The Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is not just a place of learning. It was in the forefront of a movement for the demand of Pakistan and still leans towards what is considered beneficial to the millat. A photo of Mohammad Ali Jinnah on the wall of Kenney Hall, the most prestigious place on AMU campus, is no surprise. It was there even before partition and it continues to be there all these years. But what amazes me is its disappearance on May 1 and reappearance on May 3!
True, it was the handiwork of a fanatic BJP member. But he should retract his steps within two days and put back the photo where it had hung since the time before partition looks extraordinary. Perhaps the person concerned was admonished by the BJP high command which is trying its best to woo Muslim voters in the Karnataka state election.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also kept the polls in mind when he addresses different rallies in the country. Once in a while he tends to make remarks like there should be electricity at cremation grounds as is the case at burial grounds. But this is to assure the Hindu audience that the BJP has not strayed from the party’s philosophy of Hindu Rashtra.
No doubt, the majority of Hindus tilt towards what is known as Hindutva. But I do not think that this is something long lasting. Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries. They would continue to do so despite the hot winds of Hindutva blowing at present. By temperament, India is a pluralistic society. It would stay that way although at times it would look like going the Hindu way. However, there is always a spoil-play group which opposes everything worthwhile for the sake of opposition.
Take the case of India-Pakistan relations. There are elements which are bent on negating every effort towards conciliation and rebuff steps that help promote good relations between the two countries. Some years ago, the Pakistanis themselves took the initiative to rename the Shadman Chowk in Lahore and the gesture was very much appreciated in India. In fact, the renaming of the chowk gave birth to the idea of honouring heroes of the pre-partition days.
Differences between the two sides only accentuated with the passage of time. In the 1940s when the Muslim League had adopted a resolution for the establishment of Pakistan, partition looked inevitable. Both sides were not facing the fact when they rejected the idea of transfer of population. People themselves did it, Hindus and Sikhs coming to this side and Muslims going to the other side. The rest is history.
Jinnah is as much respected in Pakistan as Mahatma Gandhi in India is. It’s time for the Hindus to recognise that partition was deliverance for Muslims. That was in 1947. Today, the Muslims in India, approximately 17 crore, do not matter in the affairs of India. True, they have the voting rights and the country is ruled by the constitution which gives one vote to one person.
They have lost their say in decision-making. What Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had said before partition has come true. He warned the Muslims that they may feel insecure in the country because their number is small but they can proudly say that India belongs as much to them as it do to the Hindus. Once Pakistan was established, the Hindus would tell the Muslims that they had their share and should go to Pakistan.
Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel were able to keep India pluralistic after partition. But the line drawn on the basis of religion is what haunts everybody today. The growing importance of BJP is because pluralism has weakened. Secularism needs to be strengthened so that every community and every part of the country feels that it is equal in the affairs of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 13th, 2018.