Time to listen to Naseeruddin Shah

He is not only a Muslim but also a patriot Indian


Ishtiaq Ali Mehkri January 05, 2022
The writer is a senior journalist currently associated with a think tank based in Islamabad. He can be reached at [email protected]

I have no qualms in confessing that I grew up watching Naseeruddin Shah’s art movies. He is undoubtedly a par-excellence performer, and has thrilled the cine-screen of the Subcontinent. He is outstanding in his oration. The decorated Bollywood film star carried his sophistication, intellect and articulation as he came up with a convincing rejoinder on the Hindutva curse, unfortunately in vogue in his motherland. He called a spade a spade. He has not only won the hearts of millions of Muslims, but also of all those who aspire and endeavour for an emancipated India, free from the scourge of otherness.

Shah stood like a rock in his argument, as he took to task Hindutva leader Yati Narsinghanand who sacrilegiously called for ethnic cleansing of Muslims in India. It was during a three-day event in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, where the Nazi-inspired religious-right had gathered for a convention. The paranoid and myopic RSS breed made every effort to provoke the Hindu-faith constituents to “kill minorities and attack their religious spaces”.

This is all going on in Mahatma Gandhi’s India who preached non-violence, and the BJP which made inroads into the power corridors by promising a ‘Shining India’. What is today is a ghettoised state where the secular constitution has literally been put in abeyance and communal harmony thrown to the wind.

The Uttarakhand moot could stand indictment under International Law. Swami Prabodhanand Giri, President of the Hindu Raksha Sena, was quoted by NDTV as saying: “Like Myanmar, our police, our politicians, our army and every Hindu must pick up weapons and conduct a safayi abhiyan (clean-up).”

This is tantamount to inciting genocide and warns of a Serbia-like catastrophe or an Auschwitz-type Holocaust in the making. Thus, Shah was apt and behaved in a responsible manner and snubbed the political shenanigans, saying, “It leaves you aghast when you hear things like this… because what they are calling for is a full scale civil war.”

He went on to warn that the “two hundred million of us (Muslims in India) are not going to get wiped out that easily. (They) are going to fight back, we claim it [India] to be our motherland, we belong here and were born here, generations of our families have lived and died here and I’m certain if any such movement begins, it’s going to be met with a massive resistance and a massive amount of anger.” The versatile artist has rested his case in history by invoking the conscience of the peace constituency in India and abroad!

It is noticeable that intelligentsia in India is now standing up against the fascist dispensation. The BJP-advocated script of marginalisation is being strongly contested. A referral to silver-screen itself would be suffice: the Khans of Bollywood, legendary superstar Amitabh Bachchan as well as the Nobel laureates, and opinion-makers such as Arundhati Roy have put their foot down proclaiming all is not well in India, and the ruling coterie is out with an agenda of bloodshed and destruction.

This is where the silent majority, including the progressive Hindus, have made a considerate point for genuine coexistence. The diatribe and contempt against Muslim rulers, especially Mughals, is unwarranted. Mughals have contributed ever-lasting monuments, and enriched India’s culture, music, poetry and literature.

Nawab Osman Ali Khan, the last sovereign of Hyderabad Deccan, gave up his treasure troves and richest state for the sake of avoiding bloodshed in 1948 during Police Action. How can these pieces of magnanimity be forgotten or subdued under a wave of extremism?

Shah, the recipient of India’s highest awards Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, cannot be wrong. He must be heard. He is not only a Muslim but also a patriot Indian. He has a reason as he advocates communal harmony, and cherishes the rich history of Muslims and their august contributions. Three of the greatest achievements were during the Mughal era: Urdu, Mirza Ghalib and Taj Mahal. None can find parallels of them to this day.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2022.

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