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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 23 New Delhi May 28, 2016

Changing Names, Nehru’s Significance

Sunday 29 May 2016, by Humra Quraishi


Frenzied are Sanghis about changing names of roads. In fact, this frenzied lot are now targetting Akbar Road; chanting it ought to be renamed after Maharana Pratap Singh. Why? ‘Too many Delhi roads named after Mughal emperors... Muslim rulers!’ quip today’s RSS rulers.

Hopefully this name-changing hysteria remains confined to roads. And not get diverted to hapless humans. It shouldn’t come as some sort of a shock if you happen to hear today’s rulers hiss, ‘Too many with Muslim names and surnames. Change these names. Off with Muslim Names! Hack them, their names or throw them from here to there!’

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru removed from Textbooks! 

Though nothing comes as a shocker but it did get painful to read news reports that the Rajas-than Government plans to remove the particular chapter on Jawaharlal Nehru from school text- books.

I hadn’t ever met or seen Jawaharlal Nehru but there was that something special to his personality; he had qualities of a leader, of a statesman ...Here is one of my earlier written pieces on Nehru—

“Whenever I think of my maternal grand-mother, Amna Rahman, there’s one particular image which holds out in that ongoing way— we were sitting in the living room of our ancestral kothi in Shahjahanpur, and my grand-mother had switched on the radio. As soon as the news of the passing away of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru came through, she’d cried out, ‘Panditji gone ...what will happen to us! Who’ll be there for us ...who’ll protect us! Tabahi for us ... doom for the Musalmaans of Hindustan!’

“I was a young child and couldn’t really understand the connect between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s death and her cries. Nah, I couldn’t grasp the exact significance of her cries, of her emotional outburst. After all, she was living in one of those nondescript townships of Uttar Pradesh; far away from New Delhi and also far away from the world of politics. In fact, there were no political creatures in our clan.”

Of course, as years rolled by I could more than sense the wisdom of her words... the agony she was relaying. For her, like many of her generation, ‘Panditji’—as Jawaharlal Nehru was popularly called—stood for secular values, for the rights and dignity of the minorities of this land. He was looked upon as a saviour of sorts.

Needless to elaborate that after his death the basic fabric got punctured. The Muslims of the country started getting sidelined, bypassed and dumped into varying slots; in the backdrop of an ongoing poisonous propaganda against them. Today, as I nostalgically recall those carefree childhood days, there seemed little danger of being labelled ‘the other’... Muslims of this land lived on par with those from the majority community and one couldn’t have visualised that there’d come a day when Muslims would be reduced to second or third class positioning. Yes, rioting did take place even during Nehru’s prime ministership but one was confident that justice would prevail; not like today when even with a cracker burst a bunch of hapless Muslims are thrown into prison hellholes with those horrifying terror- tags pinned on them. In fact, during my travels to Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ajmer, Mumbai, Aligarh, Lucknow and adjoining areas of Uttar Pradesh, activists have recounted instances of Muslim youth being held only on grounds of mere suspicion. The first to be rounded up are Muslims; more so now as new ploys in the form and shape of the ISIS are being used by a biased machinery.

In fact, when I’m asked—what’s the difference between a poor Muslim and poor Hindu, my spontaneous response is—‘Both are hapless and disadvantaged, hungry and jobless; the only difference is that the very feeling of security is missing in today’s Muslims.’ Needless to add that with the RSS-BJP in power, this feeling of insecurity amongst the Indian Muslims has been increasing.

I’ve always argued that in a democracy (that is, in a healthy democracy) it doesn’t matter if you have a Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or Christian as the head of government. All that matters is a non-communal attitude of the governmental machinery, so that justice together with transparency prevails. During Nehru’s prime ministership that basic feeling of security was high because he was himself secular. If Nehru was around, it would have been impossible for the Babri Masjid to have got demolished, or for the Gujarat pogrom to have taken place, or for the RSS pracharaks and mahapracharaks to be ruling this land, or for any of the window-dressing gimmicks to be taking place. Yes, gimmicks on, where two or three are handpicked from the minority community and placed up there! Who is the government of the day trying to hoodwink by these silly ploys?

In fact, Nehru was a statesman in the truest sense. Several years back whilst interacting with one of the Iraqi envoys to India, I was amazed to know that in the 1950s Nehru had gifted one of the bungalows on New Delhi’s Prithviraj Road to the first Iraqi envoy to India. To this day the bungalow stands out, though, of course, Iraq stands reduced to ruins, intruded into and wrecked by the American- Allied forces.

In fact, Nehru’s vision and policies vis-a-vis West Asia made the entire so-called ‘Muslim world’ tilt towards India. He seemed clear about his stand on the Middle East and with that made the Arabs and West Asians strong allies of India. Alas! Today there’s no Nehru and there’s little trace of the erstwhile Middle East; wrecked by American policies-cum-ploys.

What Khushwant Singh had to say about Nehru 

I am quoting Khushwant Singh from the book Absolute Khushwant (Penguin) :

‘Nehru answered Allama Iqbal’s requirements of a Meer-e-Kaarvaan—leader of the caravan: nigahbuland, sukhandilnawaz, jaan par soz/Yahihainrakht-e-safar Meer-e-Kaarvaankeliye. (lofty vision, winning speech and a warm personality /This is all the baggage the leader of the caravan needs on his journey)...

‘He should have been the role model for all the Prime Ministers of India. He was above prejudices of any kind: racial, religious or of caste. He was an agnostic and firmly believed that religion played a very negative role in Indian society. What I admired most about him was his secularism. He was a visionary and an exemplary leader; the father of Indian constitu-tional democracy, of universal adult franchise, the five-year plans, giving equal rights to women, among other things. He was better educated than any of his successors, with the exception of Manmohan Singh, and spent nine long years in jail reading, writing and thinking about the country’s future ...But being human, Nehru had his human failings. He was not above political chicanery. Having accepted the Cabinet Mission plan to hand over power to a united India, he reneged on his undertaking when he realised Jinnah might end up becoming Prime Minister...’

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