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Monday, July 30, 2012

The Dying Banyan: Novel explores Hindu-Muslim relationship, Communal fault lines in India

Sookha Bargad, translated in English
Manzoor Ahtesham's novel 'Sukha Bargad' was translated in English sometime back.

I read the novel five years back and I must say that it is one of the best novels written on Hindu-Muslims relations in this country.

The novel tells the story of a middle-class Muslim family and its struggles in the wake of partition. At times the novel truly astonishes the reader.

The protagonist is a girl, Rashida, [and her brother Suhail] and it is through her eyes that the novelist takes you through the deepest fault lines in independent India.

Rashida's father is a liberal man, a humanist with strong ideas about human values, someone who sends his children including the daughter to a co-ed school when nobody thought about sending daughters to any place other than the local maktab.

But kids realise that their father, a lawyer, isn't looked at favourably by elders of the community because of his unbending views and for his being a bit too outspoken. The protagonist's father is finding it tough to make both ends meet.

It is because of his thoughts on religion [and religiosity] and his uncompromising views that have made the family a sort of pariah. One day the son confronts the father, "I heard you ate pork once after a bet with friends". The answer is indeed revealing. There are interesting dialogues and arguments.

The siblings are growing up in the decade of sixties. The novel is set in Bhopal. The Nawab's rule has ended. The City though remains a Muslim-dominated town is now undergoing a fast demographic change. Communalism, joblessness and insecurities are the topic of several such novels.

But in this novel, the discussions between Suhail and his friend, and views of the protagonist who falls in love with her brother's friend, make them more real. Almost every issue, either its right-wing Hindus' questioning Muslim's patriotism or a section of Muslims' complaining of persecution and bias, is dealt with here.

Its not a complex novel. Suhail remains jobless, turns alcoholic, later seeks refuge with a clever Muslim politician, and once again becomes a born-again Muslim. Rashida remains unmarried. People who had migrated to America and Pakistan, returning occasionally, with their own issues.

Along side, there are wars with China and Pakistan, later the creation of Bangladesh. Events in Pakistan, particularly, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's execution, and the religiosity during Zia Ul Haq's regime. Though this has been the subject of some other novels, Sukha Bargad hooks the reader.

Originally published in Hindi 
Manzoor Ahtesham had originally written it in Hindi. This was a rare thing, as mostly Muslim authors wrote in Urdu.

[Now, there is an entire crop of Muslim writers who write in Hindi]. Ahtesham has treated the subject well and the reader never gets bored.

Besides, it keeps you in a reflective mode.The description, either its about the children's growing up years, Rashida [a Muslim girl's] romantic involvement with the Hindu boy Vijay, later her job at the radio station and the desolate phase, is enchanting. The novel moves at a steady pace.

In fact, the characters appear quite close to you. Perhaps, lot of it is from the writer's personal experience, and as a result, the book becomes a major novel on Indian Muslims.

From regionalism to sectarianism, Shia-Sunni conflict, it deals with a host of issues, subtly. The book ends somewhere in the aftermath of Jamshedpur riots where a famous litterateur was killed in a riot. A must-read, which you will thoroughly enjoy.

Read similar posts on this blog and reviews of major literary works on Indian Muslims AT THIS LINK

[As far as I knew, the author spells his name as Manzoor Ahtesham, but the cover of the translated book reads as 'Ehtesham'.]

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Seeing a 'Sallekhana': Jain woman who had taken death vow under an ancient tradition gives up life after long fast

BEFORE DEATH
The Santhara [or Sallekhana] is a Jain ritual, under which people make a decision to voluntarily die by giving up food and water totally, which results in their death.

Though not too common, quite a lot of Jains are undertaking this vow. Its an ancient practice, as Jainism is one of the oldest religions.

An elderly Jain woman--Chain Kunwar, a nonagenarian, recently gave up her life by observing the 'Sallekhana'. She was 93.

Chain Kunwar, who was wife of late BL Jain, had decided that she had lived her life and it was of no further use. She decided to undergo Santhara. The old woman got even more frail within days, as she could no longer eat or take every a drop of water.

The Death Vow

Already, there was news circulating among the community members about a 'Sallekhana'. When she finally died, thousands had reached the place to participate in the last ritual. Munis and newly initiated monks were part of the programme.

Mortal remains in palanquin procession
The mortal remains [body] was kept in the palanquin [palki] in 'padmasana' position and after the rituals, taken for last rites.

Though a section criticises the practice and terms it a sort of suicide, followers of Jainism say that it is the highest and purest form of death.

