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Monday, August 14, 2006

Bandit Salim Gujjar killed: He was Hindu or Muslim!

The most colourful of Chambal bandits, who kept the police eluding for decades, ultimately fell to police bullet along with his latest beloved, Gita Jatav, in Uttar Pradesh. Salim Gujjar's death apart, the fixation of people with religion can be gauged with the interest of ordinary people and even media men into the dacoit's faith. Was he a Hindu or Muslim? That's the question making rounds everywhere.

Does it matter that much? He was like the scores of dacoits in Chambal ravines spread over three states (MP, UP and Rajasthan) where no crop is produced. The only crop that comes up is of bandits. For centuries, from the Pindaris to present day Dacoits, the tradition of 'baaghi' remains.

Either you join police or army else the way to 'izzat' is turn an outlaw and become a gun-toting dacoit. Bollywood blockbuster Sholay was based on this lawless Chambal though shot in another location. Ofcourse, Salim lived a colourful life and had a number of women members in his gang unlike other gang leaders who prefer to avoid having women members in gang and rather go to the house of their female companions who live in villages.

In Chambal there have been Muslim dacoits also and one of the most 'respected' bandit Baba Mustaqeem was alive until the 80s and had given Phoolan Devi, the permission to form her gang. Salim hailed from Jalaun in UP. The letterhead on which he used to send letters to traders and millionaires for extortion carried 'Jai Bhawani' but still people insist on knowing why he was Salim.

I have met Abduls, Qadirs and Akbars in Chhattisgarh all of whom are Christians. These are very common names amongst tribal Christians just like Manoj, Ashok, Rajkumar etc. So do I need to solve the mystery about the faith of Salim Gujjar, who was wanted in connection with over 100 crimes, carried a reward of Rs 1.5 lakh on his head and had a mile-long criminal record? He was not a Muslim, Pahalwan Singh Gujjar, who preferred to call himself Salim probably due to romanticism surrounding Prince Salim and Anarkali.


urdudaaN said...

An interesting story I would say.
I liked the climax the most. :)

Just to add my bit, we have celebrities with names like Aftab, Ayesha, NaGhma, and even Kareena(Qareenah?), who are not Muslims.

How do we know said...

In Bhshm Sahni's Tamas, there is this scene where the man is hiding in a trash can to save himself.. and he is spotted by a crowd of rioters. He is asked his name and he says "Ghulab". Immediately the next question comes.. "Ghulab Singh, Ghulab Khan ya Ghulab Ram?"

Diganta said...

Name doesn't matter, a dacoit like him is a dacoit only and they can't have a any religion.

A Soul In Exile said...

Whats in a name?

If you were to ever visit Southern states, you would find similar confusion everywhere. Its not limited to the northern plains only.
So while few people can make out that Ajit Jogi is a Christain, very few also know same about Y.S.Rajasekhar Reddy... Similarly, you would find names like Vivek, Vijay, Vasu, Raj, Prem, etc easily amongst Christians in south. However, its unlikely to see such 'hindu' sounding names among Christians in Goa or North East...
The reason is simple - most of the people in south/Chatisgarh and other tribal areas have converted in last 1-2 generations. And while its easy to get the Hindu gods/idols out of their homes, the culture wouldnt be changed by a baptism. And one can't really mandate such a things either.

And why not?

A Soul In Exile said...

An interesting fact on same thread...

Muslims in Kashmir still retain their Hindu surnames like Kaul/Koul, Raina, Bhat, Dhar, Kachroo etc...and many more.

And even most interesting the surnames like "Pandit" and "Rishi"...

Of course, lately few surnames were tweaked to give a difference - eg Bhat was changed to Butt, Dhar to Dar...

indscribe said...

ya, YS Reddy, I came to know when he visited Bethelhem and a hue and cry was raised.
Regarding Muslims in Maharashtra and some other states who carry their surnames, it is really good rather than in many north Indian states where everybody becomes a 'Khan'.

Anonymous said...

