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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thou shalt rise again

Published on :- Times Of
24 December, 2008

The reopening of Taj brought emotions of a victor to the fore. I am not one of those who frequented Taj or met their girlfriends there or spent
evenings at Leopold's. Yet Taj on December 21 gave me joy and filled me with confidence. It was a revenge on the cowards of November 26 – like a second Somnath.

Parsis would know better. They were never able to get back to their ancestral homes in Iran or to rebuild what the same hateful lot who bombed Taj had destroyed centuries ago.

That is what they did to Bamiyan Buddha. And to Hampi. And to the temple cities of Ayodhya, Mathura and Kashi. And only recently, they attacked Raghunath temple, Sankat Mochan and the grand Akshardham. What has changed except the faces and the dates?

Taj reopened is resistance emerging victorious.

We rebuilt Somnath. We reopened Taj. Does it matter one was a religious place and the other a fine symbol of our hospitality? Both the attacks were on India. And in both the cases, we rose like the mythical phoenix.

Ratan Tata belongs to the finest in India, gives his best to his motherland and earns more respect than money can buy. It's not because of his billions or global takeovers. It's because he exhibits a confident, invincible spirit of an Indian.

The Ghaznis and the marauders of Aurangzeb destroyed Somnath several times. Yet the invincible spirit of Somnath rose again and again defeating hate and barbarism. "With the dawn of a new era the new temple has risen like the phoenix from its own ashes," wrote KM Munshi in 1950.

Somnath raised was synonymous with India raised. The same spirit must guide us again.

Mumbai's fearless face and Taj's reopening symbolize that resolve. We have to take the war to its logical conclusion.

Those who feel elated with the chairman of the US military's joint chief of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, visiting Islamabad as if that's going to help us or those who look at Pranab Mukherjee's warnings with some hope would be in for disappointment soon. Americans wouldn't like us to get seriously engaged in a war like situation. So that they would do is to address the current aggressive mood in India to pretend "something is being done" so that time passes till we get into election mode. Pranabda has been given the task of warming up the pitch for the Lok Sabha elections. The Pakistan issue, a strike here or there, may help to some extent. But the purpose is not to punish Pakistan or to teach it a lasting lesson.

Nauseating as it may look – and I pray I am proved wrong – this is how defence experts and Pakistan watchers see the hot air build-up in Delhi. The challenge in the present circumstances is to evolve a genuine, long-term Pakistan policy that is immune from the intermittent skirmishes or small-time love affairs on public diplomacy front. We are not dealing with one entity that is known collectively as Pakistan. India's Pakistan policy has to address the Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhtun factors as significantly as the Punjabi aggressiveness and deep hate for anything us.

So far every PM in South Block has tried to devise a new framework, which is often America-centric. With a regime change, the policy too takes a break. Pakistan must be dealt with an India-centric policy nursing our long-term goals. There are pundits on Pakistan affairs who feel that unless Sindh and Balochistan's aspirations to become independent countries are not supported by Delhi, we won't have peace on the Khyber side. New Delhi must tame Islamabad on its own prowess – without leaning on US shoulders, which in any case would never be available to us. Washington is bound to serve only US interests in Islamabad. The ideological refuges of the jihadi terror modules and their Arab connection are the real sources of their strength. Pakistan remains just a platform like any other piece of land.

And we can’t afford to ignore the homegrown shields to the jihadis. What Antulay said was a repeat of what Zardari said in Islamabad. The other day I was on a TV channel diagnosing Antulay's diarrhoea of doubt regarding Karkare's martyrdom. I was surprised that except Shabana Azmi, none of the Muslim participants condemned or distanced themselves from what Antulay said. And these leaders belonged to various parties including the Congress, which had earlier distanced itself from Antulay's statement. I am sure if Shabana and Antulay contest an election from a Muslim majority constituency, Antulay would win hands down. Why should Muslims be led to entertain a doubt on anything that targets the jihadis?

Unfortunately this tendency is gaining ground like a fire. Instead of coming closer to the mainstream of those who condemn any act of terror unitedly, many Muslims are being misled into believing that the actions are orchestrated by Hindu-Jewish-American lobby. I was in an Urdu poetry night at Indore, attended by some of the top luminaries of Urdu poetry. They spoke of the Gujarat riots and the Mumbai terror attack, praised the journalist who threw a shoe at Bush and challenged fiercely all those who, in their opinion, brand every Muslim a "terrorist". Fine enough. But why were the incidents of attacks on Kashmiri Hindus in the valley simply absent from their radar of literary concerns? There were poems condemning the "followers of Ram" who destroyed the "mosque" at Ayodhya. But not a single line was uttered about the blasts at Raghunath temple, Sankat Mochan temple and Akshardham by those who quoted their holy scriptures while doing so. Why?

They complained why did America let off Modi with a small "punishment" like denial of visa? I asked the greatest poet among them all, Nida Fazli (of Kabhi kisi ko mukammal jahan nahin milta fame), a simple question while sharing the lunch table with him. “Have you ever written about the plight of five lakh Kashmiri Hindus who were ousted from their homes after a series of unparalleled brutal attacks? When you condemn Gujarat, do you also feel and write in the same way about Godhra?” He had no answer. Such littérateurs have no qualms accepting top honours from a BJP government, as Nida saheb has done in Bhopal. But would refrain from giving voice to their fellow citizen belonging to a different faith.

It must go to the credit of some of the young Muslim firebrand poets who recited great poetry challenging terrorists and enthralled the 7,000-plus audience with their patriotic fervour. Salaam to them. But to ignore the undercurrents of a mindset Antulay and Nida Fazli represent would exhibit only a self-defeating naivety.

Antulay reminds me of a debate on Jinnah and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Antulay represents a segment not exactly known for theological scholarship or a merit in exemplary devotion to his faith or doing service for the good of the faithful. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is respected worldwide for his deep knowledge of Islam and its true meaning. His books are prescribed at the Mecca University. But Antulay would get votes and not the sober, patriotic elements. Why? There was a vast difference between Jinnah and Abul Kalam Azad as far as Islamic scholarship goes. The former had hardly anything to do with Islam, while the latter was an epitome of deep knowledge about it and his personality too exuberated doctrines of his faith. He stood for an undivided India. He lost leadership of his community to Jinnah. Why?

The greatest hope is that 2008 is not 1947.

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