Thursday, November 26, 2009

Reflections on Babri Masjid demolition post-Liberhan panel report

After taking as much time and causing as much delay that was possible, the report of the commission probing the Babri mosque demolition, is finally with the government.

Particularly, when the political climate is absolutely in Congress' favour and the party doesn't have to face elections for a long time, Retd Justice MS Liberhan has submitted the report that cost us over Rs 15 crore.

Many of us feel it's futile to discuss the Ram Janmabhumi-Babri Masjid dispute and the Ayodhya movement now when the nation has moved forward, but it is still pertinent to set the record straight. We believed that it had to be a pro-Congress report and that's what the honourable judge has delivered.

The truth is that PV Narsimharao, his Home Minister SB Chavan and the Muslim leaders of Congress were responsible for the demolition of the mosque. Narsimharao was the supreme architect. The shrewd man let 'things take their own course' and found no reason to invoke president's rule when North India was boiling, though he immediately after dismissed the BJP governments in even MP and Himachal Pradesh for no apparent reason.

Narsimharao lied to the nation. He promised on live television that the mosque would be rebuilt, but gave ample opportunity to the Kar Sewaks to build the make-shift temple, and in process hurt the confidence of millions of Indians in the government and the official machinery.

He would not have been able to do so, had the Ministers in his government taken a firm stand. But the 'qaum farosh' leaders showed little remorse or action. Ministries were more important than the mosque or the faith of the minorities. Worse was to follow. Riots were engineered in Mumbai (and Surat) and Congress CM Sudhakar Rao Naik let the Shiv Sena mobs go on rampage in the metropolis.

Congress cleansed of communalists

Narsimharao represented the right-wing constituency within the Congress that existed from pre-independence era. As long as Nehru remained alive, he managed to keep them under check [to an extent] but leaders like Sampuranand, Purushottam Das Tandon, Govind Das and others were no less fundamentalist than the Togadiyas and Singhals of today.

In fact, the 'right-wing leaders' within Congress were much more intelligent and fundamentalist than those in BJP and even VHP today. They caused greater damage though spoke little. The manner in which not a single Muslim was appointed in UP police from 1947 to 1967 or the total abolition of Urdu from UP are just a couple of examples of this brand of Congress' communalism in the past.

It was this right-wing group within the Congress that was instrumental in keeping the communal cauldron boiling. In mid-80s, it reached it's peak. One positive aspect of the Ayodhya movement is that it not just gave strength to BJP but also ensured that such right-wing hardliners of Congress either got exposed or joined the BJP.

At least, 17 years after demolition of Babri Masjid, Congress is not left with any strong fundamentalist lobby within its organisation. It is back to the centrist path. And there is a distinct right-wing [BJP] that has also diluted its position, due to its strategic alliances [JDU etc] and electoral reversals. Some would say that India has also changed.

And where are the commanders of the demolition squad and those who gave war cries in that post-Rath Yatra period, today?

1. Kalyan Singh, the posterboy of Hindutva in the heartland, is today facing existential crisis

2. Uma Bharti is in wilderness, dumped by her party

3. Sadhvi Ritambhara is back to Ashram

4. Vinay Katiyar is a spent-force. Once he won't meet a Muslim, Today accepts Deoband's invitation

5. Bal Thackeray has lost even Mumbai to his nephew

6. Ashok Singhal is no longer the Sant Samaj's preferred leader, they understood him well

7. LK Advani is a defeated man, failed to lead his part to victory

8. Syed Shahabuddin, once the mascot of Muslim politics, is not even on the periphery. No one bothers about him. Mercifully, there is no talk of such dreadful and confrontation-oriented Muslim leadership in the country.

9. Obaidullah Khan Azmi has no takers now.

10. Murli Manohar Joshi. Who is he?

And an important point that one might forget is that, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the sole BJP leader, whose statements hardly came during the entire period,  had emerged among the other leaders, to become the Prime Minister of India.

Positive aspect after 17 years

This is a much better situation than the era when Congress was the only major political party but it used to have a very strong right-wing lobby apart from other openly anti-minority parties like Hindu Mahasabha. Congress-led state governments may not have be too secular or active, but at least, they are now forced to act in case of communal riots, that were earlier an annual feature through out the country.

Earlier, Congress' position was that it dictated terms and instilled sense of fear among Muslims. Its leaders felt that Muslims can't desert it and even if if they do, it will remain in power. Despite riots and absolutely no schemes for empowerment of Muslims, it blackmailed the Muslim electorate.

But post-Ayodhya movement, the alienation of Muslims cost the party dearly. A party that used to have 300-400 MPs reached a nadir of 138. However, under Sonia Gandhi, the Congress that was cleansed of leaders whose USP was their doublespeak, Muslims started returning to it and post-Gujarat, the party managed to get back to power. [Still, this Centrist, apparently pro-minority Congress, shies from acting on Justice Sri Krishna commission report]

Credit goes more to the secular silent majority, the Hindu masses, who understood the designs of those who turned Maryada Purushottam Lord Rama for political gains and to divide the nation on religious lines for the sake of power.

