One of the most ill-conceived statements ever made about the housing situation in Mumbai comes from the mouth of Shabana Azmi?and she should be ashamed of herself. She was being interviewed by Karan Thapar in his Devil'sAdvocate programme telecast by CNN-IBN and was pontificating over discrimination against Muslims in India, despite the government'scommitment to a secular policy. Citing what she said was her own instance, she said: ?I wanted to buy a flat in Bombay and it wasn'tgiven to me because I was a Muslim and I read the same about Saif (Saif Ali Khan). Now, I mean, if Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi cannot get a flat in Bombay because they are Muslims, then what are we talking about??
The Mumbai daily DNA carried a story quoting ?some prominent people from the film fraternity? as saying that four flats in Juhu and a house in Khandala are owned by Shabana, a statement she has not challenged. Obviously, it is fashionable to make anti-Hindu statements these days and Shabana has flung one in the face of her countrymen. Where does she live? In a slum? Where does Dilip Kumar stay? In Dharavi? Where do the many Khans in the film world live? In Mumbai'sgutters? Mumbai is a multi-cultured city where people with different cultural heritages live in peace with each other.
There are Parsi colonies in the city where only Parsis are given apartments on rent. And what is wrong with that? There are buildings whose owners rent out apartments only to their own caste-men, and what is wrong with that? There are Hindu apartment owners who wouldn'trent out their apartments to non-vegetarian Hindus. It is their privilege. Time was when certain housing societies in Bandra operated by Catholics wouldn'trent out their apartments to Hindus and their stand was never challenged. They were merely exercising their rights. Mumbai is a fantastic city where every caste, creed or community can have its own housing society. This has been an accepted way of life for decades. Dadar had a Hindu colony open to middle-class Maharashtrians which, incidentally, had once rented out a ground floor flat to none other than Dr BR Ambedkar, a Mahar, if you please. This is why this old Mumbai-wallah has the city carved in his heart.
Shabana Azmi has insulted Mumbai, a city which has given shelter to literally millions from all parts of the country with open arms, the Shiv Sena not withstanding. It is Mumbai'sfilm world that made heroes of Muslim actors and actresses. Does Shabana think she would have been what she is today were she living in Pakistan? Does Shabana realise that Muslims in Kashmir have driven out 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pundits from their homes, forcing them to live in utter penury in Jammu and elsewhere? Has this lady spoken a word about it? That fact obviously does not bother Shabana. Shabana is not the only one to talk rubbish.
According to The Hitavada, Omar Abdullah ?is continuing with the family'straditional political game of senseless one-upmanship?. In a strong editorial (August 12) the paper said Omar ?talks utter nonsense, mixes religion in politics in the dirtiest possible manner?. Pointing out that what is happening in Kashmir is a ?mess of our making? The Hitavada warned of the possibility of Pakistan ?making secret plans to invade Kashmir once again?. The paper also strongly criticised the UPA government for not letting the Army do its job since that would restrict the terrorists from having a free hand. The Tribune (August 15) warned Pakistan not to ?poke its nose into what is happening in India'sJammu & Kashmir? and told it off saying that ?its uncalled for remarks constitute clear interference in the internal affairs of India?. ?Islamabad? said the paper, ?should learn to keep quite when a neighbour'ssensibilities are involved?.
Deccan Herald (August 13) was sharply critical of the UPA government saying that it has been ?clueless on dealing with the Jammu & Kashmir situation?. The paper rightly pointed out that ?the Hurriyat had been marginalised in Kashmir'spolitics over the past decade but the controversy over the Amarnath land issue has given it fresh life?. The Times of India (August 21) while conceding that the Kashmir issue ?is far too complicated to allow easy solutions? nevertheless offered an easy solution by suggesting that ?Article 370 can be the foundation to restructure autonomy for Kashmir?, considering that ?sections of the separatist leadership in Kashmir have hinted that they are willing to explore this option?. The paper said that ?the present international Line of Control should stay but more transit points and trade routes could be opened along the border?. Added the paper: ?At stake is not merely the might of the Indian state, but also its ability to be flexible and accommodative within a liberal and democratic framework? considering that ?the world is watching us?.
The Free Press Journal (August 21) blamed Prime Minster Manmohan Singh saying that ?when (he) needed to nip the pro-Pakistan movement in the bud, he was pre-occupied with the Trust vote and in saving the civilian nuclear deal with the US?. The paper also blamed ?the taciturn and unimaginative Union Home Minster? and ?a hackneyed retired bureacrat as Governor?, but it could only make a passing reference to ?the manner in which thousands of Hindu Kashmiris had to flee the Valley to escape the onslaught of Muslim militancy?. Thousands? The Free Press Journal is modest. Actually, over 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pundits have been driven out of Kashmir by Muslim fundamentalists and nobody wants to talk about it, lest it offends the Kashmir jehadis. It is to this low level that the media has fallen. It is fashionable to blame the BJP and to suggest that it has been playing with lives.
What should the Jammu Hindus do when they are denied any comfort during their pilgrimage? Keep quiet? The Congress government has kept quiet when Kashmiri Pundits were thrown out bag and baggage. What Kind of secularism is it that it is practicing? The Indian Express (August 22) expressed its feelings mildly when it said that the UPA government'spolicies ?smack of dithering rather than a definite purpose?. Jammu & Kashmir is part of secular India. Can the UPA Government allow rampant and murderous communalism in Kashmir in the name of secularism? As Shabana Azmi would say: ?What are we talking about?? Jehadis can do no wrong. The BJP can do nothing right. That is Congress secularism at its best. God help us.