1857. Etched in National memory. Landmark year in which two of the largest communities inhabiting the subcontinent which included today’s India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Hindus and Muslims, together fought against a colonising foreign presence.
1925. Etched in Nationalist memory. Landmark year in which of these two communities, a small parochial group from the larger community, set out on a course based on intolerance and suspicion, sowing the seeds of exclusion. They did not want a secular country, but a Hindu one. The Muslim, for them, even if born here before even their parents were born, was a suspect firangi. The dice was rolled out, the die-cast.
1947. Etched in patriotic memory. Landmark year in which sovereign functions were assumed by residents of the land, replacing the foreigner.
1947-48. Etched in patriotic memory. Landmark years in which traumatic large scale exodus of people from both sides happened. Those Hindus who opted for continuing to live in a theocratic “Islamic” Pakistan, chose that country. Those Muslims who opted for continuing to live in a secular India chose this. This is our country, we remain here, and we will.
1950. Etched in patriotic memory. Landmark year in which a Constituent Assembly comprised of residents of the land, gave themselves a secular, socialist Constitution. A Cabinet came into being, every person taking an oath of office on the same Constitution. Every Cabinet till date does so. Or ought to.
Hindus and Muslims were one. But then, there were in those ranks, traitors to the idea of India. Traitors to Constitution and its values, anti-Constitutionalists who stored venom, spoke in whispers, and like Judas Iscariot collected their thirty pieces. Unlike that betrayer of Jesus, whose sense of shame caused him to end his life, these gloated in their betrayal and, like termites, slowly ate their way into the entrails of their nation, setting up secret societies, insinuating, distorting, defaming, demonising the other crafting it as a prelude to exterminating. Then slowly infiltrating institutions with moles, creeping worm by creeping worm. All the while, the pretence continued: go to town with screams of how the Constitution was an imposition of foreigners while taking on that same Constitution an oath of office each time any of them were elected… every now and then the political climate was tested, each time the erosion of secular values becoming worse, each time the threshold of judicial “tolerance” pushed further… There was, apparently, none to put their foot down. Then came a series of crafty moves, involving Babri Masjid, Muslim Personal Law, Babri Masjid again after violation of executive commitment to the judiciary, a series of genocidal attacks from Gujarat to Muzaffarnagar and then, following the Nayee Tehzeeb ke Shahkaar assuming executive office, perceptible coincidence of police partisanship meeting enhanced judicial reticence. Cow-vigilantes and mob-lynching became fashionable stepping stones to political office. All along, the judiciary…well, exercised self-restraint, never mind all those executive oaths of office… Political overreach had a field day while judicial reach shrank…
A media that was supposed to be non-partisan, patriotic, went overboard after TRPs with venom and vice. The dice that was cast in 1925, had rolled true to the traitors’ creed, for that die was cast the day the assurance to the SC in re Babri was tossed to the whirlwind…The Muslim became the problem.
So to deal with it, in came Art. 370, where State fabricated militant threats to Amarnath Yatra to cover up for massive troop movements, obviously palpably unwarranted absent such excuse, the reason being need to crush any resistance, that very expected resistance falsifying further the government claim that the people wanted abrogation… Tainted with ulterior objectives, it heralded other moves: NPR, NRC, CAA, and felling one by one the pillars of democratic secular governance, till State concluded there remained none.
Correction. The Muslims remained. The Muslims, whose presence it was in India that made it secular, who made it inclusive, who had converted a motley group of fiefdoms and given shape to a great nation-state that stood among the richest in the world, in culture, in civilization, diversity, trade, morality, character, sophistication, grandeur, everything envied by everyone else. What would India be bereft of its Mughals, its Masaajid, its Minarets, its Mahals and its Muslims?
And Shaheen Bagh happened. The anti-Constitutionalists’ own favourite chita bhasm ki chingaari se andhkaar ki gaddh toddhenge didn’t sound so full-throated contrasted with their powerful hum dekhenge, which shook the State so badly it let loose repression. The sound of condemnation rising from all over the world tore the country’s reputation to shreds. Judicial decisions – and judicial decisiveness – were nowhere in sight. Hercule Poirot would have deciphered why.
This NPR, NRC, CAA was however just not going away. The State couldn’t backtrack without losing face. The State couldn’t proceed because it had no capacity. Unable to break citizen resolve, the State’s best hope was judicial reticence. Things dragged on, till coronation of Corona as Emperor of Maladies became headline-grabbing world-stage news. Yet, the NPR-NRC-CAA conundrum continued: the State could neither backtrack nor proceed…until…
The twist in the tale : enter Nizamuddin, all hell breaks loose, and (thank God!) Muslims are back as headlines! All other religious gatherings, acceptable. All political tamaashaas, acceptable. No allegation. No insinuation. No innuendo. No insanity. Kyaa zaroorath hai?
But then why for the Markaz? Yaar, Mussalmaan hai! Bimaari phailaathe hain! Maaro! Maaro!! Innki dukaanein band karao! But the judiciary? I beg your pardon? Judiciary, saab, judiciary ka ravaiyya? Can’t hear you in so much noise, yaar. Oh, okay.Vaise bhi, the judiciary that is aghast at apprehended allegations of overreach can perhaps be safely left out of these equations.
Get this straight: any time the country faces a crisis, just dial M. All problems solved, because nothing brings together the collective national conscience, collective national pride, collective national solidarity, and enthuses the collective filth columnists like an opportunity to go to war against the M. Deflect focus from failures and fallacies, fads and fables, bring in the Muslim.
Imagine… India that is India not despite but because of its Mughals, its Masaajid, its Minarets, its Mahals and its Muslims… what would that India be without us?! Thus Spake Zarathustra: If at any time you face a crisis, just…
…dial M for Muslims. Apologies to Agatha Christie.
Shafeeq R. Mahajir is a well-known lawyer based in Hyderabad