Write angle Ziya Us Salam

A view from the ‘other’ side

An old man at Jama Masjid in New Delhi Photo AP.   | Photo Credit: Manish Swarup

I am the ‘Other’, an ill disguised term coined by M.S. Golwalkar to succeed expressions like Yavana, Asura and Mlechha. I am the beef eating, bearded ‘Other’; the man Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay referred to in Anandmath “Anandmath”. Yes, the same Anandmath “Anandmath” that gave us the pratima of Bharat Maa, the national song “Vande Mataram” and the subsequent ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogan, steeped in the hues of Hindu nationalism. He called the Muslims as the “bearded degenerates”, projecting them as enemies, belittling their contribution to the Sanyasi Rebellion on which the novel was loosely based. He added through Jnanananda, the most accomplished disciple of Satyananda, “For a long time we’ve been wanting to smash the nest of these weaver birds, to raze the city of these Muslim foreigners and throw it into the river - to burn the enclosure of these swine and purify Mother Earth again! Brothers that day has come!” When “Anandmath” first found space on bookshelves in the early 1880s, the Muslims were no longer the rulers, the last of the Mughals having been vanquished over 25 years ago. The passing of political power from the hands of the Muslims to the British meant that Chattopadhyay did not have to look over his shoulder while portraying Muslims as asuras.

Interestingly, a film too was made in 1952 by Hemen Gupta. Chattopadhyay felt safe from any possible retribution. Much like Rajeshwar Singh of the Hindu outfit Dharm Jagran Manch would have felt in late 2015 when he was first emboldened enough to claim that the country would be rid of Muslims and Christians by 2021. “We have so far ensured ‘ghar wapsi’ (reconversion) of three lakh Muslims and Christians back to Hinduism,” he claimed, rejoicing in climbing a molehill before a mountain of 180 million Muslims and another 27.8 million Christians!

Provocative as Singh’s plans are, I am not in the least bit shocked. Rather as the ‘Other’ whose janambhoomi and punyabhoomi are not one and the same, I am used to such rabble rousing. Nearly 90 years ago a journal called “Hum Panch” came into being with a five-fold strategy, as neatly delineated by Akshaya Mukul in his landmark work “Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India”. “Hum Panch’s strategy was different. It was provocative in its tone, strident in language and content, courted controversy openly – yet cleverly,” writes Mukul. Reminds you of the modern-day Singhs and Togadias? Wait, there is more to come. Writes Mukul, “What could one say of a weekly that stated its five-fold mission on the cover – Hindu Sangathan (Organization), Shuddhi Sanskar (Culture of Reconversion), Achhootddhar (Removal of Untouchability), Samaj Sudhar (Social Reform), Hindi Prachar (Spread of Hindi) and a motto on its cover page that openly spelt out its goal of restoring the dignity of Hindus, saving the Hindu name, bringing Hindu rule of India and waking up Hindus from their slumber….Hindu Panch would focus on reports of Muslims attacking and abducting Hindu girls and widows, carrying highly objectionable columns like ‘Choti Banam Dadhi’ (Brahmin Tuft versus Muslim Beard) where Muslims would be derided.” What “Hum Panch” sought to achieve through goals like Hindu Sangathan and Shuddhi Sanskar in 1920s is sought to be done by the Katherias and their appeal for Hindu sangathan besides various ghar wapasi campaigns in Agra. In over 90 years, nothing has changed. I continue to be the Other.

Greeted with invectives by Chattopadhyay and regarded as an easy pick by Singh and his ilk, I am the ‘Other’, now called Akhlaq in Dadri, Mazlum Ansari or Imteyaz Khan in Jharkhand or Dilkush, Ajmal and Naim in Delhi’s Begumpur. I am accused of cow slaughter, of storing beef in my fridge, trading in cattle. And not being ready to say Bharat Mata Ki Jai on a stroll in the park. Never mind that the accusers who claim to love Swami Vivekanand and revere V.D. Savarkar have not an idea about what they stood for. Vivekananda wanted people to take recourse to beef, biceps and the Bhagwad Gita for the salvation of India, the 3 Bs, as Jyotirmaya Sharma alludes to in his book “Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism”. And Savarkar, that icon of Hindutva who wrote clemency letters to the British from the Andamans, wrote in an essay titled, ‘Rear Cows, Do Not Worship Them’, argued that considering the cow as divine is an insult to humankind. Continuing with Savarkar’s sentiments on the cow, Sharma writes, “He also ridicules the idea that cow dung and urine could purify the impure. He argues that in order to save a few temples, a handful of Brahmins and a few cows, orthodox Hindus allowed the Hindu nation’s subjugation for centuries....In terms of usefulness, a buffalo, a horse, a dog and even a donkey are animals that are equally useful. Therefore, to consider the cow as holy is not only madness, but a sign of utter foolishness, concludes Savarkar.” Savarkar believed that the Muslim armies, capitalising on the Hindu sentiments with respect to the cow, kept the animal at the forefront of their armies, thereby avoiding any direct attack by the enemy!

In the case of Savarkar’s take on the cow, history has acted as a sieve, retaining little, draining out almost every thing. Of course, today, when a Chief Minister suggests that those who do not pronounce Bharat Mata ki Jai have no right to live in India, one can be certain he has not read even Savarkar, forget a historian like D.N. Jha.

As for those who barged into Akhlaq’s house or waylaid Mazlum, the less said the better. From the Chief Minister to the Jharkhand killers, I am simply the ‘Other’.

Today I am accused of following what Vivekanand desired for my Hindu countrymen. Ah! Lest I forget, I am the ‘Other’; the ‘Other’, the Prime Minister deemed necessary to refer to in his conversation with the Saudi king; the ‘Other’ called Cheraman Perumal who is believed to have met Prophet Mohammed and converted to Islam and helped establish India’s first masjid in Kerala during the prophet’s time. I have been here for almost 1500 years. Yet, I am the ‘Other’.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 8:43:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/Ziya_Us_Salam/a-view-from-the-other-side/article8452085.ece

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