Shabana Azmi

Vandalized temple: Has it been stage-managed?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The vandalizing of a Hindu temple in the Walled City of the Capital on Sunday night is being watched closely, and not by the local police alone.

The site is teeming with iconic religious buildings, no better than Jama Masjid, built in 1650 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan though Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib is no less holy for the Sikhs, built  in the memory of Guru Tegh Bahadur, their ninth guru, whose head was severed by Aurangzeb, a quarter century later.

With elections due in the Capital in over six months’ time, political mis-adventurism is as much feared as the simmering anger of local Hindus for the Durga temple vandalized was over 100 years old and a daily fixture for hundreds of devotees.

There is already evidence that emotions were fuelled by spreading the fake news of a Muslim’s death through mass WhatsApp forwards which led to the violence and broken idols in the vandalized temple.  OpIndia has run a story where it has alleged that AAP MLA Imran Hussain had joined the mob which attacked the temple.

Indeed a trend has emerged where a Muslim mob gather within no time in the name of a stray incident and the violence spreads beyond the local limits.

The matter would not be helped by the mainstream media who would keep a lid on the incident as they usually do when Hindus are at the receiving end. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal would hold his silence as would Rajiv Gandhi or Mehbooba Mufti or Omar Abdullah and we haven’t come to Mamata Banerjee or Asaduddin Owaisi yet.

Cine celebrities – the husband-wife duo of Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi, Aamir Khan or Kamal Haasan, Swara Bhaskar or Prakash Raj, Naseeruddin Shah or Anurag Kashyap—would have their timelines in twitter under the gaze of millions who are convinced their heart beats only for Muslims.

Nobody expects a Romilla Thapar or a Nayantara Sehgal to educate us on the combustible historical confluence of religious identities of the area which is overlooked by the iconic Red Fort (Lal Qila). There is also little chance that the erudition of a William Dalrymple—who has written more than one book on Delhi—or sophistry of a Ramachandra Guha making even a passing reference.

Millions of Hindus are unlikely to hit the streets across the country since their faith is intensely a personal quest and outward symbols at best are worth reverence but never violence.

This claim is not made in a flourish, as writers are wont to do, but by the evidence of hundreds of such incidents which have happened in the country in the last 30 years.

Yes, Hindu temples have been vandalized or destroyed in varying degrees around the country and if it’s a news to you, you have to blame your newspapers.

No less than Jammu & Kashmir government, much before the imposition of President’s Rule, admitted in the state assembly that “of the 438 temples in the Valley, 208 have been damaged over the years.”

Muslims have ransacked Hindu temples in Bengal; Sabrimala in Kerala doesn’t need a recount here and if you really want a lowdown, it’s easily available on world wide web.

In the past, during its years under the yoke of Muslim rulers, many of the historic Hindu holy sites in Ayodhya, Kannauj, Mathura, Multan, Vrindavan, Varanasi, Thanesar and Prayag were destroyed. Somnath Temple in Gujarat was sacked many a times. Kashi Vishwanath Temple was demolished on Auragzeb’s orders in 1669 and a mosque built in its place.

The ruling dispensation at the Centre is unlikely to inflame the passion even though Union Minister and Chandni Chowk MP Dr. Harsh Vardhan has paid a visit to the venue. The law would take its’ course which could even secure life imprisonment for the guilty under the prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984.  The accused could also be charged under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for inciting communal violence.

Three have been arrested; more would soon be nabbed as the CCTV footage clearly establishes their profiles. But as said, the incident is extremely combustible and politicians, as we know, are unlikely to let go of such an opportunity.

For god’s sake, stop this my Twinkle and your Asifa nonsense

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Some crimes shake the conscience of the nation: Like the one of Twinkle in Aligarh. Or Asifa in Kathua, Jammu.

Millions of Indians mourn such tragedies. But those vocal, be it on print, web or TV, view it from religious prisms:  The divide is between Muslims-unsafe vs. Hindus- wronged. Politicians and media profit, not the nation.

The question today is: Can India afford to be divided along the communal lines? If it comes to pass, who should be held responsible? Could India as a nation then survive?

We have a prototype answer to all these questions. India was divided along the communal lines in 1947; Those who created divisions, in this case British, were responsible;  India lost its’ eastern and western limbs in its quest for survival.

Do we want a repeat of it in the near future?  If not, how this slide need be stopped? Should another round of Partition, at the cost of millions killed, raped and displaced, must happen again?

It all begins from those who set the narrative. British did it in decades leading to the independence: Assembly elections were held along the communal lines: Muslim candidate for Muslim constituency. Then began the chorus: what would happen to minority Muslims once we leave the Indian shores.  Muslim League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah were thus armed to severe India of its limbs. The resultant tragedy of Partition has few parallels in human history.

India has survived another Partition thus far. But the same narrative is reappearing:  Muslims are insecure; their culture, language and religion is in danger; majority Hindus would be the oppressors.

