There was a Maharashtrian named Baba Amte. He spent his lifetime serving Indians stricken with leprosy, healed them, and gave them hope for something to live for in his colony called Anandvan—forest of joy. He gave Indians a motto: Bharat Jodo –Knit India.” He died a couple of months ago. His message will live for ever.
There are three other Maharashtrians : Bal Thackeray, his son Udhav and his nephew Raj. They have spent their lives in preaching hate against non-Maharashtrians who live in Maharashtra and compelled many thousands to flee from the State. Their motto could be Bharat Todo – Split India. They are also Indians. I hope their message will die long before they do.
There was a Gujarati named Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi. He spent his life in teaching Indians that they were one people. He went out of his way to reassure Muslims who suffered from a sense of alienation that they had nothing to fear from the Hindus : both Hindus and Muslims were sons of Mother India. The man who murdered Gandhi was also an Indian. There is another Gujarati named Narendra Modi who has been a successful Chief Minister of Gujarat. He does not share Gandhi’s views about Muslims and feels that they have been too uppish in recent times and should be shown their place. So there were anti-Muslim riots in which thousands of innocent Muslims were killed and many thousands fled from Gujarat; those who stayed on live in fear of their lives.
There is yet another Gujarati named Teesta Setalvad. She is a very gutsy girl and has taken up cases of Gujarati Muslims victimised by the Gujarat police and the administration. Her life is in danger but she does not give a naya paise for her life. She is a devotee of Gandhi not Modi.
There is an Indian girl from Andhra Pradesh named Sania Mirza. She is a pretty girl, a great tennis player, ranked as number one in Asia. She happens to be Muslim. Some bigots who are also Indian Muslims do not like her dressing like other women tennis players in short skirts and shirts without sleeves, have pronounced fatwas against her. She has been forced to stop playing matches in her own motherland, India.
There is an Indian from Indore (Madhya Pradesh), named MF Hussain. He is India’s greatest living painter: one of his paintings sold for over Rs. 4 crore. But he is not living in India where he wants to but in Dubai because some of his countrymen have filed criminal cases against him on grounds that his paintings offend their religious susceptibilities and have warrants of arrest issued against him. Rather than suffer persecution in his own country, Hussain has been forced to stay abroad where he can work in peace. He summed up his predicament in the anguished couplet by Ghalib:
Ya Rab: Woh na samjhey hain, na samjheingay meri baat
Dey aur dil unko, Jo na dey
mujhko zabaan aur.
(Dear God, she does not understand, nor will understand what I say
Either give her another heart, or me another tongue, I pray.)
The latest instance of how Indians can inflict torture on fellow Indians is the attack by hoodlums of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the students branch of the BJP. They strode into the office of a Delhi University professor, roughed him and broke some furniture. The pretext was that the postgraduate curriculum of history included reading of Ramanujan’s references to different versions of the Ramayana. They found words they construed derogatory of Shri Rama. No one else besides them found anything objectionable about them. The matter could have been discussed and doubts cleared, but they chose to settle matters by fisticuffs. For good measure they dragged in the name of Upinder Kaur, Professor of History and the Prime Minister’s daughter. She had nothing whatsoever to do with the matter. It was an act of downright dishonesty, but none of the leaders of the BJP, neither L.K.Advani, nor Rajnath Singh nor V.K.Malhotra said a word of condemnation of the dastardly act of vandalism. Is this Bharat Jodo or Bharat Todo?
The Great Cricket Bazaar
More than a lakh of rupees for every run he scores Dhoni has been sold for six crores/For every ball he bowls, young Ishant Sharma too Will get a lakh or more, So why should not every street turn into a pitch
And urchins score boundaries by breaking our windows and doors?
Why should they pore on books of drab Chemistry, study dull Mathematics, rotten History? Rather than concentrate on silly mid-on!
And why should they play football or hockey ?
And become a batsman of the off side ?
As the grand auction opens a floodgate
Even though retired already, it is not too late;
Come what may, I must keep fit and stout
And start hitting right and left before I am out.
(By Kuldip Salil, Delhi)
An Afghan Mother’s Prayer
The following verse based on Hans Anderson’s fairy tale character Thumbelina – size of a thumb—was scribbled on a card by the novelist-poet Tabish Khair when he paid me a visit in Delhi. He is now living in Anderson’s country Denmark where he teaches English in Aarthus University: Grant me a little Child
I can hide,
When the Mullahs come home to pray,
Someone, smaller than my thumb; I can put in my pocket