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Freedom from fear

india Updated: Aug 18, 2009 21:59 IST
Manju Kak

When I moved into the Nizamuddin West area in Delhi, friends asked why. I had no real answer except that West is where you see the village that has grown into the Delhi that it is today.

They asked whether I was afraid, as the area is minority-dominated. You mean Muslim, I corrected them, wondering how ‘political’ terminology has permeated into our day-to-day conversations — like Gujarat ‘business’ for riots. A builder acquaintance warned me to get out of there at the earliest, before it all blows up.

But what can we do even if it blows up? As a nation, where can we go? We have no choice but to make it work. Perhaps that’s what Prime Minister Manmohan Sigh was aiming at in Egypt — for something to make ‘it’ work.

For Buddhists it’s your behaviour as a man that elevates you to the status of a Bodhisattva. Clearly the behaviour of nations, too, is the desired key. Today, we urgently need to introspect how we behave as a nation if we want to become a great civilisation.

This imagined clash of cultures is not about politics; it’s about perceived aesthetics of behaviour, the chasm caused by ‘us’ being against ‘them’.

Take the Jamia Nagar incident, when a pamphlet circulated by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad called the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Mushirul Hasan, a rashtriyadrohi and asked for a case to be registered against him for anti-national activities. The reason: he offered legal aid to two students till they were proven guilty.

Have we gone insane? Will the actions of a few tar an institution with suspicion and disgrace? If a community is perceived
as beleaguered, what will you do? Defuse the situation or take the proverbial matchstick to a haystack.

If expediency is the means to success then Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist Zen master, rightly says that as a nation we need to go into retreat, need to reflect and understand our behaviour. Be it through the actions of the Bajrang Dal or Indian Mujahideen, we are desperately seeking ‘violent’ means to face the identity crises we suffer from.

The legacy of the Gandhi-Nehru years was azadi. Today we ask azadi for what? Are we desperately seeking an India, unable to
define ourselves, taking recourse to purging ourselves as a nation?

In Nizamuddin we remember the saying: Humayun ki qabr pe chirag jalta nahin hain, par Auliya ke Dargah par roshini hi roshini. Awareness of the mind of the other is true compassion and where true compassion is, chirag bujh nahin sakte.

The views expressed by the author are personal