A page from Indian Literature
Mohammad Basheer: A literary messiah of integration
By N. Kunju
When Jnanpeeth award winner, M.T.Vasudevan Nair was asked for his choice for awarding Nobel Prize for literature, he had no hesitation to name the Malayalam writer, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. Basheer (1910-94) was a word-class writer. If he was not known as such, it was for no fault of his; it was because of the limited readership of the language in which he wrote. Basheer was a novelist, thinker, humanist and humourist?all welded into one. His words had a magical spell and held his readers in rapture when he wove the world of the poor, simple men of unfathomable goodness and lofty ideals.
Basheer had his education from his experiences; the wide world was his university. Inspired by the call given by Gandhiji, as a schoolboy, he set out to participate in the salt satyagraha. From then on, he wandered all over India seeking new experiences and knowledge till he settled down to write.
Basheer had always been in the forefront of the fight against religious obscurantism. In his reminiscences, in the form of a dialogue with his friends, he lashed out at the forces of darkness in his inimitably forceful and forthright style. It was serialised in the Malayalam weekly Chandrika, the Muslim League organ. He wanted it to be published in Chandrika, because he wanted it to be read particularly by the Muslims.
To a question on why Hindu-Muslim riots occurred, he replied:
?Aren'tthere fights between Muslims and Muslims? There must be some reason like that.?
But if the Hindus take out a procession beating drums and shouting in front of a masjid?
?So what? Let them pass, shouting their slogans.?
?There are only a few temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras that I have not visited. I have bathed in all the holy rivers. My motherland?Akhand Bharat?has been cut into two. No one asked my opinion. Why did they divide her??
Even while people are praying inside?
?Yes. Cars, buses, lorries?all pass the masjid when people pray inside. Trains blare and rush on along the rails nearby. There are storms, thunder, lightning. Aren'tthose who pray inside disturbed by all these? I am not saying that they should be disturbed. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs?all should live in unity. One should try not to disturb others as far as possible.?
What do you think of the creation of Pakistan?
?I have travelled all over India before the formation of Pakistan? In Karachi, I lived in a Sindhi Brahmin'shouse. I have lived with Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Parsis. There are only a few temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras that I have not visited. I have bathed in all the holy rivers. My motherland ? Akhand Bharat?has been cut into two. No one asked my opinion. Why did they divide her?
Was not Partition a historical necessity?
?What historical necessity? What nonsense! Did they think of the future of crores of Muslims who were left behind in India? What role have we in this historical necessity? Good, that India is a country with a secular Constitution. But have we thought of the future of Indian Muslims? Pakistan was created for the benefit of twenty-odd rich Muslim families. By the way, was it a historical necessity to kill Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi? Gandhi became a martyr for the sake of Muslims. I don'tknow if anyone remembers it today. Was it a historical necessity to shoot Liaquat Ali Khan in Pakistan? A responsible Pakistani Mussalman named Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto pointed to Indians at the UN and called them ?Indian dogs?. Was it a historical necessity?
?That the high-ranking leader must not have meant the Hindus, Sikhs or Christians, when he said ?Indian dogs?. He must have been referring to us, the crores of Muslims in India.
?Can any true Mussalman ever call a people ?dogs?? Would Prophet Mohammed have said so?
?A historical necessity! Pakistan or Kabaristan?who shouted that slogan? Jinnah and his followers. And who were his followers?? I won'tsay. Pakistan was formed. A historical necessity was realised. Whose necessity? Of self-seekers, of reactionary forces, of the British imperialists. So the historical necessity was accomplished! Islam was saved!
?Allah'sgreatest gift to man is wisdom. And the Muslim world has not used it for the past 800 years or so. For 800 years they have forgotten to use their wisdom. Many Muslim emperors, kings and administrators have ruled since then. Now, including Pakistan, how many Muslim countries are there in the world? Thirty-two or thirty-three, I think. What is happening in these countries? Is there peace anywhere? Mass murder, arson, sabotage. Is there true Islamic rule anywhere? Now, how many lakhs of men, women and children were shot dead in this ?great? Pakistan? How many Muslims are murdered in the Arab countries? A Muslim killing another Muslim! Is it Islamic rule? What happened after Pakistan was created?
?Heard of Maulana Maududi? He is the founder of Jamait-i-Islami, a thinker and writer. He wrote: A few months after Partition, we could see that the fears we had in our mind were materialising. Seeing the contradictory forces that stood for Pakistan, we had an inkling of the future. And it happened just as we thought. Instead of helping the unfortunate refugees who were flowing into Pakistan leaving all their belongings, the majority of all those who prided themselves as the creators of Pakistan were busy amassing wealth and property left behind by the Hindus. Some of them were looking for girls in the refugee camps who escaped the hands of Hindus and Sikhs.
?For whom did Jinnah and his followers create Pakistan? Why? For getting wealth and women??
What do you think of Jinnah?
?I don'tknow much about him. He lived like a British aristocrat. He was an able advocate. He married a Parsi woman and his daughter married a Christian. He coined the slogan ?Islam in danger?, and a number of thoughtless Muslims lined up under his flag. Who were responsible for the creation of Pakistan? Be they Hindus or Muslims, it was a cruel mistake. Our leaders did not have enough forethought. What we had were some advocates. Gandhiji told those advocates not to slice India. Maulana Azad said so. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan said so. All wise Hindus and Muslims pleaded. Jawaharlal Nehru could have insisted that we didn'twant freedom by chopping India into two parts. Sardar Patel could have said so. But the advocates did not object. And Advocate Jinnah had his Pakistan to rule over.
?Lakhs and lakhs of Hindus and Muslims were torn to pieces and rivers of blood flowed on our sacred soil. Today also the river of blood flows. Tomorrow too, that red river will flow. The eternal flow of blood! Allah forgive those advocates and their followers who were responsible for it.
?If Prophet Mohmamed were living in India at that time, he would not have allowed the country to be divided.?
How do you know?
?Should I elaborate? Why was Pakistan created? Who gained out of it? India is an ancient land. It has a great culture and tradition. Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs?all have lived here in unity. What danger had Islam here? Were the Muslims compelled to be converted to Hinduism? Was their freedom of worship in danger? Was their education obstructed? I agree that some murder and arson was committed. But this has occurred in the Muslim countries too. Muslims have murdered Muslims. Shaitaniyat is everywhere, for shaitan is everywhere??
After the publication of this part, there was a big clamour from Muslim League activists not to carry any more of Basheer'sReminiscences in the weekly. But the publishers thought it would be counterproductive now to stop the serial and continued with the publication.
(The author can be contacted at [email protected])