Will communalism yield diminishing returns now that BJP is 'Muslim-Mukt' ?

BJP has achieved its objective of consolidating Hindu votes. Will it now dismount from the tiger of communalism it has been riding, wonders Saeed Naqvi

Will communalism yield diminishing returns now that BJP is 'Muslim-Mukt' ?

Saeed Naqvi

“Ba Khuda deewana bash-o

Ba Mohammad Hoshiyar

In plain language, the lines advise people to take liberties with God, if they like, but to be careful with Prophet Mohammad.

When Chandrabhan, a Brahmin and Dara Shikoh’s Prime Minister, crossed the red line, his intention was however not to insult the Prophet or hurt believers. He had actually written:

“Punja dar panjay e Khuda daram

Manche parwaaye Mustafa daram

(My hand is in the hand of God;

Why should I worry about Mohammad?)

This was more in the nature of literary conceit – a tease, a naughty expression designed not to offend but to amuse. Moreover it was meant for a small intimate company, leaving no room for any misunderstanding. Chandrabhan Brahmin’s verses were, in fact, cited as evidence of Dara Shikoh’s liberal court, which, incidentally, showed how intellectually indebted Dara was to his great grandfather, Akbar.

It reflected the widespread popularity of Akbar when the revolt by Sheikh Sirhindi against The Emperor’s experiment with eclecticism in the form of Deen-e-Ilahi or the Religion of God, turned out to be mere pin pricks. If Sirhindi were a larger than life threat, it would not have been possible for Jehangir to have him confined to jail in Gwalior.

How secure the Empire was is reflected in Dara’s audacious cultural experiment. He opened the way to Indology in Europe by having the Upanishads translated into Persian. His Majma-ul-Bahrain or the Confluence of the Oceans was an epoch making effort at trying to find common ground between Sufism and Vedantic Speculation.

The clergy must have been hopping mad at such excesses. Aurangzeb’s 49 year rule was wobbly in the sense that he spent considerable time in the Deccan campaigns. The clergy wasted no time in climbing ladders around him. The Gyanvapi mosque on the site of an old Shiva temple, is more a function of Aurangzeb’s weakness than his assertiveness. It brought cheer to the clergy burdened by the memory of the Dara years.

The promise of the great civilizational compact Akbar and Dara had given notice of survived the Aurangzeb years. There was a burst of it in Mohammad Shah Rangeela’s court in Delhi, in Wajid Ali Shah’s court in Lucknow until the last Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was dispatched to Yangon by the British where he died in the garage of John Davis, a junior officer.

This very amateurish incursion into history on my part has picked up in frequency since May, 2014 when Prime Minister, Narendra Modi made his very first speech in Parliament.

Hamein 1,200 saal ki ghulami se nikalna hai.” What Modi meant was that we have to come out of 1,200 years of subjugation and slavery. Most of us had parroted since 1947 that all Indians together had got rid of 200 years of British rule. Modi’s statement put that belief stand on its head.

Over the years, one has got used to the Muslim period, indeed the Muslim being underplayed.

Take for instance UNESCO’s project for elevating Delhi to a heritage city. This story goes back a decade, before the appearance of Narendra Modi. For years notes went up and down on the subject. An initial stumbling block was that all the seven 'cities' of Delhi but one happened to be Muslim. The seventh was Lutyen’s Delhi. They all fell well within the period which Modi considers years of “ghulami” but I am mixing `up eras. The UNESCO story belongs to the Congress era.

Ultimately, after years of bargaining, the choice was narrowed down to two – Lutyens Delhi and Shahjehanbad or old Delhi.

Dossiers were exchanged between UNESCO, Archaeological Survey of India and the Delhi Heritage Society. But on the appointed day when the agreement with UNESCO was to be signed, a mysterious hand swooped the documents away even as the assembled officials watched.

Enlightenment came through the agency of a group of retired judges and their families on a guided tour of Akshardham temple on the Jamuna. The guide may have exceeded his brief but he informed the stunned group that the history of Delhi started with the Akshardham temple.

Protests in Arab capitals against remarks on Prophet Mohammed made by BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Navin Jindal represent spontaneous anger or do they also denote new affiliations in the region? Earlier, the US would have been in the loop at the very outset and played favourites. India’s independent vote at the UN on Ukraine has freed both Washington and New Delhi. They can now play situations according to their own lights and understanding.

Internally, a stifled Muslim community has found in the protests an opportunity to vent their anger.

Is New Delhi on notice that its anti minority excesses will from now onwards be under scrutiny in the Arab world? I doubt if recent events indicate an irreversible transformation. Once the dust settles on the current protest, I expect it will be business as usual with the Arab world.

For New Delhi it is a wonderful opportunity. It must dismount the tiger – of communalism because this policy will give negative results henceforth because:

(a) In my recent travels within India, I don’t see much traction for high voltage communalism outside the Hindi belt.

(b) The BJP is already in a position to whistle, throw up its cap and celebrate its status as a Muslim-Mukt party. Out of its 301 seats in Parliament, soon there will not be one Muslim in this galaxy. If Hindu consolidation was required to consolidate BJP votes for Parliamentary elections, that has been achieved. This percentage in the assemblies is unachievable.

(c) Beef, halal meat, hijab, love jihad, namaz in the open, mosques as stone pelting stations on Hindu processions – all these and more have already been tried to keep communal temperature on a simmer.

In any case, these tricks, by themselves do not galvanise the nation. All these tied to nationalism do. This explains why Kashmir is always on the boil and why Pakistan is in the permanent enemy list. Has the RSS and the BJP plugged their ears so firmly that Atal Behari Vajpayee’s whisper does not reach them.

“We cannot change our neighbours.”

(The writer is an independent commentator. Views are personal)

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