Naseeruddin Shah’s article: instead of accusations, we need to understand the root cause

I won’t say that I have been a big fan of Naseeruddin Shah but that’s my personal bias speaking because I really don’t like those artsy movies he used to come in in the 70s and 80s. I prefer commercial cinema. Even when he tried his hand at commercial cinema (the “oye oye, oaa!”-types), he wasn’t very impressive. Give me an Amol Palekar any day.

But my bias has got nothing to do with the analysis of the recent article Shah has published in Hindustan Times. It is a moving article, to be frank. Even intellectually stimulating and I won’t hesitate to say that, coming from…anyway, it’s a courageous piece of expression. So I’m not writing this to oppose him. Maybe all the problems he is talking about really do exist in the contemporary world. At one place when he writes…

When Ratna and I decided to marry, discussing conversion and anticipating the social problems we might have couldn’t have been further from our minds. But over the past few years, the nightmarish possibility of my children being someday confronted by a mob demanding to know their religion could be inching closer to reality.

one can feel the pain, the fear, the frustration, and a sense of helplessness a parent in his situation must go through.

Given the current situation, we may easily lump Naseeruddin Shah with the usual left-lib gang always out to create a fear psychosis among Muslims and fill the Hindus of the country with unnecessary guilt or habitually demonise them for expressing their religious and cultural beliefs in their own country (the situation seems to have worsened after Narendra Modi became the PM and Yogi Adityanath became the CM of UP). After all, they never seem to be able to introspect without bringing in the “Hindu” factor. Take this for instance:

But till the length of Sania Mirza’s skirt causes more agitation than the lack of modern education and employment opportunies for our community, as long as we hesitate to condemn the sadistic madness of the ISIS (that we haven’t heard too many Hindu voices condemn the lynching of innocent Muslims by gaurakshaks is immaterial), so long as we continue to spawn ‘believers’ without giving a thought to their upbringing, or continue to dilly-dally on the removal of an outdated heavily misogynistic tradition, we only help reinforce the belief so easily held that we support or at least condone violence and regression.

As you can see, even a well-intentioned introspection cannot take place without drawing some sort of a parallel. This puts a spanner in the whole thing and sadly, it becomes too predictable. People are tired of the fact that when Muslims are asked to introspect, Hindus are also exhorted to introspect (in isolation, I’m not saying introspection is bad) but when Hindus are being asked to introspect, indiscretions coming from the Muslim side are totally ignored. There is always this looming cloud of what-about-this and what-about-that when Muslims are being questioned, that turns every seemingly intelligent discourse into an episode of defensiveness and whattaboutary.

Add to this the fact that the article is published in Hindustan Times that runs a sustained campaign against Hindus in general and the BJP in particular, and you have got a clear case of “propaganda”.

But, for the sake of the argument I’m trying to put here, let’s assume that there is no hidden agenda and whatever he is expressing, he is expressing from his heart.

For that matter, let’s assume that the apprehensions that Amir Khan expressed — that his wife is scared and would like to leave the country — were also heartfelt and legitimate.

Why do people, especially those belonging to the Muslim community and those who think that the secular fabric of the country is above every other fabric, feel worried?

What gives them the impression that the religious and caste conflicts have intensified in the recent years, and what gives them the impression that there used to be the good old days when everybody lived in the comfort of religious and communal harmony and upper castes and lower castes broke bread at the same table and drank water from the same well and kissed and hugged like the Russians all the time?

Something is going on that is beyond the comprehension of the mere mortals. In the leftist-liberal worldview, it’s always the Muslims who are at the receiving end. They are always being victimized. They are always being targeted. They are always being discriminated against. They are always being misunderstood. They are very fragile and they can be easily hurt. They are always being hounded. They are always being denied opportunities because of their religious beliefs. Islamophobia is at its peak. Their food habits are questioned. Their heroes are demonized. Their book is misinterpreted. They are always denied justice. The fundamental Islamic philosophy is blamed for the rise of terrorism among Muslims. They are not allowed to marry and divorce as many wives as they would like to. Heck, they are not even allowed to dress the way they want to dress.