Indictment of Indian bureaucracy, complicity of IAS-IPS officers

From 1986 onwards until 1992, the anti-Muslim feelings were stoked and fiery speeches were delivered on a daily basis across the country. I remember the days when bricks carrying the name of Lord Rama were carried by Kar Sewaks and fiercely anti-Muslim slogans were raised.

I recall the public meetings and rallies were they would openly charge Muslims of everything bad that happened in this country. It hurt badly when one heard the term 'Babar ki Aulad'. It was all happening openly and almost everywhere.

Ritambhara, Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh, Vinay Katiyar, Mahant Avaidyanath and Ashok Singhal abused Muslims in rallies in each and every town in North India. But no Indian Civil servant dared to take action--either registering cases for inflammatory speeches or booking them under the provisions of Indian Penal Code for spreading communal hatred.

The bureaucracy was the silent accomplice. I must again reiterate that politicians, at least, have to face the voter every couple of years and also face anger of the society, but the bureaucracy that is educated and ought to uphold law and order, cunningly give the impression that the politicians rule the roost. On the contrary the bureaucrat lets things worsen and also escape any criticism or public scrutiny.

The collapse of the system is more because of the impotent and complicit bureaucrat. In 1984, Delhi was burning following the death of Indira Gandhi. Yes, Congress politicians were responsible. But where was the police officials and the district administration? Who held the officials responsible? Did any of them got punished?

The same was the case with 26/11. Not a single official got suspended. It is absolutely unbelievable situation. Power without any accountability. And Indian babudom has developed this system to perfection. The society just doesn't consider them accountable. Lot more can be said on the subject but I think this post is long enough to put a full stop now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A veteran poet's immortal couplet: LamhoN ne khataa ki thi, sadiyoN se sazaa payee...

This is a couplet that is recited by heads of states and is heard in speeches in parliaments but the poet is not as widely known.

yeh jabr bhi dekha hai taarikh ki nazroN ne
lamhoN ne khataa kii thii, sadiyoN ne sazaa paayii

Translation is impossible as the beauty of the couplet can't be translated in another language though it means that 'History has been a witness to this tragedy that mistakes of moments have brought sufferings to mankind for millennia'.

Like several other popular and oft-repeated couplets, it has also acquired a unique status and is used to describe decisions [like partition] that altered the course of history and changed destiny of countless citizens for centuries.

Interestingly, poet Muzaffar Razmi, 73, is alive and lives in his hometown, Kairana, a prominent town in Muzaffar Nagar in Western part of Uttar Pradesh. The couplet is part of the ghazal that has five 'ashaar' but other couplets of the ghazal are hardly known.

The first couplet [matlaa] is:

mahruum-e-haqiqat haiN saahil ke tamaashaaii
ham Duub ke samjhe haiN daryaaoN kii gahraaii

Another couplet of Razmi:

mere daaman mein agar kuchh na rahegaa baaqi
agli nasloN ko duaa de ke chalaa jaaungaa

In the words of eminent poet late Rafat Sarosh, this couplet that was written in a moment of almost divine revelation, expresses the essence of mankind's experiences over several millennia.

Good couplets travel fast across the world. Razmi's couplet was first recited on the Urdu Majlis programme of All India Radio, many decades ago. It got instant popularity and turned into a 'zarbul misl' sher that is quoted quite often in conversations and conventions.

Had Razmi been living in Delhi or Mumbai, TV crews would have queued up at his residence for interviews. But he lives a contented life in his hometown. His collection of poetry was released by Prime Minister sometime back.

However, Muzaffar Razmi Kairanvi is at least fortunate that in his life time he is admired in poetry circles to some extent and is known as the man who wrote this couplet. Many other poets didn't live enough to see their poetry or couplets get such popularity.

Worst it the case of some poets whose couplets were 'hijacked' and wrongly attributed to others. There is a long list of such poets. Meanwhile, read similar posts about less known poets and famous couplets that were posted on this blog earlier. [Muzaffar Razmi's photo and some information about him courtesy website]

1. Popular couplets, Unknown poets

2. Five immortal couplets of a little-known poet

3. Confusion over couplets: Six Urdu 'ashaar'

4. Famous couplets, forgotten poets


Muzaffar Razmi passed away in his hometown Kairana on September 19, 2012 after a brief illness. Razmi was 76. He is survived by three sons and two daughters. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Remembering 'Daar ji' and the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984: Twenty five years after Operation Blue Star

(C) Indscribe

A quarter century has elapsed since the horrific anti-Sikh riots had engulfed parts of North India including Delhi. Though it seems ages ago, but to my mind, it's still fresh.

I was eight when the anti-Sikh pogrom shook the nation due to the Congress' disastrous policies and its mishandling of the Punjab issue. [A couple of months later I was witness to the biggest industrial disaster of the world--the gas tragedy in Bhopal.]