Chain Kunwar becomes Ajeyamati Mata

Only recently, Chain Kunwar, had told her family members that she would renunciate the world through this age-old path.

She was taken to the Jinalaya [popularly known as Jain Mandir or temple] were a Saint made her take the vow.

Now she was rechristened and given the honorary name as Aryika Ajeyamati* Mata. From then onward she shunned food and water. [*the victorious, one couldn't be conquered]

Demise on Tenth Day

On the tenth day, the soul departed. Amid chants of the Navkar Mantra, and amid presenece of thousands of devotees, the funeral procession began from the Jinalaya. Some local politicians also reached to seek her blessings.

Most of those who were part of the procession belonged to Digambar Jain sect [though there were people from some other sects of Jainism and also other religions] reached there to witness the 'shobha yatra' and the last journey.

The large crowd during the final procession
"When a person feels that he or she has no more to gain from or give to the society, they take this vrat".

That's what says a Jain devout over the controversies regarding the death fast and opposition to this tradition.

"It is not about religious dogma but this is a radical and modern approach towards life and death".

"And the person who thinks on a much more philosophical plane, takes the decision, voluntarily", he says. "It is not suicide but a refined way of renouncing the world, happily", he further adds. The Jains say that it is not euthanasia, which is intentional death, do escape from pain or illness.

Spirit and Spectacle

The procession was impressive, both in terms of strength and the passion among the crowd. People were happy that a woman in the city has become a 'Sant', by taking up the vow and letting her soul escape the body.

Catching the last glimpse!
There were banners with 'Jai Mahavir' written over them. Besides, there were posters depicting other religious messages that also had photographs of the idols of Jain tirthankars.

On way one could see Jain youth lined up. Many scaling the walls, to catch a last glimpse of Ajeyamati Mata Ji. It was quite a spectacle, indeed.

'Not suicide but leaving the world Gracefully'

Rather, it is voluntary fasting to death, which is sublime form of leave from the world gracefully. Though it often comes in conflict with law, as it is a ritual and part of a religious community's heritage, there is generally no obstruction by authorities.

During the event, one could feel how India has such a unique culture with innumerable traditions [of diverse faiths], many of which are not even known to people in other countries.

As Jains are not a large community, but because they are more numerous in cities and towns, particularly, in markets and business areas, the ceremonies and practices which were not too well known earlier are also getting more coverage in media, and thus reaching the wider public. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Assam riots 2012: Can state government escape blame or claim moral high ground in dealing with communal violence over BJP anymore?

Map shows Kokrajhar's location in Muslim
[*First an appeal that all of us must stand united against those who are fanning hatred and trying to create scare among the mind of students from North East through Twitter or Facebook. Don't believe in rumours.]

The clashes between Bodos and Muslims in Assam, have so far claimed the lives of 45* persons and have rendered thousands homeless apart from large scale destruction of property.

Its not a day or two but almost an entire week has passed and scattered violence is still being reported.

This is a huge failure on part of the administration. Congress leaders may claim that the situation can't be compared with the Gujarat 2002.

But the Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, his government, and his police, failed to control the situation in his state.

One of the worst riots since 2002

Even as violence spread from Kokrajhar to neighbouring districts, the lack of will on part of the state government in checking violence, was evident. It is a fact that since 2002, Gujarat has not seen a major riot and even if there was a riot, it would have led to an uproar in media.

But during the initial days of Assam riots, national TV channels ignored it [Just like in the past when ULFA was involved, and news gained prominence when HuJI was named]. The fact is that after Gujarat 2002,  Assam 2012 are one of the worst ethnic-religious communal riots in India, save for the period when anti-Christian violence occurred in Karnataka and Kerala.

Does Congress have moral high ground left over BJP!

Still, Congress leaders give an impression so as to appear morally superior to BJP. They have no right to do so. Tarun Gogoi didn't seem in control. And, now he passes the buck on Centre, as to why Army was not sent initially?  So why did he not ask for it earlier?

AN APPEAL

DON'T SPREAD RUMOURS ON FACEBOOK & TWITTER
NOW ITS AUGUST, VIOLENCE WAS CONTROLLED LONG BACK
NORTH EAST STUDENTS MUST FEEL SAFE EVERYWHERE IN INDIA

Or the rules are different for riots in a Congress-ruled state? Congress-led UPA is at the helm at the centre and it is expected to rein in rioters of both sides as early as possible. After all, Prime Minister of India, is a member of parliament [in Rajya Sabha] representing Assam.

