The book revolves around the consistent betrayal faced by the Indian Muslim community since the general election of 1936 in British India
Book: Being the Other: The Muslim in India
Author Saeed Naqvi
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Aleph Book Company; First edition (14 July 2016)
The book “Being the Other: The Muslim in India”, authored by the veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi, is an eye-opening account about the plight of Muslims in sub-continent.
The book revolves around the consistent betrayal faced by the Indian Muslim community since the general election of 1936 in British India.
Naqvi writes that the people of the sub-continent believe that Muhammad Ali Jinnah was responsible for the partition of the subcontinent and is being viewed as a villain. The author says that the people have lived with this false belief. However, the Congress party which has ruled India for most of the years has never felt compelled to clarify its role in partitioning the subcontinent.
Lashing out at Indian National Congress and its leadership, the author writes that Chairman of Border Commissions, Sir Cyril Radcliffe was asked to demarcate the boundaries of 45,000 square kilometres of territory and dividing the population of about 400 million. He was told to complete the task in five weeks. Naqvi questions as to why Nehru was in a hurry to demarcate the boundaries. A more straightforward theory is that only in partitioned India did Congress leaders see themselves coming to power without having to share it with the Muslim League.
The author has quoted a correspondence between Jinnah and Nehru. On April 06 1938, Nehru wrote to Jinnah:
…the Muslim League is an important communal organisation and we (Congress) deal with it as such. But we have to deal with all organisations and individuals that come within our ken. We do not determine the measure of importance or distinction they possess.
Your tone and language again displays the same arrogance and militant spirit, as if the Congress is the sovereign power. I may add that, in my opinion, as I have publicly stated so often, that unless the Congress recognizes the Muslim league on a footing of complete equality and is prepared as such to negotiate for a Hindu-Muslim settlement…a settlement would not be possible.
The author writes that Nehru-Jinnah personality clash was a significant factor when it came to events that led to partition.
Naqvi writes that since partition Congress has been inclined towards the Hindus and always ignored Muslims. The truth, explains the author, is that the founding leaders of India did not give much thought to the Indian Muslims and their plight. He says that today’s population of 180 million Muslims have to cope with a biased state. How could Nehru not have foreseen this state of affairs?
A communal leader
Quoting Lord Archibald Wavell’s book ‘The Viceroy’s Journal’, the author writes that SardarVallabhbhai Patel was “communal” with “no sense of compromise or generosity towards Muslims, but he is more of a man than most of the Hindu politicians”.
The author cites an interesting anecdote regarding the possession of weapons by the Indian Muslims. Naqvi writes that when Gandhi and Nehru asked Patel why there was no adequate police force in Delhi, he responded by saying that Muslims possessed weapons and were ready take over Delhi.
To prove his (Patel) point he also displayed dozens of rusted kitchen knives, pockets knives, spikes and fences from old houses and cast iron eater pipes in front of Lord Mountbatten and the union cabinet. To that Mountbatten replied that if Muslims really expected that they can take Delhi with such material they had an incredible sense of military strategy.
The author writes that in all Hindu-Muslim conflicts, this would be put out that Muslims were well armed. Today, this is usually the knee-jerk response of police force towards the Indian Muslims.
Ripping the secular credentials of the Congress party, the author writes that the Nizam of Hyderabad had refused to surrender sovereignty to the new nation which outraged Congress leaders. Naqvi says that these were the same leaders who had talked of a secular state and were opposed to the two-nation theory but after partition they were beginning to fear the idea of a ‘Muslim State’ of Hyderabad in ‘Hindu India’ with Patel going to the extent of calling it a “cancer” in the heart of India.
Naqvi writes that for Indian Muslims, their place in Indian society changed radically after the Babri Masjid demolition. He says that it was in 1989, when Congress instructed the then chief minister Narayan Dutt Tiwari to arrange for the ‘shilanyas’ or stone lying ceremony of the Ram Mandir’s outer walls at the disputed spot as demanded by the VHP. How could Congress allow such a thing on a legally disputed site?
