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Rebuilding secularism, Gandhi style

On the front page of Syed Shahabuddin’s weekly The Milli Gazette there was a news item written by its editor Zafarul Islam Khan, which I felt should have made to the headlines of every national daily and TV channels, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2010 01:43 IST

On the front page of Syed Shahabuddin’s weekly The Milli Gazette there was a news item written by its editor Zafarul Islam Khan, which I felt should have made to the headlines of every national daily and TV channels. But I did not see it appear in any other journal and felt saddened that our media had failed to perform its duty. The article was headlined “Sikhs rebuild mosque demolished in 1947”. I give a short summary of its contents.

Sarwarpur, a village ten kilometres from Samrala town, in Punjab has a sizeable Muslim population. In the communal civil strife which accompanied the partition of Punjab in August 1947, most of the Muslims fled to Pakistan and the mosque was demolished by rampaging mobs of Hindus and Sikhs. Last year the Sikhs of the village decided to rebuild the mosque.

On May 22, Jathedar Kirpal Singh of the SGPC (Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee), the MLA of the village Jaagjivan Singh and all villagers welcomed Maulana Habibur Rehman Sani Ludhianvi and presented the keys of the mosque to the oldest Muslim villager Dada Mohammed Tufail. There were triumphant cries of Allah-o-Akbar (God-o-Creator). Among those present was Mohammed Usman Radanvi, Chairman of the Punjab Wakf Board.

My heart swelled with pride at what members of my community had done. Something what Guru Nanak, whose first disciple Bhai Mardana remained Muslim to the end of his life, would have liked them to do; they had done what the Fifth Guru Arjan, compiler of the adi-granth and builder of the Harmandir (today’s Golden Temple), whose foundation stone had been laid by the Sufi Saint Hazrat Mian Mir of Lahore, would have applauded. And so would Maharaja Ranjit Singh, one of whose Maharanis built the white marble Dargah of Data Ganj Baksh, the most popular Sufi shrine in Lahore today.

I don’t think it is too late for the media to make amends for its oversight. It can still highlight this historic event. Let pressmen and crews of TV channels visit Sarwarpur, reproduce pictures of the rebuilt mosque, interview residents of the village and tell all their countrymen what we need to do to keep it together. They could organise special showings for the destroyers of the Babri Masjid including L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Sadhvi Rithambra, Kalyan Singh, the Hindu Mahasabhaees, Shiv Sainiks, Bajrang Dalis and others who share their venomous views. I think the results will be spectacular. And I am sure our Bapu Gandhi in heaven will be showering his blessings on the villagers of Sarwarpur. Don’t you agree with me?

Poets of yore

One evening, Geeti Sen, who is currently Cultural Counsellor with our embassy in Kathmandu, brought her son Murad with her. I had seen him as a baby in 1969 when his parents and I lived in the same block of flats on Cuffe Parade. He has grown into a handsome young man — educated in Lawrence School, Sanawar and with a degree from Sydenham College, Bombay. He went into making films and acting in different institutes in Paris and America. Since his parents split and his own marriage went on the rocks, he lives alone in Nizamuddin and devotes himself to studying and reciting Urdu poetry. He has given many recitals in different cities in India and Nepal.

That evening he got going in my home. I was astounded by his phenomenal memory. If I quoted a couplet of an Urdu poet, he came out with the entire ghazal. And many more of his own choice.

It occurred to me that while mushairas are restricted to poets reciting their own works and the better poets usually come on the stage past midnight, there was a better alternative to keep Urdu alive.

If schools and colleges where Hindustani is understood had men like Murad Ali invited to give recitations of old and new poets from Meer Taqi Meer, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Ghalib and Momin down to Iqbal, Faiz, Kaif-I-Azmi, and Ahmad Faraz, they could put fresh life into the dwindling love for Urdu poetry which is our priceless heritage.

yes, minister With ministers, surprises never cease One had ‘foot in the mouth’ disease His statements on China Caused some angina But the PM gave him a fresh lease

Environment minister ruffled some feathers And helped create inclement weather. His diplomatic intrusions Created confusion That India and China should work together

Jai ho, Jai ho, Jairam Ramesh, Jai ho He is trying to unite friends and foes Chinese investments be allowed: He says — clear and loud But the bloke is treading on some toes (Contributed by J.K. Mathur, Gurgaon)

The views expressed by the author are personal