‘Sabka Ghar’ near Jamia has an air of warmth and togetherness

The writer picks three developments of the last week to reflect on the current state of the nation

Photo by Virendra Singh Gosain/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Virendra Singh Gosain/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Humra Quraishi

A home for all

Last week when activist Faisal Khan, who heads the Khudai Khidmatgars, sent me an invite for the opening of Sabka Ghar, I kept staring at the two words! In the current political climate, the word ‘Sabka’ is seldom heard except in obviously insincere political speeches.

Why then this ‘home-for-all’? Faisal explained, “In Sabka Ghar, we’ll be inviting youths from across the country to spend time here with us, to learn basic values of togetherness, respect for the ‘other’…in fact, we are dedicating this home to all those who have been killed in the name of religion, caste, gender and boundaries.”

Yes, I did go for its inauguration by Justice Rajinder Sachhar…and it was heartening to see this neat little ghar tucked in the middle of localities adjoining Jamia Millia Islamia. There was an air of warmth and togetherness. Many activists, academics and students had arrived for the inauguration of not just a home but also of an idea!

Perhaps this home will become a turning point! It could start the process of healing bruises that cynical politics and policies have inflicted on us. This was the unspoken hope that the gathering radiated.

I did make it a point to tell Faisal that the Khudai Khidmatgars should also invite a refugee family to this ghar…let politicians not succeed in throwing about those typical terror tags to those seeking refuge here. Ironically, half the people residing in this capital have been refugees at some stage or the other of their lives, yet they exhibit a curious indifference and insensitivity towards the present-day refugees. I wonder why.

Hopefully, Khudai Khidmatgar activists will help us connect with refugees trying to survive in a communally charged environment. Mind you, this hostility is building up over the years. Earlier on World Refugee Day, June 20, there would be several events lined up to mark the day but this year saw nothing really except a film that was screened by UNHCR…Today, we don’t bother to put up even any of those symbolic gestures!

It is naïve and short-sighted on our part, not really realising that just about anyone can be reduced to the state of seeking refuge. Could the Syrians have ever visualised that the brute powers of the world would have reduced their towns and cities to rubble…rendering them homeless destitutes running from one country to the other! Today, it’s the Syrians. Tomorrow, it could be us!

Ram Nath Kovind: Window dressing for the Dalits

Barely has the brouhaha over Amit Shah’s ‘chatur baniya’ comment, dripping wet with crude casteism, settled down, the BJP is busy flaunting the Dalit background of its presidential candidate, Ram Nath Kovind.

I was under the impression that derogatory comments on the lines of caste and sub-caste were somewhat banned in a democratic setup, but then I seem to have overlooked the fact that two sets of rules are prevailing in today’s India. Political rulers can get away with any utterances. After all, the hapless masses need their daily dose of caste-creed rhetoric.

Tell me, will these symbolic gestures manage to feed hundreds and thousands of disadvantaged Dalits? Will it lessen police and administrative atrocities they have to face? Will it give them the freedom to eat or wear or marry according to their choice? Will it lessen the humiliations they face in our rural and urban stretches?

I recall when President Abdul Kalam was appointed as President of India, there was more excitement amongst the scientific community than in the Muslim community. As several Muslims had told me rather loud and clear, “Dr Kalam did not speak out when Muslims were getting brutally attacked and killed during the Gujarat pogrom…he has never spoken out against any of the harsh realities faced by the Muslim community. In fact, on the contrary, former President KR Narayanan was outspoken and he had relayed his disgust at the killings of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002…In a healthy democracy, you don’t have to hand pick the who’s who from a caste or community! All that’s required is a leader who is just and fair and, yes, outspoken when he sees political climate getting murky.”

I remember that during the first week of January, 2006, I was in Hyderabad to write a feature. I was meeting a large number of Muslims for the purpose. It happened so that Pravasi Diwas was being held in Hyderabad in the same week and President Kalam was there as the chief guest. One evening, in the old city area, I came across a group of young Muslim men and women who looked somewhat upset. Apparently they had tried to meet President Kalam to bring to his notice the blatant discriminations they were facing in terms of getting jobs and certain other issues.

But in spite of persistent efforts, they couldn’t get an appointment. A woman had said, “What’s all this hype about a Muslim President! It’s okay to show to the world that we have someone from the minority community on the top slot, but what good is this window dressing for us? These political tamashas are getting too much!”

Carlo Pizzati’s The Edge of an Era

In a recent evening at the launch of Italian journalist and novelist Carlo Pizzati’s book The Edge of an Era (Juggernaut Books) at India International Centre, I witnessed a captivating conversation between him and Manu Joseph.

This Chennai-based Italian journo didn’t mince words, whilst commenting on the hyped-up politics around nationalism, terrorism, violence, refugees…Space constraints come in the way of detailing each one of his comments but what touched me was his honest comment on those fleeing their homelands and seeking refuge in Europe: those fleeing know they can’t get back to their home countries. They are not totally accepted in the countries they are desperately seeking refuge in, they face humiliation on a daily basis and this humiliation has its ramifications.

The Edge of an Era is a collection of three interviews with critical theorist Homi Bhabha, philosopher John Gray and essayist Pankaj Mishra about the return of barbarism, the threat to cosmopolitan identity, the rise of nationalism, the many failures of globalisation, the increasing challenges of technocracy and the crisis of neoliberal elites.

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Published: 26 Jun 2017, 1:14 PM