‘Growing up we never faced any issues with our Hindu-Muslim friends. Our religion was never an issue in our friendship.’ So goes the common phrase these days. Many celebrities use some version of this phrase to highlight the level of ‘intolerance’ in Bharat these days. They still claim this despite their peaceful existence in this country; despite no official harassment from any government; despite the status they enjoy as celebrities in this country; despite them being jerks about their behavior in their personal lives; despite them being abusive of Hindu faith; despite being treated as a ‘favored’ minority in this country; despite them maintaining silence at the atrocities by terrorists attacking our own civil liberties; despite them pedaling garbage in the name of art and freedom. But when Mr. Naseeruddin Shah spoke up against those who celebrated the brutal Taliban take over, the backlash was prompt and vicious. You know, in 1986 I was watching the infamous one day match between India and Pakistan on TV in a company club house. The match was tense, but Miandad hit a Six of the last ball off Chetan Sharma. There was a collective sigh of disappointment in the room full of about 100 or so young engineers. At the same time a small group of engineers cheered and clapped, and one guy even shouted ‘appanwalajit gayaa’. I was very annoyed. When you do not have much going for you, you pin all your hopes on your cricket team to do well – instill that pride and feelgood. It was particularly hurtful because these were my colleagues with whom I worked and played cricket on the same team! A few days, and it was all forgotten. We all were working and playing for the same team again.
I also recall many such incidents when a particular section of our town would celebrate Pakistan wins, especially over India, with firecrackers (this was pre-environment sensitivity!), and an instant julus of several hundred people. Actually, after Pakistan won the World Cup, a few friends came to my house with a box of sweets! I felt hurt that India did not win but did not think much of their celebrations. I am sure many of you would be able to relate to some similar experiences in your own neighborhood. Now, when I look back at those incidents, I realize what was going on. These people never belonged to the nation of India/Bharat. Most of them had never been to Pakistan. I am talking about late 80’s incidents – that is almost 40 years after independence. These friends had to be at least 3rd generation Bharatiya, yet their loyalty was to Pakistan. So Mr. Tharoor can define nationalism and patriotism as he wants; these people have neither. They are pure communalists. Period. It seems their overwhelming loyalty is to their religion. Many famous leaders have said so too. They have never become ‘one of us’, as Mr. Tharoor often claims about Muslims in Bharat. You may remember a fairly recent incident when Harbhajan Singh asked Isha Guha on TV while commenting on a cricket match. He probed her about her deep inside loyalty for the Indian team. She replied that she was hard core British for MCC. Harbhajan Singh was stunned!
Mr. Shah got the taste of the medicine this majority has been exacted up on for many years. He soon realized who the real intolerant bunch was and retracted his words in an interview with India Today. He realized that in condemning the celebrating crowd he was specifically talking about a group of people belonging to a particular religion; it was not against Hindus, as his usual rhetoric. He found out what intolerance really is.
Mr. Shah needs to understand that just as he feels uncomfortable in today’s India, I do too. The cause of this unease for both of us is the same. His recent experience would have made him realize that it is the same radicalization of the minds of young muslims that makes us all worry about our families, our culture and our nation. I would urge him and people like him to speak up at the unabated radicalizing teachings at Madrassas; against the hold of Mullas over the minds of such a large swath of a community who has been kept suppressed to exact other means. It is not only hurting the society and nation, but also each one of them individually.
We always felt uneasy about the behavior and actions of a certain group of people, but we never expressed it in the past. Today, in the age of social media these experiences get vocalized and announced. Obviously, when these people can celebrate the brutal behavior of the Taliban, they can do anything. We should realize that their loyalty is not with Bharat, not with Pakistan, but with Islam, and by the retracting statements you have made, it is, perhaps, true for you too, sir!
Note: I wrote this piece before the Ind loss against Pak cricket team in T20WC match. It is so apt!
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