“Biryani for the terrorist, bullet for the Rambhakt.? Coined by Shri L.K. Advani in 1993, this slogan was used repeatedly to taunt Narasimha Rao for feeding biryani to terrorists holed up in the Hazratbal shrine. The biryani-fed terrorists were then, eventually, given a safe passage.
After a gap of more than a decade, surprisingly, ?terrorism? and ?biryani? have surfaced again in tandem. This has raised tempers and hurt feelings. The venue has shifted from Kashmir to the elitist Hilton Towers, Nariman Point, Mumbai.
?He terrorised our men, carried off our women but gave us the biryani.? These words of praise for Temur the lame? (Taimur Leng) were imprinted on a painting of his statue as part of the biryani food festival in the hotel. Hilton'sglass-walled restaurant, famous for its food festivals was presenting ?a spread of biryani to beat all spreads? Khatti gosht ki biryani, Saun-fiani murgh biryani, Subz ki tehree and many more??
?On one hand, when the world is celebrating International Women'sDay, the Hilton Towers management is insensitive enough to sell biryanis in the name of a mega butcher and rapist,? fumed Pinki Dalal, the editor of Mumbai Samachar on March 9.
A group of angry Hindu Jagran Manch and Shiv Sena activists tore down the painting. The next day the Saamana reported that the management of the hotel apologised for the provocative copywriting.
From Srinagar to Bangalore, from Banglaore to Hyderabad, from Hyderabad to Delhi and Delhi to Varanasi, Islamic terrorism is striking on each festival with increased frequency. In this atmosphere the idea of glorifying a mass murderer who ?carried our women and terrorised our men?-for a plate of biryani-deserves serious analysis of the neo-Indian mind.
Right-wing activists have often argued that the problem lies in the history textbooks-where atrocities by Islamic invaders have been whitewashed. This argument does not work here because the copywriter knows just about everything the rightwingers would like to teach him. He knows that Taimur abducted women and he also knows that Taimur terrorised men and yet he admires Taimur because he ?gave us the biryani?.
It can be safely assumed that the smart copywriter had read Taimur'smemoirs, Tizuk-i-Timuri: ?In a short span of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword, and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 were cut off. The sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels and all the goods and effects, the treasure and the grains which for many a long year had been stored in the fort became the spoils of my soldiers.?
These were Taimur'sexploits vis-?-vis the Khokhars of Punjab while he was proceeding to Delhi. In Delhi, Taimur records the adventures of his 15,000 strong Turk army (year 1398): ?When morning broke on Friday, all my army, no longer under control, went off to the city and thought of nothing but killing, plundering and making prisoners?the spoil was so great that each man secured from 50 to a 100 prisoners, men, women and children. There was no man who took less than 20?Excepting the quarter of the Saiyids, the Ulema and other musalmans the whole city was sacked.? (Tizuk-i-Timuri, emphasis added)
This was a communal carnage. Taimur'sraid was not secular or merely economic because his killings were selective. Since he had spared the Muslims of Delhi his idea of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzib was definitely warped. Instead of raising his voice against obscurantism and communalism, the copywriter is too busy with Taimur'sother contribution to Indian culture-the biryani.
When I showed the Hilton Towers photograph to a Delhi University historian, she furiously pulled out Francois Bernier'sTravels in the Mughal Empire and read out: ?The tenth incarnation say the Gentiles, will have for its object the emancipation of mankind from the tyranny of the Mohammedans?? (p. 331)
?In 1656?, she said, ?the Gentiles (the Hindus)?, had the objective of waiting for a tenth incarnation to save themselves from Muslim tyranny. In 2006, do we need nothing more than a plate of biryani?? Can we deteriorate any further?,? she asked.
(The author is a TV journalist and maker of ?The Bangla Crescent?.)