The grip of the Majlis-e-ittehadul Muslimeen on the community remains strong, despite minor dents.
WITH A Member representing Hyderabad in the Lok Sabha, five members in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, 40 corporators in Hyderabad and 95-plus members elected to various municipal bodies in Andhra Pradesh, the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen is one of the foremost representatives of the city’s Muslims and the most powerful Muslim party in India and one can see the partys strenghth if it goes to Hyderabads Old city everywhere u look u can see MIM written on walls ,lightpoles and buildings leaving aside flags and posters of its Leadership. The Majlis has brought lot of development to the Old part of the city even after it is said it hasnt done anything by its opponents who are mostly Ex Majlis workers.
The Majlis was formed in 1927 “for educational and social uplift of Muslims”. But it articulated the position that “the ruler and throne (Nizam) are symbols of the political and cultural rights of the Muslim community… (and) this status must continue forever”.
The Majlis pitted itself against the Andhra Mahasabha and the communists who questioned the feudal order that sustained the Nizam’s rule. It also bitterly opposed the Arya Samaj, which gave social and cultural expression to the aspirations of the urban Hindu population in the Hyderabad State of those days.
By the mid-1940s, the Majlis had come to represent a remarkably aggressive and violent face of Muslim communal politics as it organised the razakars (volunteers) to defend the “independence” of this “Muslim” State from merger with the Indian Union.
According to historians, over 1,50,000 such `volunteers’ were organised by the Majlis for the Nizam State’s defence but they are remembered for unleashing unparalleled violence against Hindu populations, the communists and all those who opposed the Nizam’s “go it alone” policy. It is estimated that during the height of the razakar `agitation’, over 30,000 people had taken shelter in the Secunderabad cantonment alone to protect themselves from these `volunteers’.
But the razakars could do little against the Indian Army and did not even put up a fight. Kasim Rizvi, the Majlis leader, was imprisoned and the organisation banned in 1948. Rizvi was released in 1957 on the undertaking that he would leave for Pakistan in 48 hours. Before he left though, Rizvi met some of the erstwhile activists of the Majlis and passed on the presidentship to Abdul Wahed Owaisi, a famous lawyer and an Islamic scholar who also was jailed for nearly 10 months after he took over the Majlis leadership as the then govt wanted to abolish the Majlis party but Owaisi refused to do so and was seen as a person who had financially supported the party when it was a bankrupt and weak one after the Police Action in Hyderabad State.
Owaisi is credited with having “re-written” the Majlis constitution according to the provisions of the Indian Constitution and “the realities of Muslim minority in independent India”, according to a former journalist, Chander Srivastava. For the first decade-and-a-half after this “reinvention”, the Majlis remained, at best, a marginal player in Hyderabad politics and even though every election saw a rise in its vote share, it could not win more than one Assembly seat.
The 1970s saw an upswing in Majlis’ political fortunes. In 1969, it won back its party headquarters, Dar-us-Salaam — a sprawling 4.5-acre compound in the heart of the New City. It also won compensation which was used to set up an ITI on the premises and a women’s degree college in Nizamabad town. In 1976, Salahuddin Owaisi took over the presidentship of the Majlis after his father’s demise.
This started an important phase in the history of the Majlis as it continued expanding its educational institutions,Hospitals,Banks, including the first Muslim minority Engineering College and Medical College. Courses in MBA, MCA ,Nursing, Pharmacy and other professional degrees followed and now a daily newspaper known as Etemaad Daily. The 1970s were also a watershed in Majlis’ history as after a long period of 31 years, Hyderabad witnessed large-scale communal rioting in 1979. The Majlis came to the forefront in “defending” Muslim life and property Majlis workers could be seen at these moments defending the properties of Muslims in the wake of riots and these workers were very hard even for the police to control them even now it is a known fact that there are nearly about 2500 units of strong members who only act if there is a seirous threat to the Owaisi family and these members are under the direct orders of the Owaisi family which leads the Majlis party leaving aside thousands of workers and informers throughout the State and even outside the country far away till America and the Gulf countries.
Salahuddin Owaisi, also known as “Salar-e-Millat” (commander of the community), has repeatedly alleged in his speeches that the Indian state has “abandoned” the Muslims to their fate. Therefore, “Muslims should stand on their own feet, rather than look to the State for help'’, he argues.
This policy has been an unambiguous success in leveraging the Majlis today to its position of being practically the “sole spokesman” of the Muslims in Hyderabad and its environs.
Voting figures show this clearly. From 58,000 votes in the 1962 Lok Sabha elections for the Hyderabad seat, Majlis votes rose to 1,12,000 in 1980. The clear articulation of this “stand on one’s feet” policy in education and `protection’ during riots doubled its vote-share by 1984. Salahuddin Owaisi won the seat for the first time, polling 2.22 lakh votes. This vote-share doubled in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections to over four lakhs.
The Majlis has since continued its hold on the Hyderabad seat winning about five-and-a-half lakh votes each time.
Despite remarkable economic prosperity and negligible communal violence in the past decade, the hold of the Majlis on the Muslims of Hyderabad remains, despite minor dents. And despite widespread allegations of Majlis leaders having “made money”, most ordinary Muslims continue to support them because, as one bank executive put it “they represent our issues clearly and unambiguously'’. An old Historian Bakhtiyar khan says the Owaisi family was a rich family even before entering Politics and he says he had seen the late Majlis leader Abdul Wahed Owaisi in an American Buick car at a time when rarely cars were seen on Hyderabad Roads and the family had strong relations with the ersthwhile Nizams of Hyderabad and the Paighs even now the family is considered to be one of the richest familes in Hyderabad.
A university teacher says that the Majlis helped Muslims live with dignity and security at a time when they were under attack and even took the fear out of them after the Police action and adds that he has seen Majlis leaders in the front at times confronting with the Police and the Govt.
Asaduddin Owaisi, the articulate UK educated barrister son of Salahuddin Owaisi and Former leader of the Majlis’ Legislature party and now an MP himself who has travelled across the globe meeting world leaders and organizatons and even in war zones compares the Majlis to the Black Power movement of America.
The Majlis that emerged after 1957 is a completely different entity from its pre-independence edition, he says adding that comparisons with that bloody past are “misleading and mischievous”. “That Majlis was fighting for state power, while we have no such ambitions or illusions”.
He stoutly defends the need for “an independent political voice” for the minorities, which is willing to defend them and project their issues “firmly”.
“How can an independent articulation of minority interests and aspirations be termed communal,” he asks and contests any definition of democracy which questions the loyalty of minorities if they assert their independent political identity. “We are a threat not only to the BJP and Hindu communalism, but also to Muslim extremism,” Asaduddin claims. “By providing a legitimate political vent for Muslims to voice their aspirations and fears, we are preventing the rise of political extremism and religious obscurantism when the community is under unprecedented attack from Hindu communalists and the state'’. He can be seen in his speeches speaking against terrorism in the Country and says if the time arises Majlis will stand side by side in defending the Nation

September 08, 2006 4:56 PM

Anonymous said...

hello ! how are you !

im a christian and i want to ask you about your life ...how is it...?