An East Delhi Citizen's Blog

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Archive for the tag “Muslim”

Lessons in plurality and tradition from gentlemen

Lesson 1: (Today)

Was dropping off my daughter to the school bus today morning and ran into the grandfather of her “bus-friend”- an elderly Sikh gentleman. We know each other well, he sometimes does the duty when his son is traveling.

So, tomorrow is Gurpurv? I asked him and he said, yes. Guru-purnima it is. But, followed it up with, “The actual reason is that it is Kartik Purnima, one of the two main Purnimas we celebrate- Guru-purnima is just appeasement of Sikhs.”

I hemmed and hawed; told him, why, at least in North India, we think Guru-Purnima is a big thing. He cut me short, very firmly.

“The trouble”, he said, is that “in the rush to associate some holiday or the other to all communities, the government has actually diluted tradition”. Sharad Purnima and Kartik Purnima have been celebrated in our traditions for centuries and across all religions and cultures. Now, the government is calling Kartik Purnima, Guru-purnima.

For some reason, this old man with flowing white beard who my daughter calls Santa Claus uncle, made my morning.

Lesson 2 (some time back)

There is this Muslim doctor family we know; from Kashmir of all places. The doctor couple are family friends. The father of the lady is an old-time FRCP, still lives in Kashmir and periodically lands up in Delhi.

We have the most fascinating discussions.

I am an atheist, he is not. In fact, he has visited almost all the Hindu temples in the country, as he has the various Dargahs and Mosques and Gurdwaras.

I tell him God does not exist; why does he even bother?

He tells me, when I die, as someday surely I will, I will have no parachute! I shall surely go to hell! Whereas, from Vaishnodevi to Ajmer Sharif, from Notre-dame to Gurdwara Shish-Ganj, he will have so many parachutes- Gods willing to watch over him and escort him to the Pearly Gates!

You know what? I do not know many people who think like him and the “Santa Claus Uncle” above; in my generation and the next. More’s the pity.

Dr. K came to dinner

..the Kashmiri Muslim perspective on Kashmir

Dr. K came home to dinner; his wife was away at their home in Kashmir with their children for the summer, he could not get away and we thought it would do him some good to sample home food.
“Everyone who can, lives out of Kashmir now”, was what K said.
Election results had just come in. As the television screen gave the latest seats tally, K laughed mirthlessly.
“I have never voted. No one in my family, my wife’s family and our extended families have ever voted. None of us have a voter’s ID card. Actually, I do not know many people who have a voter’s ID card anyway. So, how do they get even 26% people voting?”
Interesting question. So, I decided to ask a straight question.
” What will happen in Kashmir? What do you want? India, Pakistan or Azadi?”
K was thoughtful. And then he spoke; he is nothing if not a pragmatist.
“Look, I doubt people want to go to Pakistan. No one is a fool; they understand Pakistan is in a bad shape; aligning with them is not smart.” So, you want Azaadi then, I goaded him; is this what the Kashmiris want?He was silent for a while and then he said, “Look, is it prudent to want to be a landlocked country with 3 hostile neighbours?” 3? Maybe only India? “No, no”, K remonstrates, between mouthfulls of Roti and Dal; “Pakistan will be as upset (perhaps even more than) India if we get Azaadi!” And, China? Who wants China as a neighbour?
So, if it is not Pakistan and not Azaadi, it is India then? K falters, but only briefly. “Iskaa hul nahi hoga; this will remain a problem even 50 years later, you see”. Why? “Too many people are making too much money in Kashmir and it’s troubled situation. A solution does not necessarily help them”.

We talked of Sajjad Lone; “a discredited man; uska to abhi khatam hai”. The Abdullahs; “do you know if Rajiv Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah did not rig the polls in 1989, this terrorism problem would never have arisen?” The Muftis: “what’s their credibility?”.
I asked K; do you agree that Nehru blundered by going to Security council? Of course, he did. “International Law and legitimacy toh baad mein, pehle to zameen lo”. My sentiments exactly!
There is no normal life in Kashmir; says K. Schools are closed most days. Government does not function. Army is everywhere; tourists are staying away and everyone who is crooked or is a politician (these are not necessarily disconnected sets, I interject and K laughs) is making money.

Marketing to the electorate in India

… and how you can make it tough for the politicians

By expanding your horizon, by refusing to be constrained by too few labels, you become a better person. Debatable? Maybe, to you. But, there is no doubt that politicians like you when you sport a tag they can identify.

Let me explain.

We are all individuals, shaped by our attitudes to different issues: how we respond to triggers, indeed what triggers and how we demonstrate our belonging to groups or identities.

At the core of your being are your needs. The need to be fed, clothed and sheltered are the basic ones. The need for holding someone’s hands and being comforted and the need to belong.  Identity or votebank politics is all about persuading you that you should ignore your basic needs (or forgive the neta for his inability to solve your problems) for some higher order needs of a collective identity.

If this sounds too heavy, think.  Who are the social groupings that are the most economically backward in our country? The Muslims, the SC/ST and the OBCs. They also represent votebanks that are subject to a lot of wooing come election time. But, what is the “marketing message” to these groups? The Muslims are told their “unique culture and identity and way of life” will be preserved. And, notice what Mayawati promises to the OBCs? It is “Swabhimaan” or self-respect. God knows providing food, sanitation, education and healthcare is a lot more difficult than providing so called self-respect. Generations of Muslims since independence have been duped by politicians into accepting a ghetto-ized existence in the name of preserving their unique way of life. The alternative: providing a decent standard of living is too expensive.

Those among Muslims, OBCs and SC/ STs that have escaped their narrow typecasting by dint of merit, education and prosperity are not so easy to tag or label simply as belonging to a caste or a religion. So, politicians have a vested interest in keeping large sections of the population backward. So, a fragmented electorate is good for the politicians who can direct focussed, if oversimplified and certainly duplicitious messages at you.

So, if you know what is good for you, learn to sport a label that benefits you in more basic terms. And, do not think you are being selfish. When you ask for quality education, healthcare, sanitation and a future for your children, you are joined by all Indians; a billion plus of them.

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