WE LIVE IN 1947. It is midnight. A job is being done. An agenda is being implemented. We will see the morning only when the task is accomplished. Millions crossed the Radcliffe line; others are still being told to go. In 1947, the announcements were made from loudspeakers mounted on horse-driven tongas. Now, the message is being sent out from the TV studios.
In Delhi, someone fired at Umar Khalid at an event titled ‘Khauff Se Azaadi.’ 1947 is on.
It is not about the BJP, or Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The fact is that Muslims in India have not found the required political legitimacy that a functioning democracy should have provided them, theoretically on day one, pragmatically within a reasonable time.
Even when people weren't worried about what the guy next door was storing in his fridge, even riots weren't happening, even when the truck-cum-rath of LK Advani hadn't started trundling through the cow belt, before even when the doors of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya were still to be opened, India's Muslims were not living peacefully.
Living peacefully means more than not having riots. It means kids will often share school tiffins.
Living peacefully means more than not having riots. A peaceful multi-ethnic life means villages, cities, housing societies, schools, and community affairs will see equal or at least proportionate mix of communities. Muslim friends would send over a bowl of biryani, and Hindus will invite them to their home on Diwali.
It meant kids will share school tiffins.
But we chose to live in the night of that fateful August 15, 1947. The project of nation building is on in the same spirit, with the same gusto. There is a fire in the belly. The unfinished agenda is being pushed. Heads are being counted in Assam, and new lists of citizens are being drawn up. We have no compunction as a rice farmer wonders which of his five children is not an Indian, or a widow is told that one of her three daughters-in-law is a foreigner and will be deported.
The political class is one on the issue, and so is the deep state of India. The Congress brought and legitimised the idea of updating the citizens' register, the BJP is implementing it, and the Supreme Court is telling the government to open negotiations with the Bangladesh government for facilitating deportation.
Muslims wanted a country. Politics gave them one. They should all have gone. How simple is that! Itna to bachhe bhee samjhte hain, goes a TV ad these days.
We advertise this fact repeatedly. You would never hear of a piece of news that a Hindu has become a judge, or a speaker of the House. That's normal. But you read about how India made a Muslim its president. That's because it's abnormal.
Muslims wanted a country. Politics gave them one. They should all have gone. How simple is that! Itna to bachhe bhee samjhte hain, goes a TV ad these days.
You do not read a million news items that a postcard reached its destination. What you read about is the postcard that reached its destination in three years. Abnormal is reported. Man bites dog is news.
Someone needs to tell the world who India belongs to. So we must build what those, to whom India does not belong, are opposing. Hence, the Ram Temple. The Babri mosque demolition was a continuation of 1947. The talk, court cases, political narrative, television programmes and ongoing work at sculpting pillars for the temple represents a country stuck in 1947.
Were we getting Khalistan or not? Did Master Tara Singh do the right thing? Was Mohamad Ali Jinnah ready to give Sikhs an area of complete autonomy? Sikhs, the third party around the round table when tall men (and no women) used to sit at a table to carve countries and fates, are now arguing about Referendum 2020. It is actually Referendum 1947.
1965, 1971, 1999, the militancy movement in Punjab are all part of the platter of pending errands of 1947. We watch 1947 on our screens with a nauseating regularity. Border, Gadar, Mulk. We think it is such a normal thing for us to use phrases like My Name is Not Khan, or His Name is Not Khan without a bone-chilling shiver leaving us incapacitated for hours. It happens to Muslims, as if it were a genetic problem, a little like an eyebrow twitching.
You want to test the calendar? Buy a copy of the holy Bhagwad Gita in Urdu and start reading it in a bus. In five minutes or less, 1947 will come calling.
You come out, you form a band, buy a few saffron bandanas, block the road. After this, everything is black and white. Even black buffaloes look like white cows. And men become meat, to be beaten to pulp, as community work performed by a collective. A religious sewa-style legitimacy is attached to it all. Certificates, siropas follow. Photo ops, too. Dated 1947.
You want to test the calendar? Buy a couple of urdu books with colourful titles. Preferably, buy a copy of the holy Bhagwad Gita in Urdu or the NCERT's Class XII political science book in Urdu (I am not sure if they still sell these), and carry these in your hands as you take a bus or sit in a train. Keep these prominently by your side, or open one and start reading.
In five minutes or less, 1947 will come calling.
We have a very serious problem with Urdu. There's a reason. For some reason, every captured terrorist is found carrying some kind of reading material, and it is invariably in Urdu. That's why the legislator in Aligarh was stopped from taking oath in Urdu.
jin shahroñ meiñ gooñji thi Ghalib ki nava barsoñ/ un shahroñ meiñ ab Urdu benam-o-nishañ thahri/ aazadi-e-kamil ka elaan hua jis din/ ma.atub zabañ thahri ghhaddar zabañ thahri
This was Sahir, in 1969. He was basically saying it was 1947. Lovers of Urdu at the Jashn-e-Rekhta in Delhi now take care to carry the Urdu books they buy in khaki paper lifafas. Some time back, a woman carrying a brochure of Jashn-e-Rekhta was harassed in a metro because it was in Urdu, the language of the enemy. It is 1947.
The Congress brought and legitimised the idea of updating the list of citizens, the BJP is implementing it, and the Supreme Court is ordering the government to open negotiations with Bangladesh for facilitating deportation.
