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Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2008 > April 5, 2008 > Taslima’s Ouster

Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 16

Taslima’s Ouster

Genesis of Capitulation and Birth of a Frankenstein

Monday 7 April 2008, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh

For long I have been saying that the Indian state’s founder-premier Nehru was grievously wrong in defining secularism as the fulcrum of the country’s policy. Secularism merely meant that the state would be neutral between religions. In the context of the country’s Partition and carnage occasioned by religious hatred, the need was for a policy with a positive content—namely, harmonisation of the psyche and unification of hearts of the deeply divided communities. It needed inter-religious dialogues and soulful reinterpretations of scriptures, which alone could retrieve the pristine values of respective religions. Without a transformational influence, neutrality was a void. Without an upswing of spiritual energy among the feuding communities, the deeply embedded separatist feeling and moulds of thinking at the mass level could never change.

This upswing, in turn, needed floodlights from higher levels—from the ethical and moral values lived by humanity’s great teachers like Lord Buddha, Christ, Zarathustra, Mohammad and the great sages of ancient India. India neglected the cultivation and inculcation of these values and threw their living examples into a limbo.

Nehru’s second mistake lay in his declaration that “communalism of the minority community was less dangerous than that of the majority community”. Communalism is a double-edged sword. It feeds not only the sectarianism it seeks to support but also fuels the sectarianism it seeks to oppose. The question of comparative harmfulness was, therefore, inappropriate. At a time when the Muslims residing in the Indian Union were pensively meditating over the effects of the earlier frenzy for a separate homeland, and were, for the first time, heeding Maulana Azad’s rebukes against separatism, this declaration from the Prime Minister stopped their process of rethinking. It killed the soul-search which had just begun.

Then came the era of adult franchise whereby each adult, irrespective of caste, creed or gender got the right to vote. Undoubtedly, adult franchise is the core principle of democracy. But the concomitant concept that the rights and responsibilities are wholly centred round individuals and that the thinking of separate group-based belongingness is taboo in a democracy (which has already guaranteed freedom of individual and collective worship) did not sink in the minds of the people. Hence adult franchise started producing perverse results. Since the Muslim masses remained mostly under the spell of the Islam-mouthing fanatics with mediaevalist mindset, the Muslim votes, by and large, tended to be bloc votes. This induced almost all political parties, barring the BJP, to adopt a policy of not annoying the bigoted Muslim clerics. From Sonia Gandhi to Mamata Banrejee—all are interested in keeping them in good humour in the in the interest of votes. The bigots utilised this opportunity to mount “minority aggressiveness”. Expressions of demands as a religious community and as their special right became increasingly loud. Often these demands sought to infringe the human rights of Muslim women and rationally thinking Muslim individuals.

The BJP, which has some confused concepts about Hinduism and would like to garner the Hindu community’s bloc votes, if possible, accuses the Congress and the “Left” parties of “appeasement of the Muslims”. This indiscriminate accusation has the effect of blurring the fact that the rabble-rousing Muslimists’ interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the Muslim masses. The BJP never cared to see that the Muslimist hate-preachers never talked about poverty alleviation and modern education for their fellow-religionists, evidently for fear that the educated and well-placed Muslims would slip out of their grip. By this tendentious and sweeping accusation, even the saner and non-belligerent sections of the BJP leadership became guilty of pushing the common Muslims harder into the lap of the bigots.

While the Muslim masses have thus remained steeped in educational, social and economic backwardness and ulema-bound in Northern India where communal strifes have been the most virulent during the last three-fourths of a century, the pastors and the clergy among the other religious communities have lost much of their influence, due to successive waves of social and religious reform movements. Their places have been taken by caste-ist professionals whose clamour for rights is of a different nature such as reservation in educational institutions and job sectors.

Even though ijtihad (reasoning and rational judgment) is a core value in the Koran, its suppression in the interest of the Sultanates over centuries has got embedded in the Islamic tradition. This has kept the self-seeking, fire-spitting obscurantists in influential position in most Islamic countries, not merely in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The leaderships of political parties in post-independence India, unsure of getting support from the educated Muslims of the future, have found safety in maintaining the lead of the obscurantists over the Muslim masses. This constitutes their “vote-bank politics”.

