Who should go to Pakistan?
Why threaten Muslim critics with Pakistan?
By Faraz Ahmad
Trust the chest thumping, hosanna singing Sanghi/Bhajpai supporters of Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi to turn anything including the current debate about “Intolerance” ludicrous by asking all those (especially if they happen to have Muslim sounding names) to leave the country and go to Pakistan. If the vicious attacks on those protesting intolerance is not intolerance what is?
They don’t learn any lessons from their own past failures and embarrassments. The first “Go to Pakistan” cry was raised by Bihar’s Nawada MP Giriraj Singh during the last general elections when he asked all critics of Modi to leave the country and go to Pakistan. Giriraj has remained unapologetic and in fact inspired BJP president Amit Shah to paint, while campaigning in Darbhanga during the recently concluded Bihar assembly elections, all critics of Modi as Pakistanis saying that BJP’s defeat in Bihar assembly elections would be celebrated across the border with fire crackers and distribution of sweets. Actually they did burst firecrackers in Karachi but that was when their Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the first time in Pakistan’s history joined in the Diwali celebrations of the Hindus there.
Slowly but evidently Pakistan seems to be taking some lessons from our tradition of tolerance and accommodation while we are busy emulating that Mullah in Khaki dictator General Mohammad Ziaul Haq, who ruled Pakistan for 11 years and injected such Wahabism in the body politic of Pakistan that the toxicity refuses to go away.
I have often challenged BJP/VHP leaders, complaining of Islamic terrorism from across the border to show me one statement from the BJP since its formation in 1980 critical of Ziaul Haq. In fact the current Hindu rabble rouser Subramanian Swamy in his book on the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi wrote what special relations he enjoyed with Zia and how he became Rajiv Gandhi’s special emissary to Zia way back in the late 1980s when Rajiv was the Prime Minister of India. I am also reminded of the campaign against the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Zufiqar Ali Bhutto at Zia’s instance in the run up to Bhutto’s judicial murder because he continued to be immensely popular despite being painted as highly corrupt by Zia and his kept media. How did Zia’s kept media hound and attempted to discredit Bhutto? By carrying stories in Nawai Waqt and Jasarat Urdu dailies and Chattan Urdu weekly that Bhutto was no Muslim for he was born of a Hindu mother. That he was not a true Pakistani because he was too besotten by the then reigning Indian movie queen Nargis to be interested in taking up Pakistani nationality. Notice how Zia first adopted the tactic of condemning his political adversaries as ‘Hindu Indians.’ In the same spirit the Sanghis label their Muslim critics as ‘Pakistanis.’
I mention all this here to show how immensely the Hindutva brigade is enamoured of Ziaul Haq and how it is trying its best to turn India into a Hindu Pakistan.
But my problem here is the singling out of Muslims and asking them to go to Pakistan. The latest victim is film actor Aamir Khan who admitted to the current atmosphere of intolerance in a freewheeling debate during the award giving ceremony of the Indian Express Ramnath Goenka award. By the way Aamir had not gone to the Award function to complain about intolerance. He did not even initiate the debate on the subject. He was actually diffident and said, when prompted by the young proprieter of the Express, Anant Goenka, that he felt intimidated speaking his mind before all of them. But he gathered courage and presented his case most lucidly much to the chagrin of the undeclared BJP spokesperson Tavleen Singh. Aamir, is a close relative of Minority Affairs of minister Najma Heptullah and also to India’s first Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and it is evident from the proceedings of this debate that Najma tried rushing in to rescue him when she saw him caught in that turbulence at the function. Earlier it was Shahrukh Khan who again in an interview with the India Today admitted to feeling a sense of intolerance around him. Mind you, both Aamir and Shahrukh are very careful persons and avoid speaking out of turn. Aamir was in fact pretty close to this setup, shaking hands with Modi and chosen as a brand ambassador of Indian tourism as our Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani pointed out.
But the issue here is would you deny a person the right to protest and ask him to go to Pakistan simply because he happens to have a Muslim name? Does a Muslim have a right to protest, does he have a right to say he feels intimidated or discriminated amid the rising crescendo of hate politics?The Indian Constitution an anathema to the Sanghis, gives all, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Budhists, Jains and atheists, equal rights. Not that the non-Muslims critics are spared, be it Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi or Romila Thapar or Girish Karnad. But while they have faced much worse physical intimidation and assault, the refrain to go to Pakistan is reserved only for a Muslim if he happens to criticize Modi and his brigade! Why?
If I wail to my mother about my brother bullying me, would my mother ask me to get out and go to the neighbour’s house? No. because she is as much my mother as my brother’s. Nor would he dare ask me to go and seek shelter in the neighbour’s house. This land is as much a motherland of every Muslim, every Christian, Sikh and others living here as of a Hindu.
It makes no sense to raise the ghost of partition today for that generation which witnessed partition is either dead or about to disappear slowly. Post-partition generation of Muslims, born in independent India does not carry the guilt of partition, if there be any. Besides it is a fact that Muslims who stayed back in India during partition chose India as their mother land out of free will and choice, preferring a pluralistic India under the leadership of secular leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad, the architects of modern India, rejecting the communal thesis of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan of a separate state for Muslims.
There are many Muslims like my father and Shahrukh Khan’s family, who were at the time of partition living in Pakistan and performed reverse migration like my father’s many Hindu friends, to India.
The point is that Pakistan is not the land of Indian Muslim. Why should he be asked every time to go to Pakistan? Instead the Yogi Adityanaths, Sakshi Maharajs and those Sadhivis and Sadhus here, who are emulating Ziaul Haq, need to be sent to Pakistan to spend some time there and value the legacy our modern, secular anti-Sanghi leaders have left behind for us.