If it were the British who fed this narrative in pre-independence era, its media and break-India forces which is fanning the fire in our times. As oppressor Hindus was the theme before the Partition, so is the theme in our times.

Occasionally, the likes of Sadhvi Pragya and Giriraj Singh play into the hands of such forces. At times, “saffron terror” is cooked up like it nearly did in the tragic 26/11 in Mumbai. Lynchings become part of leitmotif to stoke fears of oppressive Hindu majority.

Celebrities and cinestars jump in to serve their eternal desire of being in news.  Writers and scientists sign petitions in orchestrated campaigns. Data, like Lokniti-CSDN, survey how many Muslims and Christians have voted for BJP;  Castes are divided into sub-castes and further sub-castes as Mayawatis, Akhilesh Yadavs and Lallu Prasads feed themselves fat on its harvests. Important magnets, like Western media and prized economists, all are part of the ecosystem which want India to go up in flames.

Hindus and Muslims do have different language and culture. But both are Indians. And a majority do see themselves as Indians. The minority are Asaduddin Owaisi who incites with the call of Karbala or Niranjan Jyoti who divides with “ramzada” vs “haramzada” quip. Hang them out to dry. As you do with the despicable dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies who are at the beck and call of divisive forces (read casteist, Left and dynastic parties); and foreign-funded NGOs

Let this be a checklist for Muslims:

  • We have always been made to feel insecure even as more people greet us on Eid than those who abuse us; (b) That there is no word as “minority” in Indian constitution, all are Indians; (c) That if “secularism” means denying a Muslim destitute woman (Shah Bano) her rights and reversing the judgment of Supreme Court, then such secularism must be exposed; (d) That if Hindu consolidation has happened around emotive Ram Temple issue, it was stoked by Congress and not BJP/RSS; (e) That for every Akhlaq, Pehlu and Junaid, there are tens and dozens of Hindu victims at the hands of Muslims which go unreported; (f) That if BJP doesn’t opt for a Muslim candidate, it doesn’t matter as long as the elected representative is fair to everyone in his constituency:  be it roads, electricity, toilets, gas, health, education, all is available to Muslims as it is to Hindus; (g) That if Muslims are economically backward, it’s not because of Hindus but perhaps the reason lies in lack of scientific temper in Madarsa education; and less than fair freedom to women.

Let this be a checklist for Hindus:

  • Indian constitution doesn’t favour Muslims; it allows them to run their institutions THEMSELVES not by the government; (b) If Muslims are subsidized for Haj, so are Hindu pilgrims provided for in magical Kumbh melas; (c) True, Indian history is distorted and neither Congress nor Left intellectuals have been fair to Hindus but it’s no excuse to substitute that anger against a common Muslim; (d) True, a dozen English journalists and at least two English national dailies only report crimes against Muslims, often hoax, but they have been left thoroughly exposed in the last five years; their credibility in tatters thanks to a vigorous social media;  (e) Congress and Left, two parties who stoked fears in Muslims and Dalits, are today the outcasts of Indian political system; (f) That Hindu consolidation must not happen at the cost of Muslim alienation: that we don’t want new nations in Bengal or Kerala or Tamil Nadu and its’ attendant costs; (g) That for every Zakir Naik and Burhan Wani, there is also a Muslim boatman who gives up his life but saves tourists from drowning in Jhelum in Srinagar.

We have a choice to make if want to be Hindus or Muslims or Indians. We ought to ask ourselves if we don’t mind another Partition and its horrific cost. We ought to boycott a Naseeruddin Shah or a Kamal Haasan; A Javed Akhtar or a Shabana Azmi; A Swara Bhaskar or a Prakash Raj who are selective in their outrage. The same ought to happen to a Niranjan Jyoti or Asaduddin Owaisi.  We ought to outcast a Shekhar Gupta or a Rajdeep Sardesai; a Sagarika Ghose or a Barkha Dutt if the only crime they see is against Muslims; We need to stop an Indian Express or The Hindu from entering into our drawing rooms if all they can see is crime against a Dalit or a Muslim.

These are small forces. Pygmies in front of a nation of 1.30 billion. Should these handful be allowed to decide if we stay together or apart? Would you blame them if tens and thousands of us are butchered and raped in Partition 2.0?

Muslims need be confident this is their India too. Before you blame others, you must ask if your education and matter of equality to women etc need a relook.  As Maulana Azad once addressed them:  You can’t be drowned and defeated by anyone else but yourself.  Don’t hide behind the cloak of “minority” and “secularism”.  Don’t seek privileges; you are no different than any other Indian. Rely on self. Those who speak for your safety and stoke your fears, couldn’t care less for you.

 

 

Arrest over photo-shopped image: A curse has befallen on Mamata’s Bengal

(It’s a reprint from NewsBred).