In the North East, there has been a history of such violence as the region is home to several tribes. One instantly remembers the horrific Naga-Kuki clashes in Manipur. The difference is that when one of the side involved in violence is Muslim, the debate totally shifts to 'infiltration' and 'illegal immigration'.

Humanitarian crisis: Don't see it from communal prism

On social networking websites, often the extent of violence aside, debate shifts as to which community suffered more and hence becomes a Hindu Vs Muslim issue rather than the killing of Indian citizens including women and children.

The worst example is how people searching for number of dead belonging to their own communities. Anyone who has a blog or site, would tell how statistics shows visitors searching for figure of dead Hindus and Muslims. Isn't it a shame!

No denying infiltration but the fact that media persons termed entire Muslim populace as 'migrant settlers' is also highly objectionable. There are reports that the militant NDFB [National Democratic Front for Bodoland] was responsible for the ethnic riots.

Role of NDFB, Bodo groups: But what about govt accountability?

CNN-IBN website carries this report. The NDFB is well-known for its involvement in subversive activities and it also has Bangladeshi connection. 

But just that it is not a Muslim group, it can't be absolved. Rather than sweeping statements about religious factors, there is need to look at the crisis from a humanitarian angle.

Similarly, blaming a group is easy. These are political tactics to shift the onus, and save self from accountability. 

But it can't Congress' record in dealing with communal riots is well-known. Just that focus is always less on North East, didn't work this time. A death in Gurgaon or two killed in Meerut always make more news because of proximity to New Delhi.

But no longer. Media had to finally realise the gravity of the situation. Time for Congress to take a decision on Tarun Gogoi. [*This is the official figure. Though victims claim that the real figure of those who died and people affected is much higher.]


DON'T BRAND ALL ASSAMESE MUSLIMS AS BANGLADESHIS, INFILTRATORS

A strange trend of terming almost all Assamese Muslims as Bangladeshis was noted in this context recently. This is wrong. Illegal immigration is wrong. We oppose it. But terming indigenous Muslims as Bangladeshis will lead to unnecessary tensions.

READ THESE POSTS:

1. Why Advani is wrong on Assam: The bogey of illegal migration
2. Reading the Assam violence
3. MUST-READ: The MYTH of the BANGLADESHI: Nilim Dutta's article with facts a figures on the reality behind this violence

Blame NDFB for violence: It was plan for ethnic cleansing. CNN-IBN report

Past post on this blog on the issue of Bangladeshi immigration:
1. Branding the Bangladeshi Migrant....
2. Infiltration: Nepali migrants Vs Bangladeshi

Earlier post on this blog on ignoring North East in national media
1. 21 Indians killed but no eyebrows raised over...
2. 9 Hindi speakers killed, 16 cops shot but...
3. Nine terror attacks in ten days but none leads to outrage as NDFB, Naxals, ULFA involved

FINALLY, once again the appeal. Don't believe in rumours. The violence was controlled long back. Even Prime Minister visited Assam. One hopes that the victims, both Bodos and Muslims, would return to their homes soon. Discourage rumour-mongers.

Good to see Muslim groups clearing air and issuing statements that if Assam students feel unsafe, they are welcome at mosques and in Muslim homes in Bangalore & Hyderabad. Muslims should also stop coming to streets and holding protests. Mobs often go violent as in the case of Mumbai recently.

[*Later update.]

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Coming across an 'original' Shilajit seller: Is it the same ancient Indian aphrodisiac or a hoax?

Man from Mountains!
Shilajit is a substance found in Himalayan mountain ranges and is known for its miraculous healing properties in traditional Indian system of medicines but is commonly believed to be an aphrodisiac.

There is a general perception that it is nearly impossible to get pure Shilajit these days. A few days back, I was standing with a group of friends when a 'shilajit' seller passed by.

The man introduced himself as a Pahadi [from the mountains] and approached the policemen nearby. Cops are more interested in such stuff and are readily approached by those selling magical medicines & herbs.

One of the reasons is that the khaki-wallas are considered outspoken and coarse. As a result they don't feel embarrassed talking about virility-related issues in public [unlike the rest].

Curious cops and commoners

Still, one of the cops sheepishly looked at me and then asked the man, to show the substance. "Let's see if, its real". More people, mostly policemen came around, as the man [like a typical tamasha-wala] sat on the ground, enlightening us about Shilajit and its health-related 'benefits'.