Naqvi writes that a veteran Muslim Congress leader Saiyid Nasir Hussain had wept on November 9, 1989 lamenting that Congress had cheated Muslims. The deal between Congress and the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) was struck at the very top level to demolish the Babri Masjid.
Naqvi cites the role of Congress in the growth of RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh (RSS). PanditGovind was not just the chief minister of the United Provinces (present day Uttar Pradesh) but also a man close to Pandit Nehru who did not take action when the idols of Lord Ram “mysteriously” appeared beneath the central dome of Babri Masjid in 1949.
He says that after the mayhem of Babri Masjid demolition, Congress went back to its “old drama” of trying to convince Indian Muslims that it would protect them and care for them as once again they were to be accorded the most favoured citizen status by the so-called secular state.
Naqvi writes that by not taking strong action to save the Babri mosque, Congress Prime Minister Narsimha Rao remained on the right side of the BJP with the destruction of the mosque. Muslims who stayed with the Congress despite serious misgivings since 1947 came face-to-face with the stark reality. Congress had short-changed them from the very beginning.
Talking about the police excesses against Muslims during the post-demolition disturbances, the author writes that about forty Muslims were shot dead by the police in Bombay and seventeen in Jaipur on the first day after the demolition on December 6, 1992. There were similar such incidents across the country.
Naqvi writes that every riot, every communal incident, leaves several unanswered questions which are never probed. The truth somehow remains hidden and allegations of guilt are often directed at the victims. The perpetrators almost get away.
The author has also given an interesting anecdote about his own experience as ‘the other’. He writes: “The Muslim as the ‘Other’ hit home particularly hard one day in 1996 when our maid, Ganga, asked my wife to join her in the kitchen to talk about something ‘in private’. The Indian cricket team was then in the quarter-finals of the ongoing World Cup.
She said, “My husband and I were watching TV last night and wondered which team you and sahib favoured.”
“My wife, a teacher by profession, patiently explained the story of partition and how there were many more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Rangili, the young girl who helps Ganga, teased Jamil, our driver: ‘Teri team haargayi (your team has lost).’
Jamil, never short of words, shot back: “Agar meri team haargayi, to teri team kakaptaan Pakistani hai” (If it is my team which has lost, then the captain of your team is a Pakistani).’
The Indian cricket team’s captain at that time was Muhammad Azharuddin. This completely foxed Rangili, who marched off to Ganga’s quarters complaining that Jamil had described the captain of the victorious Indian team as a Pakistani.
Jamil was in the dock. Ganga, who is a ‘Nepali’ from Darjeeling, embarked on a mock trail of Jamil. Her husband Jagdish joined in.
‘But are you not a Muslim?’ Rangili asked cheekily.
‘Yes, but not a Pakistani,’ Jamil replied.
‘Muslims are Pakistanis,’ Rangili persisted.
‘Azharuddin is also a Muslim,’ Jamil said.
My wife furnished mire data. ‘Azharuddin, who received an award as captain of the winning team, is a Muslim; Sidhu, the man of the match, is a Sikh; VinodKambli, who hit a centary in the previous match, is a Christian.’
Ganga eyed my wife suspiciously, ‘You mean the Hindu did nothing?’
My wife was beginning to lose patience. ‘An Indian team is an Indian team. There is no Muslim or Hindu team in our country,’ she asserted.
Ganga found this illogical. ‘If the Pakistani team is a Muslim team, why should the Indian team not be a Hindu team?’
Ganga’s logic gave Jamil yet another. ‘If you want a Hindu team, you cannot have Azharuudin as captain.’
Jadish intervened aggressively, ‘If having Azharuddin as a captain means that we cannot have a Hindu team, we should not have him as captain.’ This angered Jamil. ‘Who are you to remove Azharuddin? In fact, you should shut up because you are a Nepali.’
‘But I am Hindu,’Jagdish continued.
‘Does a Nepali Hindu have more rights in India that an India Muslim?’ Jamil asked fuming.
The conversation came to an abrupt end when the doorbell rang and our friend Anup entered,” Naqvi concludes the anecdote which in many ways symbolizes the attitude towards Muslims in India.
Author is Oped Editor of Rising Kashmir