Circa 1984: The All India Radio blared news about skirmishes between militants and police in Punjab on a regular basis. Just two years ago the grand Asiad had excited Indians and TV was slowly becoming a part of every urban household.

Fortunately or unfortunately there was no concept of live TV news. As a result, the images of neither the damage to the Golden Temple during the army operation nor the widespread carnage in national capital could be seen in rest of the country.

My first memory is fire in the building behind my house in New Bhopal. A tent house owned by a Sikh was set afire and the flames had spread to the entire structure. It was a horrifying scene but youths seemed enjoying the sight.

The middle-aged Sikh gentleman in our locality had got a haircut to avoid the gazes. And there were groups of youths on the prowl. In Gwalior, the situation was even worse. The eateries and dhabas run by Sikh [refugee families who had settled here] were either ransacked or burnt.

In Rae Bareli, Kanpur, Hardoi and other neighbouring districts in UP which I passed through a few days later, the talk on the streets would be like--'we saw a Sikh driving a truck in that direction' or 'at that place a Sikh family was cornered' and 'taught a lesson'. And this was the situation hundreds of kilometers away from Delhi, where the real massacres took place.


My worst experience was seeing the trauma of 'daarji' [my father's friend] and his family. His son called him 'daarji' [shorter version of Sardarji]. He was born and brought up near Lahore. After partition, he had migrated to Indian Punjab and later came to Central India.

When we visited his home soon after the riots, the entire family was huddled in a room on the backside, almost scared to death. Their house was attacked thrice in a week--all by 'civilised', educated neighbours and local boys.

They were so scared that only when the policeman deployed at their residence yelled a couple of times, they came out and opened the door of the backyard to let us in. They were all shaken. He tried all contacts when his house was targeted, but to no avail. Friends had stopped taking calls and even a senior police official close to him, hadn't been enthusiastic about providing security.

After repeated attacks, the family had run to a gurudwara and took shelter. When they returned, they would rarely venture out. Their trauma was all the more worse because like most of the Hindu families in Punjab, they also had both Sikhs and Hindus in the same clan.

In many Hindu families, the eldest son was asked to follow the path of Sikhism. So 'Daar ji' became a Sikh, while his brothers remained Hindu. Outside Punjab, it was not widely known and people often expressed surprise.

I can never forget their faces--the couple breaking down every now and then, the pale horror-stricken faces of their daughters. Especially, when he would cry and say--'Unhon-ne Guru Granth sahab ko jala diya, sab se zyaad to usmein Ram ka hi naam likha hai' [They set fire to the Guru Granth Sahib, that mentions the name of Lord Rama most].

Time is a great healer. 'Daar ji' kept getting promotions and was attached to Chief Minister's office. But he could never come out of the trauma fully. The anti-Sikh pogrom in which thousands of innocents were killed, was shamelessly concealed by the state-run Doordarshan and Akashwani.

First, the last rites of Indira Gandhi were turned a national spectacle. Who didn't watch Amitabh Bachchan standing by the side of the handsome Rajiv Gandhi, as he lit the funeral pyre.[Incidentally, Amitabh's mother Teji was also a Sikh]

Then elections were announced. Soon the TV was suddenly showing movies through out morning. In those days it was too tempting and I recall watching flicks of Raj Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and lot of other stars.

Then, there were no CD-DVD players or cable TV and the movie bonanza kept the citizens hooked. The atmosphere was euphoric. Rajiv had heralded a new era. Sikhs, the protectors and defenders of Hinduism, had been suddenly been turned into villains.

The sorrow of the widows and the cries of orphans didn't matter then. After all, 'a tree' had fallen and the 'tremors' had to be felt. Who expected justice in that atmosphere? Was it the misdeeds of two guards for which millions paid the price. Or it was the Congress' policies that turned the hero of Bangladesh war, Major General Shahbeg, to turn a rebel and die fighting against the same army?

To whip up passions and win elections, the communal and linguistic cards were played time and again in Punjab. A couple of years after the carnage, the demand for justice was raised forcefully. Some families did get compensation. Militancy again got a filip and it took many years before normalcy was restored in Punjab though the communal harmony and bonding in the society was severely affected by then.

However, the big fish remained scot-free. One wonders if such horrors were possible if there was 24/7 television then. Nobody knows. Though AIR and DD had 'managed' the situation too well for the Central government then, still there were many rebellions in army camps across India, that were not reported then.

It could have been far worse for the integrity of the nation or the deteriorating situation may have been controlled much earlier. It was later said that the anti-Sikh violence could be the last major communal conflagration of such magnitude in independent India. But in live TV age, there was the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, once again reminding us about the mob mentality in us [our society].

Those who won't dare to take a step for for others or speak a word in ordinary times, turn killers when they are part of mob and they suddenly have their sight on the greater common cause. Software, Sensex and Swanky SUVs are fine but no society can claim to be truly progressive until it remains unrepentant and fails to learn lessons from the past.

In a way 1984 seems distant past. In a way it's yesterday.