The demonization of JNU is part of the incomplete agenda of 1947. It is ironic that a university that gave Indians immense pride, also gave us an iconic phrase to denote our idea of the pending errands of 1947: tukde tukde gang.
Do not bother about the Congress asking why the BJP did not give a ticket to a single Muslim in Uttar Pradesh. Ask why there isn't a strong reaction among the public for the utter marginalisation of a major minority community. That's when you see our national life being lived in 1947.
Occasionally, in the United States, they beat up a turbaned Sikh with a flowing beard, mistaking him for a Muslim. Sikhs are very angry about it. Their top temporal seat, the Akal Takht, actually spells out how Sikhs are not Muslims. There is talk of educating the regular American bloke about the Sikhs. The community leaders publish pamphlets and paste posters on walls that update the Americans about how Sikhs are very different from Muslims and they should not be suffering due to mistaken identity just because they wear turbans, as OBL did, or have beards, as OBL had.
This is absolute 1947, in its purest form. This time export quality. No need to educate Americans not to bash up innocent Muslims. Just educate them how Sikhs are not Muslims. So the angry American bloke brought up on Fox News should take the trouble of checking out the ID card of his suspect, make sure it is actually a Muslim and not a Sikh, and then feel free to pummel him.
In endless partition stories, there are descriptions of people dressing up as a Muslim, or a Sikh woman donning a burqa to escape murderous hordes. Naturally, when they encountered a crowd of fellow Hindus and Sikhs rushing towards them, apparently baying for Muslims’ blodd, they shout loudly that they weren’t Muslims, and that they were actually Sikhs or Hindus in disguise. When the hapless Sikh in the US complains, saying "Why was I beaten because of my turban? I am not a Muslim," he is basically confirming it is 1947. He is shouting, "Don’t beat me. I am not a Muslim. Please go and find a real Muslim, and you can beat him to pulp.”
I have seen couples marking the golden jubilee of their marriage with a dance to the lilting tune of chaudhvin ka chand ho, ya aaftab ho. It is amusing to see people listening to zihaal-e-miskin makun-baranjish, bahaal-e-hijra bechara dil hai / sunai deti hai jiski dhadkan, tumhara dil ya hamara dil hai. These are the people who do not complain that our children are not taught Urdu in schools. In fact, they will probably hold a dharna outside the school gates if the school even as much as proposed it. And you will have the local gau sewaks supporting them. We hate to have anything to do with a language in which our young boys and girls sing to each other. Can there be any bigger evidence of us living in 1947?
Sonia Gandhi is from a small village in Italy, born in a Roman Catholic Christian family. She is often derided for it. A prominent politician, now a member of India's Cabinet Committee on Security, once threatened to shave her head if Sonia Gandhi were to become prime minister.
Now, think of a situation if she were to be from a predominantly Muslim country! What could have been the level of our rhetoric? Guess the kind of phrases you would have in certain television studios specialising in locating India's enemies within. Shaving heads would not have counted. Killing a good many would have been one idea. A dozen surgical strikes another.
The fact is that while we are not having a conversation about 1947, we are either living in it, or writhing in its pain. We are still being hit by books that remind us how deeply damaged are we as a people because of the pain of 1947.
1947 has been chasing us through the conversations of our parents, or the ones they have been avoiding to have with us. The death, the destruction and the displacement has damaged us deep within, and we are not talking about it, because we no more live in Lyallpur, or Shiekhupura, or Dipalpur, or Pak Pattan, or Rawalpindi. We think we live in 2018. The fact is that we are living in 1947, and much of the narrative around us is connected to 1947.
We are subjected every night to the images and delusions of Muslim men baying for our blood and honour. These images are our cursed family heirlooms.
We have a very serious problem with Urdu. For some reason, every captured terrorist is found carrying reading material in Urdu. We hate to have anything to do with a language in which our young boys and girls sing to each other.
We have found a way to escape those mobs by turning into a similar mob ourselves. Or by not seeing the mob looking for an alleged tukde-tukde gang, or not calling it out when it is carrying a tricolor and shouting Pakistan Murdabad in a Muslim inhabited area. We escape these mobs by not trying to know anything about Islam, by making sure our girl knows it clearly that she is not supposed to socialise with a Muslim, forget about making out with one, and by the clarity of our thought that we need not learn Urdu even as we hum along a Javed Akhtar or a Gulzar.
We have not seen any demands for teaching Urdu, the language of the region, to our students. That is the success of the continuing 1947 project.
Political legitimacy for this 1947 resides in us. We are refusing to give up the project. We are wallowing in 1947, and yet suffering from it. The daily spectacle at sunset at the India-Pakistan border, hailed as a performing art for hordes of tourists, is the ultimate show-window for war when it is not possible to wage it. The pride in Bofors guns and Rafale jets is the nearer end of 1947 project, its far end being the wish to finish off Pakistan once and for all.
On this Independence Day, we wish you a few moments outside 1947, the rent-free resident in our head. Come out and smell the air. Look at that tricolor flying in a free land. And be happy for the crescent and star green flag of Pakistan fluttering in the neighbouring country. Like us, they, too, fought for freedom along with us. Like us, they, too, got it in 1947. Like us, they, too, were victims of 1947. We spilt each other blood. We need to cry, for ourselves, for each other.
It is 2018. Close your eyes and listen to the voices: if a million died during these days, surely some voices must speak to us. We need to listen to these.
We must never forget 1947. We must never live in 1947. Happy Independence Day. To us. To them. To all.
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