India’s secularism, therefore, has a misleading face. Here, even the Communists, who are supposed to be the staunchest anti-communalists, practise pseudo-secularism (which feed communalism) for fear of losing the “vote-bank”. The insiders of West Bengal know that the Communist leadership there has, over decades, allowed rabid Muslimism to reign in Kolkata’s Raja Bazar, Park Circus, Ekbalpur, Kidderpore and Metiaburz areas. From personal experience, I can say that in the district of South 24 Parganas, vast stretches from Magrahat, Kalosh, Sangrampur to Tekpanza, Uttar Kusum and Baneshwarpur and again, certain pockets to the north of Diamond Harbour have remained bastions of separatism. Bonhomie and participation in each other’s festival is totally lacking even though Red Flags are ceremonially hoisted in many of these villages and the Communists get their coveted votes. In Magrahat proper, even during the Muslim League regime in the pre-1947 era, there was one High School for boys of all communities. Now, in this supposed communist stronghold, there is one High School for Muslim boys and another for non-Muslims. This has not disturbed the CPM leadership of the district or of the State.

The people of Kolkata know that the violent anti-Taslima agitation of the Muslims last year was engineered by the CPM leadership itself to cover up the massacre at Nandigram which included a large number of Muslim casualties. A Communist Party giving such impetus to Muslimism has no parallel in the world.

As for the Congress-led Government of India, its record is no better. In its craze for Muslim votes, it abjectly surrendered to the Islam-mouthing fanatics and kept Taslima in a virtual “death chamber” in the name of protective custody. Nay, it has done worse. Even convicts in death row are given medical treatment to keep them able-bodied when facing execution. In denying medical treatment to Taslima, the GOI treated her as a worse convict and deprived her of all human rights. The UPA Government has thus become the worst human rights violator and deserves the world’s condemnation. It has no right now to claim to be a secular government.

History’s Lesson

ALL the major political parties, by thus encouraging the demon of communalism, are patronising the growth of a Frankenstein which will destroy their creators later. Frankenstein never spares its creators or their acquiescent followers.

The latest example from Pakistan should be our eye-opener. The Government of Pakistan had encouraged the growth of vast numbers of jihadis and Talibans to humble India and to control Afghanistan. Today, the Pakistani establishment’s own existence is threatened by these jihadis. Pakistan’s President is now being forced to invite American troops to fight the Al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s own territory. The Pak Army alone is unable to cope with the jihadis.

In India, the culprits are not merely the likes of the Imam of Nakhoda Masjid of Kolkata. Even the well-known theologians like Nadvis and Madanis, who had known that hate-preaching and taking of innocent lives are against the tenets of Islam, and yet kept mum during the decades of manslaughter in Jammu and Kashmir, the bombing of trains in Mumbai, the bomb explosions in the temples of Varanasi and Ayodhya, and the blowing up of markets in Delhi, are equally to blame. The Hindutvavadis like Togadia who preach hate against the Muslims and men like Narendra Modi who believe that all Muslims are incorrigible communalists, and their ideological backers like Advani are all widening the communal divide. And the political helmsmen—from the likes of Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Prakash Karat—who have been indulging in “vote-bank” politics, are all contributing to the build-up of the Frankenstein. They will have to pay dearly for the cruelties they are now inflicting on conscientious protestors. History’s revenge can be terrible.

The masses will some day come to be disillusioned. The Muslims particularly will come to realise how their clerics as well as the practitioners of “vote-bank politics” kept exploiting them. Women—particularly the Muslim girls—will come to know how Taslima bore the cross for them. The liberated women and also the men will then come to venerate her.

The author, who in the fifties was the Secretary of the Economic Unit attached to the Central Committee of the undivided Communist Party of India, is one of the country’s earliest environmentalists and a social philosopher.

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