"Ye patthar ka pasina hai [it is the oil of stone]", began. Everybody was interested. An elderly cop, who had the expression on the face, as if he had seen everything in his life, dismissed the suggestion that it was the original 'shilajit'. 

'Sab naqli bechte hain, asli Shilajit mil jaye to phir', he said ending with a crude joke, making everybody laugh. He said that only real yogis could find shilajit. But maintaining his seriousness, the Topi-wala man, who  hailed from Himachal Pradesh, said that he will prove it here only that it is the real Shilajit.

No wonder there are a lot of wandering vendors cheating people by selling 'shilajit' just like in the old days when the mythical 'zeher mohra' [stone that sucks poison, if placed exactly where the snake has bitten a person] was sold.

People had arrived from the nearby pan shop and the officials from their rooms also gathered. Now the circle around him was complete. The man, who was dressed differently, to create an impression, spoke haltingly.

Testing: Is the real or fake?

Is that the original 'Shilajit'
One after the other, packets were opened. Finally, the black stone-like substance emerged. He showed it to all of us. 'Now I will prove that it is the original one'.

Does anyone have a match-stick. Do you know its property? "Yes", said a cop. "It doesn't burn, turns into a wire that you can stretch up to miles", the cop announced.

Now the man lit the match stick and brought it close to the hard substance. There were a few bubbles and soon brown sparkling threads began emerging.

 Magic substance or marketing strategy!

"See", he said triumphantly and asked others to hold the 'taar' and keep stretching it. Voila. It kept on getting longer and longer and didn't break. Everyone was now impressed, nodding.

The man who had given this performance now wore a winning smile. Crowd had swelled. Cops of all ranks were now vying to have a look at it. He kept it back in the bag. By now, the curiosity had grown manifold. Now he was no longer a vendor seeking buyers.


The shining brown tar stretches...
Roles had been reversed. It was the turn of the people who were seeking his attention. They were asking him about the method to use it, how to drink or swallow and the cost of the traditional Indian panacea.

Like the 'masaan' magician who can make your %*& disappear!
 
I left the spot and walked on with my friends, wondering if it was indeed real. I thought of snake charmers, the saanp-nevla [snake & mongoose] fight walas, men who carry jars in which strange creatures--gohs, lizards and other reptiles.

Also, about those door-to-door sellers claiming to have the real honey which looks original and beautiful but after a few days, you realise that you are tricked when you find sugar in the bottom of the container. Often, it is just coloured jaggery water.

Or for example the herb selling vendors on streets [and those who carry masan ki haddi, warning that if someone leaves the crowd, his private part would disappear], it was probably just another tamasha-wala to entertain us.

And hence the wandering road side performers keep earning their livelihood. Even if the 'stone' fails to have the desired effect on the buyers, they only think that it was not the real Shilajit. And thus, the myth of the magical mineral, continues.

[*Shilajit means Rock-invincible in Sanskrit]

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Abrar bhai's auto-rickshaw embraces Saffron: Is it 'Allah Hafiz' to Congress, as more and more Muslims join BJP?

Muslim auto-wala embraces BJP!
Abrar Bhai's auto-rickshaw has 'Allah Hafiz' written on the top in Arabic. Just below his name is written in devanagari script [Hindi] with the words Bhajapa Neta or BJP leader written in bracket.

There is nothing unusual in that, as the sight of BJP flag, posters, its symbol or colours, are now commonly seen on Muslim shops, establishments, buses, cars and other vehicles.

Once it was impossible to find a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flag at a Muslim household. Now it no longer looks odd, at least, in Central Indian states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat*. [In Gujarat, reasons could be entirely different though]

It is not like UP where people often put the flag of a ruling party just to avoid unnecessary police checking or  scrutiny at traffic posts/toll booths.

Here, no traffic cop stops or lets an auto-rickshaw go just because it sports a particular party's flag. But rise of Muslims in BJP ranks has been an astonishing phenomenon during the reign of Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh [and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh].

With BJP no longer appearing fiercely anti-Muslim, Muslims are joining it. In all Assembly constituencies, BJP leaders are being given task to get more and more Muslims join the party. Lot of Muslims who liked getting this attention or those small-time politicians who didn't get place in Congress used this opportunity.

First, the BJP that always castigated Congress for courting minorities, reluctantly started inducting Muslims at middle level in party hierarchy. BJP's minority morchas [branches or wings] were getting strengthened. Issues and problems pertaining to Haj, Waqf, Mosques, Pensions and Salaries for Imams-Muezzins were getting raised by its leaders also.