If you live in the ecosystem of this belief, you end up believing that no other religious community in the history of the world has been persecuted the way Muslims have been persecuted. This is a worldview that is being woven all around the world, not just in India. In such a situation, moderates like Naseeruddin Shah begin to worry about their kids (naturally) and the more hot-blooded among the community go join the jihad against the infidels who are waging a war against them and their belief system.

Take for example this tweet:

You know what actually happened? 14 Muslim youths molested and sexually harassed two Hindu women. This Bhushan person, who is a noted lawyer and an activist, not only fails to mention that it were Muslim boys who were harassing and molesting Hindu women, he also attributed the act to the “culture of Hindutva” being promoted by UP’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The Anti-Romeo squads designed to deter eve teasers constantly standing in front of schools and colleges and office places is turned into an anti-women drive just because the idea has come from a so-called Hindu leader.

The tragedy is no one from the left-liberal gang has taken Bhushan to task for twisting the facts in such a blatant manner and this mentality, this modus operandi, is at the crux of the backlash the Muslim community seems to be facing, if at all it is facing a backlash.

Remember that 72-year-old Christian nun who was supposedly raped by Hindu fundamentalists in West Bengal supposedly encouraged by the formation of a Hindu nationalist government at the Centre? You couldn’t have missed it because it was covered by practically every liberal newspaper in the country and the likes of New York Times and Washington Post and Huffington Post. There was a global outcry.

Suddenly, everybody stopped talking about the incident and you know why? The culprits were actually Bangladeshi Muslims. Since the rapists were no longer Hindus the news suddenly lost its charm. Worst, the culprits were Muslims from Bangladesh. The topic couldn’t even be touched with a barge pole now, since Muslims were the perpetrators.. As a result, most still think that Hindu fundamentalists raped the 72-year-old nun.

Now, look at this tweet by a relatively known journalist who thinks that she is a flag bearer of the secular, liberal world:

It’s an image shot because she has deleted the original tweet after the ensuing outrage. What was really happening that prompted her to unleash this dangerous fear mongering on the social networking website?

There was an incident of lynching in Jamshedpur on the suspicion of kidnapping children. Both Muslims and Hindus were lynched but the media reported that just Muslims were lynched. It was a freak incident and there was no communal angle. In the unfortunate incident that could have happened anywhere in the world, people were killed by a mob. By an unbiased media, it would have been reported as, as mentioned above, a freak incident that could have happened anywhere in the world, but no, it had to be given a communal tinge and it had to be reported that Muslims are being chased and killed. This tainted reporting and writing naturally creates a sense of fear among the Muslims of the country who begin to believe that Muslims in general are being targeted.

Similar thought-provoking articles (as written by Naseeruddin Shah in Hindustan Times) are never penned when atrocities originate from the Muslim side. No articles are written to reprimand the so-called champions of the Muslims who perpetuate this victimhood mentality among the community and continuously sow the seeds of communal enmity.

No Hindu procession is peaceful these days especially if it has to pass through a Muslim area. You will never come across a liberal article decrying this phenomena. A doctor in Delhi was lynched by a Muslim mob and when people mentioned this fact on social media, they were accused of communalizing the incident — Bhushan above, on the other hand, is not communalizing the incident, he is just stating the facts. You will never find publications like Huffington Post accusing the likes of Bhushan and Ghose of spreading communal hatred and enmity. On the contrary, the people who question Sagarika Ghose are accused of trolling her, so twisted has the narrative turned.

Nobody is worried that Ishrat Jahan becomes “Bihar ki beti” and even noted and proven terrorists are portrayed as victims just because they have Muslim names. Nobody is worried about religious harmony when people like Zakir Naik tell his TV audience when it is alright to shoot people and explode bombs. No Muslim or liberal intellectual is outraged when a Samajwadi Party’s Muslim leader openly claims that under him a youth having a Muslim name is never arrested by the UP police.

