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Mr Owaisi, Pak not just a country, it’s an idea

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Dear Owaisi Sahib, On February 6, while speaking in Lok Sabha, you demanded a law to punish anyone who calls an Indian Muslim a “Pakistani”. Sir, I empathise with you. Being called a “Pakistani” no doubt is the worst slur for an Indian. The reasons are not far to seek. Pakistan, since its creation in 1947, has been waging successive overt and covert wars against India.

Every second day, we lose innocent lives because of the shenanigans of our neighbour which has proclaimed itself an Islamic nation. Jihad against infidel India is a part of its undeclared state policy.

For Indians, Pakistan is synonymous with terror and any one sympathetic to it a traitor —an epithet, everyone hates. Hence your pique on this count is understandable.

However, there is an equally important aspect of the problem on which your silence says a lot. If calling an Indian Muslim a “Pakistani” is to be a punishable crime, what about those Indians who proudly wear their Pakistani badges, raise slogans hailing Pakistan and resent ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. Are these two issues not sides of the same coin?

On February 10, pro-Pakistan slogans were raised in the Jammu & Kashmir state Assembly. Akbar Lone told the media: “I am a Muslim first. My sentiments were hurt when they (BJP MLAs) were shouting. ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ slogans. I couldn’t control my emotions and raised Pakistan Zindabad slogans.”

Is it not a fact that some  Kashmiris in the Valley regularly wave Pakistan and IS flags, shout slogans demanding death to India and hailing Pakistan? How should they be dealt with? Have you ever raised this in Parliament?

A little introduction to the history of your party and family will help put the issue in perspective. Sir, you lead the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). It has its origins in the MIM, born in 1927 in the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad, which along with the Muslim League, collaborated with the British occupation forces.

The loathsome Razakars operated as storm troopers for the MIM and were led by one Kasim Rizvi. Razakars were formed by the Nizam ostensibly to resist his state’s merger with India. But in reality they were responsible for large-scale pogroms against the state’s Hindu majority population.

After the liberation of Hyderabad, the MIM was banned in 1948. Rizvi was jailed and later released in 1957 on the condition that he would go to Pakistan where he got asylum. The exiled Rizvi handed over whatever remained of his party, the MIM to Abdul Owaisi. Since then, the party has remained your family borough.

Well, you may say it’s history. But what about the present? Highly communal speeches spewing hate against Hindus and the Indian Army by your brother and senior party colleague Akbaruddin Owaisi have gone viral on social media. In one of your widely publicised statements you say “Mere gale pe churi rakh do to bhi nain bolunga Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. (Even if you keep a knife on my neck, I will not say Bharat Mata Ki Jai). Why such resistance?

Unfortunately, this divisive mindset is not confined to sections of population in Hyderabad or the Valley. Chandan, a lad of 22, was shot dead on January 26 last in Kasganj in Uttar Pradesh. His crime? He shouted slogans against Pakistan in a Muslim-dominated area. Why do anti-Pakistan slogans enrage some Indians to this extent?

Pakistan is not just the name of a country. It is an idea, which rejects pre-Islamic India. In order to create and emphasise its distinct Islamic identity, theocratic Pakistan has been at war with its own social and cultural roots steeped in the pluralistic and timeless culture of this ancient land.

Recently, security agencies arrested Indian Air Force Captain Arun Marwah on the charge of spying for Pakistan. The divisive idea of Pakistan in fact transcends geographical boundaries. It lives and thrives in several pockets within India, where it was born.

Sir, here are excerpts from a speech delivered by Pandit Nehru at the Annual Convocation of the Aligarh Muslim University on 24 January 1948, which are still relevant in the context of the present controversy.

“I am proud of India, not only because of her ancient magnificent heritage, but also because of her remarkable capacity to add to it by keeping the doors and windows of her mind and spirit open to fresh and invigorating winds from distant lands. India’s strength has been twofold: her innate culture which flowered through ages, and her capacity to draw from other sources and thus add to her own.”

“I have said that I am proud of our inheritance and our ancestors who gave an intellectual and cultural pre-eminence to India. How do you feel about this past? Do you feel you are also sharers in it and inheritors of it and, therefore, proud of something that belongs to you as much as to me? Or do you feel alien to it and pass it by without understanding it or feeling that strange thrill which comes from the realisation that we are the trustees and inheritors of this vast treasure?”

“You are Muslims and I am a Hindu. We may adhere to different religious faiths or even to none; but that does not take away from that cultural inheritance that is yours as well as mine. The past holds us together; why should the present or the future divide us in spirit?”

Owaisi Sahib, each one of us needs to answer questions by Pandit Nehru, raised seven decades back. The answers will decide whether we have a mindset of an Indian or of a Pakistani.

Balbir Punj

Former Rajya Sabha member and Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues

Email: punjbalbir@gmail.com

Courtesyy: New Indian Express

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