The crumbling of the foundational principles and values of the world’s largest democracy cannot be without the most dire consequences. What can never fail to surprise is the fragility of the institutions that were the pillars supporting the democratic edifice of independent India. It is excruciating to witness what seemed like a fringe ideology, so fundamentally opposed to what the architects of modern India had enshrined into its most admirable Constitution, wash away the ramparts of constitutional protection and storm the citadel. An unjust dispensation, inimical to India’s Constitution, is out to subvert and destroy it.
Among the end objectives is the total pulverization of India’s Muslims – their goal is ‘Muslim Mukt Bharat’ ( Muslim-free India). This is an existential threat more serious, and with potentially farther reaching consequences, than even 1857 or 1947. The space for complacency has completely vanished and we must strain every nerve and stress every muscle to ensure our very survival.
There can be no doubt that the Muslims of India have been thrust into a crucible – a trial by fire. We could turn into ash or we could emerge brighter, cleaner, purer. Inna ma’al usri yusra says the Holy Quran (94:6). Verily, with every hardship there is ease. Where is the ease in this affliction that envelopes us? We must first look inwards. There is plenty to find if we can see. What are our own cardinal faults? Let me hasten to clarify that my purpose is not self-flagellation but introspection. Recognition of a malaise is a prerequisite for remedy.
Our moral fiber, which is the very essence of our existence and our faith, is in a serious state of disrepair. We can expect no ease till we mend it. We have not only fossilized our minds, we have attempted to fossilize a vibrant faith and reduce it to a mere set of rituals, evident only in form but devoid of substance. Islam was a moral, social and political revolution that had a profound and lasting impact upon the history of mankind. Rather than being its standard-bearers, we tried to be its pallbearers. Our beloved Prophet (pbuh) advised us to go far in the search of knowledge; we shut ourselves out from educational advancement. Allah has decreed upon us to uphold justice; we created unjust societies and systems. Our faith requires us to be honest and truthful; we cheated and lied. We followed leaders who misled us and ignored those who gave us sagacious and sane counsel. None have betrayed us more than we have betrayed ourselves. Of course, all this has not earned us a passage to damnation, and none of this is irredeemable. Course-correction must begin with self-realization. This is a cathartic moment for Indian Muslims. It is in such testing times that strong characters are forged and new identities emerge. We must prove capable of the transformation that the hour demands, rediscover our moral compass, inculcate in ourselves the noble values of our faith and, far from being objects of derision and disdain, strive to be a community that attracts admiration and respect for honesty, truth and moral steadfastness.
But how do we respond to those who are hell-bent upon our destruction? Just as you could not negotiate with the Nazis, you cannot reason with the RSS; you can only resist it. The two ideologies have much in common, the latter drawing its inspiration from the former. How shall we resist this vicious ideology? By following the path shown by the man who was its most famous victim. Let’s never forget that a frail man in a loin cloth could challenge the mightiest empire in history. Mahatma Gandhi showed us the way to resist tyranny and brute force. We must resort to his methods: prayer, fasting, satyagrah, and non-violent resistance to oppression. Our tormentors may break our bones, but they must never be able to break our spirit. Bapu was not the last martyr in the cause of justice. Freedom demands sacrifice, and sometimes it must be the ultimate one.
Wise exercise of power requires restraint and its use can be lethal if placed in undeserving hands. And it is undeserving hands that have presently seized untrammeled power. What they are doing in Kashmir is immoral and reprehensible. The extension of the National Register of Citizens to cover the entire country, combined with the Citizenship Amendment Bill, is an undisguised diabolical design to strip tens of millions of Muslims of their rights as Indian citizens and render them stateless and homeless. Those presently in power are not out to destroy only the Muslims. They want to establish an autocracy where none dare speak truth to power. These Hitler admirers want to erect a state apparatus akin to Nazi Germany. Like the Third Reich they too shall fall, but not before causing enormous damage. If we want to limit the damage, we must find ways to challenge their idiosyncratic abuse of power. This struggle has to be joined by all who subscribe to Tagore’s vision of an India “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high” against those who want to strike terror and fear in every mind and direct and control thought in every head. “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” ( Mahatma Gandhi). We must keep hope alive and the flame of freedom alight.
Hasan Ghias is a US-based Business & Organization Development Consultant. He is a Sloan Fellow of the London Business School and an Advanced Leadership Fellow of Harvard University.