By Balbir K. Punj
The name Mau rings a bell in the minds of millions of readers, who could hardly locate this quaint town on the map of Uttar Pradesh, or had never visited India. Little known Mau was made memorable by E.M. Forster in his renowned novel A Passage to India (1924). Mau appears towards the end of the novel and its elaborate Gokulasthami (Janmasthami) celebrations herald societal reconciliation between Indians and British. The British, who had been demonized for dividing Hindus and Muslims, are no longer in the scene.
This year'sBharat Milap in Mau, however, increased the chasms between the Hindus and the Muslims that had preceded the coming of British and survived their departure. The secular bandwagon, eloquent in their criticism of Gujarat, is conspicuous by its silence over Mau. Is it because the riots broke over Bharat Milap, part of Dusshera festivity, rather than over Id and Sanskrit pathshala rather than a madrasa was vandalized? Or is it because adherents of ?religions of peace? (whose examples could be quoted from all over the world from 9/11 to second Bali Bombing) went on rampage with guns and bombs? Or is it because criticizing a secular Chief Minister doesn'thave that publicity value as bashing a Hindutva Chief Minister?
Despite Red Alert and shoot at sight orders, mafia don turned MLA of Mau, Mukhtar Ansari was allowed to wheel through the town in his jeep with his armed goons. Whether he was becalming the rioters or instigating his ?particular community? is anybody'sguess. But on the contrary BJP leaders Kalyan Singh, Kesri Nath Tripathi, Lalji Tandon and Mahant Avaidyanath were stopped at Jaunpur on their way to Mau.
While we complain that why all the ?Secularists? who flocked to Ahmedabad in droves have not visited Mau so far, there is a similar complaint from the other side. Either side of LoC has been hit by the devastating earthquake of October 8 last although the damage is immensely more in PoK. The Indian Army is doing a commendable rescue and relief work in Uri, Baramula and other affected places in the Valley to the extent possible under these harsh circumstances. The Pakistani Army, even conceding the greater magnitude of damage and its poor expertise of relief and rescue operations, has shown little sympathetic attitude towards their own Muslim brethrens. One remembers how antipathetic Islamabad was towards victims of cyclone in December, 1970 in East Pakistan.
Even common Kashmiris have acknowledged that after Allah it is the Indian Army who is their only hope after the earthquake.
But PDP President Mehbooba Mufti and then Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of Hurriyat Conference made a sinister charge. Though independent of each other they begrudged why the India Inc. is not rushing to Kashmir like it did after the Bhuj earthquake in Gujarat (January, 2001). This according to them is a sign of rest of India'sapathy towards Kashmiris. The answer is too obvious to articulate separately. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whose fascination for Pakistan is too well known, is otherwise a secessionist. His view, in normal times, is that Indian government should keep its hands off Kashmir. He is least bothered how four lakh Kashmiri Pundits have been expelled from the Valley since 1990.
Kashmiris, at least their leaders, have alienated themselves from psyche of rest of India in every possible manner. Their loyalty to India is conditional through Article 370. In the 1950s they had floated separate flag, separate constitution and separate Prime Minister. Babasaheb Ambedkar, who was instrumental in drafting the Constitution of India, had rightly said to Sheikh Abdullah, ?You want
India to defend Kashmir, feed its people, undertake its all-round development, and give Kashmiris equal rights all over the country. But you do not want rest of India and Indians (to have) equal rights in Kashmir. I am the Law Minister of India, I cannot betray my country.?
Hence how could India Inc. be as generous towards Uri as it was towards Bhuj in 2001. Moreover, Gujarati industrialists both in India and abroad were dominant contributors during Bhuj earthquake relief. Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh; UPA Chairman, Sonia Gandhi and, Leader of Opposition, L.K. Advani have, however, visited the quake affected people. An ex gratia payment of rupees one lakh to next of kin of those who died in earthquake was announced to be released from Prime Minister'sRelief Fund. The Indian government is even sending relief material to Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf had understood to have created history by temporarily opening up LoC in controlled manner.
Unfortunately the only permanent human contact between Kashmir and rest of India is the Indian Army that is doing a Herculean labour in the aftermath of the quake. Even common Kashmiris have acknowledged that after Allah it is the Indian Army who is their only hope after the earthquake.
Muzzafarabad in PoK, epicentre of terror against Kashmir has been flattened. Yet the terrorist activities are continuing against Kashmir. Within two days of earthquake leaving a deadly trail behind, terrorists belived to be Hizbul Mujahideen Pir Panchal Regiment, killed 10 Hindus in Rajouri district of Jammu in a grisly but Islamic fashion by sliting throats. These attacks had not been condemned by ?Secularists?. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq is reminded of Kashmir as India'sresponsibility when it suffers a natural calamity; and ?secularists? find their ?secular? conscience only when riot victims are Muslims.
Whether it is the riots in Uttar Pradesh (or Gujarat or Bihar) or terrorism in Kashmir, they are rooted in a conflict between India'spluralist ethos and Islamic fundamentalism independent of British coming to and leaving India. India is the only country that Hindus have and they are justified in expecting to live in peace and security in their land. But they are plagued with different manifestations of same jihad that once brought down the Ram Temple during Babar'sreign and now disrupting Bharat Milap. In no other country anti-majorityism could pass under the name of ?secularism?.
(The writer, a Rajya Sabha MP and Convener of BJP'sThink Tank can be contacted at [email protected])