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The curious case of some unlikely scholars

Take a close look at the calibre of scholars of different faiths and what their followers imbibed from their ink when they used it to spread their message. First examine their role in Islam. Khushwant Singh writes.

india Updated: Sep 12, 2010 14:12 IST
Khushwant Singh

Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, an Islamic scholar, wrote "The life of the Muslim Ummah is solely dependant on the ink of its scholars and the blood of its martyrs."

It sounds profound. But take a close look at the calibre of scholars of different faiths and what their followers imbibed from their ink when they used it to spread their message. First examine their role in Islam. By common consent the most widely respected in the Ummah (Muslim community) is Osama bin Laden from Saudi Arabia.

He has followers in all Muslim communities in the world that are known as the Al-Qaida, Taliban and dozens of others, all committed to Jehad against infidels and Muslims opposed to Bin Laden. His principal target is the Royal House of Saudi Arabia. So he dares not enter his motherland. He now lives in hiding in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Americans have made many attempts to kill him. So would we if we could lay our hands on him because his followers infiltrate into Kashmir with the intention to kill innocent Indians in the name of Jehad, spill their own blood to achieve shahadat — martyrdom.

Let us examine the case of Hindus. Their revivalist was Veer Savarkar whose large-size portrait hangs in the Parliament. He was a weird sort of scholar. He wanted a monarchy — a Hindu Rashtra with the King of Nepal as samraat (emperor) of India who would show religious minorities their proper places. He strongly disapproved of people like Gandhi whose murderer he was named and Nehru who preached equal respect for all communities. He was the inspiration behind Hindu militant groups like the RSS. Most of the leaders of the BJP were from its ranks. They wore white shirts, khaki knickers and carried danda in their hands and paraded like boy scouts. They destroyed the Babri Masjid and took leading roles in killing Muslims in Gujarat. They spilled blood but not their own.

And finally, the Sikhs. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale hardly deserves to be called a scholar. But his message went down the rural rustics. He said: besides kirpan, Sikhs should carry pistols and have motor cycles to get to their targets. And so they did. His answer to critics was to have them eliminated.

So in ten years he created havoc in Punjab. Some half-wits are still trying to keep his memory alive: many gurdwaras abroad display large photographs of him at their entrances. And a few brainless youngsters wear T-shirts with his portraits.

So much for the ink of scholars and the blood of martyrs!

Living happily ever after

Suresh Kalmadi who I befriended in the 1980s before drifting apart dropped in a couple of weeks ago. He looked woebegone. By coincidence it was the same day as Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar solemnised their marriage with the couple's children present. I tried to cheer up Kalmadi by saying "you have been in the headlines of papers as much as Shashi and Sunanda. I hope your story has the same ending as theirs — "And they lived happily ever after."

He cheered up and replied, "I had far more media coverage than they. About living happily ever after, I will only know when Commonwealth Games are over.

To Mamata With Love

Strange are the ways of God and women

And before I'm lynched, also of men

Our Dear Mamata Banerjee

She is a cabinet minister, so obviously

She's free to slam the government openly.

Now that elections are coming, which she fights

She makes friends with Naxalites

And spites the National policy,

And on the phone from Kolkata

Runs her Ministry

And if there is an accident accidentally

Which happens so frequent

"It is a clear sabotage, and who is to blame

CPM obviously, because it has no shame

So in heaven's name

To solve railway problems, one and all

Throw out the government in West Bengal."

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

The views expressed are personal

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