January 24, 2006

All these fathers

So I've just spent four hours of my life in a too-cold YB Chavan Centre auditorium, gazing at a stage on which sat Shivraj Patil, RR Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Pratapsinh Rane (respectively, India's Home Minister, Maharashtra's Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister, Maharashtra's Chief Minister, Goa's Chief Minister), with other ministers and bureaucrats. The audience had more bureaucrats, police officers, journalists, NGO workers and many others. Mostly male, but a sprinkling of women.

This was at a seminar to discuss the new Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005.

We heard from the assorted dignitaries, then the Honourable Home Minister opened up the discussion for inputs from the audience. Several people made lots of points, about this or that provision of the bill, the importance of prevention, that sort of thing. (I sent up a slip because I thought I had something to say about prevention of communal violence, but time ran out before my slip came up. Not that I'm bitter, oh no).

All pretty routine stuff.

Then the Home Minister began summing up, because he had to leave. Whereupon, a swarthy man with a large moustache got up and shouted: "You have not listened to anyone speak about the other side of this draconian bill!" The Home Minister asked, what is that other side?

"You are only listening to one kind of person's views on this draconian bill!" The Home Minister asked, what kind of person is that?

"Only these maulanas and fathers!"

Upon which I hastily reopened the book in which I had been taking notes, to take a look at the names of the persons from the audience who had spoken till then. Here they are, those names: Ribeiro, Suresh, Mathai, Anees, Solanki, Pasricha, Sinha, Keswani, Asthana, a maulana whose name I didn't catch, Ramdas, deBritto (a father), Rathod.

Yes, yes, all maulanas and fathers. That kind of person.

The man proceeded to the stage where he told us he had come as part of a delegation sent by the Government of Gujarat. He launched into an attack on the bill. "This bill is anti-Gujarat!" he said.

He fished out a booklet which, he said, was the Government of Gujarat's official critique of the bill. "Unfortunately I have only one copy," he said. "But if anyone is interested, you can give me your name and address and I will pass it on to the Government and you will get a copy by post."

And he came off the stage and sat down.

At the end of the meeting, I gave him my name and address, and he gave me his card: Saurabh Shah, editor of the Gujarati weekly Vichardhara. With a genial smile, he promised that I would get the booklet soon.

Went upstairs for lunch. A man walked in with a huge duffel bag, opened it and took out hundreds of copies of the same booklet. Put them down in piles all over the room (most next to where icecream was being served, sort of like desert), went around handing them out to the attendees. I have a copy: "Government of Gujarat: Analytical Comments and Suggestions on The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005; Dated 24th January 2006."

And oh yes, my name and address, on a little slip of paper, is on its way to the innards of the Government of Gujarat.

6 comments:

Anand said...

Vichardhara -- Bunch of Thoughts -- Golwalkar's poisonous treatise! The book had a chapter titled 'Internal threats to the nation' with subsections titled (i) The Muslims, (2) The Christians and (3) The Communists. At another point in the same book Golwalkar expands:

"This so-called 'minority' problem is not one of Muslims only. It is also within the Hindus themselves. For example, we have the Jains; we have what is known as the Scheduled Caste people some of whom followed Dr. Ambedkar and became Buddhists and are trying to claim that they are separate."

Hatred to Muslims, Christians, Communists, Budhists, Jains, Dalits, ... The Hindu Rashtra, I guess, is meant just for upper class/upper caste Hindus.

They had of course great role models:

"To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races - the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how wellnigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole. A good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

Come to think of it, a very apt name there for Mr. Saurabh Shah's weekly!

Spaceman Spiff said...

And oh yes, my name and address, on a little slip of paper, is on its way to the innards of the Government of Gujarat.

Ask for Z+ security ASAP ;-)

Nikhil said...

Anand
Point taken on hatred etc etc... But let us remember that Golwalkar and his philosophy reached only a fringe of Hindus and never really became mainstream. However the Muslim league - even though not totally a representative of all Muslims managed to bring about a bloody partition of the country that continues to hurt Hindu Muslim relations and something that everybody rushes to sweep below the carpet Therein lies the difference.
I have not read Golwalkars book - but what exactly was his formula for a Hindu rashtra?
He identified enemies - but how exactly did he want to deal with them?

Anand said...

Nikhil -- Partition is not Jinnah's brain child. And all the blame should not go to the Muslim League. Someone had said way back in 1905:

"... the territory beyond Sindh should be united with Afghanistan and the North-West Frontier province into a great Mussulman Kingdom. The Hindus of the region should come away while at the same time the Mussulmans in the rest of the country should go and settle in this territory."

As I understand this is the 'Indian' beginning of the partition. This was stated by a Hindu Mahasabha leader. (I read this quote from an article by Yoginder Sikand.)

Recipe for Hindu Rashtra?

"The foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, and must entertain no ideas but the glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment -- not even citizen’s rights."

(M.S. Golwalkar, We or our natiionhood defined, p.62, quoted by Christophe Jaffrelot in The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian Politics: 1925 to the 1990s.)

Dilip D'Souza said...

Anand, the connection to Golwalkar ... thanks for pointing it out. This guy and his team-members said some more twisted stuff as well.

Nikhil, I'm interested by your mention of the "mainstream". After all, I lose track of the number of times I've heard from Golwalkar's admirers that they are the mainstream and the rest of us had better join it.

As for the Muslim League and partition, I think 60 years on it's time we took dispassionate look at what happened then, and perhaps we'll understand that there were others responsible for partition as well.

For example, here's what I wrote here some months ago in this vein:

Jinnah and his Muslim League did not start out by demanding a separate Pakistan. Their original demand was for constitutional guarantees for Muslim safety and security in free -- and Hindu-dominated -- India. What shape these guarantees took could be worked out, but this was the demand. The response to it was that a one-person one-vote democracy was all the guarantee of safety that Muslims needed, and could expect, in free India. This was not acceptable to Jinnah, and over time, he began to ask for a separate
country: Pakistan.

This is the barest gist of the argument. But it is made persuasively and forcefully in HM Seervai's "Partition of India: Legend and Reality", a book I believe every Indian must read. Seervai, of course, was one of India's greatest constitutional scholars, and his book is impeccably researched. A minor classic.

Six decades on, it should be possible for Indians to read and understand it -- not necessarily agree with it, but understand Seervai and therefore Jinnah. It should be possible for Indians to accept at least this much: that the blame for the great tragedy of Partition is not all Jinnah's, and it serves for nothing to keep believing as much.

My belief is that understanding that much will give us all a far better sense of our own country today; more than that, it will make us a far better country.

k said...

Anand:

>>>The book had a chapter titled 'Internal threats to the nation' with subsections titled (i) The Muslims, (2) The Christians and (3) The Communists


How different are those thoughts when compared to those of Babasaheb Ambedkar who wrote our Indian Constitution. I trust you've read his book and views on 'Mussalmans' and pakistan.

Or is it not part of the prescribed reading in secular circles?