‘Bhoomi Poojan Was Rubbing Salt Into Our Wounds’

Husan Ara, 46, says BJP has discarded the teachings of Ram ji. Ara believes Muslims are being targeted in a systematic and planned manner

When the Babri Masjid demolition took place in 1992, I was at my parents’ house in Kanpur with my new-born child. The demolition sparked off communal riots. For two days, a Hindu neighbour shielded 25-30 of us Muslims until his life came under threat. In that fearful atmosphere, we shifted to a Muslim area for shelter. I was around 19 then and till today I cannot forget those fearful days; its memory still scares my soul. I made myself a promise: I would never let hatred find space in my heart and I have been working towards spreading the message of harmony and humanity.

But today, with the BJP government in power, Muslims are being attacked, both covertly and overtly, in a far more poisonous way than 1992. Back then rioting was a-heat-of-the-moment response; now it is a systematic and planed attack at the very Muslim identity. The recent Ramjanmbhoomi Poojan ceremony at Ayodhya shows this clearly.

The government which didn’t have any time or strategy for migrant labourers on the road during lockdown or for people rendered homeless due to floods or the falling economy, pulled out all the stops for the bhoomi poojan. Talk of priorities!

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It is not about shifting the mosque to a new address. It is about continuously striking at and humiliating the Muslim identity. Wasn’t it graceful of Muslims to accept the Supreme Court verdict last November? But no, the bhoomi poojan had to be made into a gala affair, even during pandemic, to rub salt on our wounds.

Muslims in India have grown up watching the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. We understand the essence of Ram and his teachings well. But perhaps Modi ji does not understand it. Ram represented the virtues of an ideal ruler who is dayaalu (compassionate), vinamra (soft-spoken) and nyaypriya (fair and just). Even when Ravan was dying Ram Ji asked Lakshman Ji to sit at the demon king’s feet and seek advice. Dushmanon se bhi acche se pesh aate the Ram ji (Lord Ram would treat even his enemies with respect).

No matter what the BJP and RSS believe or propagate, Indian Muslims are a secular lot and love to blend with the culture of this land. We have respect and reverence for Ram Ji and he would never have approved the dismantling or destruction of an existing religious structure which our present rulers have done.

There was an illustration doing the rounds after bhoomi poojan where Modiji can be seen taking Ram Ji towards the Ayodhya temple. I was aghast to see how Modiji was made bigger than Ram Ji? Is our PM even greater than God? Have the Modi bhakts lost it?

ALSO READ: ‘Glad That Muslims Have Accepted SC Verdict’

Ram was called Maryada Purushottam butthere is no maryada in our leaders of today. Whenthebhoomipoojan got over, many people in complete disregard to social distancing, came out in droves and burst crackers.

Ram ji taught us that having power isn’t enough; it is equally important to use that power wisely. I hope people understand that their hatred for the ordinary Indian Muslim is not on just grounds. Hatred begets more hatred. I hope my countrymen understand that our hearts are our mandirmasjid as well. Hamara dil bhoomi jaisa hai jisme prem aur sauhard jaise gunon ki sthapana ki jani chahiye (our hearts are like the ground on which the seeds of love and harmony are to be sowed).

'Mulk' Holds A Mirror To Our Prejudices

‘thekedars’. Zealots of none of them protested! And now, it has approved ‘Mulk’ that portrays a Muslim family caught in crosshairs when one of its young members is caught in terrorist violence and is killed by the police. It depicts prejudices against Muslims, not just by the majority Hindus and some political parties that use terrorism as a stick to beat the community with, but also by fellow-Muslims. The role of the police, the media, the judiciary and the society as a whole is put under lens. Director Anubhav Sinha’s narrative vastly differs from a rash of films made in the wake of the 9/11, the India-Pakistan conflicts the Mumbai explosions of 1993 after Babri Masjid’s destruction and terror attacks of 2008 in that city. In each of them, whether based on real story or fiction, Muslim is the villain. This stereotyping of the community has now become an integral part of the current discourse that brooks no rationalizing or dissent. This is a far cry from “Garam Hawa” (1973) about an Indian Muslim family that does not migrate to Pakistan at the Partition and stays on braving prejudices, with hope to stay within the national mainstream. Or “My Name is Khan” (2010) that opened windows and doors to many people who have stories to tell and are shy to put their story on the celluloid. Again, the film was all about love and hope. Whatever be its critical assessment, this was Bollywood’s and India’s significant contribution to a better understanding in a world swinging between Islamphobia and its equally cynical counter-narration. While India itself is swinging between these two vastly differing narratives struggling to find a balance, its cinema is changing. Sinha says he has deliberately been blunt and provocative and narrates things as he sees them — or, perhaps, as they are? Mulk debates what is being discussed, at least in liberal circles that are critical of the way terrorism is being tackled as an issue by the State, the society at large and the media. ‘Mulk’ (a significant choice of name with Arabic roots that is not ‘desh’ or ‘Bharat’) aims to shake society’s consciousness by questioning its notions about nationhood and patriotism, its definition of terrorism and terrorists, and the sheer inability and parochial attitude that renders them unable to identify Islam and terrorism as independent of each other. The context is not just Indian, but also South Asian, since Pakistan figures in the narrative and outside it. On the eve of the film’s India release, Sinha tweeted “a letter (he wrote) to Pakistan”, whose Federal Censor Board has banned it. In the letter, he says that even the film’s trailer when released, garnered strong reactions; while some in India suggested it was way too pro-Muslim, feedback from Pakistan was that the film stereotyped Muslims in a way no other film did. But to anyone and everyone who chose to see the film from the lens of ‘us and them,’ or pro and anti-Pakistan, Sinha pleaded, “It is about love — about you and about me. Why is it that they do not want you to see the film which talks about co-existence?” Mulk addresses a deeply ingrained perception of “good Muslims” in India being ‘exceptions’.  Editor Shekhar Gupta points out: “It isn’t only because there are some super-patriotic Muslims like the terrorist’s family, which refuses to accept his body for burial. That of course, we adore Havildar Abdul Hamid, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Ustad Bismillah Khan, and wish if only more Muslims were like them. Anubhav Sinha sticks his neck and all his vitals out to say that these are no exceptions. Most Muslims are like them. It is the terrorists who are exceptions.” Reminding all that one out of every seven Indian citizen is a Muslim, Gupta writes: “Sinha’s Mulk makes the cut because it brings to you challenges of an ordinary Muslim family in modern India that again, like caste, we’d rather hide from. How effective he’s been, is evident from the vicious trolling he has received.” This narrative that counters the regressive global trend is not going to be easily accepted. Says Sinha: “(Mahatma) Gandhi is dead. So, we have to fix this ourselves, neither he nor anyone else is going to come to heal our ties. We need to have this conversation and have it now.” (The author may be contacted at mahendraved07@gmail.com )  ]]>