde, tukde gang of India, a blight in our unity, harmony and diversity of India. One has an FIR registered against him, rightly. The other goes Scot free.

(Disclaimer: The views are the author’s own)

Click here to join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines