We celebrated our 75th Independence Day on Sunday. But days before that, India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh witnessed a horrific incident where a Muslim rickshaw driver in Kanpur was beaten and forced to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’, while his little daughter clung to him, begging for mercy. The radicalised goons did not spare him. This is not the only such incident in the recent past that has sent shivers down the spine. From Mohammad Akhlaq to Junaid Khan, from Pehlu Khan to Rakbar Khan, from Alimuddin Ansari to Shamiuddin, hate crimes have become the new normal. These are dangerous trends for a democracy, and we are heading towards darker times. The dreams and aspirations that our forefathers had 75 years ago have been butchered in broad daylight. This wasn’t the India that was dreamt of on 15 August 1947.
The conundrum lying in front of our nation today is religious nationalism. Indian Muslims rejected Jinnah’s two-nation theory and said that the land of Khwaja Bandenawaz, Tipu Sultan, Ambedkar, Gandhi, and Maulana Azad is our land. We stayed in our own country. We did not migrate because we believed in Maulana Azad’s historic speech, which he gave from the footsteps of Jama Masjid addressing Indian Muslims.
“Where are you going and why? Raise your eyes. The minarets of Jama Masjid want to ask you a question: where have you lost the glorious pages from your chronicles? Was it only yesterday that on the banks of the Jamuna, your caravans performed wuzu?”
Those who believed in Azad, stayed here. Those who wanted to go, went. That is why I would say we are Indians by choice and Indians by birth. We enjoy two rights; others are Indians by default. We had a chance to choose our nationality and we chose the land of Gandhi, Ambedkar and our ancestors who are sleeping peacefully in their graves, as our nation.
It’s a disgrace, as an Indian citizen whose four generations have lived in the country, that I’m compelled to explain this today and need to prove my patriotism every now and then. But I need to, so as to remind my fellow countrymen and women that we are not tenants in this country. We aren’t second-class citizens. We have the same stake in this country as others.
Choice is ours
The Prime Minister who tweets on one or the other issue has not tweeted on the Kanpur incident yet. Can we expect a tweet from the vazeer-e-aazam? It would just take a tweet and condemnation of the act from the PM himself to stop these kinds of incidents and send a strong message to the perpetrators. But the Prime Minister maintains a deafening silence when such incidents take place.
The raising of anti-Muslim slogans at Jantar Mantar or Mahapanchayats in support of the criminals shows that the Hindutva forces have not left anything to dehumanise and de-individualise in Muslims. And all this in the name of ‘Maryada Puroshottam’. Where do these people get so much courage from? Radicalised goons know nothing will happen to them. They’re unlikely to even face social boycott for such brutal crimes. They beat a Muslim man in police presence. It will have a long-lasting impact on his child. It would be difficult for the tiny daughter of India to overcome this trauma.
If you have a conscience, you can’t be a mute spectator anymore. When the Kanpur man was beaten, no one came to his rescue, but people came to support the culprits. The same happened with Junaid in 2017. When he was stabbed to death in a moving train and attacked with knives, passengers did not come to his rescue. This shows how morally dead we have become as a society.
No one comes in support of their fellow Indians when they are lynched and beaten. One needs to fight this violent radicalisation in society. We rejected Jinnah’s ‘Muslim nationalism’ over Indian nationalism. The onus is on our Hindu brothers and sisters now to reject ‘Hindu nationalism’ for the sake of India’s nationalism. Hindutva can only be defeated by the Indian Constitution, and Indian nationalism. The onus is on us to determine which path we choose. The choice is not difficult, though.
Khalil ur Rehaman Savanur is a student of Karnataka State Law University, Hubli. Views are personal.