This is a poser for you, readers. Please tell us what’s common amongst Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi, Tejaswi Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Ashutosh, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Shekhar Gupta, Naseeruddin Shah, Aamir Khan, Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Swara Bhaskar, Pritish Nandy, Vir Sanghvi, Karan Thapar, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Raveesh Kumar, Rana Ayoob, Saba Naqvi, Ramachandra Guha, Harsh Mander, Apoorvanand, Faizan Mustafa, Siddharth Vardharajan, Sadanand Dhume, Christophe Jaffrelot etc. Stumped?

Ok, let me try to suggest a few alternatives to you: (a) They all are anti-Modi; (b) They all stand for “freedom of speech”; (c) They all are for democratic, secular values; (d) they all are against totalitarianism; (e) They all are for feminism and stand for equality and dignity of women; (f) for freedom of press; (g) they are all of the above.

One option which you all must have missed and I would name now is that they all are SILENT on arrest of BJP’s young leader Priyanka Sharma by the totalitarian government of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal. Like they were silent when CBI officers were held as hostages; police officers under probe being shielded; violence in elections; opposition candidates unable to file their nomination papers; TMC goons forcing voters favourably in polling booths; arrests on mere chants of “Jai Shri Ram”; scuttling of Ayushman Bharat only because it’s BJP’s scheme; Refusing to pick up Modi’s phone on Fani cyclone because she doesn’t consider PM a PM; refusing to let BJP land helicopters for scheduled rally; preferring Ramzan over Durga Puja; custom officials harassed only because they found 2kg gold in the bags of wife of Mamata’s nephew; number of alleged scams etc.

I cite these instances to show how fake are these forces and the ethical and moral cloak they use to hide their agenda. But at a more urgent level, this has probably encouraged Mamata Banerjee to go berserk. Look at the issue of Priyanka Sharma. She circulates a photo-shopped image of Mamata Banerjee, imposed over a latest picture of actress Priyanka Chopra. A complaint is filed and she is sent to 14-day judicial remedy. Mind you, Priyanka Sharma hasn’t created the image, only shared it. Yet amongst thousands of such shares, she alone has been made to bear the brunt of suppression. The clear corollary is that she is made to suffer because of her political affiliation which Mamata can’t stand.

Yet these forces are silent. Even as the hashtag #ISupportPriyankaSharma on twitter is building up a considerable steam. Twitteratis are so upset that they are changing profile picture with the one which has landed Priyanka Sharma in trouble. “Arrest me, if you must,” is an assertion by many twitter-users under the above hashtag. Yet none of these forces are taking note. A BJP worker is jailed for sharing photo yet it’s Modi who’s a “Hitler.”

Newspapers are wrongly defined as a bridge between people and the government. In Lutyens Media, people don’t matter. Or only a certain kind matter.  A Modi is hauled for uttering “Bhrashtachari No.1” while a Mamata Banerjee can get away literally with murder.  Remember, she recently said she would put pebbles in soil and present it as rasogoolas so it breaks Modi’s teeth? How did these forces react? Silence.

I remember an instance when RSS ideologue Prof. Rakesh Sinha had a non-bailable warrant issued against him by West Bengal police for posting a picture of his with his mother in Mahakal temple in Ujjain. The West Bengal police acted on the complaint of an individual who felt Sinha’s “provocative” picture spoilt the communal harmony in the state! An aghast Sinha didn’t know what hit him. “I haven’t even visited West Bengal in the last two years,” a baffled Prof. Sinha had said. Where was the outrage from these soldiers of “democracy”?

The sixth phase of 2019 General Elections would be over on Sunday. Election Commission, worried over history of violence in West Bengal during elections, spread the one in the state to all seven phases. Yet, even the cover of central armed forces haven’t been much of a help. In each of the six phases so far, violence has happened; cases of rigging have been reported. Yet the names mentioned above haven’t bat even an eyelid. Shekhar Gupta, head of Editors’ Guild, instead is drooling over Mamata “fighting fire with fire, venom with venom.” A Rajdeep Sardesai is gushing and asking Mamata Banerjee the secret of her energy. (Boost, of course, you terrible).

A real Mamata Banerjee is very different from the Mother Teresa-like sari she wears.  Her autobiography conveys the image of a woman who likes to play the victim card. She is deeply insecure about losing control. She is also extremely star-struck. Just look at the number of MPs, MLAs and ministers who are stars and starlets in West Bengal. A whole lot of them were recruited in 2014 General Elections. Many more have been made candidates for the 2019 General Polls. Why, she even got a few from across the border to do her bidding.

This piece is just not about naming game. The most troubling is the intimidation which any Indian citizen in any state could be subjected to by the longest arm of law in West Bengal. Judiciary hasn’t been much of a help. Nor the Centre who many believe should’ve imposed President’s Rule in West Bengal seasons ago. Even Islamic State declaring they have an emir in West Bengal hasn’t brought home the horrible truth that West Bengal could be a beehive of Islamic/Jihadists designs today.

West Bengal is slipping out of Union. All the ideals enshrined in our holy book, the Constitution, are being butchered today. The worry is, we are all being reduced to spectators. Some by design, some by helplessness. Time for a saviour. Maybe, May 23 could throw up light.

Amen.