Bangladesh will mark its 40th year of independence in 2011. The celebrations have already begun, and will continue until next December. The TV channels are already playing patriotic tunes. One such tune is Shona shona shona. The song says the land, mati, of Bangladesh is better than gold, and under this land sleeps many heroes: Rafiq, Shafiq, Barkat, Titu Mir and Isa Khan.
Who are these heroes? Rafiq, Shafiq and Barkat were killed by the Pakistani authorities during the language uprising of 1952 — a milestone moment in Bangladesh’s nationalism. Titu Mir defied the East India Company and organised a peasant revolt in the 19th century. Isa Khan was a Bengali chieftain who resisted the Mughals in the 16th century.
Notice how all of these heroes are Bengali Muslim men?
Till a few days ago, I hadn’t heard of Aqeel Shatir. A friend sent me a link to a report in the Indian Express on December 20 about a poet who had been asked to pay for an anti-Narendra Modi remark in his anthology, Abhi Zindaa Hoon Main (I Am Still Alive). I got in touch with the reporter, in Ahmedabad, who had filed the story and soon after that spoke on the phone with Shatir.
Aqeel Shatir is his takhallus or literary alias. The name his parents gave him was Aqeel Ahmed. His ustad offered him a choice of two pen-names. One was Aazar, which means a sculptor, someone who carves beautiful forms from marble. The other was Shatir, whose literal meaning is chess-player but denotes someone who possesses cunning. Continue reading “I Am Still Alive”: Amitava Kumar→
Starting today eighteen years ago, for much of December and January (and then March 12), Indian killed Indian on the streets of my city. Terror at its most elemental: I felt it then. I saw it then. Others told me about it then.
Some memories of those weeks, in no particular order but they all still make my hair stand on end.
[That the BJP expelled Jaswant Singh for writing a book on Jinnah is hardly surprising, even if it represents really the most rotten part of contemporary India’s political culture from the Right to the Left: intolerance of intellectual differences. What is intriguing is that Jaswant Singh wrote the bookknowing well that this would be the end of his political career; even LK Advani could not survive his praise of Jinnah and even though he came back, he remains a pale shadow of his former self. So Jaswant never really had a chance. I have not yet read the book but have tried to follow those who have. While a more detailed analysis will have to wait, I am posting a piece I had written sometime ago as part of a larger academic paper which deals with Advani’s Jinnah episode and the seductions of secularism. – AN ]
Advani Meets the Ghost of Jinnah
On 5 June 2005, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Deputy Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani unleashed a storm within his party and its allied organizations of the Hindu Right. On that day, speaking at a function organized by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs and Law (KCFREAL), Advani referred to Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s speech in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947 and described it as ‘a classic exposition of a Secular State’ and Jinnah as a genuine secularist (Advani 2005). In this speech, sections of which Advani read out at length, Jinnah, the founder of the ‘Islamic state of Pakistan’ had said: ‘You are free, you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State…You will find that in the course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State’ (Jinnah 2005).
On the previous day, Advani had already fired his first salvo. He had visited the Qaid-e-Azam mausoleum where he made the following entry in the visitor’s book: ‘There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history. There are very few who actually create history. Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual.’ And further, recalling Sarojini Naidu, underlined: ‘Sarojini Naidu, a leading luminary of India’s freedom struggle, described him as an ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, is really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state…’ (Sarwar 2005, Kapoor 2005). If there was any doubt in anybody’s mind that this was not just a polite entry in a visitor’s book, made in a formalistic way, Advani hastened to clear it in the speech that followed the next day. Continue reading The Ghost of Jinnah, Advani and Jaswant Singh→
It is this silence — ‘indifferentism’ as Ambedkar had prophetically termed the caste Hindu/liberal attitude to anti-caste concerns — that continues to echo for Badhal… When only Dalits are forced to bear the burden of articulating Dalit issues they are dubbed sectarian; the casual betrayal of Dalits by the rest of society passes for secularism.
Navayana publisher S. Anand wonders why the left-liberal set stood up for an art student in Baroda but not for Dalit students at AIIMS.