Like Congress-walas, BJP also had begun iftaars long ago. The 'chadarposhi' at Mazars and organising Qawwalis or Mushairas also became a regular sight. Naturally, Muslims at different level, started coming close to the 'Saffron' party. BJP has more banners in Urdu now.

Had there been no Gujarat carnage, Muslims would have probably begun voting for it long back. Still, the last few elections sprung surprise in MP, when in Muslim dominated parts of many cities and towns votes went to BJP candidates. That surprised even the party.

Wazire Aala, isteqbal: Urdu in Hindi script
In panchayat elections, it happened again. There were booths where almost 90% voters were Muslims and they voted for the BJP.

So 'Sammelans' [conventions] targeting Muslims were held. Even die-hard RSS hats were seen wearing green 'saafas' and donning the 'topi'.

Perhaps, one of the reason was that local leader was not too different from a Congress-wala. Then, there was also a feeling that BJP has become invincible in this part and is trying to win us over. So what's the use of remaining aloof just because it is 'BJP'.

The party leadership now keeps urging and exhorting its workers all the time to get as many Muslims as possible to party fold, get them sensistised about BJP ideology and tell them that the party is not against Muslims, so that the BJP could reach the threshold.

People sympathetic to BJP often say that it is because of Congress rule, Muslims got backward and hence Muslims must shun their preference for the 'hand'. Muslims are not opposed to Saffron [Zafran in Urdu]. In fact, this was considered the Sufi colour.

The saffron-green symbol on the auto that is taken from BJP's flag, can in fact, signify the Hindu-Muslim composite culture. While being Congressman is no certificate for secularism, the problem with BJP is that it has an umbilical cord with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and is part of the parivar--particularly, Bajrang Dal and VHP.

These groups have enough lumpen elements who not only dislike but also hate Muslims. Can the party rein them in? One wishes that the BJP could be sincere in its approach towards Indian Muslims. It should understand the reality.

Even otherwise, thousands and thousands of Muslim workers are joining different wings of the party, and probably they will also make the BJP change a lot in the years to come. Time is changing: From 'Khuda Hafiz' to 'Allah Hafiz' [this expression means goodbye] and from 'Congress to BJP'.

What's the problem in being optimistic? I have written a few posts on this issue earlier also. Read one of the posts published on this blog in the past here. Read it: When the burqa gets Saffron band, BJP and Indian Muslims.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bihari to Bangladeshi and Beyond: Abdus Samad's novel on partition of India and the after-effects on people in East Pakistan

Abdus Samad's Do Gaz Zameen
It was almost 15 years ago that I first read Abdus Samad's famous novel,'Do Gaz Zameen', that had got him the prestigious Sahitya Akademi award.

For quite sometime I was yearning to read it again. I got it from a library and read the novel that focuses on partition of the India. Unlike most other novels that primarily look at Punjab, it focuses on Eastern India--the affect of partition on Biharis and Bengalis.

Umpteen litterateurs have touched the after-affects of partition in Northern India, but the plight of refugees in the region where East Pakistan was created, didn't get as much expression in Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and English literature.

Abdus Samad's novel is important not just in this context. Like Uttar Pradesh (UP), millions of Muslims left for Pakistan [West] from Bihar also.


Apart from Karachi and Lahore, Biharis also went to East Pakistan in huge numbers and from the other side of the border, Hindu Bengalis came to India. Through a Muslim family settled in a town Bihar Sharif [Nalanda], he begins his narration.

The Novel

The head of the family represents the elite Muslims. There is wide support among Muslims for Congress, which has Gandhi in the forefront, but also has Ali brothers, Maulana Abdul Bari Firangimahli and Abul Kalam Azad.

But Muslim League is slowly gaining ground. The next generation is divided between supporters of Congress and Muslim League. Till now the plot is quite similar to many other famous novels that have dealt with this subject in the past.

But Abdus Samad's fantastic narration keeps you spellbound. In Congress, there is a section that has clear right-wing leanings. Riots occur and when there are complaints made about local leaders' involvement, there is little action.

Pakistan, yes, but where?

Muslims are terribly out of touch with reality. A large number attends league functions and raises slogans but have no idea that when Pakistan would be created, it would not be in the midst of the Indo-Gangetic built, but far away.

Post-partition, Muslims feel guilty. However, there are opportunists who were in league but have quickly donned the Gandhi cap. Meanwhile, there are growing fears. Land ceiling is about to take place, zamindaris ending and Muslims fleeing the country side due to fear of reprisal.

