There have been several news reports recently about attempts by the builder Mafia to capture properties near the Jama Masjid in Shahjehanabad (popularly, known as old Delhi) to build a 100 room hotel. Reports have also suggested the involvement of a local politician, though the politician has refuted the allegations very firmly.
This piece is not about the builder mafia or the local politician, but about another issue that has cropped up during the investigation of the attempted land grab. It has been found that the ownership of one of the properties is under dispute and a case has been going on for close to two decades.
The reports say that the disputed property belongs to the “custodian of enemy properties”. Even a cursory reading of the reports would reveal the identity of the original owners of these properties. The original owners of these properties were Muslims of Delhi.
Muslims, who had lived in Shahjehanabad for generations, some for centuries like the families of my ancestors.
In the riots that followed the partition, entire families were wiped out and no one knows what became of their properties. There were those, considered lucky because they managed to escape, leaving behind all they had, including the small hovels or large establishments where they had lived, brought up families and perhaps also dreamt of and fought for a free India. When they left they also left behind the establishments, big and small, where they had worked, earning a living through all manner of trades including the fine handicrafts that this city was famous for.
Large parts of these properties were taken over by a Caretaker created for the purpose. The Custodian was called the “Custodian of Enemy Properties”.
My piece is about this nomenclature.
This nomenclature was evolved at a time when Gandhi Ji was telling his prayers meetings that ‘Hindus and Muslims are like my two eyes’.
This nomenclature was evolved around the time when Gandhi ji cancelled one of his prayer meetings, when someone (probably a survivor of the killings in what was now Pakistan) objected to the recitation of the Qur’aan. Gandhiji had said, ‘I understand your pain, but I cannot understand your refusal to hear what the Holy book says,’ or words to that effect
This nomenclature was invented at roughly the same time when Maulana Abul Kalaam was exhorting Muslims to stay back in the land of their ancestors and Nehru was promising equal rights to all the Citizens of India.
Many of those that had left had gone in the belief that they will come back when things settle down, when passions cool down somewhat.
Could they have ever returned and reclaimed their homes, shops, workshops, factories, schools, libraries or what have you, when all this was declared enemy property and many of those that had built this city been declared enemies.
I am sure they did exactly the same in Pakistan, because all these things had been decided in great detail after due diligence, having given considerable thought to all aspects of the issue. I am sure they had carefully weighed the pros and cons before arriving at this decision. Responsible governments, as we all know, do not take hasty decisions.
They exchanged, Prisoners and (if Manto’s Toba Tek Singh is not merely a figment of his imagination) they also exchanged the inmates of insane asylums, Muslim Lunatics for Pakistan and the rest for India!
What faith do madmen follow?
Why is it that even after 62 years no one has protested at this nomenclature, why do we persist with this term?
Is it any wonder that Muslims have been denied equal opportunities in all walks of life, and even afters hundreds of communal riots since 1947 and despite scores of enquiries, each one establishing that the Muslims did not instigate them and that they suffered most and despite the culprits being identified in most enquiries, hardly anyone ever gets punished.
Where is the need, why should anyone be punished for killing the enemy?