Oxford Book Store in Mumbai was visited by a cop about ten days ago, and offered a friendly caution to be “careful” about stocking books and CDs related to Pakistan, as the shop might be “targeted” after the recent terror strikes in Mumbai.
Trick question: The reason the cop dropped in was
a) to reassure the store that they would receive police protection in case such threats materialize
b) to pass on a message from Raj Thackeray
(Hint. Looks like there are two options, but there is only one)
The store manager told Times of India, “He reminded us of Raj Thackeray’s ban on Pakistani artists.” The store had also been “urged” (gently, no doubt) by an employee who belongs to Thackeray’s MNS, not to display Pakistani books.
Accordingly, the store manager pulled all Pakistani material off its shelves.
When contacted by the reporter, the cop who visited the store denied that he had warned them against stocking Pakistani literature. He had simply dropped in to see that everything was all right.
However, the reporter adds, “When this reporter persisted and asked him what the problem was with Pakistani books, he asked her whether she was Pakistani. He then added that it was important that people took precautions, so that crimes were not committed. ”
Just a few precautions can save lives, people. Don’t be non-Maharashtrian or non-Hindu in Bombay, for example. Don’t call Mumbai Bombay, for another example. There are others, I just get confused a little bit. I mean, I know one of the precautions is avoiding western cultural practices like Valentine’s Day, but loving (or being) Michael Jackson is fine. So that’s dangerous, mixing up the precautions to take, you know.
Meanwhile, lots of proud and angry Indian readers wrote in to TOI commending Thackeray for his role in cleansing India of Pakistani filth.
One of them said: “I support we should ban pakistani books & media becuse this possible spread venom against India.”
I could understand his/her sentiments. I mean, which red-blooded Indian’s red blood would not boil at the venom such as green-blooded Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie pours out:
“NEW YORK, LONDON, KARACHI… Bombay. There is something dispiritingly familiar now about turning on the news to see scenes of carnage in a city I love. Bombay is the most recent of those loves — I first visited it five years ago. It was my introduction to India, a country that had previously been as abstract and as powerful as the imagination to me, and my senses had never been hungrier to take in the details of a place.
On that first visit, I stayed in Colaba with friends. We walked down to the Gateway of India my first evening there, and I smelt Karachi in the air, coming in from the Arabian Sea. Four years later I was back again, this time spending many hours at the Taj, where friends of mine were staying. I felt far more comfortable saying that I was from Pakistan than I had on my first visit, when I worried about how people might react. When I left, the immigrations official smiled to see my green passport and said his favourite videos on the music channels were by Pakistani artists.
I want to be able to talk only of Bombay, and why it captured my imagination so fully, why the assault on it felt like a personal wound. But it has been one of the features of the attacks on all those cities I love that there isn’t time enough to mourn before a part of the brain starts to fear consequences.
What will the government do in the name of ‘security’? Who will be targeted? What happens nationally? What happens globally? As I write, I feel as if I’m holding my breath, waiting for ‘what next?’.”
Or listen to Mohsin Hamid in response to a question, after the recent terror attacks, as to whether he is optimistic about relations between Indians and Pakistanis. (And while you are it, let your anger simmer nicely at the accompanying picture of Pakistanis in Lahore protesting the terror attacks on Mumbai).
“I am and I think it’s at a human level.
I have friends and family in Islamabad and when you see the Marriot Hotel blow up in Islamabad as it did this year and when you see the Red Mosque stand-off between the armed forces and extremists being fought for days in central Islamabad – you cannot help but look at the people in Bombay now and feel a kinship.
No one has seen remotely anything like this – except perhaps the people in Islamabad. And that kind of the humanisation of the former enemy, I think, is the reason for the optimism.”
Enough is Enough with all this humanising.
Let us resolve at the beginning of this new year, to listen to only those voices on both sides of the border that insistently and uncompromisingly remind us that we are not humans, not writers, not poets, not dreamers – but Indians and Pakistanis.
Resolutely put an end to imagination, hopes, love. Bring out the bravely fluttering flags. Roll out the barbed wire within our land and without. Dispatch our young to kill and be killed.
Let’s Fight Terror.