Those unwilling to go find it hard to survive. If a family member has left for Pakistan, the property is seen as disputed, as was the situation in the era when custodian had become a dreaded word. People wanted to sell their land to migrate, but weren't getting the price.

Even as there is a great exodus, there are millions who have no wish to go away. An elderly woman who sees youngsters going to Pakistan and never returning while young girls here waiting and remaining unmarried, rues, 'ye muaa Pakistan, sabko khaa jaata hai'.

Post- partition years in Bihar

Finally, Urdu speaking Biharis have got citizenship
Muslim lawyers don't have adequate clients now as landowners have left and not just Muslims but Hindus also desert them.

Businessmen also find it tough and so is the condition of government officials and others. Any mischief maker's complaint that a person has received cash or letter from a kin who went to Pakistan, is immediately under suspicion.

There are inquiries and cases, blames of being a spy or traitor. Elderly Muslims who had faith in Congress find their own sons challenging their conviction.

Failing to get jobs, youth go for 'gardania passport' (illegal way) to get to East Pakistan, where there were more opportunities for them.

Biharis in East Pakistan: A new life begins

Once in Bangladesh, the situation was rosy in the initial years. But it also deteriorates with time. In fact, Samad gives us a peek into the mind of Bangladeshis and muhajirs [Punjabi and Bihari Muslims] who went to Pakistan.

That many people who went to Bangladesh, got jobs and money, but were still not satisfied. They rued that in Western Pakistan, the muhajirs had got a much better deal--in terms of getting bigger houses and more creamy positions in the government.

When novel's protagonist argues with them saying that there was large exodus of Hindus from Punjab and hence more houses to get in return in West Punjab, he is told that no the Bengali qaum doesn't treat the muhajirs well enough.

Oblivious to Amar Sonar Bangal!

In parties and functions, the new entrants who are now well-entrenched look down at the Bangladeshi, terming them as "Ye naachne-gaane wali qaum' [referring to the penchant for dance and music among Bangladeshi Muslims], which was scorned and seen as 'un-Islamic'.

The novel portrays the largely West Pakistan dominated army officers as government officials as ignorant and contemptuous towards the country, looking at it as just a land of opportunities, despite the fact that people here had opened up hearts for them.

There are heated debates over Qaid-e-Azam's vision [Mohamed Ali Jinnah] and the policies during the period of Liaqat Ali Khan and later years. Our protagonist, an 'ashraaf' Muslim, who sneaked into East Pakistan, by calling a 'lower caste Muslim' 'Chamu' as his uncle, manages to get a job, due to a Bengali Muslim gentleman.

English translation
Romance and revolution

He enjoys their hospitality and fells in love with the gentleman's daughter. But the situation is turning fluid. There is growing resentment over the authoritarian rule of the West Pakistan. What follows is a long saga. There is blood and gore. Muktibahini arrives.

Bangladesh emerges as a sovereign nation, after General Niyazi surrenders in Dacca. Biharis stuck in Bangladesh fear for their fate. Innumerable perish, rest of Biharis lead a life of misery in camps as people belonging to no country, while many others manage to escape.


The Biharis who were fortunate enough to come back to West Pakistan, now find that there are no more opportunities for them here. Was it a 'hijrat' indeed when they first left India?

Is Dubai, the El Dorado of Middle East, the next destination?


How many more Hijrats!

Back in Bihar [in India], Muslims are picking up pieces, on the land where a million mosques, madarsas and grave yards tell the story of Indianised Islam for over 1,300 years. And that despite occasional obstacles or communal riots, it is here lies there destiny and dreams.

The novel was translated in Hindi also by the same title. In English, it is available as 'A strip of land, two yards'. It is a fascinating novel and sheds light on the life of people affected by the communal politics and the mindless violence in Eastern part of India, before and after independence.

Though it doesn't have a canvas as wide as many other novels, Do Gaz Zameen gives a reader valuable insight into the politics in Bihar during the pre-independence period. Along with Qurratul Ain Hyder's Aag ka Darya, Abdullah Husain's Udas Naslein, this is another important work, helpful in understanding the era.

Long back, I had written a post on this blog on some of the important novels on Indian Muslims, their culture, psyche and their aspirations. Do read the post, 'Major literary works of Indian Muslims'. 

[*The novel's title comes from Poet-King Bahadur Shah Zafar's famous couplet 'Kitna badnaeeb hai Zafar dafan ke liye/ Do gaz zamiiN bhii mil na sakii, kuu-e-yaar meN]