“Kisi police wale me himmat nai thi ki pakkad le…Kya naam hain Omar aur tera Abdula…aacha ja. Police were so afraid that they thought if they took action, “Vidhayak ji’ will not spare them,” he said.

No Muslim or liberal intellectual felt awkward after going through the contents of the Communal Violence Bill prepared by Sonia Gandhi’s coterie specifically targeting the majority community.

Nobody finds it baffling that the RSS is compared to the ISIS. Jallikattu is animal cruelty but there is deafening silence over slaughtering of a cow just as a sign of protest. Muslim religious sensibilities are to be respected but not Hindu religious sensibilities. Many intellectuals claim that it is fine when in Muslim countries no food is served during Ramzan to anybody. Up til now students from all religions in Aligarh Muslim University were denied food during Ramzan so that Muslim religious sensibilities are not hurt. But Muslims in India shouldn’t be denied cow meat even if it hurts Hindu sensibilities. Every major Hindu festival is tinged with guilt and preaching. Tone down Diwali celebrations. Tone down Holi celebrations. Dusshehra is an upper caste Hindu festival. Rakhi and Karvachoth perpetuate patriarchy. But not a whimper against the mass slaughtering of animals during Muslim festivals.

Which renowned Muslim intellectual has ever written that on their own land Hindus deserve to have a Ram temple? Has even a single renowned Muslim intellectual ever written that there might had been a Ram temple which was demolished to make way for the Babari masjid? Countless Hindu intellectuals on the other hand have doubted the preexistence of the Ram temple and have even turned a blind eye towards a screaming array of evidence that supports the existence of a temple at the same place.

No one ever says that now that Muslims have created a separate country for themselves, Hindus should now be allowed to live the way they want to live and they shouldn’t have to constantly accommodate the whims and fancies of the Muslim community (just saying).

Incidentally, has Naseeruddin Shah ever written an article expressing concern about the increasing radicalisation of the Muslim youth? Doesn’t he ever worry that one of his kids one day may join this or that jihad?

I’m not saying that he HAS to. All I’m saying is, he hasn’t. None writing copious essays and articles on the rising majoritarianism and Hindutva have expressed concerns (in the passing they do, just to pretend that they’re being objective, but you can easily make out the inherent message) about worldwide radicalisation.

This bias, this lopsidedness, is causing an undercurrent of resentment that manifests in various unpleasant incidents. Mind you, I’m not justifying these incidents, but just as stone pelting and other acts of violence by Kashmiri youths may be a result of some sort of resentment among them, the incidents of violence occurring in different parts of the country might also be a result of this constant nagging attitude that is thrust down upon the throats of the Hindu community.

If the Hindu community has some concerns, the right thing to do would be to address those concerns rather than ridiculing them, giving them a communal turn or sweeping them under the carpet. You may not feel that love jihad is a real issue, but many do. You may feel that a rising Muslim population and a declining Hindu population is nothing to worry about, but many disagree. It doesn’t make them bad or communal.

Just like Naseeruddin Shah is worried that some day his kids may be forced to prove their patriotism, many fear that one day when Muslims become a majority they may impose the Sharia law on other communities. Many Hindus are worried about their kids or grandkids having to live under a Muslim majority. The Pew research says that the Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in the world. In Muslim majority countries they haven’t had very good human rights and religious tolerance records. Just like some worry that Muslims are being targeted, some worry that Hindus are being targeted and being converted with great speed. It couldn’t be that just Muslims have legitimate fears. If the other community also has fears and apprehensions it’s fair enough to say that these fears and apprehensions need to be taken seriously. If not, a bigger disaster may happen.

I don’t care much about being politically correct. Things are just right or wrong and yes, sometimes there are grey areas in this is why we write, don’t we?